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 21 of 28)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #146

Feb 012008

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 108,000 miles


Another unhappy ford owner called the 800 number and talked to customer service at ford corporate office told me tough, so much for getting my 2003 explorer 6 inch crack fixed by the ford emblem on tail gate!! never again will I purchase a ford product..

- , tiffin, OH, USA

problem #145

Jan 112008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 58,000 miles

This is the second 2006 Ford Explorer I have purchased and this incident has happen to both vehicles. This is absurd and FORD should be fixing this problem if they know its a known issue and I am sure they have heard about plenty of times to meet its customers half way on the issue.

I say lets start a petition and get there freaking attention.

- , Round Rock, TX, USA

problem #144

Feb 122006

Explorer XLT 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 36,000 miles

This whole problem is sad for Ford. They don't need this. I've bought at least 5 new

Ford cars/trucks in the last few years and refuse to buy another unless they decide

to step up and fix this design problem. It's not just a cracked panel but how they honor

their customers when they have a problem. Remember Ford - without satisfied customers, failure is the result.............

- , Midlothian, VA, USA

problem #143

Dec 272004

(reported on)


  • 65,700 miles


Noticed large crack in the plastic under the rear window. Called the Ford dealership about the recall notification of the rear window crashing down on some vehicles. Asked if this crack was part of the recall. I was assured that it was part of the recall and would be no charge to fix. The mileage on my vehicle would not cover under warranty. Hopefully, the dealership does not charge me for repairs.

- , Merrimac, MA, USA

problem #142

Mar 142006

(reported on)


  • 69,000 miles

Day after "no charge" recall #04S20 was completed to replace liftgate glass hinge, I noticed a 6" crack in the tailgate molding under the liftgate glass the first time I went to open the tailgate. (one day after the repair) Service Dept. says this is just a defect the Explorers have, and they are not responsible for the crack. Cost to replace cracked panel - $500. Freedom Ford, Pueblo, Colorado Dealership.

- , Pueblo West, CO, USA

problem #141

Jun 012007

Explorer LS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 54,000 miles

I'm glad to see that others are having the same problem. I'm going to get this fixed or start a class action suit against them. Clearly this is a design flaw.

- , Livermore, CA, USA

problem #140

Apr 132008

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles


click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

Just noticed this on Saturday 4/12/08. I though a rock hit it while driving or something else. I'm glad to here this is a on going issue. I am going to the local Ford Dealer today to see how much its going to cost and if they will cover it. I will keep everybody informed of my results

- , Mechanicsville, MD, USA

problem #139

Feb 162008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles

I was extremely annoyed that this happened and have noticed several other Explorers on the road with the same problem. Has Ford fixed this problem for anyone and if so, was your vehicle still under factory warranty?

- , Statesville, NC, USA

problem #138

Mar 052008

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,000 miles

Seems ford has a design problem and should cover this.

- , Jacksonville, FL, US

problem #137

Mar 142008

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 44,000 miles

I too have the same problem as many of the other people on this site. I began by e-mailing ford. I got the run-a-round. I contacted the dealer. They told me to contact the Ford CRC. The crc advised me to get the vehicle looked at. My local dealership doesn't have a body shop, so I took it to another local shop. The Ford crc said they would not accept the local shops estimate. They told me if I wanted to fix it they would "help". I would have to pay $50 of $300 or less repair and $100 over $300. I informed them the offer was absolutely unacceptable. I feel this is a flaw from the manufacturer that should be fixed entirely whether the vehicle is under warranty or not. My wife wants the problem fixed. I agree, however, after the poor customer service I feel Ford has relayed to myself and lots of others, I will not accept their token repair. I am in a customer related business. If we handled customers this way, we would not stay in business long. We must be doing something right. My company has been around for 100 years. I have also submitted a complaint to the NHTSA at their website.( I encourage many others to do the same. Hopefully there will be strength in numbers.

- , North Platte, NE, USA

problem #136

Mar 102004

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 5,000 miles


OK, so Ford fixed it. I only had the car for less than 4 months but it took several weeks for the replacement part to come in. Was it fixed? didn't crack again, but the panel won't stayed glued in place. It has been re-glued by Ford numerous times and of course as soon as the warranty was up Ford, said "too bad". This is an on-going problem that I should not have to pay for.

This car has been nothing but trouble since I bought it. I have had wheel bearings replaced numerous times. I am also on my 3rd set of last explorer had almost 90,000 miles on it before it needed brakes. This one needed the first set at 55,000.

This is my 3rd Explorer but it will be my last.

