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 1 of 10)

problem #199

Oct 112016


  • miles


I looked at the back of my 2004 Ford Explorer, ltd one morning (10/11/2016) and there was a crack straight down the back panel. The vehicle was parked in my driveway. After discovering the split in the panel I started to notice that there are several Explorer with this same problem. I asked my dealer and they said there was no recall and the only suggestion would be to get it repaired myself. This is clearly a Ford issue. Now while driving a hear rattling and hope the entire panel doesn't fall off. I did call the Ford customer service today to register my concerns. They also told me there were no recalls at this time but he would file my concern and gave me a case #cas-11411018 for future reference. I am on a retired income and this is something I can't afford to have repaired then keep receipts in hope that Ford will do the right thing and recall and/or assist me with the repair expenses. In reading on-line after several owners had the panel replaced, it cracked again later. Please advise me and help me get assistance with this issue with my 2004 Ford Explorer, ltd back panel splitting for no obvious reason.

- Palmetto, GA, USA

problem #198

Sep 202016


  • 85,000 miles
Significant front end impact with no airbag deployment. Vehicle was moving forward at the time of the accident on a city street.

- University Place, WA, USA

problem #197

Aug 012016


  • 157,000 miles
Cracks on rear panel happened a few years ago. I was told it's a common known problem with Ford, but they won't repair it and it's not needed. Now the hatch won't fully close or lock shut due to the parts behind the Ford emblem rusting out due td the cracks. Water has gotten behind it, also the rear wiper will not work due to the water getting through from the cracks. I can now not drive my only truck that fits my family. We were leaving to go out to a family advent, and I noticed the back hatch was open, that is when I found out how damaged it was due to the panel being cracked. I called Ford, they told me I would have to repair it out of my own pocket at a Ford dealership. This could cause a huge issue if I drove and the back widow fully came off while driving, it could have severally hurt someone or damaged another vehicle and or person, or persons. This common issue needs to be corrected and recalled. I'm not the only one!

- Jefferson, WI, USA

problem #196

May 192016


  • 65,000 miles


The panel under the rear lift gate window has cracked 3 times now. This panel cracks near the Ford emblem on either the right or left side. I called Ford and filed a complaint and was told that they have no information on this being an issue. My panel has cracked for the 4th time and Ford is refusing to do anything about it. I have had the vehicle since 2005. I can submit photos if needed to support this matter. The panel appears to crack due to the lift gate flexing when it is opened and closed. In the past 3 years, I have observed "all" the Ford around that year have busted panels and they're telling me there is no problem.....another cover-up in the making!

- Sarasota, FL, USA

problem #195

May 032016


  • 145,000 miles
Paint peeling roof hood differential replaced twice bearings wear out repaired twice back of tailgate panel cracked replaced 3 times

- Allentown, PA, USA

problem #194

Oct 012015


  • 175,000 miles
I have replaced the panel under the rear lift gate window 3 times at a cost of over $ 400 per time. This panel cracks near the Ford emblem on either the right or left side. I called Ford and filed a complaint and was told that they have no information on this being an issue. I am an auto insurance claims adjuster and I see this problem daily on my insured's vehicle. My panel has cracked for the 4th time and Ford is refusing to do anything about it. I have had the vehicle since 2006. I can submit the invoices for my repairs and photos if needed to support this matter. The panel appears to crack due to the lift gate flexing when it is opened and closed. The local Ford dealership said they try to put something behind the panel when they replace it to help reinforce it.

- Moore, SC, USA

problem #193

Oct 072015


  • 163,225 miles


My car was parked in front of my residence on the street, it had not been driven that day. The back window in the tailgate exploded, causing damage to the tailgate. No one was driving it, it had not been touched that day. There was a prior crack in the tailgate which I have seen on other Explorer's, and since learned that it is a defect in the care.

- Hampton, VA, USA

problem #192

Aug 232015


  • 164,000 miles
The rear hatch hinge holding the rear window broke. It happened in a parking lot but the hatch window fell on me.

