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Ford 3.8 head gasket, AXOD transmission failures Windstar Taurus Sable - Ford secret warranty?

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  • It too have a very bad taste for Ford and I think others should know about types of problems I’ve encountered.

    Only 15 months ago, in July of 1998, I spent $3,600 to replace the engine in my ’95 Windstar only to turn around and find out that it now has bad head gaskets. The engine replacement was due to a thrown piston rod, which I suspect was caused by antifreeze possibly getting into the crankcase because of faulty head gaskets. Unfortunately, I had know way of proving this. When I did reluctantly purchased the engine, I was told that it would come with all of the corrections that recalls had been issued for (the head gasket recall, as I understand, was issued in May of 1998).

    This most recent problem started with a check engine light coming on. When I had my local dealer diagnose the problem, I was told that the oxygen sensor was bad. No big deal except that I had the same oxygen sensor replaced only 5 or 6 month’s prior. Keep in mind that this was on an already replaced engine! Upon further diagnosis as to the cause of the oxygen sensor going out, I was told that head gaskets were bad and that the antifreeze leaking was contaminating the sensor. I of course brought up the fact that the engine should have had new head gaskets since it is only 15 months old. This is when I was told that the engine doesn't have the new head gaskets required by the recall.

    As you can imagine this is becoming a battle between the dealership and Ford about who's responsible. The engine has 23,000 miles on it, which puts it outside of the 12 month, 12,000 mile warranty. I have told my local dealership that the warranty should be of no concern because the proper head gaskets should have been on the engine in the first place. I also pointed out that even if they try to get out of it because of the warranty not being in effect, the fact still remains that the engine was recalled for this very problem. So far I have been told that Ford is sticking to the recall limits which were 60,000 miles or the work had to be completed by December 31, 1998. Therefore it no longer applies since the vehicle has 86,000 miles. This is absolutely ludicrous! The engine only has 23,000 miles. Why they are looking at the miles on the vehicle when evaluating this situation I'll never know.
  • lweisslweiss Posts: 342
    I have a 1995 Windstar LX with the 3.8, and it has been a great vehicle (about 72K miles). I took it to my regular Goodyear dealer because of rough running/check engine light. He replaced the plugs and wires, but said that the number 4 spark plug was seized to the head, and that forcing it would possible crack they head. He also said that this was a "known problem" and that the Ford dealer should be responsible. The van runs OK now, but I am concerned with problems down the road.

    Any advice?
  • My 3.8 Sable blew it's head gasket at 84K. I've had no luck from the Assistance Center. This was after the A/C compressor failed. I have a Taurus and Aspire with premature A/C compressor failures. Both Sable and Taurus had motor mount failures and radiators replaced early. The Sable's windshield cracked within the warranty period. The Taurus trans is failing at 140K. Send Ford a message, look elswhere for your next car!!!
  • I had the transmission gasket replaced along with so-called transmission service for $127 on 8-28-99 on my '91 Linclon Continental with the 3.8 engine.The mileage was 66,372. Now, on Oct 26, mileage of 67501, I am told I need the job done again. Every 1,129 miles!! Come on, Ford
  • denisddenisd Posts: 11
    We are thinking of getting a new 1999 or 2000 Windstar SE, does anyone know of any design changes that might have alleviated these engine/transmission problems?
  • Hi guys!

    Is it the same 3.8L V6 engine that powers Thunderbird? My nephew blew gasket on it at 69K. I guess I shouldn't have harassing him that there are other ways to impress girls from his college...
  • These messages are making me rethink the purchase I am about to make of a 2000 SEl. An acquaitance told me that FORD means:

    Fix Or Repair Daily or Found On Road, Dead

    Could this be true??
  • Our 96 Windstar has been a reliable well build minivan. I wouldn't have a Ford automobile, but their trucks and the Windstar are excellent. We had a persistent "Check Engine" light and discovered the exhaust gas recirculation (into the cylinders) passages were blocked. They were cleaned out (required the removal of the intake manifold)and the problem is gone.