- , Red Hook, NY, USA

problem #135

Mar 052007

Explorer 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,480 miles

I took my explorer back for recall on the rear window hinges being loose but they wouldn't repair the panel under the recall. But that's why the panel cracked - from having to slam the glass hatch the hinges being out of line............But what ever, that's FORD CHEAP!!!!!!!

- , Macon, GA, USA

problem #134

Feb 212008

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 93,000 miles

I noticed my neighbor had the same issue and I have seen other explorers with this crack. I was doing a web browse and I saw that I am not alone at being upset about this problem. I plan to call Ford Customer Service about this and I will see what happens. This crack is just ugly and Ford should do something about it.

- , Jamestown, NC, USA

problem #133

Feb 182008

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,235 miles

Explorer has been garage kept and maintained excellent with wax. Paid for the Premium Warranty and Ford states this problem is not covered - states it is considered a piece of Molding. If Ford opts not to fix this problem - which lowers the resale value due to their design flaw - I will personally see to it that My or any of my extended family never buys a Ford Product again. I will also have my input as a fleet manager to stay clear of Ford. I have had a great report with Ford until this happened. Ford needs to step up and fix this problem and not expect the consumer to pay for their flaw.

Thomas Hickenbottom

- , Virginia Beach, VA, USA

problem #132

Mar 242008

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • CVT transmission
  • 79,000 miles

My Explorer has been garaged at night since we bought it and yesterday we go out to the car to load sports equipment in it and my husband goes what happen to your car and there is a big huge vertical crack running down the panel just south of window. The car has never been in an accident or hit in any way so obvious it must be a defect. So, I call the Ford service dealer and he knew exactly what I was talking about and he said 'I see that a lot in here'. So I go 'there must be a recall' he goes 'no but you can call Ford', so I call Ford and they are absolutely stonewalling me and didn't even acknowledge that this was a persistent problem, nor did they acknowledge the tech. bulletin on it until I mentioned it and the amount of vehicles the service manager said he was seeing. So I asked that they replace the panel on their dime because obviously this panel is defective. They go 'there is nothing we can do!' So get a case # when you call and only then if there is enough will there ever be possible recall and then and only then will you see your money. FORD does not back their product. I will never ever buy another FORD and to think this was my third Ford vehicle - never again!

- , Clovis, CA, USA

problem #131

Oct 182007

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

Ok is this enough, what good does it do to vent with no results? I went to my local Ford dealer, and wants Me to pay 200$, and why I ask, he said he didn't know?????? Can we get a campaign going directly to Ford, I am sure with the state of the automobile industry, they don't need any bad press......I honestly and fortunately have not had another single problem with this car in 5 years. So why is Ford playing "See no evil, Speak no evil with us?" Anybody game?

- , Newnan, GA, USA

problem #130

Nov 152006

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 58,000 miles

Crack runs down next to the logo. Ford needs to recall this!

- , Poplar Grove, IL, USA

problem #129

May 152007

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,000 miles

We woke up one morning and found that the tailgate panel had a vertical crack that ran from top to bottom. We have never had an accident in the car and the car does not experience temperature extremes. It seems that at least 1 of every 3 Explorers of this body style that we see on the freeway have the same problem. The Ford dealer told us that it has not been recalled and that it will cost $250-300 to fix. This is clearly a widespread problem that Ford has implicitly acknowledged by changing the body style in later model years. I plan to call customer service (800-392-3673) and make them pay for at least a portion of the repair (a strategy that has worked in the past). If you have this problem you should call in and make them suffer for manufacturing a defective product!

- , Pasadena, CA, USA

problem #128

Apr 262007

(reported on)

Explorer XLT V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 69,594 miles

Today I spoke with Ford of Canada Customer service (1-800-565-3673). I indicated my vehicle had a crack in the panel that contained the Ford logo, about 2 inches to the right of the logo, that extended from the top of the panel to the bottom. They indicated they had zero interest in me if I was not under the distance or time warranty. Like many others, my Explorer was parked in the garage when this happened. One evening we just came out and there it was. The representative on the phone indicated she'd never heard of this issue before, WHICH was in contrast to the Ford Repairman I spoke to in December who said every other Explorer they see has the same problem.

I asked if they cared about Ford drivers and the only answer they gave was that I was not covered by the warranty.

I love my truck but this is ridiculous.


Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

- , Waterloo, ON, Canada

problem #127

Mar 152007


  • Automatic transmission
  • 49,500 miles

Crack occurred in March of 2007. It just appeared one day that was not particularly cold. I thought someone had tried to pry open my tailgate. Took it to Ford dealer to ask if they had heard of this problem and they said no, never. I asked the dealer if this was a defect that they would fix, and they said no.Due to this incident and other paint issues I will never buy another Ford.

- , Indianapolis, IN, USA

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