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 20 of 28)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #166

Nov 072008

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles


This crack started and finished in one day. I tried to glue it, but the crack would open and close depending on the temperature of the day, so glue wouldn't hold. My vehicle is no longer under warranty. I may be able to find a replacement at the junkyard. With so many complaints about it, Ford should replace it.

- , West Bountiful, UT, USA

problem #165

Dec 202008

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles

I just discovered a 1/8th inch split from top to bottom in the center of the panel below my back window. It wasn't there yesterday and I haven't used the window hatch lately so it can't be from closing it too hard. It's about -20 degrees C (-4 F) with the wind chill so I was wondering if it could be due to the sudden temperature change from a garage to outside.

I see from other comments re this problem that Ford refuses to acknowledge that this is an issue. I really like this vehicle, but this is the third issue that has really pissed me off. The reverse sensors stopped working and I'm told it will cost big $ to follow the wires looking for the problem. I've also just had the third set of brakes (top of the line ceramics) installed which seems a bit much for 110,000 km's.

We have to replace my wife's car very soon, but I'm not too interested in another Ford.

- , Abbotsford, BC, Canada

problem #164

Nov 262008

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,240 miles

I bought my Ford Explorer from a car lot in Eden, NC in February 2008. I've already had to put a wheel barren on it and also about a month ago I went to the back of my car just to find a cracked panel and that really pissed me off. I bought a lemon before from another dealer in Reidsville, NC and I didn't expect to buy a lemon from a well known car dealership. You would think you can trust the car dealerships when purchasing a car but I guess not since now a days people are only out to get what they can get out of you. They just want the money and truly the way that the auto market is they can loose business.

- , Eden, NC, USA

problem #163

Apr 212008

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles


Cracked rear door. I reported the problem to my dealership and they indicated that there were no other complaints. I find that unbelievable, I have seen several Explorers with the same problem. How many complaints must Ford have before they recall it?

- , Granada Hills, CA, USA

problem #162

Dec 042008

Explorer XLT 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,900 miles

I JUST BOUGHT this Explorer used.. I have not even had it for a month yet. I had read about the crack "buttcrack" and it just happened to me today. I called Ford customer service who told me that it was not under warranty, it was not a safety recall -- so there was nothing that they would do about it.

I knew that this was a potential issue on these vehicles when I bought it, but I am still upset that ford will not stand behind these repairs considering that it is an obvious manufacturer defect.

If Ford doesn't do anything to help me out with this, this vehicle will be my last Ford... and I am a young buyer. Ford, do you really want to piss off your young future buyers?

- , Danbury, IA, USA

problem #161

Oct 172007


  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles

I bought this car used and had no problems with it. Then this cracked appeared. At first i thought it was the dealership covering this up but i realized that this is a factory defect. I haven't done any thing to fix it but will to put in my 2 cents.

- , San Diego, CA, USA

problem #160

Mar 042007

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles


Wow... I was just playing around online and decided to do a Google search on this crack and look what I find? This is my third Ford and I didn't have this problem with the other two so naturally I thought I had done something wrong. It's amazing and rather sad that Ford has allowed this to go for so long. I won't be buying another Ford.

- , Corona, CA, USA

problem #159

Oct 202008

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

I came out one morning and found a huge crack in the rear panel just below the windshield right next to the ford emblem. There is nothing near or around the car that could have caused this and I could not figure out how this happened. A couple of days later I was in traffic behind another Ford Explorer and they had the same exact crack that is when I decided to further investigate this online. Figures they are doing anything about it. This is my 3rd explorer and my husband owns one as well. Guess we won't be buying anymore!

- , Mt. Pleasant, SC, USA

problem #158

Nov 022008

Explorer LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles

I was very upset when we went to go away and noticed the huge crack below the back window. The car had not been moved the day before so it had to happen while sitting under the carport overnight. I am planning on contacting the Ford dealer in town to see what if anything they will do. I don't have much confidence in dealerships when something like this happens. They usually plead ignorance to the problem.

