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 12 of 28)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #326

Jul 142010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles


I've had to replace the transmission at 60,000, windows stopped working (Wires were to short broke) and now the back hatch cracked. They need to be recalled.

- , Springfield, OH, USA

problem #325

Oct 202010

Explorer Eddie Bauer v8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

This has happened twice. The 1st time 2 years ago. After a tremendous hassle the Ford dealer replaced the panel for $100. Now that it has cracked again they will so nothing. This sucks. I have taken excellent care of the vehicle and except for this obvious manufacturer's defect it is in mint condition. FIX IT FORD.

- , Middletown, OH, US

problem #324

Jun 152007

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 58,000 miles

On my 2003 Ford Explorer, the plastic panel under the tailgate window cracked to the left of the Ford emblem. This occurred after there was a recall for the window hinges, which I had done at the time of the recall. I have seen many of this model with the same crack. This is definitely a defect that should be fixed by Ford on a recall. Otherwise this car is great, Economical and no mechanical problems for the first 100,000 miles. For the price and usefulness, the explorer is the best car on the road. I also have a 2004 Eddie Bauer expedition, which I love.

Update from May 10, 2011: I just saw a summary of the number of similar complaints (5/10/11). 484 complaints for 2002 Explorers, 378 for 2003s, 452 for 2004s and even 108 for 2005s. Only GOD knows how many others are out there that didn't get reported. Ford should step up and fix them, if only for the PR benefit. I also got an email from a freind in Virginia concerning a recent news article that speaks of a class action suite by Virginians against Ford for this defect. Maybe a united class action suite is the way to go.

- , Riva, MD, USA

problem #323

Oct 062010

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,214 miles


click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

I am becoming very unhappy with this Ford Explorer...I love the car as for the way it handles and the space, but always something wrong...with so few miles. It has never been driven all that much. Just around the my area, long distance is with another car.

I always thought of Ford as a good buy, but all this makes me wonder...just what does one go out and buy today...recalls on all Brands......sick of this!!!

- , Angier, NC, USA

problem #322

Oct 102009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 49,000 miles

the tail gate on my 2003 explorer is cracked. As of today it is totally cracked to the bottom of lift. It looks awful and i hate it. I cannot afford to pay to have it fixed. Ford really sticks and apparently does not care about anyone but themselves and making money. This is the last ford they will ever make money on from me. I will NEVER buy another FORD. How can I fix it myself?????

- , Dunellen, NJ, USA

problem #321

Oct 202010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

Last week I found a crack in the panel below the rear window. My first instinct was to see if other Ford owners have had the same issue. I shall be contacting Ford shortly...but won't hold my breath for help with this issue.

- , Springfield, OR, USA

problem #320

Sep 012010

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 108,000 miles


My first vehicle was a 79 Ford LTD, I loved it. I then moved on to a Taurus which I liked. I know own a 03 Explorer which WAS in great shape until that damn crack on the rear panel showed up. This PROBLEM is not just with my vehicle, i've seen plenty of explorer's with the same crack. It is a MANUFACTURER DEFECT, because of the crap Ford used to make it. They know their in the WRONG, just look at the models today. It's all one damn lift gate. FORD YOU NEED TO FIX THE PROBLEM, NOT IGNORE IT.


- , Fort Hood, TX, USA

problem #319

Feb 022010


  • 78,000 miles

Everyday I see at least one other Ford Explorer with the same crack in the tail gate as I have on mine. Ford needs to issue a recall on this if they want to keep customers!

- , Trenton, FL, USA

problem #318

Jan 022010

Explorer 4.0

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,541 miles

I Think Ford Needs To Replace this part because it is not our fault and I have seen others like this and Ford should stand up for their reputation in making good vehicles.

- , Shelyville, TN, USA

problem #317

Aug 012010

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

This is crap !!! I can't believe Ford hasn't recalled this problem. I see Ford explorers on the road now and I look for this, and I see a lot of them with this crack, like my own.

- , Clayton, MI, USA

problem #316

Aug 252010

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles


This is the second time this problem occurred.I originally thought the hinges were the culprit since they weren't aligned properly on the car. It was repaired under warranty the first time in 2005 including new hinges and after that I stopped using the lift-gate glass. Since that repair I've been opening and closing the whole door very carefully and it still cracked. I notice the new Explorer's no longer have this piece of cheap plastic under the glass so Ford definitely knows about it. How many people have to complain before they recall?

- , Pompton Plains, NJ, USA

problem #315

Apr 232008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 63,000 miles

back panel under glass cracked ,think ford replace it free of charge.

- , Lexington, KY, USA

problem #314

Apr 112010

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,382 miles

I think ford need to fix this problem. I have seen a lot of fords with the cracked panel belowthe rear window cracked. I also think ford should do a recall

- , Oakdale, LA, USA

problem #313

Sep 152009

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 109,000 miles

It is apparent that this is not an isolated few cases. Ford needs to step in and make this RIGHT! Ford Engineering Geniuses did not get this design correct - what else is out there? The crack certainly brings attention to the poor plastic design centered around the Ford Logo on the lift gate.

JUST WALK THROUGH A PARKING LOT - I counted fifteen at WalMart. What does that say about the design?

- , BelAir, MD, USA

problem #312

Jan 012010

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,000 miles

Hi, I have the same issue with my 03 Ford Explorer & have noticed everyone on the street has the same cracks. Please call BOTH numbers & report this. Hopefully they will recall it soon. FORD: 800-392-3673 then call National Hwy Traffic & Safety, they will make a report and mail it to you for confirmation: 800 424 9393 .

- , St Rose, LA, USA

problem #311

Nov 152008

Explorer Eddie Bauer V5

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

At first the crack was very snall, but with time the crack has turned into one very large crack and 3 smaller cracks. At first I thought that it was just my car that somehow someone had hit the car, but as time past I noticed that there are a lot of Explorer's that have the same problem as me.

I think that since it is a faulty part that obiously Ford knows about that they should fix it or at least give some credit to those who choose to have it fixed.

- , Whittier, CA, USA

problem #310

Feb 092010

Explorer XLT 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,643 miles

My daughter drove the vehicle to the Northwest to go to school and she noticed the cracked lift gate one day this past winter. She hadn't been using the lift gate for some time so there's no reason that this crack should occur other than the material couldn't handle the temperature cycling of summers and winters. Definitely a manufacturer's latent defect.

- , Redondo Beach, CA, USA

problem #309

Jun 012007

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

Did not know at the time this would end up being a chronic problem for many 2003 Explorer owners. This rear panel cracked just under the rear wiper assembly.

- , Troy, IL, USA

problem #308

Jun 102008

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 35,000 miles

This common problem began about 16 mos ago as a small crack left of the "Ford" emblem on the rear hatch. It has grown to about 5" in length and a new, smaller crack has developed over the emblem. Vehicle has been garaged since new, is driven only 2 miles to work by my wife and parked in the shade while there. We live in a mild climate. We go to Sacramento often, and have been observing a large number of Ford Explorers, which have the same rear hatch, whith the same problem. Is ford deaf and totally ignorant to the customer base, and the problems this creates for their "Quality is Job 1" reputation. After owning 6 fords in the last 15 yrs., this will be the last.

- , Sonora, CA, USA

problem #307

Jul 162010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,800 miles

One day I checked the car for dings and drove to check tire pressure. Just five minutes from when I checked the exterior of the car thoroughly for deffects. I walk to the rear and see the hatch has split from the bottom of the glass all the way to the bottom of the hatch seperation(about 10 inches!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) I am VERY upset and it sounds like am not alone.

- , Oklahoma City, OK, USA

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