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 17 of 28)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #226

Aug 132009

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 69,900 miles


Like most of the other comments, it just occurred all by itself. I noticed it one morning. I wonder if it has to do with the heat of summer? I haven't yet gotten it fixed--still checking out prices and options. It sure looks terrible. I didn't realize it was such a common problem--seemed like a "fluke" as nothing had hit or damaged it....unitl just today I saw another Ford Explorer of the same year and color (red) with the EXACT same crack! It seems to me an obvious manufacture's defect. I really hope Ford takes responsibility--but won't hold my breathe on that one.

- , Electric City, WA, USA

problem #225

Aug 232009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 117,348 miles

I don't understand all the complaints and Ford chooses to ignore the problem. This happened two years ago and I complaind to Ford for about 3 months and there answer was there was no recall an there probability wouldn't be.

- , Commerce Township, MI, USA

problem #224

May 292009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 57,000 miles

Same as many others, woke up one day to find the beneath my rear window cracked. Since then, I have noticed NUMEROUS explorers with the same defect. I will NEVER buy a Ford again.

- , Covina, CA, USA

problem #223

Aug 182009

Explorer UX Limited 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,108 miles


I bought the car secondhand only 8 months ago. The car is in really good condition and I have enjoyed driving it. It was extremely disappointing to find the crack today. Even more so after finding all these complaints. I expected more from Ford. They should take responsibility for this obvious design fault.

- , Mooroopna, Victoria, Australia

problem #222

Feb 222009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles

Daughter was driving this car, came home one weekend from college and low and behold a crack appeared 1 day after she returns. I had placed some items in the back of the car on Saturday morning. Sunday morning I go out to one of the other cars and happen to look at the back of the Explorer and there is a huge crack on the back of the car. Called dealership that I purchased the car from (brand new) and body shop manager said the dealership would take care of it at no cost to me. Daughter took car back to school and I took car back to have repair done, at no cost to me. Manager said things had changed and they would not repair without me paying approx 450.00. Originally he told me about the crack without me even having to go into deails about it. He said it had happened many, many times and it is something that Ford was aware of. Grant you, my car is no longer under warranty but I dont think that I should be responsible for something that I had no control over. Starting on Monday, I will be writing everyone and there brother; I am even taking it to the media. Ford should have recalled these cars when this first started to happen. I dont car how old the vehicle is or how many miles we have on our cars, we should not have to spend over $400 getting this crack repaired. I will never buy another Ford product unless they take care of this flaw that was known to the company. I think we should start a complaint all over the country regarding this issue. Thanks for letting me rant. As I told the service manager, I dont appreciate him saying that he would repair the car and then changed his mind.

- , Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #221

Sep 102008

Explorer XLT 4.0L Sohc

  • Automatic transmission
  • 197,010 miles


- , Greensburg, LA, USA

problem #220

May 252005

Explorer XLS 4.0L L6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles


Yet another example of something not caring about the product they offer. It's such a shame. No more Fords... EVER!

- , Honesdale, PA, USA

problem #219

Dec 042007

Explorer XLT 4.0L Ff V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 48,000 miles

What can I say ? Broken engine, broken a/c after just 60,000 miles. Couldn't care less about cracked body work as am having to sell what's left of the car for a pittance and will never buy Ford again. Ford should be ashamed of treating people like this -when there are multiple common complaints for the same problems and yet they managed to fix these in later versions of the car - surely this admits liability and they owe Explorer owners of 2002/2003 versions recompense?

- , Gainesville, FL, USA

problem #218

Sep 302009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

I talked to a body shop owner who said several of these similar models have come into his shop with the same problem and no explanation for why it is happening. There should definitely be a recall and fixture on the part of FORD. This is not good for the look of the vehicle especially if one should ever wish to sell. When several of these continue to show up that is not quality on Ford's part.

- , Taylorsville, NC, USA

problem #217

May 012009

Explorer ES 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 111,000 miles

The rear window panel has a crack below window in the middle FORD logo. Just came out and noticed it the other day. Oh did I mention the entire rear door assembly/tail gate fell off..... A hinge had come loose. Glad I had about 10 bungie cords in the car to hold it on. My electrical system is a mess on hot and humid days even with a new battery,cabin light stays on so I have to remove the bulb. About twice a week the system re-sets ??

- , Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #216

Sep 102007

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 137,000 miles


The panel between my rear glass is cracked completely. Afraid to use rear lift gate as I feel it may fall off.

- , Jasper, FL, USA

problem #215

Nov 042008

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,000 miles

Ford had a recall on the panel window. Sent it off to fix it. When my car was ready, i didn't notice the crack under the glass down the line. I took it back to ford to find out what happened to my car. The reply was, we have no way of knowing if it was caused back at the dealership. I will never buy another ford in my life. I tried to support our maker. Back to foreign cars i go

Signed a very pissed off customer

- , Houston, TX, USA

problem #214

Feb 032009

Explorer 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,999 miles

just pull workmanship !fading paint around the top doors, cracked tailgate ! ajar door alarm !

- , Scotch Plains, NJ, USA

problem #213

Apr 302009

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles

Ours has been cracked for a long time, so I'm not sure when it occurred. I think everyone who reads these posts, and has the same problem, needs to take the time to register on this site (although time consuming), and add their complaint. There is often power in numbers, and when this problem has thousands of posts on this site, maybe Ford will get the ball rolling.

- , Euless, TX, USA

problem #212

Mar 012009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

Returned from a deployment from Iraq to find that my back glass was cracked under the rear window which i have already had replaced once. I think ford should recall those windows from the manufacturer and replace them with new ones. and since it has cracked my door is open light will not go out and i have to manual turn off interior lights.

- , Jacksonville, NC, US

problem #211

Feb 032009

Explorer Limited 4.6L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

The back panel is cracked under the window. "Poor workmanship and inferior parts" that should be Ford's new slogan!!! This is a big hit to the resale value bu not worth fixing. I will never buy another Ford.

- , Cincinnati, OH, USA

problem #210

May 012008

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

I have the extended warranty which I paid extra for and Ford still did not cover this defect. I own five Fords but this will most likely be my last. I understand engine issues but body parts should never crack for no reason! It seriously makes me second guess the "quality" of Ford cars. You would think in this economy Ford would have much better customer service on issues such as this!!!!

- , Montrose, CA, USA

problem #209

Apr 042007

(reported on)

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles

Same as all the others. The magical Ford Fairy visited last week and... POOF!!- broken panel. No wonder they abandoned their slogan from a few years back- "Quality is Job #1". Riiiiiight. Good luck in finding another sucker, uhm, I mean customer to replace me. Trust me, it's not just over a $400 Band-Aid repair to fix this issue. I have a laundry list I can share with those with insomnia. Too bad I won't have the vehicle when they issue the recall so I can take it back to my oh so friendly Ford dealer. I won't miss that while cruising around town in my reliable Yugo.

- , Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #208

Jan 222007

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • 44,000 miles

Was happy with my Explorer until I noticed that the plastic panel below the rear window was cracked top to bottom just to the right of the Ford logo. At 44K miles the vehicle is beyond the original warranty but I hoped that it might be covered under the Ford ESP extended warranty that I had bought. with the car. The dealer told me that they had seen many similar cracks all near the Ford logo but that there was nothing they could do as it was not covered under the any warranty and Ford had not issued any service bulletins regarding this problem. I am very unhappy as it is going to cost me $600 to fix what is clearly a design flaw. This is the last Ford vehicle I will ever buy.

- , La Habra, CA, US

problem #207

Mar 122008

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,000 miles

We noticed the crack soon after the warranty had expired, how convenient. We took the car to our local dealer who informed us that there was nothing that Ford could do, the vehicle was out of warranty - cost of repair, about $700.

We have since noticed many other Explorers with the same problem. The plastic is glued to the glass and the two materials expand and contract at different rates during heating and cooling, hence the crack is inevitable. Ford must know that this was a poor design that impacts the resale value of the vehicle. If they stood by their promises of claiming to support their customers, they would deal with this, but presumably it will cost them too much...They should realize that in the long run, they will lose out because customers will turn to other manufacturers - wake up Ford. We want to support a US product, but you seem to leave us little choice!

- , Columbia, SC, USA

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