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 11 of 28)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #346

Jul 012010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles


Ford should fix or replace to correct this problem.

- , Blasdell, NY, USA

problem #345

Jul 142010

Explorer XLT 4,0 V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

It is obvious looking at other Explorers of about the same year that this is a widespread problem. What is crazy is that Ford is not doing anything to compensate owners for this defect. The way Ford has pretended this is not a problem will keep me from ever buying another Ford. If they turn a blind eye to the obvious they are not honest nor customer oriented.

- , Eufaula, AL, USA

problem #344

Jan 092011

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,547 miles

Common problem for Ford Explorer. Crack is to the right of Ford emblem and occurred during cold weather in Annapolis, MD.

Update from Jan 19, 2011: Updated VIN

- , Severn, MD, USA

problem #343

Jan 082008

Explorer XL 4.0L Flex

  • Automatic transmission
  • 47,000 miles


The panel cracked, I went to the Ford Dealer and was told that the warranty has expired. I was a Ford customer since 1989, at that time my first Ford was an Escort GT,

1n 1993 bought an Escort wagon and a GT, on 1995 a Mustang, on 1997 a Thunderbird, on 2001 an Explorer Sport and on 2003, two Explorer. I still have one and

sold the other. Had the same problem with both. All these cars were bought from Gus Machado, in Hialeah, the sales man was Wicho. I never will buy another Ford, because

Ford does not come forward and recognize the problem. Other than that it is a good truck.

- , Hialeah, FL, USA

problem #342

Nov 182010

Explorer LX 6 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 151,768 miles

This is obviously a problem that is apparent by the number of Explorers you see around with the same problem. It is obviously the result of a manufacturing problems or material break down. It is not acceptable for a vehicle that has been taken care of. My vehicle has regular maintenance. The purchase of a vehicle is the second largest investment most people make in their life, it should last for a long time. Car builders use to stand behind their product and I think Ford should stand behind this one. It could eventually lead to other issues like the lock mechanism for the rear hatch and window. Come on Ford stand up and fix it.

- , Denver, CO, US

problem #341

Dec 132010

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

I'd seen this crack on several of these trucks and wondered how hard someone had to slam the door to cause that to happen: and when it might happen to mine. It gets cold enough, and there you go! And I'm in a southern state. I wonder how long it took for Explorers in northern states to crack like this. How long does it take now for water to get in and ruin something else?

- , Fayetteville, GA, USA

problem #340

Dec 032009

Explorer LS 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles



- , San Antonio, TX, USA

problem #339

Oct 012010

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

Unbelievable. I have the Eddie Bauer package and paid a lot of money for this car. Went to trade it in at the FORD dealer and they noticed the crack right away. Discounted me for the damage. Was looking for a new Explorer. NOT ANY MORE

- , DeKalb, IL, USA

problem #338

Nov 072010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,000 miles

About 3 months ago I noticed a crack on the back door panel on the left of the Ford emblem. I thought someone had tried breaking in to my automobile. I looked at the hatch and am wondering why it comes loose or open w/out my pressing the unlock on the doors or w/my fobb. I then saw another Ford model vehicle, some lil hatchback w/the same crack on this back panel. Now as of 2 weeks ago the crack is wider. It runs top to bottom of the panel and is about 7 inches (the entire height of that panel above the window). I'm always looking for any new scratches dents by other obnoxious careless drivers. This is a major EYESORE. I take pride in what the body of my cars stay in, and this is unacceptable. How can this be fixed or what is causing this crack to just suddenly appear? Are there gaps or spaces behind that panel on this door ? This really needs to be looked at cause I am not ready to dish out 400-1000$ out of my pocket to get it fixed. Will my insurance cover this ? Will this cause any leaking or damage if this crack gets any wider ?

- , Chesapeake, VA, US

problem #337

Dec 072010

Explorer XLS 4.0

  • Automatic transmission
  • 111,000 miles

This SUCKS!!!!!!!!! I just bought this Explorer on 12-03-10 and afterward learned about the problem with the cracked plastic happening on these models. I considered myself extremely fortunate that mine wasn't cracked. I get up this morning and damned if there wasn't a HUGE crack from top to bottom just to the right of the Ford emblem!!!! This car was FLAWLESS! perfect body, perfect paint and now this!!


- , Ardmore, OK, USA

problem #336

Jul 012010

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles


Noticed this a few months back; a friend has the same issue; crack down the back of the hatch around the Ford emblem; Ford should recall and fix for free; my family has been Ford supportive for many many years! Fix this problem Ford. We will be calling around to see what can be done; joined the FaceBook group, etc.

- , Canton, GA, USA

problem #335

Nov 062010

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,000 miles

Since this has happened to my Explorer, I have learned it is a very common problem and should be addressed by Ford.

- , Tampa, FL, USA

problem #334

Jun 022009

Explorer 4.0

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

This is my 3rd complaint about my 2003 Ford explorer. Washing the piece of crap when I noticed the rear cracked. Apparently other explorers are doing the same thing. There should be a class action suit against Ford for the Exploder's and I don't mean Explorer, because this SUV is making me broke.

