Print this page 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:
75,350 miles
Total Complaints:
769 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. waiting for Ford to recall (296 reports)
  2. not sure (205 reports)
  3. replace panel (117 reports)
  4. possible class action lawsuit (63 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 1 of 39)

problem #769

Jun 252012

Explorer XLT

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles


Just wanted to add in another cracked rear door panel. Just looked at it one day and there it was!

- Cara I., Belle Vernon, PA, US

problem #768

Jan 012018

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,000 miles

reporting another crack in the rear panel below the window.

- fordowner, Richmond, IL, US

problem #767

Oct 012018


  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,000 miles

Simply reporting. 2nd owners but did not occur until car was relocated to FL full time from Maine full time.

- Lori Q., Orlando, US

problem #766

Sep 182018

Explorer XLS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 134,000 miles


Just reporting another crack in the rear panel below the window.

- Paul R., Warren, RI, US

problem #765

Nov 012010

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 51,000 miles

Ford is full of annoying problems that add up to substantial costs.

1. Transmission failure at 80,000 miles

2. Blown engine due to overheating as plastic thermostat enclosure warps and fails with time.

3 Sun visor breaks easily.

4. Wheel bearings fail at low mileage.

5. Rear panel below glass cracks.

- Joe C., Miami, US

problem #764

Jan 062010

Explorer Limited 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles

There is a crack on the rear hatch that runs from the bottom of the glass to the next panel. It goes right beside the Ford logo. My car looks like new except for the crack on the hatch. In the winter it is more noticeable due to the cold and in the summer. Every Explorer that has the same design as mine has a crack on their hatch.

- steeliron2, Pequea, US

problem #763

Nov 012015

Explorer XLT 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles


Panel cracked on a cold winter day and I heard it crack when it did it. Nothing impacted the vehicle such as a collision nor did it come from slamming the panel shut. It came as I was driving down a smooth, paved roadway. The dealer said that it would take $500 dollars to get a new panel and that did not include the cost of painting it to match. Also not covered under my extended "bumper to bumper" warranty that I paid an extra $2500 dollars for when I purchased the vehicle new.

I had considered replacing the panel but from reading around in a number of forums found out that the replacement panels are the same thing as the old panels and they will crack as well - thus not worth the cost.

- c2cthomas, Smyrna, US

problem #762

Jul 082016

Explorer XLT 4.6V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 49,710 miles

A lot of photos are shown online of cracked plastic panels on the Explorer tailgates. The whole assembly is lightweight and frail. Eight hours on a corrugated dirt road would probably destroy both upper tailgate hinges and the glass. They are not strong enough for an SUV. Ford should have recalled all of them and replaced with a more substantial window.

My Explorer had a full-width crack in the rear tailgate plastic panel.I fixed the crack with RapidFix glue, made by Boss products in Michigan. It was done without disassembly, in about 5 minutes. It was less of a problem than gluing my Nike sandals; which I did straight after. It is waterproof, and looks very durable. I am sending this to your information bank because I do not seem to be able to access the Explorer Forum. It may be better to remove the panel and fix both sides but the job can be done without that. I did abrade the crack slightly and rubbed the sides of the crack with 1200 wet-or-dry paper, but that's all. It is worth a try for owners of Explorers with multiple cracked tailgate panels. I have forgotten the name of the plastic used to make the panel but that RapidFix glue will stick it. Just do not leave your fingers on the area you are gluing or the emergency boys will be cutting the panel to take you away to get unglued. Quite a few retail outlets stock that glue, and I would recommend it. Here in Australia I bought a pack online for $43.00, and that is a lot cheaper than a panel job. According to the RapidFix instruction video you can stab your radiator hose and then glue it, and it will hold under pressure. Or glue your radiator hole, coolant bottle hole, or water pump housing. Ford are not going to fix their tailgates, so people should be able to access a cheap means of repair. I hope you can give this message out to Explorer owners. I have no connection with the people of Boss Products except that I have some of that glue on my fingernails for a while.

