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:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
74,428 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 5 of 7)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #50

Jan 102006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • miles


The trunk, on the half part keep on creaking I replace it once out of packet cost because for D doesn't want to pay for the repair.

- Kissimmee, FL, USA

problem #49

Jan 122005


  • 50,000 miles
The rear lift gate cracked down the center. Every Ford Explorer lift gate I see has a crack down the center. This has to be a defect in the gate. There are just too many people with the same problems.

- Kennesaw, GA, USA

problem #48

Dec 152009


  • 89,000 miles
I have a 2003 Ford Explorer XLT with the crack in the back panel next to the emblem. I came out to my car and it was cracked all the way from the window seal to the bottom of the hatch. I called the 800 number that Ford gave me to call and they told me there is no recall and the part. There are several thousand people with this same complaint. The local body shop told me that the problem is in Ford design of the panel. They have zero reinforcement next to the emblem to close the door which is right in the middle of the door, where normal people push to close it. This manufacturing defect in the Explorer from 02-03 is very well known and quite possible over time could cause a weakening in the rear window of the vehicle and eventually lose it's support and fall.

- Fort Meade, MD, USA

problem #47

Dec 282009


  • 70,000 miles


2003 Ford Explorer, 70,000 miles rear lift gate cracked in middle splitting off in "Y" shape there was no impact done to make this happen. Heard loud pop told that Ford will not do anything & I will have to pay out of pocket.

- Billerica, MA, USA

problem #46

Dec 012009


  • 41,000 miles
My 2003 Ford Explorer developed a crack in the rear applique from the bottom of the glass to the liftgate. After contacting my dealer, I was told to email Ford, as this was a common complaint. After doing so, Ford told me that although that are thousands of other complaints about this obvious defect in the vehicle, there are no recalls for this problem. Most of the people have paid out of pocket for the repairs. This is not possible for me. I am not in a position to do so. If the crack gets worse, I will have to put in a claim to our insurance company. Upon going online and googling Ford defects, there are thousands of complaints about this ongoing problem with the Ford vehicles. Please let me know, how to get a recall on this.

- Aldan, PA, USA

problem #45

Jan 022010


  • 93,000 miles
Liftgate glass applique damaged/cracked - service procedure.

- Raeford, NC, USA

problem #44

Dec 022009


  • 87,000 miles


I own a 2003 Ford Explorer. I just noticed a crack in the panel underneath the rear window of my Explorer. I have no idea what caused it. I noticed other Explorer with the same exact problem. Ford needs to fix this. Didn't they get bail out money from uncle sam?!

- Tamarac, FL, USA

problem #43

Mar 272009


  • 80,000 miles
Our 2003 Ford Explorer has what appears to be a stress crack on the plate below the rear hatch window, next to the Ford emblem. I've seen dozens of Explorer since this happened with the same issue, and thousands of complaints online regarding this defect, yet I am told that Ford will not pay to repair their defective part, as there is no recall on it.

- Lancaster, NY, USA

problem #42

Nov 102009


  • 72,061 miles
I just noticed a crack in the panel underneath the rear window of my 2003 Ford Explorer. I searched online to see if there is a recall & there is not. I came upon a website, & noticed several complaints as mine in the same make & model & around same mileage. I contacted Ford to let them know my problem, referenced the site I found & how to initiate a recall or financially responsibility. I am the main driver & I can barely close the heavy trunk so I am sure I did not do cause the crack & it is a defect. I have tried to use the trunk as little as possible so I don't know if this would be concerned a safety issue. I have not done any repairs since I wanted to see if Ford would take responsibility. Our car warranty will only cover the repair if it is a defect since the crack was not caused during an accident or excessive use. I thought I would try your site to file the complaint to see if I can get a resolution.

- Red Lion, PA, USA

problem #41

Feb 092008


  • 90,000 miles
I owned a 2003 Ford Explorer. I was getting ready to go on a trip when I noticed that a vertical crack had formed in the middle upper liftgate panel below the window. I have no idea what cause. However, it appears to the same defect that others are describing in this same model. At the time it was about 90,000 miles on the odometer. Ford needs to make a recall on this issue.

