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 13 of 28)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #306

Feb 092010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 69,000 miles


I too have a 2003 Ford Explorer XLT with a cracked plastic panel below the glass lift gate. It has happened twice now, once in 2005 which I had repaired ($650) and again earlier this year (2010). I called the local dealer who had "never heard of this condition before" and stated that they had no recall on the part and therefore wouldn't fix it. I then contacted Ford directly who brushed me aside after saying that they too were unaware of a problem and have no intentions of fixing it. In the past 10 years, I've purchased two Explorers for work and two for personal use. I'll not purchase another.

- , Goodyear, AZ, USA

problem #305

Jun 012008

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 35,000 miles

This will be the very last Explorer I will ever purchase. I will ensure that every person I meet knows how bad the Ford Explorer is. I am in the Military and I meet thousands of people every year..."One person at a time".

- , Cottage Grove, WI, USA

problem #304

May 152009

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

Im really getting tired of dealing with ford cars. I go on the internet and see so many unsatisfied ford owners out there. When I get done paying this sh*t off Im never buying a Ford again. I will go foreign. The cars produced by american companies can't compare to the quality of foreign auto makers and they wonder why our auto companies are failing. They produce pieces of sh*t cars and sell them at ridiculous prices and when a defect occurs they leave you high and dry.

I have a 2003 ford explorer xls and out of no where the rear panel cracks. I didnt even know it had cracked until I went to open the trunk area and saw a huge gaping crack in it. I have had so many problems with this car that ford will never get a dime of my money again after this one. They should be ashamed at the quality of cars they produce. America use to be the king of the world auto industry but these companies got greedy and began selling less reliable cars and cutting corners and now their products are worthless. This rear panel issue isnt the only problem I have with my car but that is for another complaint file. FORD NEEDS TO FIX THESE ISSUES OR FADE INTO AUTO INDUSTRY HELL.

- , Byron, GA, USA

problem #303

Nov 292008

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles


I always look at the back panel of the Explorers I see on the road and I see the same cracks as on my vehicle. Def..a defect and FORD should fix this for us.

- , Blue River, WI53581, USA

problem #302

Oct 012008

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

I have see numerous Ford Explorers with the same defect and I think vehicle owners do not realize it is a common defect throughout this model and is visible on newer models.

- , Islamorada, FL, USA

problem #301

Nov 102009

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

I own a 2003 XLT.I woke one winter morning and noticed a crack on the back panel lift gate. The crack is vertical , about 6" long . The crack is now cracking to the left.I first thought that someone came along and cut the plastic panel as it was so perfect.

I have seen only 1 other Explorer on the road in my area with this problem .I thought to myself that this must be an isolated incident until I found this site and read on . With all the complaints listed here, why does Ford not wake up, take action and recall this faulty design ?

- , BayShore, NY, USA

problem #300

Aug 152009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles


I too have been upset with the crack that appeared down the rear panel on my 2003 Ford Explorer. It was in August so it happened to be in the hot weather. I take good care of my vehicles and have always had Ford vehicles. This is my third Ford Explorer. I agree with others that Ford should be paying for these repairs. I may be looking at other Makes to replace this one. I do like the Explorer but I am getting tired of paying for all these little problems I am experiencing with this model. It all adds up!

- , Benicia, CA, USA

problem #299

Apr 052010

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,000 miles

Just wanted to added my whine to the din! Already bought a replacement Infinity and will use this formerly desirable vehicle to teach my kids how to drive. As others have said, Ford should fix it's own problems. We have cared for our vehicles and this problem is only due to manufacturer design flaws. FIX IT FORD!!

- , Calgary, AB, Canada

problem #298

Oct 222009

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

My explorer is in mint condition except for this hidiuos crack below the hatch window. My vehicle is kept in the garage and has been well maintained and I think Ford should fix this problem for all explorer owners!

- , Larue, TX, USA

problem #297

Dec 132008

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 63,000 miles

I have read alot of these complaints about the same thing the rear panel cracking.I agree with all.You work you're butt off to be able to buy a nice vehicle & the panel cracks just because its cold outside.If I had known then what I have read now the vehicle would have stayed on the lot.I think that it should be a recall they recall for everything else why not this especially when they apparently have figure it out & are making the whole back different.

- , Abingdon, VA, USA

problem #296

Nov 172009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,000 miles


click to see larger images

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

When I noticed the crack in my rear hatch, I was very pissed off to see a crack where I have no idea how it could have occurred. I spoke with one of my friends and was told that another friend of ours have the exact same crack in her Ford Explorer as well. Then as I drove around and saw more vehicles like mine I find myself lurking to find the same defect and 90% of the time the vehicle has the same defect. Ford understands this problem and it sucks that they will not do anything about this defect...this is more of the reason people do not buy American made cars especially ford cars because of the manufacturing defects that happen and they do nothing to solve the problem. A problem as simple as replacing the hatchbacks with a more pressure treated part that will resistant in cracking with environmentally stress issues. I will not buy American to be working for a ford company. I will help fight this any way possible please feel free to provide advice.