- burman, Manly,Qld, Australia

problem #761

Dec 292016

Explorer ALS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 141,400 miles

I have a 2004 ford explorer and the back liftgate is cracking and it is getting worse. This make my whole truck look horrible. I would like to get it fixed.

- karlac5525, Hephzibah, US

problem #760

Dec 152014

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

The plastic panel, under the lift gate window cracked, due to temperature change. This allowed moisture in and caused the latch to stick closed.

- dougsdad, West Palm Beach, FL, US

problem #759

Jul 282017

Explorer Eddie Bauer 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 123,400 miles


When the Explorer was bought used in 2015 the cracks that are common in this panel did not exist. We purposely did not open the glass part of the lift gate to avoid cracking it. Eventually it cracked on its own just from opening the full tailgate. Then recently the lift gate latch keeper bolts/studs rusted behind the cracked panel and the glass lift gate released on its own. The interior lights came on as a result. This drained my battery in this summers heat. I had to purchase a new battery.

To avoid this battery issue from happening again, I rigged the lift gate latch with zip ties through the holes to temporarily hold the lift gate shut. It won't hold long like this so I need to fix the attachment parts that rusted behind the glass and then the colored cover panel that is now badly cracked, The cracking of this very poorly designed and poor material choice part let water in behind it after cracking. This caused rust of the latch attachment studs.

Ford's issuance of VSB's about this issue are proof they were aware and should still be on the hook for such poor design of this widespread tailgate issue that is a safety concern.

- James M., Fenton, MO, US

problem #758

Feb 112009

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,140 miles

2004 Ford Explorer rear Ford Panel under the outside window cracked just from shutting the rear hatch.

Seems this is a problem reported by a lot of owners but Ford has done nothing to address this problem.

Devalues your vehicle due to there bad qc control issues.

Waiting on a recall.

- Jerry K., Delta, CO, US

problem #757

Dec 272014

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

The crack in the panel below the rear window occurred in Dec. 2014. The car was 10 years old by then. I thought I had simply closed the window gate too hard and it cracked because of that. Then I started noticing at least one Explorer everyday with the same crack. It seems to me that Ford should be replacing the panels.

- Gina B., Portland, OR, US

problem #756

Jul 042013

Explorer Limited 6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

I have seen many Ford Explorers with this same issue. I don't understand why Ford won't fix this issue it is clearly a defect on all Explorers. I will NEVER BUY A FORD.

- Debbie C., Keller, TX, US

problem #755

Feb 222012

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

Looks like a common problem but Ford refuses to acknowledge issue. Very expensive to fix and it re-occurs after fixing

- dcb, Loveland, CO, US

problem #754

Sep 152010

Explorer Eddie Bauer

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles

My 2004 Ford Explorer as of today 10/7/2016 has a little over 80k miles, so not very much miles!!! The crack around the back emblem started in 2010 and is completely around the emblem!! Every Ford Explorer I've seen seems to have this same issue and apparently due to poor manufacturing in that particular area!!! Ford needs to recall and fix this!!!!

- jgainey, Lancaster, SC, US

problem #753

Feb 042017

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 102,111 miles

ford knows about the problem it on all of the cars

- Cedric B., Powder Springs, GA, US

problem #752

Dec 212016

Explorer Limited 5.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 47,618 miles

Called Ford Motor about the Explorer, all I got was that they would "note it" for reference and transferred me to my local dealer. Talked to a very nice service rep who tried to get Ford to fix it. A very well known fact that Ford knows about from the beginning and just refused to fix it.

- Bruce L., Springfield, MO, US

problem #751

Sep 012015

Explorer XLT Sport 4x4 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

This was cracked when I got vehicle. Noticed it seems to be common for explorers/mountaineers of the lineage.

- mcduffus, Egg Harbor City, NJ, US

problem #750

Jan 022016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

The lift gate cracked about a year ago on my Explorer. I have a friend whose also cracked. I posted on facebook today about it, and there are about 30 people commented that their Ford Explorer liftgate cracked also. This seems to be a problem that Ford needs to correct. No reason for the body of any vehicle to crack like this.

- Brenda K., Morganton, NC, US

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