Notes: The 2004 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 2002-2005 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.


fairly significant
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
75,272 miles
Total Complaints:
763 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. waiting for Ford to recall (294 reports)
  2. not sure (204 reports)
  3. replace panel (117 reports)
  4. possible class action lawsuit (62 reports)
  5. call Ford motor company 1-800-241-3673 (27 reports)
  6. do not buy Ford again (25 reports)
2004 Ford Explorer body / paint problems

body / paint problem

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2004 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 2 of 39)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #743

Jun 192015

Explorer XLT 4.0L Sohc V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,370 miles


So when is Ford going to make good on this. I asked at my mechanic shop and they tell me they have a couple of customers who had their glass shatter after reporting the rear trim plate had cracked. I think that once the trim cracked it causes some stress on the glass and can make glass explode. I am concerned that it could happen to me.

No one seems to offer a fix except to replace panel. It looks like the panel is glued to glass underneath and this would take a special procedure to remove it. Can't seem to get any answers. The dealer tells me it will cost about $500.00 to replace and will not cover it under any type of recall or warranty.

When is Ford going to live up to their defect and issue a recall? I have owned 3 Explorers all from new and This is the first I've seen this happen. Will think twice before buying a new one this year.

- , Myrtle Beach, SC, USA

problem #742

Feb 022009

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 37,500 miles

It seemed like my panel cracked because of the cold since it was just there when I woke up one morning. Every Explorer of the same vintage that I see on the road has the same crack. Ford wants owners to be loyal, yet they let this widespread problem go unresolved.

- , Virginia Beach, VA, USA

problem #741

Jan 192016

Explorer Eddie Bauer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles

Well, on January 19, 2016, I joined the thousands of explorer owners who have had their rear hatch panel crack from bottom of rear window, to bottom of panel. I have a 2004 with just 96k miles! Nope, it's not freeze related, so don't believe that crap. I'm in Wa, and there was no freeze. No it isn't the wiper motor, as some have claimed. In the morning it wasn't there(45 degrees), and in the midday(50 degrees) it was cracked. I believe it's a material fatigue. Why didn't jerks at ford just use aluminum or some other metal instead of some stupid hybrid formula. Considering all the use a hatch panel gets, you'd think someone would have a brain, but apparently collectively, they didnt. I researched the class action suit going on, and it's a joke. ford managed to get the critical fix part of suit dismissed, so I doubt we'll get jack. I also did research on the fix. The only one out there worth anything is a plastic after market panel. To get it all done is still over $200ish for panel, install, and painting. not sure I will do it, but will wait until summer when weather dry and sunny. I haven't heard or read anything that guarantees the replacement will be crack free for life. If I had known the problem spanned 4 years of models, I wouldn't have bought it. A friend of mine owns a 2003, and his crack is far worse, and he never got it fixed. In 2004, or so, ford changed materials, but found it still cracked, and still no recall. I believe that since it's a body defect, ford should step up and pay for the replacement panels, and installs. Part of me wants to join other thousands and leave the crack for all to see. Would I buy another ford? well yes. And that's because other automakers are just as bad, and sometimes worse. A crack in a back panel wont kill us, unlike other problems with other vehicles. I got this explorer in 2008, but there wasn't enough on the internet to suggest I shouldn't buy it. Now there is. Time tells. When this vehicle croaks, if I don't first, I'm not sure at this point what I would get. It's rare to have honesty in manufacturing these days, so it's buyer beware for virtually everything. I bought my explorer used, and can say i'm really glad I did. Can you imagine outlaying a small fortune, and possibly still having payments and having this happen? sucky. When and if, I get the panel repaired, I will post the outcome.

Oh, and before I forget, I got some silicon seal that stays flexible, as you really should seal any cracks anyway. Plus, I sealed the lower rubber of the window, just to be sure all would stay dry. There could be more problems if moisture gets to motor, or wiring, or whatever, so don't put it off. So far the clear flexible seal is working thru tons of rain. And, by the way, my friend who has a 2003; his crack went down the center and affected his locking the hatch. i'm fortunate as mine was to the right side of the ford logo(awful reminder), and so lock not affected. But, there's no guarantee another crack wont show up somewhere with material fatigue. That's what makes this whole problem with us owners, irritating. Ford should fix all their major complaints for everything!!!

- , Lynnwood, WA, USA

problem #740

Jan 172016

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles


Purchased this car in 2004. Only 40,000 miles. Concerns me that this problem could get even worse. One day no crack, next day, large crack. Ford should repair this problem, especially since I found out this is a problem with a LARGE amount of Explorers. This is THEIR oversight, and they should be responsible for the repair.

I'm not asking for money, I'm asking for a repair due to Ford's negligence.

What's right is right - and the right thing to do in this instance is for Ford to issue a repair for all damaged vehicles.

