Notes: The 2002 Ford Explorer is hands-down our worst vehicle on record. "Avoid like the plague" is putting it lightly.

The 2002-2005 Explorer has a very well-established record of expensive transmission failure at under 100k miles. The Explorer has an enclosed transmission which is typically replaced with a rebuilt transmission at a cost of almost $3,000.

Another common problem for the 2002-2003 Explorer is wheel bearing failure at around 90k miles, with a typical repair bill of $500 to $1000 depending on how many wheel bearings failed.

Adding insult to injury, the 2002-2005 Explorer also has a massive problem with the rear panel cracking. While it's a minor annoyance compared to transmission failure, ironically the crack usually goes right through the Ford logo.


fairly significant
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
79,256 miles
Total Complaints:
622 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. Ford should pay for it (396 reports)
  2. not sure (86 reports)
  3. paid to have rear panel replaced (48 reports)
  4. file complaint with NHTSA to get a recall issued (26 reports)
  5. start a class action suit and get damages reimbursed (17 reports)
  6. dealership replaced the entire panel (10 reports)
2002 Ford Explorer body / paint problems

body / paint problem

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2002 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 2 of 32)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #602

Nov 202009

Explorer XLT 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles


Dealership said a lot of these Ford Explorers had this problem and that I should wait because Ford will likely having a recall to correct. Waited year after year and still nothing was done. Ended up just sealing it with a silicone caulk. The back window latch also failed to secure and SUV would not pass inspection. I sealed the window with silicone caulk in order to pass inspection. 50% of the Ford Explorers I see have this same panel cracking problem.

- , Export, PA, USA

problem #601

Jan 082008

Explorer LX 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,870 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

I have a folder of pictures of Explorers with the same defect. Ford should provide a remedy.

- , Lake St. Louis, MO, USA

problem #600

Feb 192015

Explorer XLT 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,148 miles

I have not seen an Explorer with an UN-CRACKED panel yet..

- , Branchville, NJ, USA

problem #599

Apr 242003

Explorer Limited 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 10,800 miles


click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window cracked panel below the rear window cracked panel below the rear window

The first time in 03 was a pain, the second time in 08 was a real pain, and the 3rd time 2011 was a triple pain in the a€£¥', and I'm finally going to fix it again, after it has been cracked for 4 or 5 years and listening to my wife gripe forever! It seems like everything is plastic, the plastic valve cover cracked in 05 and oil burned and smoked off of the header for ever! The plastic thermostat housing has cracked a couple of times and also the intake manifold! This will be my last Ford for sure!

- , Highland, UT, USA

problem #598

Mar 042015

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

I noticed it a couple weeks ago. Called my insurance and adjuster came, said they wouldn't fix it because this was in a lawsuit against Ford and Ford should fix.

- , Evansville, IN, USA

problem #597

Feb 022013

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4x4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 223,000 miles

Every Ford Explorer from this model/body style I see on the road has this same crack under the rear window! CLEARLY this is a defective panel that I feel Ford should repair free of charge.

- , Hendersonville, TN, US

problem #596

Dec 122014

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles


I am unhappy that Ford has not acknowledged the problem to me. I was led to believe that the problem occurred when someone probably backed into me in a parking lot on a cold day. I have had the panel replaced but now find that it is a recurring problem on this vehicle.

- , Southern Pines, NC, USA

problem #595

Dec 012008

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

Shipped my 2002 Ford Explorer from Guam to Seattle when I retired from the Navy. Once we got our vehicle we noticed the back panel above the Ford emblem and below the read window was cracked. The body shop guy said water gets in there, then freezes and the break. Not sure how much truth there is to that. It was not worth getting fixed at the time. As I drive around and see other 2002 Explorers I see the same crack in them too.

- , Burley, ID, USA

problem #594

Oct 242012

Explorer LT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,000 miles

In normal driving I have noticed hundreds of other Exploders with the same panel on the rear lift gate to be cracked. It is obvious that this is a flawed materials issue that once again Ford has continually chosen to ignore. The crack runs the entire vertical length of the panel. In checking with the Ford dealer the cost of repairs would run approximately $450.00 with no guarantee that it won't crack again.

I have posted two other complaints on this site for two separate transmission failures one at 86,000 miles and the other at 124,000 miles. Maybe the Ford management team are avid hockey fans and hope that I go for the transmission replacement "hat trick" - well guys I can assure you that I won't fall for it.

- , Falls Church, VA, USA

problem #593

Feb 012012

Explorer XLS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

My 2002 Ford Explorer XLS has been beautifully made, and holding up well cosmetically. There is a growing list of replacements and repairs that I have made that I feel were for parts that wore out prematurely. One of those things is the rear hatch door window. As part of the window, a plastic painted panel has cracked right down the middle. It may be due to exposure to elements or just plain deteriorated materials. I have not repaired it but have noticed the amount of Ford vehicles with this same body style that have cracks in theirs.

- , Summerville, SC, US

problem #592

Jan 022007

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles


I notice this after getting off work at night. one cold winter night in January. when I first looked at it.. it. looked like some one had tried to break in to my automobile. I have noticed one of every three ford explorer that I see on a daily basis have the same defect. and that's a lots. this is a manufacturer defect. I am requesting to be compensated for this. you can call me 901-335-4275 or email me.

- , Byhalia, MS, USA

problem #591

Dec 242014

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

Thought I was lucky, because I have had all the problems that come with this vehicle. Nope it showed me. I am now one of the unfortunate ones who now has a cracked rear panel behind the stupid Ford emblem.

- , West Valley City, UT, USA

problem #590

Apr 072014

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

Crack in the tailgate panel under the window. Can't open the rear door as normally one would. Must hold the rear panel and lift the door open while pushing on the crack so it doesn't keep getting bigger.

- , Christiansted, Virgin Islands, USA

problem #589

Mar 152014


  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,000 miles

The rear panel has cracked right under where the handle for the panel is. So every time it is used, it has the potential for cracking more. It is about a 6 inch horizontal crack right now. I would use the window more, but that window has already SHATTERED twice since i have owned the car (once after the recall and yes I went to the dealership and had it allegedly fixed-)The second shattering was on our vacation in DC!

- , Longwood, FL, USA

problem #588

Mar 002006

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

The pnnel under the back window cracked shortly after we bought it, never had it fixed but have seen lots of other Explorers with the same problem.

- , Wahpeton, ND, USA

problem #587

Nov 292014

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles

Dear Ford:

Stand by your product and acknowledge that you had a design flaw (or many) and do right by your customers. I am certain that you had no issues in taking our money.

- , Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #586

Dec 282007

Explorer XLS 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles

This is a common problem with this year's Explorer. Ford should replace this panel since they have known about this since it was manufactured.

- , Orland Park, IL, USA

problem #585

Oct 012004

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles

Every explorer I see that is my body style has this issue.

- , Gainesville, TX, USA

problem #584

Mar 012005

Explorer Limited V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 28,000 miles

I have seen so many Explorers having the same issue with cracked rear body panel.

If it's not a design defect, I don't know what you would call this.

- , Bayside, NY, USA

problem #583

Jun 012004

Explorer LX

  • Automatic transmission
  • 29,000 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

I purchased a 2002 Ford Explorer and in June 2004 the lift gate was cracked. I contacted Ford and was told they would not fix the problem. I take pride and care in my vehicles. It is unacceptable for Ford to not replace the lift gates that have a possible manufacturer defect. I see many Fords with the same issue and believe that this is a serious problem in which Ford should be held accountable.

- , Loveland, CO, USA

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