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 5 of 5)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #10

Feb 172006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 35,000 miles


After having about of freezing weather my wife noticed a crack on the plastic panel attached to the bottom of the rear hatch back window. I took it to our local Ford dealer upon which I was informed that this is a defect in manufacturing and that they replace quite a few of these every year. But being that my warranty expired in August of 2005 they will not pay for replacement. I feel Ford should be held responsible.

- Eastwenatchee, WA, USA

problem #9

Feb 272006

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
This morning I noticed a crack in the tailgate of my 2003 Explorer XLT. It was not there two days ago. I took the vehicle to my local dealer and he said that the part is not covered under warranty or recall so I will be responsible for the charges. He has personally seen many of these. I have been on several forum sites and know that I am not the only one having this problem. Is anything being done from Ford's side?

- Millville, NJ, USA

problem #8

Jan 252006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,023 miles
Our Ford Explorer was parked in our garage like it is every night. In the morning we went out to put something in the back of the Explorer when we noticed that the back top hatch was cracked. It cracked right down the middle of the Ford sign. When we closed the hatch after noticing it it pinched my fingers. We contacted the dealer where we bought the vehicle and we were told that it was a service bulletin but not a recall and that he understood that it was dangerous and told us to contact Ford customer service. My husband contacted them and was told that they could not fix the problem. Ford gave us an estimate to fix it and it would be about $400. The problem with the hatch being cracked is that if someone was sitting in the third row seat at any time the glass could pop out and hit them in the head. When you do open the hatch your fingers get pinched if they are in the wrong place. We have not gotten the problem fixed yet.

- O'fallon, MO, USA

problem #7

Dec 212005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 66,000 miles


I have a 2003 Ford Explorer XLS. The rear lift gate on this vehicle has cracked directly below the rear window. We have spoken to the Ford dealership here and they say they are not obligated to fix this piece due the vehicle being out of the initial warranty even though I have the premium esp plan and the fact that temperatures got to below freezing (27 degrees F). This is an engineering defect that should be dealt with since the piece located on the exterior of the vehicle and should be able to withstand freezing temperatures. This is a part I believe should be coverage against defect. Cost of $57 plus installation and painting. I would like any help in this matter.

- Cunningham, TN, USA

problem #6

May 022005

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
2003 Ford Explorer rear hatch glass shattered while parked.

- Alvin, TX, USA

problem #5

Feb 172005

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • 18,000 miles
After receiving a recall letter for the liftgate, the consumer is unable to obtain repair, since the part is not available. Liftgate recall NHTSA 04V442000

- Dixfield, ME, USA

problem #4

Dec 222003

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


The consumer heard a wind noise coming from the rear of the vehicle when being driven, then suddenly the liftgate opened by itself.

- Ormond Beach, FL, USA

problem #3

Aug 162003


  • miles
Glass of front windshield leaking, we had it resealed and it is again leaking and the new seal is lifting. The rear liftgate window was leaking and the water was leaking in between the inner and outer panels. When the liftgate is opened one gets an unexpected shower. This too required repairing. Dup

- Brockton, MA, USA

problem #2

Dec 032003

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 14,200 miles
Plastic under the rear liftgate (rear hatch) cracked when closing in cold weather. The two cracks were over 6 inches long. The entire liftgate will need to be replaced.

- Elkton, MD, USA

problem #1

Jan 192003


  • miles
Plastic under (attached to) rear liftgate window cracked in cold weather. Crack was ~10 inches long. Entire liftgate needs replacing.

- Madison, WI, USA

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