- , Columbus, GA, US

problem #295

Aug 012009

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,000 miles

I think Ford needs to fix this problem. I have seen a lot of Fords around town that have this problem. So what are they going to do about this?

- , Lakeland, FL, USA

problem #294

Mar 062010

Explorer Limited V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

Seems to be a common default, I see a lot of these same broken rear panels.

My first Ford, not real happy with it.

- , Leander, TX, US

problem #293

Nov 212009

Explorer XLS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,000 miles

click to see larger images

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

I have seen so many Ford Explorers like mine in North Carolina with the same crack and It makes me believe that this is a factory defect that should be covered by the manufacturer......lets fight for are rights. Call the consumer affairs division of your State Attorney Generals Office. This can be found on your states governmental website and often the complaints can be filed on line or you can download the forms to file your complaint by mail.

- , Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #292

Mar 142010

Explorer LX

  • Automatic transmission
  • 102,000 miles

I could not believe when right after I had my car washed the big cracked on the back!!! The next day after I parked my car the surprise! The cracked it was “glued” back!! That was when I realize what was happening the piece expanded and cracked. Very disappointed I took my car to a Carmetics and another surprise $1500 to fix it!!!! I do drive a lot and the same week I was driven and I saw another Ford Explore with the same crack!! I did stopped the car and ask the driver, which was very unhappy with the issue as well, what happened to his car. Same thing as mine. Called Ford and no recall. It is my problem. I have been driving and I always check for Ford Explore cracks and I always find them!! I suggest that we all Ford explorer owners should go on the TV and make it public!! I am searching for my legal rights on this matter and you all should do it too. I really take care of my car and I can’t express how mad I am with Ford indifference!!!!

- , Costa Mesa, CA, US

problem #291

Dec 222006


  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,000 miles

I had the cracked panel under the rear window as well. I closed the liftgate on a really cold afternoon and it cracked. I started noticing that almost every explorer had the same problem! FORD told me that it was not covered under the recall that was running at the time and that I was responsible for fixing it!! FORD is terrible for not standing behind their products!!! I tell everyone I know to never buy a FORD explorer!!

- , Black Rock, AR, USA

problem #290

Apr 012005

Explorer Eddie Bauer 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 25,000 miles

The rear panel on our Explorer cracked right after it went out of warranty. Like so many other Explorers that the same had happen to. We took it to the Ford place and of course they told us it wasn't covered and there had been no recalls on it, which is strange considering there have been so many with the same problem. We took it at least 3 times to the Ford place but to no avail. It is evident that this is a product flaw, and Ford should be responsible for replacing it. We finally gave up. It's hard going up against the GIANT company.

Update from Nov 12, 2014: After asking Ford to replace the rear panel and they refused, we paid $300.00 to have a new panel put on and painted. It lasted for about 2 1/2 years. The new panel cracked in the same place as the original.

- , Fort Walton Beach, FL, US

problem #289

Feb 072009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,000 miles

one cold feb morning noticed a crack along the plastic panel below rear window. Didn't think much about it until i noticed numerous explorers with the same problem. now everytime i see a explorer i look for this defect and have counted numerous other explorers with the same problem. the dealer states this is a defect but they are not going to pay for repairs. the cost to replace this piece of plastic would be around $400.00. the question is, why should i pay for something that is a obivious defect?

- , Chicago, IL, USA

problem #288

Jan 152010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

I do not like the way Ford Motor Co has handled the known defect. They refused to repair the defect will never purchase a Ford product again.

* Don't Purchase Ford Products *

- , Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #287

Feb 132010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

I've had my 2003 Ford Explorer for 3 years now, I've never had any kind of problems out of it other than the cracked panel below the rear window, cracked 2 months ago. I didn't notice it at first because my explorer is a dark green but it seems to be getting worse. At first I thought someone had hit me but it's too far up for someone to have it me, then I started noticing alot of ford explorers on the road the same year as mine with the cracked panel below the read window. This is Ford's error therefor FORD should be responsible for replacing it. Not sure why this has not already been recalled. It really makes me mad, my explorer is in very good condition other than that cracked panel and from what I've been told by several different autobody mechanics, it is a fairly expensive part to fix. I'm merely in shock that FORD will not fix this? If they can't make vehicles any better than this then they need to STOP MAKING THEM. I know alot of people who buy from FORD, but for now own I WILL be letting everyone I know who is considering buying a FORD vehicle that FORD will not replace cracks in the vehicle that they are responsible for. This is ridiculous.

- , Hernando, MS, USA

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