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:
46,244 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 #34

Jan 142008

(reported on)

Explorer 8-cyl

  • miles


2003 Ford Explorer with bad recall repair work. Consumer stated that the dealer repaired the vehicle wrong. He states that the hinges were supposed to be replaced. Dealer replaced the struts and hinges. When the consumer tried to get the problem fixed the first time he was told the struts looked fine. However, the driver's side hinge began to separate and the whole liftgate subsequently shifted; the gap between the liftgate and the body was no longer symmetrical but was significantly increased on the driver's side while decreased on the passenger side. As a result, the liftgate no longer latched or would only latch with a great deal of pressure applied when closing it. The consumer stated it was the two hinges at the top of the real hatch glass section that attached to the roof or body of the vehicle that were broken. The consumer stated the liftgate latch, trim panel and the rear taillight were damaged as a result of the defective hinge and should be fixed without charge. Recall# 04V442000

- Pollock Pines, CA, USA

problem #33

Feb 152007

Explorer 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 48,000 miles
We purchased a certified used 2003 Ford Explorer eddie bauer 4X4 in June 2006. One morning in mid-Feb 2007, we discovered a crack in the lifegate glass applique that started from the top down, approximately 8" left from the center of the gate. There was no evidence of impact to the plastic, but rather a stress crack. Since that time, the crack has grown wider and all the way through the plastic applique. Now, another crack has started on the right hand side approximate 6" from the center of the liftgate. We contacted the local dealership in mid-Feb 2007 and they stated we would have to pay for the cracked liftgate and it would cost approximately $800. We continue to observe other Ford Explorer's in the local area with similar cracks in their liftgate plastic applique.

- Minden, NV, USA

problem #32

Sep 142003


  • miles
2003 Ford Explorer. Consumer states that the vehicle bottom rear liftgate is cracked. Consumer believes concern is related to recall on the hinges for the liftgate. The consumer believed the cracks on the liftgate were due to weakness. Updated 07/08/07.

- Westbury, NY, USA

problem #31

May 102007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 32,000 miles


2003 Ford Explorer has structure: Body: Hatchback 6" vertical crack in plastic below hatchback window. Recall 04V442000 does not apply to my VIN number however is same problem. Spent 40 minutes on phone with Ford and they stated that I must complete a complaint form.

- Las Vegas, NV, USA

problem #30

Dec 192006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 53,000 miles
Rear hatchback was taken to Ford for a recall regarding the hatchback hinges. The stress of the failed hinges has caused cracks to develop below the rear window in the facia, it is cracking.

- Glendale, AZ, USA

problem #29

Dec 032005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 31,600 miles
The lift gate trim piece needs to be repaired for the 4th time not including lift gate recall which would be the 5th repair. I have been informed by local dealer that this is "design flaw" and Ford has yet informed them how to correctly repair the problem.

- Conroe, TX, USA

problem #28

Aug 112006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


After opening the hatchback to put groceries inside, the window fell. After inspecting it, it turns out the hinge on hatchback broke causing the window to fall. It hit my left arm and forearm causing severe bruising, other than that nobody else was hurt and the window did not fall off completely. I called the dealer and was asked to drop it off for inspection. Was eventually fixed. But I can't help to wonder if it will happened again and if the consequences will be worse.

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #27

Jun 092006

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,000 miles
: the contact stated while the vehicle was parked at home the rear lift gate window exploded. During the incident the temperature out doors was about 70F. Last year, the vehicle was taken to the dealership who replaced the gates defective hinges, according to recall # 04V442000 instructions. The contact expressed concern about the incident because it could have caused a serious accident. The consumer was told poor quality glass may have used to perform the recall work. The consumer had the window repaired at his expense, however days later he heard a noise and upon inspection, the consumer discovered the inside panel of the liftgate was very loose and it looked as though it was about to fall off. Updated 08/02/06.

- Williamsburg, VA, USA

problem #26

Dec 152005


  • 49,000 miles
Panel under tailgate window cracked and split while vehicle parked in driveway on cold day. Vehicle had previously had tailgate hinges replaced under recall. Dealership advises that manufacturer denies any responsibility to repair/replace. Dealer estimate of $401 to repair.

