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Ford Windstar Problems



  • I have a 1996 Ford Windstar with just under 88,000 miles on it. I really started noticing a clunking in the front end about 1 year ago. I'm not sure if it's the front end suspension or something with the steering. I just spent $850 for all the front end fluids to be changed, filters changed, the tie rod ends and ball joints changed (the mechanic said it was a common problem). He showed me the parts when done and they were in some real bad shape. The noise was back after 2 weeks of operation. Two weeks ago, we had a cold weekend in which the van sat all weekend but when I went to start it, it started very rough, the check engine light was flashing and now it's on constantly. The battery is less than 2 years old. I also noticed that I could smell some antifreeze since the work was done but there's no indication of any leaking (no dripping under the van) and I'm occasionally hearing a "whining" noise when the van's running. Any thoughts anyone?
  • wijocowijoco Posts: 462
    Guess what folks, it's head gasket weather. First cold snaps of the winter and those gaskets that have been slowly leaking all summer finally shrink, pop and give up the ghost one cold November morning. Back to that in minute.
    As far as your clunking problem, when exactly does the clunk occur? Turning, stopping, applying power, etc. Could be anything from an engine mount to loose strut towers.
    OK, back to the bad news. I would bet money your rough running, check engine light, and anitfreeze smell are from blown head and/or intake gaskets. Have you been losing coolant for a period of time? Check your engine oil dipstick for discolored yellow/green/milky deposits. Even if it looks OK, I would have the oil analyzed just to be safe. You can also have a pressure test done on the motor to isolate leaking cylinders. If you do end up having to get new gaskets, you'll need new head, intake and timing cover gaskets plus head and intake bolts. That job plus the front end repairs will darn near come close to what that van is worth, and that's assuming the engine is worth salvaging. I hope I'm wrong and it ends up being something simple, but if I'm right you might consider how much more $$$ you want to sink into that Windstar, man. Good luck. BTW, do a search for "Winstar head gasket" on Edmunds for more info.
  • I have a 1995 Windstar LX. The problem I have is, the van fog’s up, even if I set the controls on defrost, I have to put the blower (Front and Back) at the max setting and it still takes forever to defrost. I have looked at the AC compressor to see if it comes on when the switch is moved to the defrost position, and it dose, but it looks like it might not stay on long enough. Any ideas

  • Well I more than broke even on the extended warranty on my '99 Windstar with just today's bills. No hot air from the heater---broken blend door. "All day job to replace"..$1400. Also repair leaking axle seals $250. Add to that the $500 they spent on other things just 3000 miles ago, and I wonder if the warranty company would like to buy the thing from me in order to save money!
  • wijocowijoco Posts: 462
    Is there a sugary or sweet smell when the windows fog? If so you may have a leaking heater core. If the A/C compressor is cycling off too much, you may have a bad ground wire or other bad wiring.
  • My 95 Windstar door warning went off yesturday. We rechecked all doors. Not the problem. Now the lights stay on even after the engine is turned off. Had to disconnect battery overnight. My guess is that the sliding door system finally died completely. It hasn't worked without a key for awhile. What do you think?
  • I've just discovered this forum. I've done all of my own "simple" work for many years now; I am also a voracious reader & collector of tech info. Here are answers to some of the above noted comments/problems:
    wijoco & flaco: many thanks for the ABS info
    flaco & everyone: Alldata information will pay you back triple/quadruple & more than what you pay for it (US$25).
    vanwoman: when changing power steering fluid, you must use Ford fluid, Mercon 5 I believe.
    mikejojo: front end clunking is covered in TSB's 97-26-14 and 97-26-24, both published in December 1997. I also have part of a TSB here (12/22/97 which may be superceded by 1 of the above 2 I mentioned) which pin points a loose front tension strut bushing retainer in the sub-frame. I strongly suspect your problem is here. Welding a piece in place, may be necessary.
    4wheels1: 99's have a weak blend door prone to warping. Your problem could have been just the door being warped, or its little actuator (motor with an arm). In either case its not a difficult repair. Suggest your dealer replaced the whole unit.
    cgennaro: interior lights remain on-door ajar warning light does not go off! This is usually rectified by spraying the black plastic door switches (approx 3"x2 1/4")with WD 40. They are somewhat diamond shaped. 99's & above have 2 on the tailgate. 98's & older have those 2 plus 1 on the rear of the sliding door. These proximity switches have a square sliding part to them. Make sure they are somewhat clean & well lubricated with WD 40.
    Hope some of this helps someone. Cheers from the frozen North (we're having a snow storm right now)
  • cptpltcptplt Posts: 1,075
    just needed a new tranny in my 00, only had 39.5K miles and 3 1/2 years on it! I have the ext warranty so it wasn't a total disaster. Dealer said it cost $3800 to put my new one in. They had to do it twice as the first replacement unit didn't fit!

