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 19 of 28)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #186

Feb 012005

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,000 miles


When I called the Ford dealer to ask about the problem, they acted like they never heard of this complaint before. I began to take notice of all the Explorers on the road with the exact same crack. I then brought it to the attention of the dealer when I had it in to have the hinges replaced. They told me Ford is not paying for the repair. Why are people sick of the American car companies again???? The same vehicle had the rear differential replaced 3 times due to another design issue.

- , St. Charles, MO, USA

problem #185

Jun 112008

Explorer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

i still love my truck until the trano goes

i still love my truck until the trano goes

- , Marrero, LA, USA

problem #184

May 202007

Explorer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 25,000 miles

At first I thought we had gotten hit when I saw the crack next to the Ford emblem on the tail gate, but after further analyzing the crack I noticed it's a pressure crack and thought one of the kids closed the tail gate wrong. But then....a few weeks later my other SUV an 06' Lincoln Aviator cracked at the same spot, thank god that was a lease and was sent back as soon as the lease was up....Ford has to know of this design defect on this model and needs to make thing right!!!! shame on you FORD!!!!!

- , Indio, CA, USA

problem #183

Jul 042008

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,000 miles


During the summer my granddaughter was helping to wash the car and I noticed a few days later that the panel beside the decal was cracked. I felt sure that she must have done something, but then just about a week ago I noticed that it was cracked on the other side, and nothing has hit it or anything. After reading other complaints about this, I feel that Ford should give us some relief when we have this repaired.

- , Edwards, MS, USA

problem #182

Jan 312009

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 63,500 miles

Same problem as it seems everyone else is having, the tailgate cracked below the window. My fathers had just cracked the week before and my brother-in-law is a Sergeant for our local police department and they have one as a detective vehicle and it cracked about the same time as my dad's. I called Ford, they said we are on our own to fix it. I asked to speak to someone else and the guy basically just hung up on me. I am not giving up on this problem, I feel it is Ford's responsibility to fix it not mine. I hope everyone who complains about this contacts the BBB and continuously calls Ford everyday to bug the sh*t out of them. Ford is already in trouble I can't believe they feel they can lose the customers they already have. I will never buy another Ford,solely because of how I was treated on the phone, and I hope everyone who has had this problem with Ford will not either.

- , Salem, VA, USA

problem #181

Dec 212008

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles

My son and myself have explorers. Both have cracks next to the emblems on the rear hatch. Nobody has hit the hatch. It just cracked on its own. This is a factory defect and should be rplaced by Ford. At this point we are sure we will NEVER go Ford again!

- , Philadelphia, PA, USA

problem #180

Nov 142008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 66,000 miles


I felt my cracked rear window was just another example of my bad luck but after seeing all these complaints, I too feel that Ford owes us some compensation.

- , Belle Vernon, PA, USA

problem #179

May 202008

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,470 miles

click to see larger images

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

This is the icing on the cake. NO MORE FORD's!

We took this vehicle in every 3k miles to the local Oak Ridge, TN Ford dealership. Toward the end of our warranty the lifters started messing up. Took it back in and they said they'd replaced the oil, filters, etc, couldn't find anything wrong. We ended up taking the vehicle to another dealer because the Oak Ridge dealer wouldn't fix the problem. The new dealer found sludge in the oil pan! (Seems we paid for oil and filters years on end that weren't replaced.) They asked for our receipts, said if we didn't have them Ford wouldn't honor the warranty and we would have to pay to replace the engine. (I found this odd because each visit was to a certified Ford service center, and was entered into the Ford dealership database, which fed Ford because we always received information from corporate.) Thank God I kept the invoices, presented them, and the dealer/Ford replaced the engine.

After getting the vehicle back we find the back liftgate is cracked! Not only that, but we are seeing more and more of this make/model on the road with cracked liftgates. RECALL!!!!!

- , Clinton, TN, USA

problem #178

Oct 162008

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,300 miles

Yes I to have this same problem with my Explorer, the rear panel has a big crack in it for no reason. I just figured maybe the heat caused it. I remember back during the summer it would sometimes make this loud thump noise like something had hit the back rear glass when I cranked it up. I did not realize there was others with this same problem as well.

- , Byhalia, MS, USA

problem #177

Dec 182008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

I have a 2003 Ford Explorer. I came out of the grocery store one day and noticed the crack just to the left of the Ford emblem on the rear panel below the glass. There has not been any type of impact to the car that would cause the crack. Since this happened, I have noticed several other Explorers on the road with the same crack. I think Ford should be responsible for repairs.