- Middletown, NY, USA

problem #25

Dec 062005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
The contact states while the vehicle was parked she heard the liftgate glass explode. Nothing hit the glass and the hydraulic shaft released. The vehicle is currently at a local mechanic, but they have not diagnosed what happened. The dealership and manufacturer were not willing to assist with repairs, therefore, the insurance company was repairing the vehicle.

- Austin, TX, USA

problem #24

Apr 012005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles


Complaint regarding recall 04S20 relating to the rear lift gate.*** no answer required***. the consumer still had not received a call or letter as to when to take the vehicle in to have the recall work performed.

- Gainesville, VA, USA

problem #23

Feb 222005

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 38,500 miles
The plastic molding around the rear glass on the liftgate cracked. Consumer was concerned that the glass may fall out while opening the liftgate or while driving. The dealer was notified......the consumer was advised by dealership that this happened to a lot of people. If not under warranty the consumer must pay. The consumer's gas gauge failed with only 2500 milles over warranty.

- Columbus, GA, USA

problem #22

Oct 072004

Explorer 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • 30,000 miles
NHTSA recall campaign 04V442000, consumer received a recall for the hinges on the liftgate. Consumer has been unable to have the vehicle repaired since the dealer has made not contact with her for the service date.

- Mokena, IL, USA

problem #21

Jan 232005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,500 miles
Received recall notice for hinges on rear window of hatch and was advised not to open until hinges were replaced, which I did not. Noticed the fiberglass under the window cracked approximately 4 inches to the left of the latch. Took the vehicle to Ford dealer and the warranty administrator said the fiberglass was not covered under recall. The warranty administrator said he would send a request for Ford to repair the fiberglass under the glass but doesn't know if they will since they have denied paying for a few of these that he has already submitted. I am convinced this damage is a direct result of the defective hinge and feel that Ford should repair my vehicle.

- Tifton, GA, USA

problem #20

Oct 102004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • miles
Consumer received recall campaign 04V442000 concerning rear liftgate glass. However, consumer was waiting since October 2004 for repairs. Ford continuously told her that the parts were not in.

- Waldorf, MD, USA

problem #19

Jan 182005


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
The consumer was experiencing problems with the liftgate latch. She then took vehicle to get serviced. Recently while she was driving, the back window literally came off. She was aware of a recall for this vehicle. NHTSA's recall #04V442000. When the consumer contacted the manufacturer, they denied that there was such a recall.

- Oak Park, MI, USA

problem #18

Oct 042004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 14,000 miles
The consumer received a recall letter for the liftgate, and no parts were available to make the repair. NHTSA liftgate recall 04V442000

- Ridgefield, NJ, USA

problem #17

Jan 112005


  • miles
Complaint received via E-mail."I have a 2003 Ford Explorer and the rear glass hatch has a recall. Recall # 04S20 we first brought the problem to hawkinson Ford's attention Sept 2004. In Oct 2004 we received a notice and were told the hinge had to be redesigned and would take several months. Jan 11, 2005 we had the repairs done to the hinges. The next day the very first time the hatch was opened both hinges moved I drove right back to the dealership. I spoke to paul's the assistant manager and showed him this problem, he was amazed. We set up another appointment to have it checked and repaired. My concern if this is their new design, wow it lasted 1 opening and now I have moisture in my Explorer because the window doesn't close properly. I can only used the lift gate and have to worry if I drive could bumps cause the window to fall out. I would like to talk to someone on the subject in regards to my options."

- Oak Lawn, IL, USA

problem #16

Jan 102005

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 20,000 miles
Consumer was unable to have the liftgate bracket repaired since no parts were delivered to the dealer since receipt of NHTSA recall 04V442000.....consumer was advised not to use tailgate window. However the remote operated window was one of the reasons for purchasing the Ford Explorer. Consumer complained that to wait four months for repairs was radiculous.

- Rockledge, FL, USA

problem #15

Sep 152004

Explorer 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 27,000 miles
The right hinges attached to the vehicle body and the liftgate broke. Dealer was notified. Consumer was waiting for the part since September, and no part was available. Consumer was concerned that the liftgate may fall unexpectedly and cause severe injuries to someone when opened.

- Santa Ana, CA, USA

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