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 18 of 28)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #206

Jan 042009

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,000 miles


This piece is definitely a defect and makes it very hard to open the hatch back, very very annoying! Ford should cover all these pieces that are cracking and braking on their trucks...Ford is supposed to be American made, Quality, they should back their product!!!!

- , Landing, NJ, USA

problem #205

Nov 112008

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,000 miles

Panel is cracked and I see lots of Ford Explorers on the road with the same problem and it is horrible that Ford is not doing a recall to fix this defect!

- , Landing, NJ, USA

problem #204

Apr 132009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,000 miles

The rear window panel had a crack below window in the middle when I called Ford to complain. They told me that it was $700 to repair and wasn't covered by warranty and also that it wasn't their fault, and maybe I did something to break it. I told them I had seen a lot of Explorers with the same problem and they just said they had not heard of it and if I wanted it fixed I would have to pay.

- , San Jose, CA, USA

problem #203

Jan 012008

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles


After reading all the posts on this site, I started looking closely whenever I saw another 2002-2004 vintage Explorer on the road. I'd say about 50% of them have some kind of crack (some worse than mine) in the trim area below the rear window on the lift-gate either right through the Ford emblem or next to it.

We had a bad rear-end accident in late 2005 and surprisingly the only thing that survived on the rear end was the glass window/lift-gate assembly. The door was replaced, door-frame repaired, and the bumper replaced.

By late 2007 - early 2008 we started seeing a crack in the trim around the Ford emblem below the rear window. Until I saw the volume of complaints on this problem I assumed it was caused by the accident (even though this trim area was completely untouched).

Ours has become so bad that during a heavy rain water leaks in the crack and gets into the latch assembly. Sometimes if you open the window after it rains, when it closes, the sensor says it's still open because the sensor has water on it and is shorted out... so then you can't arm the alarm after you shut it off and close all the doors.

I'd love to see someone post a complaint that explains how to get Ford to fix this for free.

- , Burke, VA, US

problem #202

Mar 242009

Explorer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 89,400 miles

This seems to be a common problem. Is there a way to get Ford to repair this obvious flaw with this body panel? We've spent our money on their product. They should treat us as I treat my customers and do whatever it takes to make things right. Especially when the problem is all theirs. I did nothing to break this panel, one day just noticed it had cracked. It is definitely a design flaw. Why should I have to pay to fix their mistake? This happened one week before the transmission went on this vehicle (see other complaint). I see a Toyota or Nissan in my future. Sorry American auto workers, but maybe someone should be looking out for your countrymen. It's unfortunate we have to look overseas for value for our dollar......

- , Westport, MA, USA

problem #201

Oct 112006

Explorer XL V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 64,000 miles

This is sad that you make your car payment as a consumer, and you are treated like you stole something. They replaced this part when I had my warranty on the vehicle. Now they act like this is something new. Went to same dealer same service dept at ford the manger tells me she has an explorer with the same problem They still want to fix their employee's trucks and they do know there is a problem. They want to look the other way, that's why they need a bailout, to continue to steal from American taxpayers

- , St Matthew, SC, USA

problem #200

Jun 052008

Explorer Eddie Baur V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles


P.O.S. FORD! They would not stand by this KNOWN problem. Cost me $800 to fix. Went to three different dealers...they all suck. This is only one of the problems I've had with this Explorer. I am original owner and babied this thing. Paint on hood started chipping right around 50K miles, engine blew out a plug that cost me $1800 to fix. Transmission is slipping, and every single sensor on the thing has gone bad at one point or another.

NEVER AGAIN WILL I BUY A FORD. Quality is NOT job one.

- , Stratham, NH, USA

problem #199

Dec 052008

Explorer LX V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles

When I got the car it looked fine but as soon as the weather got really cold, there was the "butt-crack" Ford. This makes me mad because Ford knows of this problem yet are doing nothing about it. The least they could do is make a cheap cover up we could put over it like a piece of rubber that looks like it was made for it. But-Nooo, just let it ruin there name, yeah like they need help with that. I would buy the cover up! "COME ON FORD DO SOMETHING!"

Somebody invent this and make some money!!!!!!!!!

- , Orwell, OH, USA

problem #198

Apr 142008

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,000 miles

Well we bought the car and the dealer we bought it from promised it was under recall. Well it wasn't and now we are stuck with the issue. What can we do.

- , Atlantic Beach, FL, USA

problem #197

Jan 022009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles

It appears from other posts that Ford "may" fix my problem. I'll let you know. I won't hold my breath.

