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Freestar vs Windstar

sirius2sirius2 Posts: 42
edited March 5 in Ford
I want to buy a minivan in the next year. The deals are great on the Windstar right now, but the Freestar looks like a better product. Especially the folding third seat. Does anybody have any thoughts on the pros/cons of these two vehicles??? Thanks,


  • hdmatrixhdmatrix Posts: 1

    If you are thinking about a Ford MiniVan you should talk with other owners first. I have two 96 Windstars and both Transmissions blew between 65-75 thousand miles. Both identical failure modes, even the case cracked so I could not even get a core charge refund. Head gaskets went at 79K and the other van exhibits the same symptoms. I also have an explorer and am dumping all three vehicles. Based on past Ford reliability I would expect the Freestar in it's first year to be capable of multiple catastrophic component failures. Maybe you will be able to experience an engine and transmission failure simultaneously. This may be a plus for Ford since it will destroy all evidence of the defect. Unless you are only planning to drive the Ford for 36K miles, I would check out the new 2004 Toyota Sienna or the Honda Odyssey. Just keep in mind Fords are 50K mile vehicles.
  • sdhartsdhart Posts: 1
    I've had my Winstar since it came out. Its strong , smooth at 47K miles. compared to the Windstar the FreeStar for 2004 is a close copy spacially and style-wise. The Ford quality is very apparent, and when I rented a Dodge Caravan on vacation. It was slower and noisier, w/less confident highway poise. The Hondas are slower still. I get close tho the est. MPG. for mine.
    I have cared for my van with Mobil 1 oil changes. The power sliding doors are still smooth, as is the tranny. Exterior shines on.
    SO, I will wait until end of 2004 for my next smart purchase, The 2004 Freestar. I look forward to the new features and upgrades, like 4 wheel discs.
  • trainboytrainboy Posts: 66
    Sorry HDmatrix, but I must disagree with you on this one. My wife has a '96 Windstar with 78K miles and it is doing fine, albeit kid wear and trim fatique, and we are replacing it soon with the Freestar. I have also had 3 more company Windstars, '98, '00 & '02. The '02 will be replaced soon with a Freestar. I work for General Electric and they have oodles of these units. They seem to feel that 80K is the optimum point to put the units out to pasture. I have never had an major powertrain problem on these or the 4 Taurus's that I have had. Our maintenance program is simple, oil and filter every 4k miles, rotate tires and check brakes at 12k and DON'T TOUCH THE TRANSMISSION. If Ford things work, then don't fix them is the theory.
    On any forum, you will find people with problem vehicles. For discussion, if 1/2 of the people on the forum complained about their vehicles, would that mean that 1/2 of ALL of the same vehicles manufactured are equally bad? Would a manufacturer stay in business with that type of quality? Take the gripes on the forum's as isolated, frustrated owners, looking for help. When I see these gripes I always wonder if these owners are dealing with a reputable Ford dealer or something much less. Sure there are lemons like Ford's early Windstar engines and they took care of those for those who pursued them.

    Sirius2, go and drive the units, first and foremost. Use the specs for a tie breaker if you must. My wife and I looked at the specs and thought the '04 Sienna looked like the real deal, until we drove it. We just didn't like the unit for the price. The Odessey was the runner up until we sat in it; we couldn't get the seats back far enough for our leg length.
  • fezofezo Posts: 9,328
    They seem to feel that 80K is the optimum point to put the units out to pasture.

    Given that caveat I would agree with you. Our Windstar experience was OK (not flawless but definitely OK) right until a bit after 80K. It sort of imploded after that. Everything you've heard already - head gaskets, tranny, valve cover gasket, timing chain cover gasket. Corporate Ford treated us like lepers and the dealer just blew us off. Too bad, a little sympathy and reduced costs might have kept us in the Ford fold. It was as much their attitude as it was having to spend $5,000 in repairs over teh course of 7,000 miles.
  • trainboytrainboy Posts: 66
    Steve, you have my sympathy. We are approaching the magic 80K mileage with our personal '96 Windstar. Finally I have convinced my wife that we need to replace her unit. Since home interest is down, we refinanced the estate and pulled out enough for a new car and some other stuff. I hope we just keep her van running until we can get a new '04 Freestar.
  • fezofezo Posts: 9,328
    I ahve to admit that up until the crash and burn the thing treated us well. It had been paid off for a year or so and I was enjoying not having a car payment. I'm used to pushing cars for 150,000 miles or more. Pushing took on a different meaning in this case.