    The Windstar has returned from trips to the east coast with a filthy interior (3 boys 6,4 & 2) and cleans up like *new*. Very durable interior materials used in the Windstar. I am a fan.
    Geoff Lockett
    Defiance, MO
  • pjyoungpjyoung Posts: 885
    From 1991-1996, ANY Ford car with a 3.8 in it had the head gasket problems. Our 95 Windstar had head gaskets replaced with less than 1,000 left under the "extended warranty" (that Ford never notified us about). My 1993 Thunderbird blew the head gaskets at 75,000 miles. That cost $1,970 to fix, and the car was not running right. Ford could care less. I traded the T-bird in...and NOT on another Ford. Both vehicles followed Ford's recommended service procedures.

    If you are considering buying a Ford, just remember that this company KNEW they had a problem with head gaskets since 1991, yet they didn't make any corrections on that design until about halfway through the 1996 model year. Quality wasn't job 1 then. I seriously doubt that it is now.

    For information, just check out the NHTSA web site and look in the consumer complaint database. For 1991-1996, look at Taurus, Sable, Cougar, Thunderbird, and Mustang...with the problem "Engine gaskets - valve cover". Judge for yourself based on the windstar posts here. Happy reading.
  • I have a 92 Cougar with a 3.8L engine blew a head gasket cost me $900 bucks to get it fixed.. Ford no help they couln't care less. I even have the "old" defective head gasket when they manufactured the engine the head gasket was bent over on it self. that is why it blew. only 55k on it. Ford you blow. Quality if Ford one my A_ _!
  • Can anyone give me details on this "secret or silent warranty" Ford offers for those of us with problems with our 3.8 engines relating to the head gaskets and/or transmissions? I've got 65000 miles on mine and just replaced the head gasket, trany and etc. In the last several years, I've virtually replaced everything under the hood and Ford has done absolutely nothing to rectify the problems.

    Thanks
  • pjyoungpjyoung Posts: 885
    The "quiet recall" was good thru 12/31/99 and offered an "extended warranty" of up to 60,000 miles. If your gaskets blew after 60,000, you'll have to fight to get Ford to pay. The warranty only applies to 1995 Windstars. They did offer an other "quiet recall) on some 1994 Taurus and Sables, that program expired earlier this year.

    You're not alone. Send an e-mail to Chuck Catanese (ccatanese@worldnet.att.net.) He can put you on a list of Ford head gasket "victims", with some success stories of folks who fought this and won. Good Luck
  • lweisslweiss Posts: 342
    My 1995 Windstar, which has been a great vehicle (up to very recently), also has the head gasket problem- it has about 72K miles on it. After the runaround by the dealer, I threatened an individual lawsuit through General District Court, which in this jurisdiction allows you to sue up to $15,000. You don't need a lawyer, the company you are sueing does. Well, needless to say, no company wants to meet disguntled customers in a court of law, so they are doing the repair free, but... did say that there was another problem (some other thing I had never heard of) that I needed repair for $600. This Windstar is my 3rd Ford vehicle, and the other 2 (Taurus models) have been great- but after this incident, I don't know if I'd buy Ford again. 100 years making cars and this is their mode of operation?
  • pjyoungpjyoung Posts: 885
    This website will link you to all kinds of information about the 3.8 liter problems with Ford. It's a pretty useful site with links to 3.8 problems, success stories, and action plans. The address is:

