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.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
2 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
53,275 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Ford Explorer body / paint problems

body / paint problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 2 of 3)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #24

Sep 012005


  • miles


My 2003 Ford Explorer has peeling paint on its hood.this is a wide spread complaint.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #23

Jun 302008


  • 85,000 miles
Horizontal crack in lift gate running from top of piece (bottom of window) to bottom of piece.

- Henderson, NV, USA

problem #22

Apr 012009


  • 43,800 miles
The panel below the glass on the rear hatch of my wife's 2003 Ford Explorer cracked forno apparent reason. The dealer tells me it will cost $800 dollars to repair plus a body shop expense (paint). I've noticed on many forums on the internet that this is a very common problem and Ford should address it!

- Lake Griove, NY, USA

problem #21

Dec 302008


  • 148,000 miles


Rear hatch below window has cracked from top of panel to bottom this may have been due to cold weather but I'm reading about all kinds of these cracks happening in all provinces and states. When is Ford going to accept the fact this is a defect and make a recall?

- Oakville, 00, USA

problem #20

Jul 102008


  • miles
A crack in the rear hatch near the Ford emblem on 2003-2005 Ford Explorer. Ford has a tsb (technical service bulletin) on this issue so they know it exists and yet they are refusing to do anything about it. The following website is just one of a few out there regarding this matter...

- Corona, CA, USA

problem #19

Jan 302008


  • 24,500 miles
After only 24,000 miles, our 2003 Ford Explorer has experienced two problems with fiberglass & aluminum body parts. Below the rear window a crack developed in the fiberglass after closing the window during cold weather. After talking to other owners of the same model, I became aware of the fact that body shop owners are informing them that this is a common defect in that model. Since this is a common problem, a recall should be issued and the owner should have their vehicles repaired by Ford. My dealer has said Ford has not issued any recall on this issue. Why has this not happened" in addition, the aluminum hood is now showing bubbling under the paint, and the paint is beginning to peel off the hood. It is apparent Ford has either had some defective paint delivered to their plants, or their is an engineering defect along with a manufacturing defect that has caused these problems. This is Ford's responsibility, not the owner, and should be covered under warranty or recall regardless of the problem source. After review by Ford's zone manager he concluded Ford had no responsibility for this problem. Please refer to the following web sites for others who have had these problems with Ford denying its ultimate responsibility for their mistakes: how can Ford issue 'service bulletins¿ on these issues, but fail to correct the problems" it is therefore quite obvious that Ford is aware of these problems, but failing to address them satisfactorily. They then leave the dealer with the problem of informing the customer of their decision and taking all the ¿heat¿ for Ford Motor Company.

- Harrisburg, PA, USA

problem #18

Jan 052009


  • miles


I own a 2003 Ford Explorer. Approximately 3 months ago, my wife and I noticed that the plastic trim between the rear window and the Ford logo was cracked. I have since noticed it on a majority of 2002 - 2004 Explorer. I have also found numerous online posts and other websites describing the same issue with other Explorer owners and a refusal by Ford to remediate the problem.

- Austin, TX, USA

problem #17

Sep 232008


  • 55,899 miles
The paint has blistered and is actively peeling off of a substantial area of the hood of my 2003 Ford Explorer. According to, Ford Motor Company had issued a service bulletin indicating a major paint defect in many 2000-2005 Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury cars, trucks, and SUV's that use aluminum body parts. The bulletin further states that, "some vehicles may exhibit bubbling or blistering under the paint on aluminum body parts". I am not a lawyer, but I do know that warranty or not, this is a clear breach of all expressed and implied warranties due to the fact that the body parts and/or paint were defective from the start since the bulletin states that Ford research admitted that the problem stems from iron contamination within the aluminum body part prior to being painted. I registered my complaints with my local dealer and with Ford Motor Company, asking for full remedy of the situation. The only offer they make is a deal on a new car! I hope that filing this complaint will help the consumer who has been clearly hurt and is experiencing economic loss due directly to Ford Motor Company. I have been trying to get this situation remedied since September 2008, but my complaint continues to be pushed aside. I believe they hope all of the consumers experiencing this problem will go away quietly.

- Bridgewater, NJ, USA

problem #16

Sep 152008


  • 43,000 miles
Factory paint blistering on hood. Vehicle is 5 years old and has 44,000 miles. There are a large number of complaints about this problem on a long list of internet sites. Ford is not acknowledging this issue. Apparently this is affecting 2000-2005 vehicles.

- Rockaway, NY, USA

problem #15

Sep 212008


  • 58,600 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While the vehicle was parked, the contact pressed the button on her key fob to open the glass on the rear hatch. As a result, one of the two hinges fractured as the window was opening. She attempted to close the glass, but apparently it was misaligned. Due to excessive pressure, the glass shattered and debris fell onto the contact and the ground. She called the dealer in reference to NHTSA campaign id number 04V442000 (structure:body:hatchback/liftgate:hinge and attachments) and was informed that the coverage date for the recall expired. The dealer would have to personally petition to the manufacturer for the vehicle to be repaired. The manufacturer stated that they would not assume financial responsibility for the repair. The contact's insurance company is in the process of notifying the manufacturer on her behalf. As of September 24, 2008, the vehicle has not been properly repaired. The failure mileage was 58,600 and current mileage was 59,600.

