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:
3 / 0
Average Mileage:
54,945 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 5)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #70

Dec 012009


  • 100,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. She noticed that there were cracks on the rear lift gate underneath the rear window. An authorized dealer was notified and informed her that this was a known failure but she would have to pay to have it repaired. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 100,000 and the current mileage was 115,000.

- St. Rose, LA, USA

problem #69

Apr 122010


  • 97,751 miles
A little over a year ago I and a friend came out of a grocery store to discover there was a hairline crack in the rear panel of my 2003 Ford Explorer. I drove right over to a Ford dealership to report the incident. I do have an extended warranty for 100,000 miles. It was reported to the warranty company and I was denied repair. I was told I could pay $1,000 to have it repaired or put caulking on it to help to seal the crack. I put the caulking on it as I did not have the money to pay to have it fixed. I am retired and on a fixed income. Over the course of time the crack widened causing the panel and window to shift to the left. On Monday 4/12/10 I opened the hatchback window to place a few items inside and the window came crashing down on my head almost driving me into the ground. The hinges broke and had a friend not been there with me I could not have lifted that window. He and I worked for 45 minutes to get it placed back to where it was not hanging and had to put bungy cords on to hold it in place. I have had a headache for 3 days now. I drove right over to a Ford dealership to report the incident. The service manager took my information and contacted the warranty company who got back to him and stated they would replace the hinges. I told him this is unacceptable!! this crack has widened over the last year and the hatchback has shifted to the left. Replacing the hinges is a temporary fix. Like putting a bandaid on a compound fracture! I think the entire hatchback has weakened and if the big door falls on me I could be killed. At this point I am unable to utilize the hatchback at all and must climb over the back seat to retrieve anything behind it.

- Union City, PA, USA

problem #68

Mar 092010


  • 77,000 miles
I own a 2003 Ford Explorer and was closing the window of the back hatch when the rear lift gate hinge failed and broke and the window became dislodged and hit me in the head. My son was standing next to me and thankfully the window didn't fall out completely and land on him! I have contacted Ford and they said that although there was a recall for this very same problem, your Agency did not identify my vehicle as being affected and they will not repair it at their cost. Again, they said it was because your Agency did not identify my vehicle as being affected by this defect. At the present time, the window is hanging by the struts and the left hinge. Further, I have gone online and seen that many other people have had this very same problem and it was not covered by Ford's recall. This is a major safety issue as that window could have fallen out and landed on my son! thankfully, I was not seriously injured. I can't believe that this has not been recalled more extensively. I think it is reasonable to expect that a window or a door is not going to fall off a hinge and potentially cause a serious injury. Safety is a reasonable expectation!

- New Bedford, MA, USA

problem #67

Aug 102003


  • 75,000 miles


TL- 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the paint portion on the liftgate has cracked in several places just under the glass. The contact feels this can be a potential safety hazard because there have been other vehicles whose rear glass has broken. The failure mileage was 75000 and the current mileage was 80000.

- Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #66

Jan 222010


  • 82,000 miles
2003 Ford Explorer XLT - overdrive light starting flashing and now the transmission slips when shifting from 1st to second gear. Engine revs to 3200 rpms and makes a loud noise before feathering the gas to get the transmission to shift into 2nd gear. Vertical crack in fiberglass tailgate panel just below rear window glass. No impact to tailgate occurred-crack just appeared.

- Berlin, CT, USA

problem #65

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 #64

Dec 292009


  • 115,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. While the contact was examining the vehicle she noticed that there was a large crack on the panel under the rear window. The vehicle has not been diagnosed by the dealer. There were no prior warnings. The current and failure mileages were 115,000.

- Mount Pleasant, SC, USA

problem #63

Jan 102010

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 116,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that there was a crack in the lift gate which includes a plastic part just below the window. The Ford manufacturer informed the contact that there were no recalls and he should call NHTSA. The failure mileage was 116,000. Updated 2/26/10 updated 07/09/10.

- Charleston, WV, USA

problem #62

Dec 042009


  • 28,700 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The rear window panel has fractured. The dealer was contacted, and he was advised that the Ford manufacturer did not recognize this failure as a defect. No assistance was provided. The failure mileage was 28,700.