    Best of luck on the Freestar. Extended warranty anyone? (Couldn't hurt...)
  • trainboytrainboy Posts: 66
    This will open a can of worms; what is everyone's thoughts on extended warranty? I think they are a rip and don't buy them on anything but notebook computers. I have done ok with our personal Windstar, Ford has been good to us and the only thing that has really been expensive has been the catalytic convertor. In Calif, they are covered for 70k miles, so it was on Ford.

    We are in the process of ordering the Freestar now. As previous we won't opt for the warranty extension. What is your thoughts?

  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 10,824
    trainboy, there's a whole mess of discussions about extended warranties over on the Finance, Warrany, and Insurance Board. You can get to that board using the drop-down menu under "browse by message board" in the gray sidebar at the left.

    Need help navigating? - or send a private message by clicking on my name.
    Share your vehicle reviews

  • fezofezo Posts: 9,328
    Yeah, I know thisisn't really the forum for such things, but if I were keeping a Freestar long term I'd buy one - but I'd negotiate. I bought one against my better judgement on the Ody because of tranny fears (after that Windstar I've been loking over my shoulder). By comparing dealer to dealer on the same warranty the price varied by as much as $900!
  • alpha01alpha01 Posts: 4,747
    as to the reasons that prospective buyers feel the Freestar is a better purchase than the newer designs from Nissan and Toyota, and the venerable top performing Honda?

  • trainboytrainboy Posts: 66
    I started this thought process for two reasons. First, I didn't see any real discussions regarding warranty extensions on the Windstars and I saw a lot more problem discussions regarding Windstars. My view is a bit jaded because I have driven (run out) three company furnished Windstars that I beat and someone else maintained, with no major failures. I have also owned a '96 Windstar, again, with no major problems.
  • trainboytrainboy Posts: 66
    Hi Alpha, ok here is my take on this vehicle. Our family has two basic challenges. First, we have three kids in car seats, therefore, we need something with two rows of back seats. Second, my wife and I are around 6' tall and have long legs.

    My wife wanted to look at Toyota and Honda. We went the local Honda store to drive the new Ody. The sales guy was very courteous and after he showed us all of the features, we got in. One minor problem, we could not get the seats back enough to sit comfortably. It appears that a person around 5'-8" would be real comfortable, but not us leggy folks. We didn't even drive the thing. Also, Honda does not offer a driver's door key pad or the side curtain canopy.

    We also drove the '04 Sienna. It was nice and I really liked the roll down back seat windows. What we didn't like was the glossy black trim which little fingerprints would seem to find. I also felt the trim was rough and the 2nd row seat latches could take off a little finger. Parent's should worry about that stuff. The unit we drove seem anemic and liked to rev up more than go. Hence, I feel that some folks would buy this unit on specs, not driving. But they had the best specs....

    All said, I still feel that Ford is a good value for the family driver. We drive our personal vehicles for many years, so first and second year depreciation don't affect us and much as the trendy folks. The '04 Freestar will offer the side curtain/air bag combo, the driver's door has a key pad so we don't have to keep a hide-a-key under the bumper and it fits tall folks.

    In other discussions regarding these vans, I have stated my experience with Ford and front wheel drive units. I work for G.E. and drive a company furnished unit; Taurus or Windstar (taurus wagon chassis). We change oil and filter at 4k miles and fix things that break. That is it! We drive these units to 80k typically. With my company vehicle experience on this platform, I have almost 600k miles my body has set in these units pushing the pedal, plus our personal Windstar that my wife drives, with about 80k miles on that one. In all of these units (7 company and one personal) I have replaced one transmission that really didn't need replacement, one computer and one catalytic convertor and a lot of brake parts when I lived in Los Angeles.

