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Ford Windstar Electrical Problems



  • I don't think ford techs are scheming, and causing problems. I doubt they think an owner would bring a $900-$4,500 van back to the dealership for repairs. I know for a fact an issue lies with the ABS MODULE ...
    Remember you said you just purchased it..

    I live in the South so I don't have these axle snappings or rust problems...

    and read about the ABS module failure. Also report this Brake issue to
  • We just purchased our 2002 Windstar last fall too! and have replaced the alternator 3 times in 18,000 miles. All but one of the recall fixes had been done when we bought it, then the last was done. Other than eating alternators, it's a great ride but sadly, though it's been only 1K miles since alternator replacement #3, it appears the downward spiral leading to alternator death has begun again, since warning lights have started turning on and off randomly during driving.

    Here's how the breakdown goes every time: for several weeks the warning lights get intermittently wonky (brake, seat belt and ABS warning lights come on and off randomly), next there will be incidents of gauges swinging wildly, A/C turning off, electric doors/windows failing, and then soon afterwards the engine (in the middle of driving just fine) starts to sputter, then dies, with the alternator dead and battery drained. After each alternator replacement, my regular mechanic then 2 different dealer mechanics said they checked every electrical wire circuit, connection, etc., and found nothing wrong - just sent us on our way with an "all fixed."

    I know many would have dumped this van already, but we can't afford to replace it and need a way to transport elderly parents and pets who don't fit into our little Kia sedan. At this point, though, even with 11K miles left on the dealer's repair warranty, it's a safety issue to have elderly and pets on board if/when it breaks down again.

    For now I'm driving with a battery/alternator tester plugged in at all times, hoping at least I'll KNOW when the alternator fries and can get to a safe place before the engine dies. The tester shines green (good) at first, then changes to green and yellow (low) after a few minutes of driving. It may be unrelated, but there is sometimes bad radio interference for awhile after the AC fan is turned on, and lately the AC takes about 10 minutes to blow cold air.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for fixes we can try before we get rid of this van? I don't even feel right selling it, because I'm sure that's what the previous owners did, passing their misery on to us when we bought it. I don't want to do that to someone else.

    Thanks in advance!
  • Well, I understand your misery. Our van is paid off, but we can't afford a new vehicle with 3 boys, 1 car payment and mortgage. This van is how my wife gets the kids to school and child care. Sometimes she takes their cousins to school.
    As of now, the van is running great. Like you said, it rides and handles well. My wife loves it other than the electrical issues.
    We just got a new alternator installed.
    I only have a few suggestions:
    1. Make sure the wire going from the battery to the fuse box goes under the air filter box. This was the beginning of my misery. This caused the short which drained my first battery and killed the alternator. They recharged the battery and put in a new alternator, but the battery did not last long.
    2. Along with the new alternator, get a new battery.
    3. Replace the Rear Electronic Module.
    4. Replace the wiring harness if you notice any part of it that may seem burned. This is a short and will drain your battery and kill your alternator. Remember to put mechanics grease on all electric terminals.
    5. Check the timing and any other routine maintenance items (again, I'm not a mechanic).

    Every couple of days I am checking the battery because this seems to be where my problems stem from. If your Windstar is fully loaded like mine, then there are many things that can drain the battery. I hope this helps and you can do many of these things on your own. My wiring harness was from the Ford dealer and cost me $120, I put it on myself in about 30 minutes. I put a new starter on before that, but only to find that the battery was dead (mechanic told me it was the starter). This started the downward spiral of the alternator. The battery was dead because the wiring harness was bent at the fuse box instead of coming out straight and going under the air filter box.
    Sorry for the rambling.
  • I have a 2002 Windstar SEL, the driver's side power sliding door and the rear heater both stopped working shortly after I bought it in 2008. Sometimes if we hit a bump or go through a car wash they will both start working again all the sudden. In winter time the air bag light comes on. Sometimes a warning comes on to check charging system and the lights will dim so I turn the van off and restart it and it works again. Lately its draining overnight and at first I thought it was because the passenger power sliding door wasnt closing all the way but even when we make sure its closed it will still drain overnight. Is this all one problem or multiple problems? Dont really have the money to pay 400 in diagnostic work which is what the ford dealer told me it would cost just to find out whats wrong. :confuse:
  • I don't know where you are from, but here, Auto Zone and Oreilly's both do free diagnostics. Any good mechanic would check your battery for dead cells and see if your alternator is working for a minimum charge or even free if you ask. If it is the alternator, try to get it at Oreilly's with the life-time warranty. Also, check the REM or rear electronic module. This seems to be a problem as well. Go over the wiring harness very closely looking for any signs of arching. This was the start of all my problems. 2 alternators, 2 batteries, diode (or whatever), and a starter later and I am hoping I finally got to the bottom of it. Good luck and keep us posted.
  • I should have said, I had the battery and alternator both checked and they said both were functioning perfectly, dont know about REM ill have to check that out.
  • We had the same problem with the battery draining overnight. We've replaced the battery and the alternator but it was still doing it. We've had the ABS module and wiring harness looked at because the ABS and brake lights kept coming on. Everything checked out fine.