     I know the 95s had tranny problems, are the 00 affected by the same problem or different?

    Also, does anyone know if I can extend my ext warranty????
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 11,041
    cptplt, glad you got it taken care of without eating the full cost! You might want to take your extended-extended warranty question to our Finance, Warranty & Insurance board for advice.

    Roving Host & Future Vehicles Host


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  • wijocowijoco Posts: 462
    Best thing to do is reconnect the battery, close all the doors, then open each front door and rear hatch individually, testing each switch. To test, pull the rubbber boot off the door close switch, spray it with WD40 or similar, then manually press the button to see if the light goes out. If after testing all but the sliding door the warning never went off, you know it's the sliding door switch. How to disconnect that I'm not sure, you may have to chase some wires.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Welcome to Town Hall, Frozennorth, and send some snow down to Idaho please.

    Many public libraries now subscribe to Alldata so it may be worth a trip to your local reference room.

    Steve, Host
  • timadamstimadams Posts: 294
    I have a broken mirror on my driver's side outside mirror. It's the heated mirror. Does just the glass get replaced or does the entire mirror and housing get replaced? How hard is it to fix (can I do it myself)?
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    I'd check with an auto glass place. Often the glass is just glued on to the housing, but there may be more to it with a heated mirror.

    Frozennorth, we got 5 inches last night and our furnace died. That's enough snow so you can quit now, but thanks!

    Steve, Host
  • stace2stace2 Posts: 1
    Hello, I am looking for a used minivan and all I see are the 2000 Windstars and they seem very affordable. Does there seem to be problems with this particular year and model?
  • wijocowijoco Posts: 462
    Check Edmund's reliability ratings and maybe look through a few Consumer Reports too. There's a reason used Windstars are affordable. The two years to avoid religiously are 95/96 models, 2000 models aren't too bad as Windstars go. Keep in mind when you buy used you're often buying someone else's problems. If you're serious about a used Winstar, I recommend having a mechanic look it over before buying.
  • jay238jay238 Posts: 13
    Well, my 95 Windstar must have been built on a Wednesday. No major problems except for head gasket recall and power steering pump replacement. Any other high mileage 95s out there?

    p.s. This van has been a major work and people mover. No babying!
  • Hello All

    Just wanted to share my experience with my 2000 windstar SEL that I got rid of after 2yrs(17k) due to uncorrectable electrical problems. In the 2yrs that I owned the car, the battery was replaced 2x along with the alternator. All these replacements were done at seperate times under warranty. Of course having 3 children 2 of which need car seats, the economy loan-a-car didnt cut it. I must have jump started the car about 35 - 40 times during my brief ownership (thank god for those portable battery jumper packs which I ended up buying due to the unrelability of the car. In July of 2002 I finally had enough and replaced it with a 02 SEL, that now has 14k on it and is starting to have similar problems? It seems if the car sits for more than 24hrs it needs a jump start (no nothing is left on, not even a radar detectoror cell phone charger. NOTHING! - If it was not such an aggrevation, I would seek the lemon law, however at this point I am looking towrds a Sienna or Quest.

    Question for the board: Has anyone else experienced similar electrical issues on the newer Windstars ??
  • Will miracles ever cease? Had all the issues except the electrical ones (head gasket, tranny piston cracked, water pump seal fail, multiple ball joints, broken speedometer (hasn't worked at all since 75k), ignition control module failed closed - flood engine with gas). Anyhow, took one last $100 repair to get there - thermostat failed. Clues when this needs to be replaced: You see erratic temperature performance on the dial and/or - you get cold air when dialed to heat.

    I have to admit, Windstar really wasn't too bad the first 109k (head gasket, tranny piston, twop or three ball joints), and the factory stood behind the head gasket after several phone calls. After that, it was a monthly or quarterly thing keeping it going. Word to those going over the 100k mark with an early 1994-1996 Windstar - beware! Strongly consider trading for something else. They can keep going, but root problems such as ball joints and check engine light coming on relentlessly (always expensive oxygen sensors) never go away.

  • wijocowijoco Posts: 462
    Do you live in a very cold climate? It almost sounds like a relay sticking that should be shut off after time. Have you had it tested for current draw at the battery a few hours after shutoff? That's the first step. By the way, if you're stillat the same dealer, maybe consider trying somebody else. If they couldn't find a battery drain in three tries, they're probably not trying too hard. Good luck, nobody deserves to drive a car you have to hand crank!
  • tmanttmant Posts: 70
    I can't recommend this van at all. I can't say I have the same electrical problems, but I do have an occaisional twitch where the doors relock themselves. I've drained my battery twice because I took too long cleaning the interior with the radio on (2+ hours).

    I thought problems would have been fixed when I got my 2000 over the older models, and I guess so were addressed. But my tranny failed and the head gasket was replaced (after engine light). The engine still performs well, but the tranny just ain't the same.