- Knoxville, TN, USA

problem #14

Jul 242005


  • 16,000 miles


Factory rearend was replaced in my 03 Ford Explorer. Since then the problem of gradual rearend deterioration has not been fixed. If the rearend fails catastrophically then a serious accident could occur. Ford motors does not consider this to be a safety concern, but it definitely is. Ford should recall all vehicles with the defective rearends and fix their problem.

- Bremerton, WA, USA

problem #13

Jul 212008


  • 63,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The rear liftgate glass hinge has fractured. The contact opened the rear liftgate glass and, when he attempted to close it, the liftgate would not shut correctly. The hinge split into two pieces. The contact feels that if he attempts to open the rear liftgate, the glass will shatter. He discovered a recall for this failure, but the dealer stated that his VIN was not included in the recall. The recall number was unknown. The current and failure mileages were 63,000.

- Saint Joseph, MO, USA

problem #12

Jul 242006


  • miles
Crack in panel on rear hatch I see same crack in same sport on all same vehicles.

- Mishawaka, IN, USA

problem #11

Mar 152008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 64,500 miles
Rear door crack in the middle on Ford Explorer, below the window, probably because the material the frame is made of is just plastic. I keep seeing people in my town with the same problem. I wonder if there is a formal complaint about this defect. I contacted Ford corporate, but I was told that no one has complained. This is not just a cosmetic problem, but a safety problem. Sometimes when I am driving the door window gets open. Please let me know if there is something you can do to help me and other customers who own a Ford Explorer and who have the same problem.

- Yuma, AZ, USA

problem #10

Mar 232008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • miles
The panel just below my back windshield has a crack in it which has occurred for no reason at all. After speaking with some at the local dealership I was very disappointed to hear that about 99% of these have to be replaced and that it would cost me almost $400 to do so. I called Ford and they once again told me that it was a problem but they could not do anything to help me I would have to pay for it. At that time I ask to speak to a supervisor and when speaking with her I was informed that there were no complaints on this issue. (which I find hard to believe since 3 dealers have now told me that this is a re-occurring problem.) my biggest concern is if I do not fix this right away that I will lose this piece and it will end up hurting someone.

- Warrior , AL, USA

problem #9

May 102007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles
I purchase a 2003 Ford Explorer in the same year. Last year my wife noticed a crack on the liftgate directly below the rear window. The crack was about 4 inches long and narrow in width. I took the car to my local dealers body shop and was told by the manager " that I see this all the time in all of Ford SUV's including the Lincoln and Mercury models. It is a defect from the factory and one that Ford will not recall". he gave me a estimate of $350 and advised that I go to the dealer and talk to someone there. I did so and was told by the service manager that there were 2 reasons why they would not fix the car for me. The 1st is that the car was out of warranty and the 2nd was that I did not buy the car from them, I purchased the car as a demo from another dealer. I was given a number to contact Ford which I did and was told the same thing that the dealership told me. I then took the car to the dealer where I bought the car and was told by the service manager that he would have the regional rep from Ford contact me whenever he was in town. He also stated that if Ford would not help me then he would fix the car for half price the cost. I haven't heard from them in a year. I have researched this and there are numerous complaints from people who have Explorer with the same problem. As the body shop manager at the dealer said, this is a flaw that Ford Motor Co. Is aware of and will not recall. My car now has 3 cracks on the liftgate and I like so many others are not responsible for them. We are desperately seeking help from somebody in holding Ford accountable for this. Thank you!

- West Monroe, LA, USA

problem #8

Nov 042006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
I own a 2003 Ford Explorer XLT, and yesterday I noticed that the back panel below the back glass, has a 1/4 crack all the way down it! it is located a inch or two right of the Ford emblem. This is ridiculous, I called the dealership and they told me to bring it in for an estimate, since I have 59,000 miles on the vehicle, it isn't covered under the warranty. Well, on the Ford website under my warranty information it states that corrosion and defective parts are covered for 5 years regardless of miles driven. Well what does this fall under? I have put so much money in this vehicle because of other mechanical problems, that I am not going to put more money in it for this. Ford needs to cover it, or start some type of investigation for a recall.

- Hull, GA, USA

problem #7

Feb 172006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
The rear panel below my window on my 2003 Ford Explorer cracked all the way through. I went snow sking and after doing research on the internet, I found that this scenario is common. The panel gets moisture behind it and freezes, then cracks. I have a Ford manufacturer warranty, and I am still under warranty. I contacted the dealership where I purchased the vehicle, I called the Ford customer service line, and contacted the local media, who suggested your website. No one is willing to fix the problem, and one day it will fall off while I am in traffic. Currently I have not fixed the problem. I advised the Ford customer service people that I would never fix the problem. I would keep it there as a constant reminder of their commitment to customer service. Check out the internet ( lots of people are having the same issue.

- Oxford, NC, USA

problem #6

Oct 112005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 11,600 miles
Molded running board broken under normal use, one dealer accused me of having a child jump on the running board - reason unknown. Another dealer took photos and sent to detroit, warranty repair refused?

- Middleburg Hts., OH, USA

problem #5

Nov 262004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 20,000 miles
While at a stop, the frame separated which caused the rear hatch back window to shatter. Ford Motor Company notified. Back portion of the door separated when the windshield exploded.

- Laredo, TX, USA

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