- , Morrow, GA, US

problem #739

Jan 152006

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

Every Ford Explorer I see with this panel below the rear window has this crack in the same area of the panel. Why would this be if there wasn't something wrong with this design. I would love not look at this every time I go back there but it's there and every Ford Explorer I get behind in traffic and see in a parking lot and every where else I go. It is something that I'm living with but if I had known about this problem I never would have bought a Ford Explorer .... What ever Ford could do for all the people with this problem would really be appreciated, I'm sure they would keep future customers. If not they may lose a lot of sales. Do it for the consumer this time. It is ugly

- , Stratford, CT, USA

problem #738

Oct 282015

Explorer Limited 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,000 miles

The crack in the rear panel appeared shortly after purchasing this Ford. I had contacted Ford who said there was nothing in their records of this being an issue! It was not how many Fords had the issue vs. how few did not. I actually had it fixed at my local Ford Dealer for $450.00. Thought the issue was put to rest, until I walked out and saw that the CRACK had REAPPERED. Repair lasted 2 years! Definately a design issue. I will never purchase another Ford.

- , Frisco, TX, USA

problem #737

Dec 282011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 136,000 miles


I was told by a dealer that this happens mostly during the winter months, water gets behind the panel, freezes, and then when you shut the window it causes it to break.

- , Alvaton, KY, USA

problem #736

Nov 092015

Explorer XLT 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 144,000 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window cracked panel below the rear window cracked panel below the rear window cracked panel below the rear window

Extremely disappointed to find a crack under the window on the rear lift gate. I have spent a lot of money keeping this car in good shape. Over the years I have replaced a lot of parts in the suspension, wheel bearings, rear differential bearing (fixing that wasn't cheap), peeling paint on the hood, shift indicator broke years ago, I could on and on. No more Explorers for me, bad move.

Update from Jan 29, 2016: The cracked panel I wrote about now caused the heart window to spontaneously explode while I was parked at work. I called FORD and as I suspected it's not a recalled problem because according to them it's not a safety issue. Imagine this happening while I was driving down the road.

- , West Bend, WI, USA

problem #735

Jan 011917

Explorer XL V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

It is absolutely insane that ford hasn't recalled this. I'm in my truck everyday all day for work. Every single Ford Explorer I see has the same cracked panel under their rear window. Ford company should not get away with this!

- , Columbus, OH, USA

problem #734

Oct 132015

Explorer Limited 4.6L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 106,413 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window cracked panel below the rear window

I want this fixed by Ford. I'm a loyal Ford guy and I don't believe this should be my problem as Every Explorer of this year (2004) has this broken !It's funny, in April, a 30 year friend of mine said to me, wow I have never seen that back panel on a Explorer that was not cracked. So I have gone out of my way to be very careful when touching it and it made no difference, cracked anyway! Bullshit. James

- , Sparks, NV, USA

problem #733

Feb 012012

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 148,000 miles


click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

In 2012 I noticed this annoying crack that went down through the center of the truck tailgate. I took the truck to Koons Ford body shop and they said that there wasn't a recall on the issue. The repair would cost a nice amount to repair. I have noticed a large number of Ford/Mercury SUV's with the crack down the center of the tailgate. Some almost in the same location. I feel that Ford/Mercury should repair the damage and apologize for deceiving people knowing that this damage is a factory defect.

- , Baltimore County, MD, USA

problem #732

Jun 032013

Explorer SPT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 157,000 miles

My husband bought this Explorer for my birthday and just image seeing your gift with a crack in it, not to say how bad my husband felt to get me a gift that has a crack in it

- , Seffner, FL, USA

problem #731

Feb 102015

Explorer Sport Utility V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 119,000 miles

Rear panel cracked this past winter 2015. Went to Ford dealer which said, this happens a lot, but Ford will not fix this. It will most likely cost $500 or more to fix plus paint.

- , Roanoke, VA, USA

problem #730

Jun 012005

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 170,000 miles

Soon after the first crack and shortly after the vehicle passed the 36K miles original warranty, I visited a Ford dealership and was turned down on the repair indicating it was out of warranty.

- , Davie, FL, USA

problem #729

Jun 152010

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

Why is there no recall for this issue? I see other vehicles with the same cracks on the rear panel. Seems like a class action suit is necessary.

- , Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #728

Feb 082012


  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

Just like every other owner of this vehicle, I closed the lift gate one day and it had a long crack going down the right side of the Ford logo. Great job yet again, Ford.

- , Tampa, FL, USA

problem #727

Jan 222011

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles

I bought this truck used in great condition for the miles it had. Then using the tailgate often I saw that a crack was coming out. Then the whole panel next to the FORD logo cracked with the closing and driving of the back door. Ford needs to get these fixed since every 10 Explorers I see, 8 to 9 are cracked. REALLY?

- , Hollywood, FL, USA

problem #726

Jun 062015

Explorer XLS 4L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,419 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

Ford should continue to support the cost of the repair with the assistance program. Its an unacceptable customer irritant, that affects quality.

Fix it Ford!

Update from Aug 8, 2015: It cost $450 (Canadian) to fix the defective panel and could happen again, because the panel is poorly designed.

Update from Jan 26, 2016: OMG the panel cracked again at 158k in December. Ford you're losing loyal customers over this poor design & poor panel material.


- , Beeton, ON, Canada

problem #725

May 092013

Explorer V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

I've noticed this same crack in other 2004 Ford Explorers and I'm wondering if its a recall.

- , Gwynn Oak, MD, US

problem #724

Jan 052015

Explorer XTL 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 220,000 miles

Ford initially provided a fix now refuses to repair.

- , Sun City, CA, USA

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