    http://home.att.net/~ccatanese/ford
  • I have a 1995 Windstar that I bought from RE Barber Ford in Holland, Michigan. The head gasket blew at 69,000 miles and resulted in the need for a brand new engine ($3,700 later). This occurred just after the extended service program on the acknowledged manufacturer's defect. I never received notice from Ford regarding this defect. Ford and the dealership have refused any help at all. Ford just apologizes for the inconvenience and Barber does not even give me the courtesy of returning my calls or letters.
  • Our 1995 Ford Windstar Van
    I would like to be able as Ford Motor Company policy and advertises states value benefit of driving a vehicle (95’ Windstar) that I could trust.
    However with the problems I had with the 3.8 engine defective head gaskets failures costing me the expenses of $3609(to install a Ford rebuilt engine) I cannot have this trust and loyalty to my Ford Product. It turned me into a very negative attitude toward the van and Ford Motor Company.
    I tried to resolve these problems with the local Ford dealer, Ford Customer Assistance Center, and the Dispute Settlement Board. However, nothing has resulted in offer for Ford to provide the Customer Service, and to stand behind their product.
    I feel with this being such a widespread problem on the 95’ Ford Windstar that there should be someway to come to a mutual settlement adjustment on this problem.
    They should be more responsive to this engine problem and be supportive of the owner with this problem.
  • mozeemozee Posts: 12
    Sorry to all who bought a ford 3.8.These are junk as your finding out.They have known about these problems since backin the 80's when they were in taurus and 84-86 mustangrwd motor.I am a mechanic and cant tell you how many Lincoln continentals I have replaced the engines on!Ford should be held liable for each and every one of these boat anchors they produced.The reason is they knowingly put inferior engines in new cars when they knew about the problems and just kept building them.Oh,BTW,the 4.2 base motor inF150 is the same motor with the old hotrodders tricks done to it.Bigger bore+stroker crank and lots of breathing improvements. Has anyone sued Ford yet?
  • pjyoungpjyoung Posts: 885
    A few have tried small claims court, but Ford seems to get it moved up to district court so their lawyers can do battle with you. In other words, they are doing everything they can to make it cost more to reach a settlement that you paid for repairs. The Center for Auto Safety is working on a class action lawsuit against Ford.

    I was shocked when looking into the failure of the 3.8 in my 93 t-bird of the number of NHTSA complaints there were about this engine...with the cause of the problem identified as early as 1991. You being a mechanic most likely did know about the cause of the problem in the late 80's.

    The real problem is that it cost $2,000 to fix the head gaskets, but you're not really sure of any other damage that might have been caused by blowing the head gaskets at 70 mph on the freeway. Having read stories of people who paid two grand to fix the gaskets and three months later throw down three grand to replace the engine with a rebuilt one, I dumped the car before it cost me any more. Hell, the trade in value was only $3500.
  • mlengmleng Posts: 1
    I'm the original owner of the Windstar with 72,000. Have not encountered any of the major problems on the transmission or engine, yet. On the last two oil changes I noticed that I lose about a quart every 3,000 miles now and just recently my temperature gage does register any value. I need to know is this a precursor of the bad things to start falling apart?
    Can someone tell me if Ford's computer is depending on this temperature sensor to be operational and am I losing oil because of a clogged EGR or some other enviromental system on line? By the way where are these valves located.
  • pjyoungpjyoung Posts: 885
    There isn't much to warn you of the head gasket failure. Look for these signs though. Temp gauge will show HOT when at idle for an extended period (like waiting in line at a drive thru). When your oil is changed, are they adding coolant? If you are using a lot of coolant, your head gaskets are about to go. Also, if your "check engine" light has ever come on, it could be caused by the head gaskets. I didn't think much of either one (ignorance was bliss), but in hindsight, those were the warnings. At 72,000 miles, you won't be covered under the "extended warranty" program. If you have a 75,000 mile extended warranty, I'd take it in before it expires and talk to your service department about the head gaskets. Most likely, they will replace them under that warranty.