- , Columbus, GA, USA

problem #176

Jan 012009

Explorer XLT 3.4L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,000 miles


panel cracked in two places, as did many of the other Found On the Road Dead explorers

- , Goldsboro, NC, USA

problem #175

Oct 102008

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

Same treatment as others received. Tough S---. Never buy another Ford. I hope they go under.

- , McMinnville, TN, USA

problem #174

Dec 122008

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,000 miles

I have been seeing this crack on many other Explorers on the road and have been wondering how it happens.Still don't have an answer but no impact was involved, I woke up on a cold morning and went out to the car and there it was. The car was in my private drive and blocked from behind by my Range Rover, my guess is that the cold temp caused th plastic to crack vertically in the proximate center of the lift gate. Since this happened I have seen at least a half a dozen explorers with this problem, it is clearly a defect which should be covered under a recall.

- , Wappingers Falls, NY, USA

problem #173

Jan 192009

Explorer ELT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

It's been very cold in NJ lately and I noticed this crack the other morning, after initially blaming it on the cold weather, I searched and found that there are many complaints on this exact problem. I said no more Fords after my last one, and now I mean it.

- , Newton, NJ, USA

problem #172

Jan 182009

Explorer 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 160,000 miles

Was awfully surprised to walk outside today and find a crack all the way down the lower part of the rear hatch on my ford explorer. And am not looking forward to fighting it out with Ford... which it seems is what I may have to do. Sorry to hear that we are all having these issues and yet they don't consider this a RECALL issue. My family buys "Ford" because it's supposed to be American made, but if this is how they treat their customers, I might as well buy elsewhere!!! If it's not taken care of, we won't be buying Fords anymore!!! Also having trouble with automatic windows. We bought this vehicle used, so thought it was just a thing... but from further reading, this vehicle seems to have many faults!!

- , Plant City, FL, USA

problem #171

Dec 262008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 128,000 miles

This really pisses me off, FORD needs to cover things like this, they have a bulletin that they send to insurance companies outlining the issue, they know it happens, should be up to them to fix

- , Three Oaks, MI, USA

problem #170

Dec 252008

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 101,297 miles

First off let me say that I just called the no. provided (800-392-3673) and talked to a customer service rep and they said there was nothing they can do for me. Then I asked to talked to a manager and he told me the same thing. I gave him this website address to look at all the complaints but he did not give a sh*t whatt so ever. He said he would not look and that he didn't have to look. I mean this is why they're in this crisis right now and look who's bailing them out...we are w/ all our tax dollars. I will never buy ford again! I'm totally done w/ them. They don't care about the customer at all. At the end of the phone call he told me to have a great nerve. Anyways what can you do? I guess rant and not support Ford. They don't want to support their customers so why should we support them. HAVE A GREAT DAY!!!

- , San Jose, CA, USA

problem #169

Jan 052009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 43,000 miles

Misery loves company. Our 2003 developed the same crack in the rear panel that every one is speaking of. Our local Ford dealer politely told us that it was our problem because our vehicle was out of warranty, but they were aware of the issue and had replaced numerous appliques other vehicles under warranty. Body parts should not spontaneously disintegrate. This is reprehensible behavior from Ford. I am tempted to put a huge yellow arrow on the back of the vehicle pointing towards the crack with a sign that says "Are you sure you want to buy a Ford?" and then parking it in front of the dealership.

I was reluctant to buy this vehicle in the first place. I think it will be my first and last Ford.

Other issues you ask? Two rear window motors, speed sensors, door ajar sensor, rear differential seal. All before 45,000 miles.

- , Napa, CA, USA

problem #168

Dec 292008

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 128,000 miles

I happened to need something out of the back of the car, and about freaked. At first I thought someone decided to take a saw to the back of my car, then on closer look, I noticed it just cracked and was offset on the left a little less than 1/8". Today, I noticed another Explorer with the same crack just on the other side of the Ford logo; so I thought it would be a recall issue and could get taken care of rather quickly. Apparently, it should be a recall. I plan to go to the dealership and see what they say about it.

- , Charleston, SC, USA

problem #167

Dec 292008

Explorer Eddie Bower V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,000 miles

Another cracked explorer here. So do the replaced panel crack too?

- , Sioux Falls, SD, USA

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