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 15 of 28)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #266

Dec 302009

Explorer LT 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 43,732 miles


The crack resulted in water leaking down through into the carpet. Horrible stick! Took silicon caulking to fill, so that at least the water wouldn't keep coming in. Live in WA, so rain/water is definitely an issue. Plus the crack looks UGLY. Also worried that the whole hatch is compromised and will cause the window to fall out eventually! Ford should recall and fix the problem at no charge to their customers. This is definitely a design flaw!

- , Sumner, WA, USA

problem #265

Dec 102009

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles

This is a common problem for this year, make, and vehicle. My college age children's generation call it the "Ford Butt Crack". Instead of ignoring the problem, Ford should have been proactive in fixing it.

I always heard that Chevy's had electrical problems and Ford's had problems with the rear differentials. Between the two, the Chevy electrical problems are certainly easier to fix. I was looking to buy another truck for my business but after the problems I've had with this Explorer, I'll cross ford off my list and stick with a Chevy or Toyota.

- , Grovetown, GA, USA

problem #264

Jan 012010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 106,000 miles

Since Ford has several hundred complaints with the exact problem there's probably twice as many unreported. Obviously this is a defect in that particular panel. I feel Ford should fix it. This is my third Ford Exploer and I am in the market for a new one. How this problem is handled is the deciding factor as to whether I buy another Ford.

- , No. Brunswick, NJ, USA

problem #263

Dec 162009

Explorer EXL 6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 42,000 miles


I own a 2003 Ford Explorer which I purchased from my dad's estate a little over a year ago. My dad took excellent car of his car and he had a little over 30,000 miles on the vehicle when I took ownership of it. A crack appeared on the tailgate warning ...nothing......just showed up as a huge crack to the left of the Ford emblem. My dad was always a dedicated Ford man. He would have been ashamed of the shabby quality and the lack of concern from the manufacturer. DO THE RIGHT THING FORD!!!!!! This is a no brainer here. I will be purchasing a new car in the next 6 months. Do I need to eliminate Ford from my list? I need a vehicle that I can depend on and would prefer one that doesn't look like it was entered in a demolition derby after a few years!!

- , Orlando, FL, US

problem #262

Sep 012009

Explorer V8

  • Manual transmission
  • 79,000 miles

I was amazed at how many people have the same issues with Ford....I have a 2003 Explorer and the heating system is shot to hell....I get the clicking noise as so many of the other consumers reported....I have the crack in the hatch....It's crazy...It's like they set us up to have these issues....It's 19 degrees today and I have to drive my wife's car (a Mitsu Montero 2000 with 200k + miles and still running, btw with heat) because there is no way I can stand to drive my Ford....And have to nerve to ask for a bail out and complain about Americans buying foreign....Eff them!!!

- , Wilmington, DE, USA

problem #261

Oct 092006

Explorer NSX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

Ford should definitely have this put on there recall list and have to replace the part.... Every freaking Explorer I see this model I see the same problem which is ridiculous.

- , Calhoun, GA, USA

problem #260

Jan 132010

Explorer XL 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles


I take excellent care of my cars. This 2003 Ford Explorer has been a lemon. The rear end, I found out later, is causing problems for everybody. I have had it fixed twice. Last week I went to the garage and looked at the back tailgate and there is a crack vertically in the plastic below the window. What a surprise when I went online to find out that lots of people are having the same problem. I think Ford should offer to fix the problem they have designed. I will not buy another Ford product.

- , Tega Cay, SC, USA

problem #259

Jan 172010

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

I have a 2003 Ford Explorer with the crack in the back panel next to the emblem. I came out to my car and it was cracked. I called the 800 number that Ford gave me to call and they told me there is no recall and the part. There are several thousand people with this same complaint. The local body shop told me that the problem is in Fords design of the panel. They have "0" reiforcement next to the emblem to close the door which is right in the middle of the door, where normal people push to close it.

Very dissatisfied with Ford & seriously question weather to buy another ford product.