    Our local mechanic has resolved this issue for us by installing a battery kill switch, like they use to use on hot rods. Our mechanic did not disturb the original battery cables, he ran separate cables off of the battery for the kill switch. When you are ready to park the van for the night, shut everything off (lights, radio, heater), turn the van off and then turn the kill switch key. The next morning, turn the kill switch key on and the van fires right up. We have been testing this for a week now and have not had any problems with it.

    No more headaches of having to constantly jump start it. It may be a work around for the real issue but it was a lot cheaper than continually replacing batteries and alternators.

    If you need more information on it let us know and we will see if our mechanic would talk to your mechanic but can't promise anything.
  • I also had some electrical problems with my 2004 Windstar. Something was draining the battery over night. I sent it in to the local mechanic, and after two weeks, he tells us what he found. For one thing, there is a computer set under the steering wheel that he reset and caused my locks, AC, and windows to begin working, as some of the windows had stopped. But the computer behind the instrument gauge, as my gauges would crazily spin, even after I turned the engine off, held the fuse that drained my battery. He says that there is a device in the van that runs 90 min after the van is turned off and enters into sleep mode, so he kept having to wait until that shut off before testing. He said there is a fuse, very tiny, that was draining the battery. When he removed it, EVERYTHING (except for one thing) worked normally. They tested over and over, test drove it, checked the battery for a few days, and nothing went wrong. This fuse...they could NOT find any specification in the manual or internet or anywhere that explains exactly what the fuse was for, but he said that without the fuse, the only thing that did not work was the chime that came on when you leave your headlights on and the engine is off. So we agreed to just leave the fuse out and see how it goes over the months. I get my van back today. But he said that if I want the fuse replaced that I would need a new instrument cluster...which would be very expensive he says. My dad, who is a bit savvy with working on his own vehicles but lives 800 miles away says that seems suspicious and to check with Ford parts and see if they can replace the fuse without buying a new cluster. So I'm doing some searches about this. Anyone have any thoughts on this?
  • Just to correct myself, my van is a 2003, and it was fuse 16 in the fuse box under the dashboard. But now I know what else not having it there does not work...the gauge lights.

    And my AC is not working...just blowing air, and my locks will lock everything except the driver side as it will lock and then pop up. I have to lock it manually. And one of my rear side windows still won't open. So I will have to call the mechanic on Monday and see where that goes. Otherwise, it's running good now.
  • fredtechfredtech Posts: 1
    edited November 2011
    frazzed5, by using the kill switch, your vehicle's PCM Keep Alive Memory (KAM) is being erased every time the power supply to the vehicle is cut off. When the ignition key is turned off, the vehicle's computers still require voltage to keep their memory alive. The drain on the battery is minimal. The PCM's OBDII monitors will have to be reset or test complete every time you do this. Any DTCs (Diagnostic Trouble Codes) stored will also be erased. DTCs are very helpful in diagnosing performance problems your vehicle may develope. You also lose freeze frame information that shows the precise data that the PCM was receiving when the malfuction occurred. Your mechanic is sacrificing much of value to fix your electrical problem. You may want to ask him about this.
  • Hi everybody!
    Seems I'm not the only one with this hobby : OWNING A WINDSTAR!!! What happens is this light on dash is always on, shape of a lightbulb with a ! ... and ABS, Brake light, and engine light come on randomly. Front wipers only work if I click them to the last two speeds (fast and berserk!) Headlights on ''ON'' position, left has high beam while right beam is simply on, and if I push the beam lever forward (always High beam) the left one will turn off while the right one goes high, as if they're one position away one from the other. Power locks also have a problem (driver door won't lock and none work if keys are not in ignition)..

    The other day, all warning lights came on and stayed on after starting the van but the rest of dash stayed off and all gauges stayed down (RPM, Speed, Gas, Temperature...) front beams werent working but the 'daylights' were on.

    Can someone help me with where to look, if you've had or worked on similar problems ?!