    If you insist on getting this van, make sure you spend for the extended warranty, you will need it! Factor that into your cost and buy something better. What? I dunno.
  • I found the problem with my 95 Windstar fogging problem. One of the control doors in the heating box was not working, and was stuck in the recirculating position, which means no outside air will come in to the van. The actuator has a rod that comes out of it, that connects to the door control to let fresh air in or recirculate cabin air. Well the rod came off the end door control. I put the rod back in position and secured it with a nut.
    No more fog.
    The actuator is located on the passenger side of the van below the glove box.
  • beernutbeernut Posts: 329
    Mikejojo had a front-end clunking problem in his '96 back in November. Any further comment or solution? My '97 with 93k started it two months ago. Sort of a hollow rattle/clunk from the front wheels when going over virtually any surface. The dealer told me it was struts for around $750. An independent mechanic said it was struts for $450. The $450 guy won and the new Monroes felt and sounded great. A month later, all hell broke loose and what seems to be the same sound is back, only twice as loud. Now the independent mechanic can't hear it. Its on his rack now and he has no answers. Next stop is the dealer one more time to test his superior knowledge - then across the street to the Toyota dealer she goes. Wholesale is better than suicide. (Yes, I too have been through the heads, gaskets, switches, vacuum, belts, bearings, blah, blah.)
  • alcanalcan Posts: 2,550
    Front sway bar inner bushings and outer links been checked?
  • beernutbeernut Posts: 329
    were replaced yesterday ($135) and the BIG noise is gone. The mechanic said the link was banging on the frame - sounds reasonable. There is still a hollow sounding clunkity-clunk it the front-end over rough road, however. Two seperate mechanics said the front-end is sound-as-a-pound and not a safety issue. I'm tired of the damned thing, though so she may be leaving soon. The wife wants a new Corolla anyway.
  • I have a 2003 SEL that has 6700 miles on it. So far the car has had its passenger window motor fixed 2x. The traction control system malfunctioned and went off on a perfectly sunny day. They replaced the wiring harness because they couldn't figure out what to do. So far no problems again with that. Now I have what feels like a knocking in the steering wheel/column. It is not only when I turn from one direction to another and it is very noticeable at slow speeds. The dealership has been great and always provides me with an upgraded rental car (Windstar, Surburban, Expedition)Any ideas on what this problem could be? They are looking at it right now, but when I drove it with the Service Tech it would not duplicate the problem, yet it duplicated it with another service tech at a Quality Care Center. Any help would be appreciated!!
  • I have a Ford Windstar. Condition of the body and engine is Excellent,,all the accessories work. (engine does not burn a drop of oil) It has 235,000 miles on it. I have used for local rural driving as well as Long Distance Highway driving. Outside of normal matainence (Oil & Transmission fluid changing,tires,brakes etc) I have not had any major repairs. The only real expense was to replace the Speed sensor every year. Until Now !! The transmission gave up the ghost. I really do not wish to expend the funds to have this fixed. I just want sell this any ideas as to a fair price ? I would appeciate any ideas. Thank you
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    My guess is that it would be worth around $2,000 if it was running (you can do your own appraisal under the Used Car link here). Since it's not, it's really not worth much of anything, unless you can find someone who can fix the tranny cheap.

    So maybe try to sell it to a tranny shop for $500?

    If you towed it to an auto auction, it might bring $50, if it sold at all. A '96 with 192,439 miles sold for $1,275 last December at a local auction.

    Steve, Host
  • Just keep driving the "clunker". After replacing the struts complete once and the tie rods and bushings 3 or 4 times, it still clunks. But I have learned it still goes. Turn up radio is only real long term solution. The suspension on Windstars is truely junk in the front. Follows Ford model of crummy suspension that exists on Taurus, Tempo, and Escort.
  • beernutbeernut Posts: 329
    The Windstar is my wife's daily driver and she yearns for a small sedan to zip around in. My choice of what to unload is the Windstar or my very pristeen '99 Ranger XLT which is my daily driver. The Windstar has been a pain in the bum - lots of expensive maintenence and lots of time in the shop but it has NEVER left me stranded and is an excellent workhorse for our people-hauling and trailer towing/camping needs. The new small sedan will not fill the voids left by the departure if the Windstar, so I'm considering selling my precious Ranger. Beyond the frustration and anger some people feel toward the Windstar, I have read of people (very recently) getting upwards of 200k miles out of them. Oh, what to do!
  • For any of you who may have read my last post here, which has been appropriately deleted, post was not meant to be an ad (which is clearly prohibited in user agreement), but meant only as a pun to describe its dramatically deteriorating condition that it entered into soon after 100k. Best of luck to all you Windstar owners and may the powers to be at FMC help you through your difficult times.

This discussion has been closed.