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 7 of 32)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #502

Aug 252005

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 30,000 miles


like everyone else, my rear panel cracked. Started w/ a small horizontal crack, then formed a T-shape. Went to dealers (more than one) and was told I must have hit something. That's good, a crack but no dents or peeling paint. Who can possibly hit something w/ that part tof the car. Thought mine was the only one til I saw another in the train station. Now I see them everywhere!

- , Huntington Station, NY, US

problem #501

Sep 032007

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

ANOTHER issue that is clearly Ford's responsibility. Of course my dealers here in San Diego say there is nothing they can do about it. Same old story. I have had numerous issues that should have been recalls. I refuse to fix this problem as it is very expensive and I refuse to put even more money in to this piece of junk.

- , San Diego, CA, US

problem #500

Dec 032009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

I drive everyday on the interstate and I see this same problems on 90% of the Ford Explorers, I have called this into Ford and they told me they haven't had any reports of this problem. My Daughter has the same vehicle with the same crack. Sure is funny Ford .... that you haven't had this complaint before.

- , Evansville, IN, USA

problem #499

Sep 172009

Explorer 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,000 miles


It was broken when we bought it, we had it fixed. Never slammed the trunk as we had seen that many of this year make and model had cracks.... It cracked again! Ford SUCKS!

- , Phoenix, AZ, USA

problem #498

Aug 052007


  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles

I have noticed this on all explorers with this style of back door.

- , West Palm Beach, FL, US

problem #497

Feb 022011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 127,000 miles

The rear tail gate panel is defective. Ford should fix this problem. It detracts from the look of the car and reduces the resale value. Looks awful.

- , Incline Village, NV, USA

problem #496

Apr 102011

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles


So much for buy American. And stand behind your product.

At the cost of the vehicle you would think there would be quality.

Since the body style didn't change, what caused these cracks on these particular years.

- , Ocala, FL, USA

problem #495

Dec 142010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

I see this issue on every Ford Explorer I see. Not kidding every older explorer. One man even walked up to me in a parking lot and he said that happened to him and he sees it everywhere.

- , Stockton, CA, USA

problem #494

Sep 012010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

After seeing so many Explorers with cracks in rear paneling, I believe that it is a fault of Ford and feel that partial payment should be made on their behalf to have it fixed or replaced without any hassel.

- , Brandon, FL, USA

problem #493

Feb 152011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 64,000 miles

I have this problem and didn't think to check it out on the internet until now - it had been really cold out, and I thought possibly it was related to the cold - but now that I have seen so many posts with this same issue and have seen it on other auto forums as well, it makes it obvious that there is a problem in the way it was produced!! I believe FORD should get a recall - there are so many complaints for this issue for multiple vehicle years!!

Update from Nov 12, 2014: I had this repaired several years ago and it was very expensive, because the crack in the panel allowed water to seep in and it rusted out the latch mechanism completely, causing it to fall off, and I had to get all of that replaced as well as getting the stupid panel fixed. The Ford shop recoginzed it is an issue but pretty much shrugged their shoulders. CRAZY! I'm worried that it is just going to happen again or that the latch will get messed up again.

- , Maplewood, MN, USA

problem #492

Mar 052006

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 42,000 miles


This is obviously a manufacturers defect and just makes Ford look like sh*t for not fixing it.

- , Cottonwood Heights, UT, USA

problem #491

Apr 152011

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 126,000 miles

First of all, my mechanic says why would you put 3 timing chains on a car?

The crack in the back panel is absurd.

On a trip to ATL, we had stopped for a rest and when were tried to start the car, the steering wheel fell off. They repaired it and I found a year or so later, the cruise control doesn't work,

NO MORE FORDS FOR US!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- , Greenville, SC, USA

problem #490

Dec 152008

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

The night after the first freeze of the year my husband noticed a big y shaped crack in back panel under glass. He accused me of backing into something. I told him I had not. He thought someone in a big truck hit it until I researched it on the internet. I lived with the unsightly 1/2 inch crack for a couple of years. I was told it would cast $400-600 to fix and would not guarantee because most likely it would happen a again and the body shop had seen several of these. I did get it replaced when I was rear ended, but within 3 years it cracked again. I had a telephone pole fall during storm and it was replaced again. It has been about two years so I will expect it to crack this coming winter. Ford should stand behind this but since it is not life threatening they will not. at least they changed the design so other models will not have same difficulty.

- , Nokomis, IL, USA

problem #489

Jan 152010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 49,710 miles

The first winter I had the truck the back panel cracked and split. I thought I was alone with this problem until I saw 2 other Ford Explorers driving around the city with the exact same crack. This is obviously a defect.

Update from May 16, 2011: Hi Kate, I phoned the number that you passed on to me. 1800-392-3673. They would not take my complaint since I was calling from Canada. Do you have a number for me here in Canada?

- , Drayton Valley, Alberta, canada

problem #488

Jan 012008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 35,000 miles

My 2002 Explorer back panel started cracking below the window next to the Ford emblem around 2008 and the crack it is getting bigger. I have noticed may other Explores with the same problem. I have been waiting for a recall notice. I guess Ford will not be sending me a notice anytime soon. I am going to see is the local dealer will take care of me, we’ll see....................

- , Roseville, CA, USA

problem #487

Jan 012008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 35,000 miles

My 2002 Explorer back panel started cracking below the window next to the Ford emblem around 2008 and the crack it is getting bigger. I have noticed may other Explores with the same problem. I have been waiting for a recall notice. I guess Ford will not be sending me a notice anytime soon. I am going to see is the local dealer will take care of me, we’ll see....................

- , Roseville, CA, USA

problem #486

Jun 102003


  • Automatic transmission
  • 2,574 miles

Well, like everyone this has been annoying. Since my purchase of the 2002 Explorer I have had to have the Liftgate replaced 3 times. The first 2 times was covered under warranty. the 3rd time was still under waranty yet I was told by the dealership mechanic supervisor that it can not be replaced a 3rd time for grounds of the lemon law. the time that transpired for all 3 accounts was less than one year of owning the explorer. It is now 2011 and I still have this Explorer with only 39k miles and still have the cracked Lift gate. I have been looking consistantly for a Recall which hasn't surfaced. Recently I have been looking more so to fix this issue as I have given the Explorer to my grandson since the Explorer is in perfect condition other than this Liftgate! i will post again if I ever find anything out regarding where to find cheap replacements. I have thought of having a stainless steel painted to match copy of that panel part installed but the cost is a little high, roughly $1400 to do this measure. This is something none of the owners should front.

- , Lehigh Acres, FL, USA

problem #485

Feb 012011

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,000 miles

It was very warm outside during the day, weather took a turn and snowed at night. Next day the panel was cracked.

- , North Wales, PA, US

problem #484

Nov 012010

Explorer XLT V6 4.L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,332 miles

The rear door panel is crack

just want it to be fixed so it wont look bad

- , Winston Salem, NC, USA

problem #483

Dec 152010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles

Bought new at better than $30000. Rear end roar - paid out of pocket to fix. Transmission slipping -paid out off pocket to fix. Now back lid below rear window is split into upside down Y. Talked to Ford rep who said problem was common and fixing it would not increase resale value. Comforting news. Looks like Japanese will get my business in the future. What happened to American craftsmanship?

- , Scottsboro, AL, USA

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