    Thank you so much and good luck with yours!
  • Did that switch fix the problem? I've been having problems for a month; dome lights flashing while driving and the battery dieing over night and more recently over 8 hours since it's Chicago cold weather. Bought a new battery and my mechanic does not want to deal with it anymore. Flipped the switch so the dome lights won't come on anymore but the bottom lights in the rear (by the sliding doors) come on and stay on when they want to. My guess this is what's taking out the battery. Please help!
  • van7188van7188 Posts: 8
    edited December 2011
    For your dash it sounds like a blown fuse. This used to happen to my van when the master cylinder was leaking on to the wire harness. What i did was unplug the wire coming out of the master cylander and change the fuse. Ford did a recall for the issue a little over a year ago. They replaced the master cylinder and the fuse didn't blow again for about a month. Then it started blowing again, so I just unplugged that wire permanently and no problems since. For the dome light mine does this one too. I traced the problem to the right rear passenger slide door. The back latch doesn't lock in properly so when you hit bumps e.t.c. the dome lights come on. I tried wd40 e.t.c. to get the latch to work properly with no success. So I took out the rear side light bulbs and turned the over head dome switch in front and rear off.I probably should replace the latch but I think im just going to trade the Ford in and buy a Dodge or Chevy even though I could get the friends and family discount from Ford. Just tired of the issues and Fords rust way too soon. Hope this helps you.
  • First off, I would like to thank the admin of this site for it's existence & I would extend a special thanks to those members that contributed to all those fine articles, pictures & research on the problems.
    Now I have read most every article on the various problems & it seems that I have a problem related to the ABS/Brake light prblem but mine is quite different than what has been posted in that althopugh these lights are on 100% of the time there is Nothing & I mean nothing wrong with my brakes( I have had the recall done) It was after that the the lights started coming on. now they just stay on. And because I still have brakes as the factory intended makes me think sensors right away. I also have a fewe of the other problems but I am just supplying info that I have personally about the Brakes. Last winter I was on my way to work and was in a left turn lane on a snowy, & the left turn light gave me the right of way & as ther were 2 lanes turning, I was in the right, when some idiot tried to jump out from the oncome lanes to make a righ. This put him right in the path of my grill. I jammed on the brake & before I could repond to the act of realeasing the lockup, the ABS took over & I was able to steer out of his way. What made this even more interesting is that this personslmmed his brakes & stopped dead in front of me instead of carrying on. When I came to a stop, my bumper was about a foot awat from his drivers door. I gave thanks to Ford's ABS & gave no more thought to these two idiot lights on the Dash. My "Beast" is an 02 SEL with just over 100,000 klicks. I just love her& unless she burns to the ground, I will drive her until one of us is dead. I have never been a Ford Gal but I just love this Van. It is really to bad that something that is as beautiful & comfortable as these are should have so many problems. If the gremlins such as rear windows & door lock etc do not inconvienence me, then I will just keep on trukin'. hehehe. Not much choice as I am on a pension & no big bucks for repairs & I am too honest to attempt to sell her without telling future buyers about these problems. Any way people THANK-YOU :D ;) :shades:
  • dkroondkroon Posts: 2
    one day i went to start my van and the key turned all around went and bought new one still did same thing the ignition switch rod is broke it appears you have to take steering wheel off cant seem to get it off help with that please thanks :( :(
  • i have a 2003 windstar once i start driving i hear 5 dings 5 times no lights come on and is a different ding from the turn signal on or the keys or the door. please help
  • jccdjccd Posts: 2
    there is a module mounted to the bottom of your master cylinder that is get soak with brake flood or water. they sale an adapter to go on here to keep this from happening. this will take care of your problem
  • jccdjccd Posts: 2
    There is a module plugged into the bottom of your master cyl. the dealership will sell you a extension cable to use that will fix these problems. the module on there now is getting wet and shorting out
  • From the sounds of it is the Rem. This is the same problem we are having in the 2003 model and the casings on everything are good. On the downside, it seems that the drain has also destroyed our battery.
  • Ok so here is the deal with the 2003 ford windstars. First, you need to go to the ford website and look up recalls. Enter your vin in. Apparently for the 2003 ford windstar there is a recall for the scds and the abs module. Both of which could be causing the drain on the battery. The other night when my van was completely drained, there was smoke emitting from the engine even though I know for a fact the engine is fine because we jumped it and it started right up. However, it seems that this problem has also destroyed my battery causing it to leak. Beware of this issue, take your van in for the recall before doing anything else to it.
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