- Reisterstown, MD, USA

problem #40

Mar 012009


  • 70,000 miles


Tailgate is splitting.

- Dothan, AL, USA

problem #39

Jan 152008


  • 80,000 miles
While driving down the street, I heard a loud noise that startled me. It was dark and I did not know what the noise was. I examined the car and a vertical crack had appeared in the back lift door panel that is just below the back lift window. Since this incident I have noticed other 2003 Ford explores in several different states with the same flaw. The flaw occurs on either side of the Ford emblem or right through the middle of it. The flaw seems to occur in other Mercury models as well, with the same engineering design. I believe this crack is due to stress and an engineering flaw. I reported it to Ford several months ago as I continue to see more and more vehicles with this defect.

- Ft. Collins, CO, USA

problem #38

May 142009


  • 97,000 miles
On 5-14-09 at about 7:15am I got my children's diaper bag out of the back of my 2003 Ford Explorer my hatch door was fine. I then went to work and it was a warm day but not hot. At about 6:10pm the same day I went out to get something out of the back and I saw it. There is 2 cracks the upper part of the hatch in to the left of the Ford emblem. One starts at the window and goes down the other starts at the bottom and goes up. At that point I contacted the Toyota dealership that I purchased the vehicle from and took the vehicle to them to look at. The service guy said he had no idea what could have made this happen. He stated he could tell it had not been hit or anything and that it wasn't a flex point. He told me to contact the local Ford dealership. I contacted apple Ford (lynchburg va) on 5-15-09 and was instructed they had seen many cases of this but they can't do anything until Ford puts out a recall. I then contacted Ford Motor Company and was instructed they will not fix it but to have a dealer look at it. My concern is if the window falls out because of this what is it going to do to my 1 year old and 3 year old in the back seat or the people in the care behind me on the road. I have done nothing to make this happen. It is a default from the company that could potentially cause harm. I have also researched it on the internet and found via google there are lots of people like me. If water gets down through the crack it could very well rust the latching mechanism and make it fail to work properly.

- Bedford , VA, USA

problem #37

May 012008


  • 65,000 miles
The back rear panel of the hatchback cracked for no apparent reason. It is a manufacturers defect which the company is unwilling to pay for.

- Montrose, CA, USA

problem #36

Jan 012009


  • 26,000 miles
I have a 2003 Ford Explorer it has a crack in the rear panel under window of liftgate I had it replace before for the same problem now Ford refuse to fix the crack saying the have no records of this problem.

- Saint Matthews, SC, USA

problem #35

Apr 022009


  • 165,000 miles
We have owned the subject 2003 Ford Explorer XLT since it was new. The rear liftgate hinge holding the rear glass failed. I understand that this failure is the subject of NHTSA recall #04V442000. Ford informs me that they will not fix this continuing safety defect because they replaced the hinge once before in 2006. I have no record of such a repair, not do I agree that Ford's policy of only performing one replacement is valid. Even if they did replace it once, the design is clearly defective and the safety issue still remains. I would expect NHTSA to direct Ford to properly fix the problem, rather cause me to pay Ford for yet another replacement for the ineffective one they previously performed.

- Annapolis, MD, USA

problem #34

Jan 152009


  • 94,000 miles
Large spontaneous stress crack appeared, bisecting the upper liftgate body panel on my 2003 Ford Explorer. Ford refers to this part as liftgate glass applique.

- Fairfield, CT, USA

problem #33

Oct 182008


  • 59,324 miles
The back lift gate (hatch) of my 2003 Ford Explorer has a vertical crack under the window next to the center Ford logo. I noticed on the internet that 1,000S of other people to include in our city are having the exact same issue with Explorer and Mountaineer. This happened in winter. I see in car stats there are complaints there too.

- Phoenix, AZ, USA

problem #32

Sep 012007


  • miles
Rear tail gate has a crack in the fiberglass from the window all the way down.

- Granby, MA, USA

problem #31

Sep 012006


  • miles
The hood on my vehicle is blistering and bubbling off in many areas.

- Granby, MA, USA

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