Notes: The 2003 Ford Explorer one of our worst vehicles 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:
76,699 miles
Total Complaints:
546 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. Ford should recall (224 reports)
  2. repair or replace tailgate (143 reports)
  3. not sure (103 reports)
  4. replace the panel (30 reports)
  5. need a redesigned tailgate (22 reports)
  6. ford needs to pay for being fixed (13 reports)
2003 Ford Explorer body / paint problems

body / paint problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 10 of 28)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #366

Jan 272011

Explorer Limited Centennial Edition 4.6L Sfi V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,524 miles


click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

This part was replaced by the paint & body shop repainting the whole car for me only to have it crack again 13 or 14 months later! Parts are only limited to 12mo or 12k miles. Most of us have this same problem. I spoke to Ford about this and their response was, if enough owners report this to them they might look into a recall on this part. So all you owners out there put a call into Ford @ 1-800-392-3673 and complain! Even if you haven't repaired this yet, you might get it repaired for you at their expense. If you have, they will reimburse you as long as you have the repair bill.

- , Visalia, CA, USA

problem #365

Feb 192011

Explorer Eddie Bauer 6-4.0L-F1

  • Automatic transmission
  • 205,000 miles

click to see larger images

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

I recently had repairs done to my car after an accident and when I picked up my explorer the crack was in the panel just below the rear window. I found out from the Ford Dealer that this was a common problem with the Explorers. I contacted a friend of mine whose sister also has an explorer and she had the same problem. This crack is very visible and it makes your vehicle look really bad. Ford should replace this panel for its customers since it is a problem that happens with all of their Explorers. I also found out that it would cost me about $500 to repair it. WILL FORD PAY ANY OF THIS COST FOR ITS CUSTOMERS?

- , Bedford, TX, USA

problem #364

Oct 012008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,000 miles

Well...I guess I'm part of the "rear crack" club...that sounds even worse when you say it out loud!

I will never buy another Ford. Their customer service is the worst. Quality is a joke. Ford is a big joke. But I guess the joke's on us...they are the ones laughing the whole way to the bank.

I should be happy the vehicle is still operable but of course, I had to replace the transmission already and that wasn't cheap. Now the car smells like it's burning coolant so I'm expecting to have to pay for a blown head gasket or radiator. Oh great car God in the sky...please let it be the radiator because I don't want to sink any more $$$$ into this piss poor excuse of a vehicle.

I hate you Ford. I hate everything about your company from your lame excuse of "customer service" to the con artists that you call "certified dealer repair" people. They are certifiable alright. They should all be sent to the loony bin for the crap they try to pass off as "damaged" when in fact it's lack of quality and defective to begin with.

You suck Ford and I'm making sure everyone I ever come in contact with knows this. Ripping people off with crap cars and trucks is the most UNAMERICAN thing you do and you do it well. stink.

- , Zephyrhills, FL, USA

problem #363

Feb 262011

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles


This should be recalled this is clearly a manufacture defect. Now this crack is going to cause many issues, resale, over all looks (I've got to drive around with a crack on my vehicle, and take very good care of it. The rest of the vehicle looks in great shape.) The crack is subject to let dirt and moister in the inner part of the panel, where other components can be effected.

Ford Manufacture Co. Could hold on to more customers if they would stand behind there product. It makes me said to know that the manufacturer looks at this issue as a none safety problem there for they have the choice to fix or not?

I do know this fact, it's not a moving or a wear item, the only thing that should be happening with this panel should be to the paint for normal wear.

Thank you for taking the time to read my concern


- , Peoria, AZ, US

problem #362

Jun 022008

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 35,000 miles

click to see larger images

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

Ford has a responsibility to fix this design error.

- , Seaford, NY, USA

problem #361

Jan 152007

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 42,000 miles

Almost every older model Ford Explorer that I see on the road has the same issue with the cracked panel. For a while I was having a problem closing my back lift gate. There seemed to be a problem with the latch. I later realized that there was a recall (#04S20) on (what I thought had nothing to do with the cracked panel) liftgate glass hinge and ball stud bracket. Right after the repairs were done on my vehicle in January 2011, I realized that the liftgate worked perfect. It was then determined that the misalignment caused problems with the liftgate closing correctly.....which caused damage to the panel.....which resulted in the crack.......Ford has done a recall on what has resulted in the crack but they have not stepped forward to take responsibility for the damage that has occurred due to the defect.....It is unfair for us to have to pay out of pocket for damages due to a manufacturing defect.....Unless we band together and demand repair of the damage Ford is going to do nothing.........This is my first official complaint about this problem....I will continue to do research to determine how to address this issue with Ford, but the key thing is to make our voices be heard..........THE SQUEEKY WHEEL GETS THE OIL!!!!!!!

- , Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #360

Jan 082010

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 92,000 miles


Called Ford but they said there was no recall and it isn't a safety issue so there are no plans to do anything about it. We see a lot of Ford Explorers in parking lots and on the highway with the same cracked back panel. Our crack is getting wider, so we're going to have to bite the bullet and get it repaired. It's just a shame Ford won't offer any reimbursement for something that is obviously faulty design.

- , Mascoutah, IL, USA

problem #359

Feb 242010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

I thought FORD was a good quality vehicle until i saw the crack under the rear window. i was thinking about buying another FORD vehicle but now im rethinking my decision im thinking about going with CHEVY. I think its a manufacturers defect and FORD should recall this issue.

- , Oceanport, NJ, USA

problem #358

Dec 152010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,108 miles

Since I noticed the crack on the panel, more and more people have said they have the same problem, and I see so many of them in parking lots with the same problem. Obviously, it is a manufacturer's defect. I paid a good amount of money for my car. Because I paid a good amount, I take good care of my car. I expect it to hold up. I want it fixed for free, or at least a nominal charge. Ford knows the problem exists, so they should take care of their customers. Over the course of 35 years, my husband and I have purchased10 Ford autos. That could all change if we don't get some satisfaction from Customer Service!

- , Merced, CA, USA

problem #357

May 152009

Explorer 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

I have seen this crack on many Explorers. Since this is a design flaw, I feel Ford is obligated to repair the crack at their cost. I definitely reduces the resale value.

- , Austell, GA, USA

problem #356

Jul 152008

Explorer LX 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles


I have seen this problem of crack under the back window of many Ford Explorers and Ford should really fix the problem

- , Budd Lake, NJ, USA

problem #355

Apr 102009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,350 miles

Ford should fix at no cost. This is an obvious use of inferior quality materials. I own three Ford vehicles (Explorer, Expedition, and Mustang). If Ford does not step up and pay for this fix I have purchased my last Ford vehicle. The Explorer also has a corroded hood that I paid for out of pocket $575.00.

- , Punta Gorda, FL, USA

problem #354

Jan 022011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,000 miles

Looks awful and worried water might get into motor for back windshield. Ford should recall because I have seen this problem just in the last month of five other explorers having the same problem. This is a ford problem and not consumer problem. Our car has been stored in garage since new and well maintained.

- , Prospect, KY, USA

problem #353

Jan 092010

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,000 miles

Was surprised to see how many of these have this problem. Ford should practice a little good will and repair these for us.

- , Bolingbrook, IL, USA

problem #352

Nov 032010

Explorer LS

  • Automatic transmission
  • 112,000 miles

Unreal, I have been reading some of the complaints and I am having the same ones;

Cracked panel under rear window

Hood corrosion


Not just a coincidence!

- , Freehold, NJ, USA

problem #351

Jun 162010

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles

I noticed a partial crack in the rear window panel several months ago on my 2003 Ford Explorer and now it is completely cracked. After driving around Southern California you look to see if other have the same problem, and you would be suprised to see how many Ford Explorers have the same problem. This should be addressed by Ford. TW

- , Fountain Valley, CA, US

problem #350

Jun 022008

Explorer Limited V8, 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

I think it's terrible that Ford will not recall this problem. I notice this same crack on so many other cars just driving around town. FORD you need to own up to this issue and do the right thing and fix these cracked tailgates.......

- , Redding, CA, USA

problem #349

Nov 252010

Explorer XLT 8 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 26,000 miles

If Ford is to maintain the progress it has made in the past two years it must fix these defects. Mileage and usage does not enter into the problem. It is definitely defective parts and/ or inferior design. I have bought and driver mant fords in the past. If

ford refuses to correct the problem at their expense, I will Never buy another ford. If Toyota had this problem, I am sure they would issue a recall. They will fix their tarnished reputation. Ford is not going to keep their a reputation if they refuse to correct there obvious design problems.

Pau Brandenburg

- , Burlington, CO, USA

problem #348

Jan 222011

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,000 miles

I look around at all the other Explorers that I see on the road and this is such a common occurrence that its not even funny! C'mon Ford!!!!!

- , Chillicothe, OH, USA

problem #347

Feb 032009

Explorer LX 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 145,000 miles

I have seen many explorers with same problem. It should be fixed by Ford.

- , Davie, FL, USA

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