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 7 of 7)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #10

Jun 012007


  • miles


The back lift gate panel is cracked on my 2003 Explorer. I have had the crack for approx. 2 years. The crack has progressively worsened. I took it to the dealer and they said " there has been several cases such as this, but Ford has not issued a recall" I have seen several Explorer with this problem. I do not think it should be my responsibility to cover this when it is obviously a Ford defect.

- Lubbock, TX, USA

problem #9

Jun 192008


  • 98,000 miles
My back windshield exploded last Thursday while parked in my driveway. Not only did the glass explode, but the fiberglass underneath the glass was pulled away from the backend of the truck in a bowing position. I had the back hinge replaced after the recall, it's been less than 12 months and the Ford dealership in nashua will do nothing for me, stating that they have never seen anything like that before and there are no other complaints. When I asked to speak to the area factory rep, they informed me that they didn't have one. I asked to speak to the manager, who pretty much said, here's your hat, what's your hurry, out you go...he then flagged me as being an "irate" customer. I am a mother of 4 young children, god forbid they had been in the car when that had happened. Ford should be ashamed of themselves..Ford-built strong my leg! anyone interested in filing a class action lawsuit in the state of nh, please let me know, I am going to contact my lawyer today.

- Nashu, NH, USA

problem #8

Jun 192008


  • 98,000 miles
July of 2007 the rear window on our 2003 Ford Explorer XLT had broken at one of the hinges and the window sagged. After researching on the internet we found out there was a recall, (04V44200). We then contacted Ford and they agreed to fix the problem at no charge. Now 10 months later while the auto was parked in our driveway the window shattered with no one around. There was a neighbor working in the yard who witnessed this happen. Glass was both inside the vehicle and outside the vehicle. After a week of phone calls with no luck, I was finally in touch with a one of the parts guys at Ford who said this is an ongoing problem that he was aware of. He even stated that they only replaced the hinges and not the glass which is known to shatter. After several phone calls, we were notified that the recall was only on the hinges (even though they know the glass is defective as well) and they would not help us out. Well im not paying $1,600 out of my pocket for another product that Ford knows has a problem and doesn't back up there warranties.

- Hudson, NH, USA

problem #7

Mar 102008


  • 47,000 miles


2003 Ford Explorer with crack in rear door panel (cargo door) we noticed this crack after a cold night. It was no fault of our own, and since then we have noticed many other Ford Explorer with this same vertical crack in the back door. I really think this is a defect of Ford Motor Company, and expect them to recall this product. Any help you could give us would be greatly appreciated. I have also read many of these same stories about the cracked rear door online. With so many people complaining, it's a shame that nothing has been done by Ford to correct this issue. Thank you for your time and help.

- Florence, AL, USA

problem #6

Jun 082006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 48,000 miles
As many others have reported and am sure countless others do not know what to do, I am complaining about the crack in the rear of the 2003 Explorer. Is anything going to be done about this that you know about" I have talked to Ford and to dealers and they have done nothing. My concern became larger then cosmetic today when I left the car wash. Now not only is there that huge crack but also the seal around the window is falling out and water is getting in. If this is starting to happen I wonder now is it just a matter of time before these windows start to fall out??" does Ford really need another huge lawsuit when what I see starting to happen to me starts with others if it has not already. Will Ford just wait for rear windows to fall out going down the interstate causing wrecks, or will they finally own up to the thousands of 2002-2004 Explorer owners that they made an error in production. No one is perfect but we should be responsible for our actions.

- Chattanooga, TN, USA

problem #5

Aug 252007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles
The back panel of my 2003 Explorer is cracked. The truck was purchased at Liberty Ford in randallstown. They admit as well as the Ford Corp. Office that the panels are cracking but they will not replace them. They are saying the problem is under investigation. They could not tell me when the investigation started or when they think it will end. They are only saying that although there is no particular reason that these panels are cracking they are not responsible to replace them.

- Randallstown, MD, USA

problem #4

Aug 272007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 20,000 miles


Paint problems paint keeps on blistering and peeling all over the vehicle.

- Far Rockaway, NY, USA

problem #3

Feb 092007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 48,000 miles
- the contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer XLS. The contact stated that there was a panel below the rear window that cracked in half vertically. The vehicle was parked in the driveway, and when he got to the vehicle he found it that way. He had not driven the vehicle that day. The contact was concerned that there were many complaints concerning this problem. Also, the rear window of exploded. The failure and current mileage were 48000.

- Chesapeake, VA, USA

problem #2

Sep 012006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles
My 2003 XLT Explorer has a fiberglass panel below the window on the tail gate. We purchase the vehicle from a Ford dealer in August and with in a couple of weeks a crack appeared from the window to the top of the Ford emblem. I brought the vehicle back to the dealer and they stated that they have seen this problem in many Explorer and Ford is aware of it but they do not offer any savings or warranty coverage for repair. If this is a common defect, than what is Ford doing to remedy this issue?

- Menomonee Falls, WI, USA

problem #1

Oct 282006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 47,000 miles
Ford Explorer- 2003 location rear hatch or door. Panel below window where Ford emblem appears. Plastic body part splits for no apparent reason. Has happened to many other Explorer. Dealer says it is caused by rear wiper motor being housed behind crack. Dealer will not repair, though this is a known defect, without charging customer an extended warranty deductible.

- La Quinta, CA, USA

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