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 14 of 28)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #286

Feb 162008

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles


click to see larger images

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

The back latch was fixed in a recall that we didn't even know about. We just took it in for regular service and they told us they needed to fix the rear latch. Until I found your site I assumed that the problems of the crack and the latch were related. My concern was that we were past any statute of limitations. I would love for Ford to own up to this design flaw and fix it. I'm a little concerned that folks who are getting this problem fixed on their own are told that it isn't a permanent fix - we bought this car for the long haul.

- , Greenwood, MS, US

problem #285

Mar 182010

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,000 miles

I just find it odd that there seems to be a huge number of individuals with the 2003 model (Explorer or Eddie Bauer) that seem to have the same cracked tailgate problem. Not only the same problem, but in the exact same location on each vehicle. (to the Left of the Ford symbol on the liftgate) Obviously, there is a defect in the manufacturing of this part and should be covered for repair, regardless of warranty or mileage.

- , Apo, AP, USA

problem #284

Jan 292010

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

We too thought someone hit the back of the vehicle, but the area seemed too high and there was NO OTHER damage. My husband was in a parking garage in Annapolis, Maryland (close to the Naval Academy) just this past week and noted upwards of SIX Ford Explorers with the SAME DAMAGE!!!!!

Come on Ford, don't pull a Toyota on us -- make good on this!!!!

- , Fallston, MD, USA

problem #283

Mar 262010

Explorer ES V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles


I own my second Ford Explorer which is a 2003. It has 62,000 miles on it and it long off the manufactures warranty. Last month I noticed a cracked panel below the rear window to the right of the emblem. I took it to the Ford Dealership in Mesquite Nevada and since they do not have a body shop they referred me one in town. They also printed this diagram and told me that it was as common problem and a defect on several models around my year(s). I decided to have a fix rather than a complete overhaul, but the fix does not look good. That is the reason I am contacting you. I have read 11 pages of other owners with the same problem and they say FORD will do nothing to resolve this problem. I wonder if their CEO's know how bad this is for business or for future sales? Some owners are planning to file a class action law suit and I will be an advocate in my area. Perhaps a letter to the Nevada State Attorney General's Office will get the ball rolling? I encourage others to do the same in their respective States. This is so very wrong. I await your reply and resolution to this matter.

Thank you for your time and attention,

J. Mace

1210 Kerosene Lamp Ct.

Mesquite, Nevada 89034

- , Mesquite, NV, USA

problem #282

Jan 182010

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles

I wish Ford Motor Company would do the right thing and repair the cracks occurring on mine and many other vehicles. This crack happened while the Explorer was sitting in our driveway.

- , Mason, OH, USA

problem #281

Nov 202009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,652 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

Ford in Victoria says this crack is unique! Their service department refuses to acknowledge the preponderance of complaints about this fault in the Explorer design.

We just purchased a new Honda because further dealings with Ford's lack of responsibility is not an option.

- , Saanichton, BC, Canada

problem #280

Mar 032010

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,000 miles


I did not have it repaired but took our car into have it done assuming it would still be under the new purchase warranty agreement. We did by it used, however our dealership had a 6 month 6500 mile warranty with the purchase. Wouldn't you know it, the back panel was not covered. The auto body shop I took it to said that this repair was common and that there was a 95% chance that within a few years time I would be replacing it AGAIN. Why hasn't Ford recalled this?! It obviously is a problem and with all the issues of Toyota right now you would think they would not want that kind of reputation as well. The newer models do not have this same panel on the back, in my opinion Ford is in the wrong here and should be fixing this problem.

- , Lakeville, MN, USA

problem #279

Mar 152010

Explorer Limited 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 119,000 miles

How annoying this problem is. I walked out one day and there was a big crack on the rear panel of my car. No dent, not scratched like someone might have hint it. Just a great big crack. That really pissed me off. And for as much money as we pay for our vehicles, crap like this should not brake so easy. Other wise they should lower the prices. I'm going to keep complaining until someone fixes it. GRRRRRRRRRRRR

- , Redding, CA, USA

problem #278

Mar 012010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

This is my second Explorer and I have been so very disappointed to see this crack in it! I wonder what is problem that is keeping Ford from fixing this. When my dealer said that the crack is a very common problem, I thought he was just being the usual used car salesman until I began to notice more and more vehicles. I am very happy with my Explorer but will probably research a few more options when its time for a new one.