- , Houston, TX, USA

problem #196

Jan 092009

Explorer EB 4.6L Litr

  • Automatic transmission
  • 49,000 miles


This is an update to a previous complaint that I posted on this site and i wanted to share with everyone the Technical service bulletin that i used to get my rear hatch crack repaired FREE of charge with my Ford dealer.

See this link for the PDF file that Ford has but will not share with us because it is a large problem:

Hope this helps everyone as it did for me!

Danny Andrade Livermore, CA.

- , Livermore, CA, USA

problem #195

Dec 122008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,000 miles

Since I have seen many of these vehicles with the same crack, it has to be a defect with the design. Ford should have to fix all of these at no cost. Mine has cracked on both sides of the Ford name on the back panel. That is a good ad for Ford.

- , Raleigh, NC, Pacific Islands (US)

problem #194

Feb 222008

Explorer 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

I was surprised to find that this is a common occurrence.

- , Arlington, VA, USA

problem #193

Feb 152008

Explorer LX V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles

I have seen cracks under rear window get progressively worse over the last year. One of many Fords with this problem. Let me know if anyone gets Ford to pay for this.

- , Rockville, MD, USA

problem #192

Jan 292009

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 33,000 miles

Seems this is a major defect in manufacturing and should be fixed by Ford at cost, at least. The number of complaints on this issue speaks for itself. I would pay $50 bucks considering age of car. I would consider this perforation of the car like a rust warranty for ten years The paint has worn off the plastic pillars between the doors as well. Otherwise a great car.

- , Port St Lucie, FL, USA

problem #191

Jan 062009

Explorer Limited V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 92,000 miles

I have read through all these complaints and find them very interesting. For a few years now I have noticed other Explorers with cracks in the rear plastic panel. I was just glad that it happened to mine yet. Well, a month ago it was really cold for a few days in a row and when I went out in the morning to go to work I noticed the crack. I believe the neighbors heard the loud"s__t" word I yelled. I had become a victim just like all the others. I made a list of off the things that are faulty: passenger seat heater - not working, rear speed indicators - not working, passenger side power mirror - not working. And here's the latest BIG issue: I was parking the car the other day and when I shifted into Park - the gear selector lever suddenly broke off. I had to have it towed to the local Ford dealership. They said it's not a safety recall and that it would be $2,200 to fix it. You can't just buy a new selector level - you have to replace the entire steering column. This is a Limited Edition model and it's just a crappy SUV. Never again will I buy a Ford. My wife has always drove a Honda and has never had any issues like I've had. Well, look out Honda - here I come!!!!

- , Virginia Beach, VA, USA

problem #190

Jan 012009

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 39,000 miles

I have the same crack as everyone else, and it appeared suddenly after a sub-freezing night. I talked to the local Ford dealership about it, and they said since it was cosmetic it would not be considered a recall issue. Coincidentally, the person parked next to me at the service center had the exact same crack on her Explorer, and while I was driving out of the dealership parking lot, I saw another Explorer with the exact same crack.

The dealership told me they don't do body work, and I should call a body shop for the repair. My concern is spending the money repairing the panel, and it reoccurring again next year. I could probably do the repair myself, but I'd need to have a body shop paint the part for me.

- , Tempe, AZ, USA

problem #189

Dec 222008

Explorer LX 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 66,000 miles

Since I have seen over a hundred similar complaints I think FORD should recall and fix the faulty panel that is cracked.

- , Windsor, CO, USA

problem #188

Feb 252009

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 64,000 miles

I just went to the grocery store tonight and when I came out I noticed that rear panel is cracked under the rear window when I got home I asked my husband if he knew what happend he said he didn't know so we were confused until he found this website and we read all these I guess we are screwed...this blows!!

- , Milford, DE, USA

problem #187

Feb 252009

Explorer XLT 3.2L- V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles

We noticed a huge crack to the left of the rear door panel last night. At first, I thought maybe an object hit the car and caused this damage, but as I looked closer there was no sign of impact. I called the Ford dealer today to describe the problem and before I could say two words the adviser acknowledged that he has seen a few, and no warranty would cover the problem. He confirmed there are no recalls against this defect, and pretty much I am screwed and on my own!

Ford should pay for this, and I am surprised there are no class action against Ford motor company already. Poor quality, poor workmanship, and no wonder they are going out of business.

- , Mission Viejo, CA, US

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