- Weirton, WV, USA

problem #61

Dec 232008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 39,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact noticed that the rear liftgate was cracked on her vehicle. She took the vehicle to the dealer and they stated that it was not defective; therefore, she would have to pay for the repair. The contact disagrees and believes the manufacturer should pay for the repair. The manufacturer stated that there was no defect and will not assist with the repair. The failure mileage was 39,000 and current mileage was 54,300. Updated 03-04-09 the back of the liftgate panel below the window cracked. Updated 03/04/09.

- Lumberton , NC, USA

problem #60

Jan 072009


  • 98,773 miles


I have a 2003 eddie bauer Ford Explorer. Last night, when my son was attempting to close the rear lift gate glass door, the hinge on the passenger side broke off. The glass liftgate is presently being held up by the other hinge and it won't be long before that one breaks also. I spoke with an andrea at Ford 1-800-392-3673 and she basically told me that I was out of luck, that I would have to pay for the repairs because my vehicle was not included in the recall. I don't understand why, I told her the description of my vehicle. I have a friend who owns a Ford Explorer and he had the same problem, and since his was included in the recall, he didn't encounter any problems in having it repaired. You wonder why so many people buy Japanese cars and trucks. Here is one of many reasons. Ford Motor Company is obviously attempting to save money at the expense of our safety.

- Ocala, FL, USA

problem #59

Aug 222008

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Explorer. The contact noticed that the liftgate glass applique was damaged and cracked. The dealer stated that because there was no recall for the failed component, the contact would be responsible for the repair costs. The vehicle has not been repaired. The failure and current mileages were 60,000. Updated 10/16/08. Updated 10/17/08.

- Ocean Side , CA, USA

problem #58

May 012008


  • 61,000 miles
There is a vertical crack that just appeared in the rear hatch of my 2003 Ford Explorer. We take very good care of our vehicles and this truck is rarely driven. It is also parked in our garage except when being driven. I have read that this problem is very common in this truck. Our "door ajar" light and warning regularly indicates that the door is not closed properly. It has even flung open while we are driving. We have the third row seat in this model and keep my two 5 year-olds in that seat. It was very frightening when this happened and we had to pull over suddenly to remedy the problem. There is a serious defect in this design which can cause injury to those in the vehicle or around you since the hatch opening out of no where is startling.

- Yucaipa, CA, USA

problem #57

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 #56

Mar 012008


  • miles
The rear hatch has developed a crack through the middle of the panel just below the visible glass of the hatch. This crack encompasses the rear Ford logo. This crack occurred without any damage to the vehicle.

- Monroe, LA, USA

problem #55

Sep 022006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 42,000 miles
Rear door hatch has cracked from the bottom of the window to the bottom of the hatch.

- Stow, MA, USA

problem #54

Mar 052007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
I have a 03 Explorer. And my hatch cracked in 07. When I took it to the dealership after seeing other models with the same problem. I was informed there was no recall on the part and it cost me roughly $800 to fix. I feel as though Ford should recall the part and refund all the customers who has had the same problem, and had to spend $$ to get it fixed.

- Charlotte , NC, USA

problem #53

Mar 142008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 44,000 miles
The rear hatch on my 2003 Ford explore XLT cracked in 3 separate places. The vehicle is primarily housed in a garage. I called Ford to report the problem. They told me they would not fully cover the defect. They would "help" since it was out of warranty. I feel the cracks are a flaw in manufacturing or product design. They should be covered entirely by the manufacturer.

- North Platte, NE, USA

problem #52

Mar 032006

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 25,000 miles
Crack in body of tailgate with no cause; crack starts at the bottom of the back window and runs to the bottom of the plastic panel. I took it to the dealership and they said it is a know defect, but will not fix it. In my neighborhood alone, there are at least 4 other Explorer with the same issue. Ford needs to fix this ! it takes away from the trade-in value of my car.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #51

Jan 182008

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles
Body panel below rear glass on lift gate is cracked from top to bottom. I noticed this on many Explorer of the same approx. Age while shopping for this vehicle.

- Wake Forest, NC, USA

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