    Our Windstar doesn't use oil at 65,000 miles. If you've got any kind of extended warrany, I'd urge you to talk to them about the head gaskets, and replace them before they blow out while driving. If that happens, you'll be looking at BIG repair bill.
  • I had an '89 Sable 3.8L that went through two transmissions(~30k & 50k), AC compressor, and head gaskets until dumping it at 90k miles. Other posts mention the same problem for '87 model 3.8L powered vehicles. Ford obviously knows about these design defects and appears to have no commitment to correcting them as the same problems occur on '95 and '96 Windstars (probably on '97-'00 models so watch out). Make sure you get an extended warranty if you plan to keep it over the manufacturer's period. When you add the additional $4000 to the purchase price to account for these "maintenance" items it does not stack up as well against the competition. Too bad Ford has not bothered to correct these defects because it is an otherwise great vehicle. I think they would rather invest the energy into battling the consumer thinking that most people will eat the expense rather than redesigning two obvious faults. Sounds like another "Pinto" beancounter decision.
  • lweisslweiss Posts: 342
    My '95 Windstar is at the dealership getting the head gasket problem fixed (about 72K)- classic stuff preceding it like check engine light, rough running, etc. My dealership said that Ford will help with $1,000 of the $1,400 repair. Maybe all this cool internet groundswell is having it's effect, not to mention the great work that some people are doing threatening a class action lawsuit.

    I don't think that Ford Motor Company would like a featured story on "60 Minutes" regarding these problems, do you?
  • Being the proud(?) owner of a 95 Windstar with 95+k miles on it I do not like what I am reading. Like others I have had many, many problems with my van since I first took delivery. After driving for an hour or so at highway speeds the van refuses to accelerate and sometimes will slow to about 35 mph. I have had the vehicle to several dealers but no one has been able to find the problem. Letters to the Customer Assistance Centers with documentation of about 12 service calls went unanswered. A letter to the CEO resulted in a phone call (nothing in writing) and the caller apologized for my problems but said there was nothing they could do. After much complaining the caller said that the next time the vehicle went to the shop I should call her and she would have Ford enginnering look into the problem. She did say however that the assistance was not free and I would have to bear all costs associated with the help. Thanks a lot. I do not know what my next vehicle will be but I know what it will not be.
  • At approximately 11,000 miles the transmission stopped shifting. I had it towed to Colonial Ford, Danbury, CT for warranty service. They held it for a few days (they were nice enough to loan me a vehicle while they had the van). They 'cleared the memory on the computer that controls the transmission'. A week or so later the same problem happened again. I had to have it towed back to Colonial Ford again, where they had to fix the computer again.

    At approximately 38,000 mile I began noticing oil spots in my garage. My local mechanic told me it was the main engine seal. I brought it in to Colonial Ford for service again. This time I was quoted a cost of $1200.00 to repair it. I believe that the engine had to be pulled to do this repair. After complaining vehemently to the Customer Assistance Center (and I am not sure what justifies their existence) , Colonial Ford's Service Manager , who in turn he was addressing the concern with some Regional Rep. ... Everyone finally agreed that I should be responsible for $190.00 and that Ford / The Dealer would cover the rest.

    Now, at approximately 50,000 miles my transmission has to be replaced. The cost is $2400.00. The dealer will not assist, and I have been told that the Regional Rep will not assist. I once again called the Customer Assistance Center (CAC), and they (Debbie id # 2226) were absolutely no assistance. Not only did they not help, they would not put a supervisor on the phone and told me that my only course of action was to write to you, the CEO of the company.

    I spoke with the Regional Rep, Laurie Leslie, on November 2. She stated that Ford will not assist in the cost of repair. I told her that I would like to speak with her manager, she said that she reports to Detroit, and that I could write the CAC. Once again, the CAC is useless.

    I will never by another Ford again.
  • Ford Windstar 1996

    At approximately 11,000 miles the transmission
    stopped shifting. I had it towed to Colonial Ford,
    Danbury, CT for warranty service. They held it for
    a few days (they were nice enough to loan me a
    vehicle while they had the van). They 'cleared the
    memory on the computer that controls the
    transmission'. A week or so later the same problem
    happened again. I had to have it towed back to
    Colonial Ford again, where they had to fix the
    computer again.