- , Petal, MS, USA

problem #277

Oct 142009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,000 miles

My husband come out one morning and found a crack in the rear panel just below the rear windshield. We thought maybe something hit it and caused this damage, but when we looked at it closer there was no sign of impact. We called the car dealer and they told us that they had heard of this and informed us that Ford will not pay for it. It will cost us $500 to fix it. This is rediculous expecially when it's a defect. Ford needs to fix this.

- , E. Stroudsburg, PA, USA

problem #276

Feb 142010

Explorer Eddie Bauer 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles


Rear liftgate panel developed a crack next to FORD emblem. The cracked appeared after a cold day. Ford should cover the repair cost, given that so many explorers have developed the same problem.

- , Gainesville, VA, USA

problem #275

Nov 282009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 87,000 miles

I have owned many fords in my life time and have three right now. My back glass has cracked and think ford should fix

- , Chatsworth, GA, USA

problem #274

Feb 182010

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 137,000 miles

The crack first appeared 2/18/10 while in the parking lot of a Dr.'s office. We thought someone must have backed into us a fairly goodclip. It happened we were going to be near the body shop that repaired our "deer" damage a couple of years ago. He said this is a problem with this particular piece of plastic. He has repaired many, many of them. In his opinion Ford should be picking up the tab for this.

- , Conyers, GA, USA

problem #273

Dec 182008

Explorer XLT 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 47,000 miles

I too have been upset with the crack that appeared down the rear hatch on my 2003 Ford Explorer. It was in December so it happened to be in the cold weather. I not only have one crack but now have 2 more cracks. I take good care of my vehicles and have always had Ford vehicles. I agree with others and I may be looking at other Makes. 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!

- , Bismarck, ND, USA

problem #272

Feb 282010

Explorer XLS 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,000 miles

I had the panel completely fall off! the glue behind it wore away and when I took it into the car wash today the high pressure water finally knocked the panel completely off. I guess I should be thankful it didn't fly off on the highway!

Why is this even a separate stick-on panel? Why does the glass have to go down that far? Other designs of this type of vehicle have the glass only going as far as the bottom of the panel, and then the rest of the tailgate is made out of metal. Is it because you can open the glass portion separate from the tailgate? I'm still wondering.

I am going to try and call ford at the number provided (800-392-3673) and see if I can get a new panel paid for.

- , Reading, PA, USA

problem #271

Mar 062008

Explorer AU Limited 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 54,059 miles

All the other Explorers that were sold at the same time have the exact same problem.Ford should recall and repair or replace all items on these models

- , Wanganui, Aramoho, New Zealand

problem #270

Mar 262009

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,400 miles

Called Ford customer service -spoke to a Christopher Ford will NOT fix .

Went to local Ford dealer -sent to the body shop and was given an estimate of $392.01 to fix.Dealer agree that Ford should fix atno cost to Ford owner he also stated he has seen many at his shop.


- , Springfield, MA, USA

problem #269

Oct 062009

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 47,000 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

I have a 2003 Explorer (Eddie Bauer), garage kept, and the plastic below the glass on the back window has a crack by the Ford emblem about 7" long. I called the dealer, Beach Ford, and they said Ford will not cover the cost of the repair. I called the Ford customer # 1-800-392-3673 and filed a claim , they also said they have had no other complaints on this particular issue and would not cover it. There are five in my neighborhood that I have seen and I've seen others in the parking lots all over. i have even put flyers on other explorers and mountaineers (because it is also happening to them also) telling them to call the hot line and complain. all we can do is hope they get enought complaints and do something about it.

- , Chesapeake, VA, USA

problem #268

Dec 192009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 91,000 miles

Well, it happened to me. After reading all the complaints about this, my Explorer developed the same crack below the rear hatch glass area. Like the others, Ford Motor Company should be taking care of this problem if they want to retain future customers. Being in the retail business myself, I know how hard it is to get and retain loyal customers. Ford could go a long way in securing future customers if they just would take care of the ones they have. I myself, after being a loyal customer for over 30 years, will consider other manufacturers before buying next time.

- , Easley, SC, USA

problem #267

Jan 242010

Explorer XLS 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 29,235 miles

This is our 2nd Ford. But if Ford does not fix it - I will be looking for a different brand. If there are so many complaints, it is obviously a design flaw - and Ford should take the responsibility to fix it whether it is under warranty or not. I will also complain to the the Feds about this.

- , Naperville, IL, USA

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