- , Dillsburg, PA, USA

problem #157

Jul 072008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 49,000 miles

I came out from the house to go to work, and there it was a crack from above the Ford emblem down below it. No one had hit my hard, ect. It just appeared. I have kept the car in clean condition and even covered at times, so I am frustrated that it would just appear, the dealers are stating that there is a complaint but not a recall. That it is not covered under warranty. I purchased the car 3 years ago. I need any help I can to get this replaced, and I should not have to pay for something I did not do to the car.

- , Buena Park, CA, USA

problem #156

Jul 022008

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 48,000 miles


Same isue as many with the rear hatch cracking after a few years, this is a factory defect with almost all folks having to pay for this.

I just took my Explorer to the dealer and showed the issue and the service manager here in Livermore California knew of the issue. Happy to say that I just received the vehicle back with the plastic piece replaced free of charge.

However, I was prepared for a mini war with Ford and armed with a TSB from Ford mentioning that they will replace this issue free of charge. Many people here in this forum are working with dealers who just don't want to help as they all have a slush fund from Ford that can take care of this free.

Feel free in emailing me as I would be happy to send you the PDF file with TSB.

My email is

Hope this helps.


- , Livermore, CA, USA

problem #155

Jan 252008

Explorer Limited V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

It is sad that Ford will not do anything about their wrong doing! I will not get another ford until they make right!

- , Bolling Afb, DC, USA

problem #154

May 072008

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

This panel is made with cheap, crappy materials ! Ford saved a buck, and we got screwed! Crack is all the way down the center of the panel. Now water will get in !

Screwed again!

- , Minden, NV, USA

problem #153

Oct 132008

Explorer Limited 3.6L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,000 miles

Ford is not interested in customer service and is losing business fast... The dealerships in Chicago are very hard to deal with and are clearly focused on profit first. I can't support this company any more and I'll share my story with many others..

- , Chicago, IL, USA

problem #152

Apr 182008

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 43,000 miles

I thought this was only my problem. After finding this website, it really p----- me off that Ford will not take any responsibility for this defective part. Just goes to show why American manufacturers are suffering.

From what I read this may happen more than once. Makes me wonder if I should wait to get if fixed until right before I sell it. I suppose I'll call my Ford dealer and at least get a quote. Hopefully it doesn't sting too bad.

- , Westminster, CO, USA

problem #151

Jan 022008

Explorer 6.4L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,000 miles

I have kids and i hope the glass don't fall out on them. We don't used the back hatch any more, but it is hard to get food from the store and have to put all the food on top of my kids in the back seat. I had a car.I got the ford to have more room.But now don't even have a trunk.And there is no recall.I have saw 3 people in my location with the same problem and same model.Is there help. All I am told is there is no recall or body shop but I don't do it. I had a woman at wal-mart say man that looks bad.I will send pictures. April

- , Grove Hill, AL, USA

problem #150

Aug 222008

Explorer 6.4L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 1,000 miles

rear panel cracked.please recall the panel u have money. Ford needs to fix it

- , Grove Hill, AL, USA

problem #149

Jul 102006

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 42,000 miles

With all of these complaints you'd think that Ford would do a recall. Most Explorers you see in front of you with this body style has the same crack in the same place. Very cheap design. Come on Ford...fix it or I'll go with a GMC Acadia!!!

- , Jonesboro, AR, USA

problem #148

Mar 012007

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 42,000 miles

Are you serious???!! Body panels breaking for no reason??!! I don't even use the glass lift gate, how could this stupid thing break? Anybody given any consideration to water getting into the crack, or cracks in my case, and rusting out the lift gate?

It's a known problem in Ford because they obviously redesigned around this issue in the newer models. As usual...if it doesn't cost lives...Ford won't do anything about it.

- , Toledo, OH, USA

problem #147

May 032008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

Very interesting that so many others have the same gripe...Merely coincidental...Hmmmmm....I think not.

- , Scottsdale, AZ, Afghanistan

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