    At approximately 38,000 mile I began noticing oil
    spots in my garage. My local mechanic told me it
    was the main engine seal. I brought it in to
    Colonial Ford for service again. This time I was
    quoted a cost of $1200.00 to repair it. I believe
    that the engine had to be pulled to do this After complaining vehemently to the Customer
    Assistance Center (and I am not sure what justifies their existence) , Colonial Ford's Service Manager, who in turn he was addressing the concern with some Regional Rep. ... Everyone finally agreed that I should be responsible for $190.00 and that Ford / The Dealer would cover the rest.

    Now, at approximately 50,000 miles my transmission
    has to be replaced. The cost is $2400.00. The
    dealer will not assist, and I have been told that
    the Regional Rep will not assist. I once again
    called the Customer Assistance Center (CAC), and
    they (Debbie id # 2226) were absolutely no
    assistance. Not only did they not help, they would
    not put a supervisor on the phone and told me that
    my only course of action was to write to you, the
    CEO of the company.

    I spoke with the Regional Rep, Laurie Leslie, on
    November 2. She stated that Ford will not assist in the cost of repair. I told her that I would like to speak with her manager, she said that she
    reports to Detroit, and that I could write the CAC. Once again, the CAC is useless.

    I am now drafting a letter to the Ford CEO.

    I will never by another Ford again.
  • I have a '96 windstar and just found out that I have a headgasket blown w/ only 57000 miles on it. I had to van in the shop for it, but ford said it was going to cost me 1400+ for the repairs. I have only had the van for 3 1/2 months, and am going to trade it off as soon as possible. I did not get a warranty w/ it. I am probably going to trade it for a '99 windstar. If I do I will get an extended warranty up to 100000 miles bumper-to-bumper if that is possible. Is this a good plan?
  • what are the specific reasons why the 3.8 v6 head gaskets fail? bad materials? or bad cooling system? cast iron block with aluminum heads dont help, but not a direct cause. and the axod transaxle, what is the cause for the failure? which part specificaly fails, that causes the entire unit to be almost useless? i am thinking of a 3.8l with the axod to commute with, a 1989 taurus lx wagon. if i can get some idea, of what makes the part fail, i can possibly "band aid" the problem, and perhaps let others know. currently i am thinking of attaching a 12v cooling fan controled by a switch to the external trans cooler under the car, to draw cool air across the thing at idle, and in traffic situations, with the flip of my toggle switch (i think a 12v computer cooling fan would work from radio shack). also thinking of changing to a synthetic trans fluid. thinking also of wiring up some sort of after run fan for the radiator, due to heat soak. to run after the engine is shut down, to cool the motor some, and the coolant. thinking of flusing the coolant to hell and back, and replacing with the dex cool 100k 5yr coolant, along with a bottle of water pump lubricant. hello ford techs? let me know what you think so far.
  • pjyoungpjyoung Posts: 885
    It was identified as "incompatible metals" between the head gasket and the head. So I guess you can say it's bad materials. The real problem is that Ford knew about this as early as 1989, yet it took them until 1996 to correct the problem. If you are buying a used '89, check the maint history to see if the headgasket has blown. Big problems occur if the things blew out at highway speeds, that could damage other engine components, and the only "band aid" for those is a new engine.
  • thanks for the info. i will def. check with prev. owner to see if ever any prob. with head gaskets, or the axod trans. does anyone have any idea what it is that makes the axod transaxle fail? if i get this taurus, i think i will get my taurus repair guide out, and start tearing down the engine, to the heads, and replace them darn gaskets with some non oem manufactured ones. helluva job to do yes, but if i dont possible failure is headed down the road anyway, and the engine may be in its path of destruction.
  • phooey on all that work, i decided i wont have to fool with that crap if i go for the lexus es250 used. it cost the same as the used taurus, so i will take the lexus and the relentless persuit of profection anyday over the taurus... sorry ford.
This discussion has been closed.