- , Monroe, MI, USA

problem #333

Nov 132010

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,000 miles

I could not believe reading all the complaints about a problem that just occured to me. My daughter callled me at work to tell me of a crack on the rear panel below the window. She even sent me a pic mail of it. I didn't contact dealer yet here in Harrisburg PA but will this week. I bought the vehicle used in 2004 and have had no problems except normal things aside from an alternator. The saleman is a friend for years but will get an earful if nothing is done. I'm one for buying US made vehicles to help OUR economy and to keep corporate profits here. Ford Corporate will also get a call. If nothing is done HOW can they (Ford) expect to have to have return customers. I truly enjoy the truck, but maybe Chevy needs another look. Ford needs to man up

- , Harrisburg, PA, USA

problem #332

Oct 012010

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

Won't buy another American can. They don't stand behind them like the imports.

- , Washington, UT, US

problem #331

Mar 022009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 48,000 miles

This is my second Ford Explorer, and I was pretty upset that with less than 50000 miles on a 6 year old car, the back hatch has a crack in it. I contacted our insurance company because I wasn't sure if something hit the vehicle. At any rate, we paid a small deductible and our insurance company covered the remaining balance. They said they would contact Ford and conduct analysis on the incidence of this problem.

- , Redondo Beach, CA, USA

problem #330

Jul 052010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 69,000 miles

click to see larger images

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

OMG! Where and how to begin??? This past summer, I closed the tail gate on my car as I would any other time....and instantly, the giant, ugly CRACK shown in the two photos provided, was all of a sudden just there!? I couldn't believe it! What had I done wrong? What did I do different? NOTHING!!! That's what I did....nothing. So this happens, my husband and I research the issue online and discover hundreds of complaints regarding the same car, same year (including 2002 and 2004 models). All the reviews we read discussed the fact that Ford will do NOTHING to fix what is clearly a defect in the panel. Well I thought...."Well I'll get Ford to do something!" I wrote to Ford, was put in contact with two representatives, both of whom gave me the complete run around, claiming there is nothing Ford can do, as the car is out of warranty. OUT OF WARRANTY???? Is there a warranty for issues caused by a manufacturing flaw in the design of a vehicle? This is not just wear and tear on the car....this is a DEFECT, Ford! A warranty should not be the issue. I don't care that the cracked panel does not appear to be a safety issue. What I care about, is that in 2003, I purchased a $35,000 brand new vehicle.....not a cheap investment, and the freakin' car should not just crack when it feels like it, and Ford not be held accountable??? SUCK, and although we have purchased other Fords in the past, I can guarantee this will be our last....and along with my new friends on the internet, I'll be spreading the word around town as well.

- , Folsom, CA, USA

problem #329

Dec 142009

Explorer XLT 6-Cylinder

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

My problem is the same as many 2003 Ford Explorer owners -- cracked panel on the tailgate. I've had no luck in getting it repaired by Ford, and I've tried the corporate office and our local Ford dealership in Owensboro, KY, which is Champion Ford.

So, my next step is this: I'm starting a Facebook group encouraging unhappy Explorer owners to join and post photos of their cracked back panels. I'm then doing a YouTube video about the problem and hope that it goes viral.

I can't imagine Ford would want such negative publicity, so I'm hoping they repair my panel.

- , Philpot, KY, USA

problem #328

Dec 142009

Explorer XLT 6-Cylinder

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

Since I've had the problem with the cracked rear panel on my 2003 Ford Explorer, I have seen many, many other Explorers with the same problem. I contacted the Customer Service Dept. for the main office of Ford Motor Company, with no luck in getting it repaired by them at their expense. Since then, I've contacted our local Ford dealership, Champion Ford, in Owensboro, KY to tell them of the problem, with no luck either. They're response was, "Well, if it had happened during the 3-year warranty period, it could have been fixed." Duh. From my research, I have discovered these panel problems don't occur while the vehicle is still new or fairly new. However, I think for such a severe problem to occur in the body of a vehicle that only has 70,000 miles on it (the mileage at the time of the crack), is ridiculous. (However, Champion Ford was happy to give me a quote for the cost to repair it at MY expense, using their body shop, of course.)

My next step is this: I'm going viral with this problem. First, I am starting a Facebook group to tell the world about this lack of integrity by Ford, and to get as many people to join as possible. I shall post pictures of the crack, and encourage other Explorer owners to post their own photos. Then, if I still have no positive response from Ford Motor Company, I shall make a video and post it on YouTube.

I'm getting ready to inform the corporate office and our local Ford dealer - Champion Ford of Owensboro, KY - that I am doing this. I would think they would not want the negative publicity and FIX MY FORD!!! Join me, Explorer owners, on getting the word out about this problem via the internet!

- , Philpot, KY, USA

problem #327

Jan 172009

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 93,000 miles

This is such a common problem. You see these things all over town with the cracked panels. It should be an embarassment to Ford! They should take some pride in their work and replace all of these obviously defective panels. My son also have an explorer and has had his replaced at his own cost. Wake up Ford...treat your customers right and they might start returning.

- , Barrie, Ontario, Canada

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