- Bridgewater, NJ, USA

problem #191

Aug 012014


  • 130,000 miles
Sun visor bracket cracked and disintegrated leaving sun visor blocking my view. Had to pull over and disconnect the wire and remove visor. 2nd incident, pressed button to open rear glass and the hinges snapped ejecting the heavy glass panel at me. Had a child been opening it, they could have been killed. As it was, I caught the glass panel.

- Haymarket, VA, USA

problem #190

Jul 102015


  • 150,000 miles
Went to open rear window hatch and right hinge snapped off causing whole rear window panel to fall on me. The left hinge managed to stay in place and was able to get center latch reattached to keep the window panel from completely falling off. Only a matter of time until left hinge snaps. Taking it in for repair but both hinges could have easily snapped and potentially fallen into the roadway. This is a heavy load bearing hinge and if broken when a child opened it could have caused serious injury. I notice this is not uncommon with this particular vehicle and is a danger not only to the owner but potentially to those on the road behind this model.

- Jackson, CA, USA

problem #189

Jul 012015


  • miles


2 vertical cracks in upper rear hatch below window

- Wynnewood, PA, USA

problem #188

Jun 072014


  • 154,000 miles
I went to open small window type rear gate and the left hinge broke. I caught the gate before it hit the ground and had to drive very slow to get car home safely.

- Detroit, MI, USA

problem #187

Feb 042015

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 231,173 miles
Car was parked. I opened rear hatch (just the window part) and the passenger side hinge broke causing hatch to fall down on my head (quite painful!). about a year ago this same thing happened with the drivers side hinge (though I was able to catch it before it hit my head). I had that side repaired, but now it looks corroded so I worry it will happen again.

- Boonsboro, MD, USA

problem #186

Apr 152015


  • 119,000 miles
My rear hatch in the back of my Explorer has a crack in it. Which I think has caused the back window to shift which in turn has caused my door ajar light to flash while the door chimes go off and the interior flicker while you are driving down the road but there are no doors open. The lights flickering make it hard to drive in the night. I think Ford should fix this problem for everyone.

- Amarillo, TX, USA

problem #185

Jan 052015

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • 220,000 miles
There is a vertical crack on the top rear lift gate 10" to the left of the vehicle logo toward the rear door. In cold temperatures, the crack is barely visible yet in warmer temperatures, the crack would expand.

- Sun City, CA, USA

problem #184

Mar 252015


  • 104,906 miles
The liftgate glass hinge on my 2004 Ford Explorer broke as I was closing the rear window glass. Without warning it just came undone with the screw popping loose. Cheaply made material of the liftgate glass hinge was clearly the cause, along with a faulty design that allows the bolt to strip out of the hinge.

- Salem, UT, USA

problem #183

Mar 012007

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • miles
Rear cracked panel on 2002-2005 Ford Explorer -when it rains water fry the rear taillights.

- Greensboro, NC, USA

problem #182

Jan 142013

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 180,000 miles
Liftgate has a crack and the hinge to the liftgate broke due to crack. It is hazardous to drive due to possible falling while driving or parked.

- Keller, TX, USA

problem #181

Nov 222014

Explorer 6-cyl

  • 95,000 miles
I noticed one day that the rear panel of my 2004 Ford Explorer XLT was cracked. There was no crash nor indication of damage from outside source. I believe the cracked formed because of the expansion of water which seeped in throughout the year. There is no recall for this problem and I see the crack on every Explorer on the road within a few years of mine. I need to get a recall in order to fix this problem not caused by me and which everyone else I know who has this model have the same problem.

- Waldwick, NJ, USA

problem #180

Dec 012014


  • 182,000 miles
The back hatch has split next to the Ford sign. It got cold and when I got up to crank my truck I saw was not hit and was in the shed when this happen. I was told it had a recall from someone that has the same thing happen to her. We also have had the transmission replaced.Ford really need to fix this.I can say I will never buy another Ford!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- Cleveland, NC, USA

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