    I don't mean to sound like a posterboy for Ford, but they aren't that bad
  • gvmogvmo Posts: 1
    I have had a '99 Windstar since it was new. It only has about 44k on it now. Other than a poorly designed power steering system, the van has been great. However, when Ford recommends changing the transmission fluid every 30,000 miles they mean it. A good friend of mine, who is a mechanic specializing in transmissions, said that the main problem with the transmission has to do with the design of one part. Apparently there is a shaft that drives the transmission pump that is about the diameter of your little finger. When the trans fluid breaks down over time, that shaft wears excessively and the metal pieces are pumped throughout the transmission. I imagine that Windstar owners who have had transmission problems probably failed to change their fluid regularly. If you don't want to change this fluid all of the time, you can change the transmission over to a synthetic fluid, like AMSOIL, that does not break down like regular fluids do. If you have any doubts, you ought to see the flyer Ford sent bragging about the transmission in the Freestar.
  • fezofezo Posts: 9,328
    It appears that a person around 5'-8" would be real comfortable, but not us leggy folks

    Ah! That would explain a lot! We're short folks. That Ody is great.

    That 80,000 miles per Windstar certainly reflect our experience. Real trouble started a bit after that. Back in 95 the transmission had an aluminum piston. THAT was a disaster. Even I, who am very wary of Ford based on that vehicle willsay that it drove well and that with better removable and foldable seats would be right up there.
  • svofan2svofan2 Posts: 440
    I now own an Explorer Limited 2002 (V8)....I am not totally happy for many reasons..and my wife, well....we always had Windstars (96,98,2000) always happy with them...I know she likes the van better than a 4x4...Should I go with the Freestar?...wait a couple of years for the new redesign Ford vans to come in 05 or 06?...I would like to hear some opinions...thanks...
  • samnoesamnoe Posts: 731
    "We always had Windstars... always happy with them..."

    "I now own an Explorer... not totally happy for many reasons..."

    Your answer is in your own words. If you always loved your Windstar, why have you changed at all to Explorer?

    Explorer is really a nice vehicle, but don't have the room a minivan have. If you always liked the Windstar, I'm almost sure you'll like the Freestar even more.

    You have a 2002 Explorer and want to change it for a Freestar. Have you paid cash for the Explorer or did you paid off the loan? Or will you trade it in? If so, go with the Freestar, and you'll trade that in when the new design will arrive... Just my opinion...
  • svofan2svofan2 Posts: 440
    I know, I should have stayed with the 2000 Windstar SEL we had, but I wanted an Explorer and....well the rest is history. I will trade in, I have a good friend that is a gm at a Ford dealership and I always get a fair deal (trade in wholesale and invoice for the new vehicle) I only have a small loan, I usually trade in evry 2-3 years. The Fresstar looks so much like the Windstar that it makes me wonder if I should wait for the new models in 05 or 06...anyone knows anything about this new upcoming models?...I have not read anything...
  • trainboytrainboy Posts: 66
    Ralph, you can read my comments in this area. Our main like is the added safety with the side canopy air bag. The third row seat that goes into hiding is also nice and the Windstar fits nicely for tall folks. The van is pretty much what is on the road today, with a minor face lift. I have had 4 of them and they all ran pretty good with nothing major going wrong.

    We drove the new Explorer and we liked it, but really needed the extra room the van has to offer. Today, my '02 Windstar lost an emission sensor and Ford had the van for 1/2 a day for repair. I got a new Chevy Trailblazer for a rental. That had lots of driver's room like the Explorer, too bad it couldn't figure out which lane it belonged in. We just wandered.....
  • svofan2svofan2 Posts: 440
    I hear you and I agree totally. The only thing that makes think about going back is a new interior. My 2002 Explorer Limited has all the goodies of the new Freestar, but I must confess that I made a mistake..yes..I wanted a V8 and it is powerful but noisy as hell (lets not talk about local my wife loved the Windstar we had and this was for my sapce is not an issue but nice to have (empty nesters...THAT is a I will wait until all the comments are out after the 04 is sold around. Always a Ford man, but lately a "careful" Ford man, specially with the new engine, which i will like to get in the hopes that this one will be less noisy...yes even the V6 was noisy in the 2000 Windstar...thanks for your comments and please keep posting I enjoy your reasoning.
  • trainboytrainboy Posts: 66
    Ralph, if you are not in a hurry, then wait a bit. Ford was willing to give us an Explorer for a 24 hour test, maybe they will extend that option to you. Another place to try one would be look in the rental fleets. Hertz and Enterprise probably will be early innovators. Bite your lip and rent one for the weekend and go on a little trip, like 2 hours away. That will give you and your wife time to get acquainted with the new unit. The rental companies will go towards the lower trim packages, but you can go up from there if you like it. If you don't like it, well you got a nice trip out of it anyway......
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