- , Marlborough, NH, USA

problem #258

Dec 292009

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

I had no idea this was a common problem. Like the other 200 plus folks that have registered, I too have the large crack down the back rear panel under the rear window to the left of the Ford Logo. My In-Law's that have the same explorer, but a newer model were shocked when I told them about my crack so went to go look at their vehicle and guess what?.... they too have the same crack, but on the right side of the logo. As many of you know, calling Ford to register the complaint does no good. I've also registered both complaints with the NHTSA and plan to report to the Federal Trade Commission. It's rediculous that hundreds of folks have this problem, but no action has been taken. My key long term concern is that the window will fall out, or back hatch be compromised and keep opening.

- , Mt. Pleasant, SC, USA

problem #257

Jan 042010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 121,500 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

I have seen this issue on many many Explorers of this body style. I have already been to a Ford dealer and they did depreciate the trade-in value of the vehicle for this even though they also admitted that this is a know issue for the model!

- , Huntsville, AL, US

problem #256

Dec 292009

Explorer XLT V6 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles


I came out of work and saw the crack and could not believe my eyes.I have never seen anything like it.I have just started to figure out the fix on it.Ford needs to make this right and replace this panel at no cost.This is a deffect in their workmanship.I take pride in my vehicle and this looks like sh*t at no fault of anyone but ford motor company.Come on Ford back your product and do the right thing and replace these defective panels

- , Poolesville, MD, USA

problem #255

Aug 122008

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,000 miles

I am out-and-out shocked at the Experts and Engineering Geniuses at Ford Motor Company. The engineer or designer should be fired along with the departmental employees that participated in the flawed plastic design centered around the Ford Logo on the lift gate. In my scientific research it seems as though the window is encased in the plastic and the indent of the plastic that supports the Ford Logo is the major cause in the weakening of the plastic. We in America promote idols and marketing while sacrificing quality. Then the major companies fail to back their respective design and product when it fails to perform.. My initial crack in the lift gate was just one-half of the plastic. We just went through a few cold spells with the first ice storm. The crack filled with water during the ice storm and froze. As the ice expanded you get the picture…so did the crack. The crack has also extended to the bottom half of the logo. A few months back, I was traveling behind another Explorer and noticed they had the same crack. It is time for Ford Motor Company to step up the Consumer and back their product or take any reference of the word quality out of their ads, commercials, and any other outward reaching communication.

- , Gaithersburg, MD, USA

problem #254

Jul 022007

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

Crack below rear window happened a couple of years ago. Obviously when the rear window is closed, the pressure exerted on the Ford emblem flexes and then finally cracks the plastic molding. Ford should have recalled the vehicle and placed a plastic "shim" underneath the molding as support.

- , Clovis, CA, USA

problem #253

Mar 102009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles seen several ford explorers with this same problem with crack in the same area. Ford should recall and repair.

- , Lawrenceville, GA, USA

problem #252

Dec 102009

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

Fourth major problem with the Explorer, total cost to repair is more $5,000. Sure they want to sell the extended warranty...wouldn't be better to make a better Vehicle? One that will last?

- , Pleasanton, CA, US

problem #251

Dec 102009

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

This seems to be a defect in the rear panel that ford should take care of without charging the customer. If enough people complain to ford maybe they will see the light. This is not my problem. Ford needs to recall and repair.

- , Omaha, NE, USA

problem #250

Nov 252009

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles

faulty designed plastic,ford should fix it.HOLD THE EXCEC.'S PERK $

- , Freehold, NJ, USA

problem #249

Nov 212009

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

I was extremely annoyed to find this crack in my rear panel, and wanted to know HOW this could have happened, (I was blaming people, trying to figure out who could of hit me etc.)..Now I come to this website and find out that not only is it a VERY common problem that happens all on it's own, it is also a costly problem in which Ford won't stand behind it's vehicle!!! I'm super ticked now. That's all I have to say, and NO! I Don't FEEL BETTER .

- , D, OK, USA

problem #248

Nov 272009

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 137,000 miles

I noticed other Explorers with the same problem but never had an issue until the other day. After closing the back hatch on a recent cold day, the hatch panel cracked. Unfortunately it is not a straight line crack. It splits into two cracks and then merges into one. It looks terrible and expect better from a Ford product.

- , Hopkinsville, KY, USA

problem #247

Nov 132009

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

A crack in the rear window panel of my 2003 Ford Explorer just appeared. I hadn't realized the magnitude of this problem until I researched it online. Just wanted to register my complaint here to add to the many other reports about this problem. Maybe Ford will notice, but I doubt it.

- , Mer, TX, USA

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