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.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
2 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
8 / 0
Average Mileage:
69,836 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.

2004 Ford Explorer body / paint problems

body / paint problem

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2004 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 9 of 10)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #39

Nov 152008


  • 43,735 miles


The rear tailgate cracked from the bottom of the rear glass and propagated downward around the Ford emblem and finally to the bottom of the liftgate panel. This has happened on a 2004 Ford Explorer limited, V8 with.

- Morganton, NC, USA

problem #38

Jun 302007


  • 30,000 miles
Paint on the hood of my 2004 Ford Explorer began to bubble and subsequently peel off. Needed other, unrelated body work, and had the dealer shipfix the paint problem along with other body work. Fortunately, the body shop guy only charged me $100, since he already had the paint (and I think felt a little sorry for me). Have had no further problems with the paint.

- Zachary, LA, USA

problem #37

Mar 152009


  • 59,000 miles
Crack appeared on panel below rear window. Crack extends from the rear window to the bottom of the top rear hatch. No mistreatment of vehicle has occurred; crack appeared spontaneously while unoccupied in my garage. Will bring to Ford dealership tomorrow to inquire about replacement.

- Zachary, LA, USA

problem #36

Jun 162008


  • 65,000 miles


My 2004 Ford Explorer has a cracked rear lift gate just below the window, adjacent to the center Ford emblem. It was described to me by my local Ford dealer as a manufactured defect as a result of the horizontal plastic deck lid being glued to the metal lift gate. During contraction and expansion of these two materials during fluctuations in weather, the lid will crack. I have noticed approximately 30-40% of 2002-2005 Explorer with the same problem. Ford could elevate this problem by replacing the plastic panels with a better material or glue. My warranty expired at 36K and I noticed this problem won't occur until the vehicle is about 50K-75K of 3-4 years. Ford wants $500 to repair plus paint for a total of $700 dollars.

- Oak View, CA, USA

problem #35

Feb 242006


  • miles
I bought this 2004 Ford Explorer in 2006. The panel below the back window was loose. They sent a glass dealer out to fix it. They just put hot glue or something to mend it for the time. Needless to say it's 1/2 falling off now.

- Greenville, SC, USA

problem #34

Dec 152008


  • 48,000 miles
I noticed a crack on the rear panel of the tailgate of my 2004 Ford Explorer. It is in the middle, right next to the Ford emblem. I took the vehicle to the Ford dealership. The service manager explained that this was a common problem that people are bringing in to them. They said that there was no recall for it. They said my only option was to pay to get it repaired, which would cost about $450. My vehicle only had about 48,000 miles, but was no longer covered under the 3 year warranty. The manager also said that if I do choose to get it fixed, to keep the receipt because if there ever is a recall on it, I could be re-imbursed.

- Yorktown, VA, USA

problem #33

Feb 132009


  • 42,106 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Ford Explorer. Since November of 2008, the contact has been experiencing issues with the rear hatch door. There is a crack directly in the center of the hatch where the lock is located. As a result, the rear window opens without warning. While driving over speed bumps or potholes, the window opens. The vehicle was taken in for inspection, but the contact was informed that the warranty was expired. She feels that this is a safety issue, which could cause a serious crash. The current and failure mileages were 42,106.

- Walnut, CA, USA

problem #32

Feb 092009


  • 21,742 miles
Cracking tailgate panel below rear tailgate window extending to the bottom of the tailgate. The crack extends along the left side of the Ford emblem. This is the second crack since I have had in 2 years in exactly the same location. The previous crack appeared in January 2007 and was repaired by dealer at no cost. This time the dealer wants to charge me $450 to repair an obvious defect in workmanship and or material.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #31

Jun 012008


  • 56,000 miles
Back rear hatch cracked. Just like the 100's of others I found on my internet search of the problem. Our transmission also failed and had to be replaced, at our own cost.

- Cypress, TX, USA

problem #30

Feb 182009


  • miles
Car sat in driveway. Noticed rear hatch was cracked. Nothing had hit the car and hatch was not opened therefore it was not slammed. Went to internet to look up a recall but there isn't one. This is a factory defect. I found many sites of the same cracks in the same place. Talked to my service manager, he told me that he has heard of many Explorer that did the exact same thing!

- Spring Valley, CA, USA

problem #29

Jan 202009


  • miles


There is a long crack in the back area below the back hatch window, it looks like water running down by the Ford emblem but it is a crack. I have seen this same crack on other Ford Explorer. That why I belief it is a defect in the vehicle itself.

- Mobile, AL, USA

problem #28

Dec 122008


  • 68,000 miles
The hatch of our 2004 Ford Explorer cracked on its own and then 2 weeks later another crack appeared now the glass is starting to shift. I have seen multiple Explorer with the same defect. The Ford body shop told us that he has seen over 500 Explorer within the last 3 months with the same problem. But they refuse to fix it. If it does not get fixed the window could fall out during driving and be a danger to others on the road. If there are that many vehicles that "mysteriously" crack there has got to be a problem.

- Clermont, FL, USA

problem #27

Jan 152009


  • 62,000 miles
Cracked plastic panel below the rear window by the Ford emblem.

- Rockford, IL, USA

problem #26

Jan 152009


  • 42,000 miles
Manufacturers defect: 2004 Ford Explorer; 6" plastic panel below rear window running across the car has cracked top to bottom because of cold weather. A very common problem but Ford does not consider it a safety problem and therefore will not cover the total cost of replacing it.

- Chesapeake, VA, USA

problem #25

Feb 092009


  • 76,000 miles
On my roof I noticed that the paint is peeling just to the outside of both sides of the roof rack. The paint is cracked and peeling uniformly on both side which indicated it is a defect in the painting process.

- Bloomingburg, NY, USA

problem #24

Nov 282008


  • miles
The back panel under the window on my 2004 Ford Explorer cracked by the emblem. I contacted Ford on Dec 1, 2008 and was told that nobody has filed a complaint. Since then I've noticed over 15 Ford Explorer with the same problem and numerous complaints on the internet, however Ford denys there is a problem and has refused to provide me with assistance in getting this resolved.

- Bellevue, NE, USA

problem #23

Oct 312008


  • 38,000 miles
2004 Ford Explorer XLT, upper rear hatch cracked was not hit or abused.

- Seminole, FL, USA

problem #22

Jan 302009


  • 79,625 miles
The plastic piece below the rear hatch glass has cracked between the window and the top of the tail gate. I have contacted Ford with no response. I have see many Explorer with the same problem. Some say the damage is cased by water getting behind the plastic and freezing, causing the plastic to crack. This could allow more water into the panel causing more problems.

- Ft Leavenworth, KS, USA

problem #21

Dec 122007

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 110,111 miles
Four weeks ago I discovery an crack just below my rear window of my 2004 Ford Explorer XLT 4.0 V6...later I have seen this damage on three other cars at traffic lights and in parking lots. Just today I notice I this problem in yet another Explorer, and I was able to speak with the owner, and he said it just happen two week earlier. I also have had the hinge of my 2004 Explorer to break also, I had read that this was an problem with the 2003- 2003 mode. Well to me it looks like it and problem with the 2004 model also. It cost me 80 dollars to get the hinges placed with labor. I have read the it will cost between 300 to 600 dollars to repair the crack.

- Ware Shoals , SC, USA

problem #20

Oct 202008


  • 58,723 miles
Tailgate, plastic which run around "Ford" the width of the gate cracked. Cold weather the crack gets large, hot weather it closes up. It cracked on its own.

- Winnabow, NC, USA

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