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Ford Windstar Problems



  • Figured I would leave some info on a few of the notable failures out of warranty that occurred during my ownership experience, which is gladly ending. Hopefully it may steer an unsuspecting potential buyer away from this model and look for other options. For those who own and are approaching 100k, it may spur them to dump theirs before the real agony sets in. Anyhow, here is the scorecard:

    39269 miles head gasket blows. Initially $495 out of pocket - FMC gave me $454 back 2 years later when extended warranty comes out (Mar,2000)

    54761 two outer tie rods and alignment: $184

    57796 miles transmission piston cracked. Crummy aluminum part replaced by steel part. $1061

    60495 ABS light comes on. $55 to tell me no problem. I learn to ignore.

    75870 check engine light (EGR valve too much flow)$55. I learn to ignore again.

    78875 speedo cable shot: $60. Broke again quickly - learn to live with +/-10 mph

    87187 crunchy sound turning - bushings/alignment $75 - learn to ignore

    Average C grade through 100k - tolerable, now the bad stuff:
    106146 timing cover gasket and water pump: $640

    111861 right lower ball joint and align: $250

    114511 ECU computer rebuilt/new O2 sensors - degas entire exhaust (fuel injector jammed wide open throttle): $1013

    115080 check engine light back on (does it ever go off!)

    123194 replace thermostat and fix driver lock: $97

    125,500 miles:
    following issues:
    *ABS light on
    *check engine light on ($200 of O2 parts +labor)
    *broken roof rack (OK - my fault - roof rack on van does not fit in garage!)
    *rear wiper broke with snow circa 60k
    *cruise control coast button stopped working circa 100k
    *trim above sliding door channel won't stay in (repair by FMC was to add "permanent tape" just before warranty expired - wasn't permanent!
    *trim pc in front of driver just behind hood flapping in breeze
    *wiper pump - which never worked well doesn't work (final straw!) - I'm sure its expensive

    I look back at the posts above and know I got off easy, but said to myself that I was parting ways at 125k since $2000 in repairs in 15 months to a car worth $2000 (only if I fixed all the busted stuff aabove)was not worth it.

    This car was a definite A for the first 36,000 miles, a D from 36,000 to 80,000 miles, an B from 80,000 until 105,000, then a big F after 105,000.

    As the "wholigan" so valiantly stated about 8 months ago in this list:

    No more Fords. NEVER. Yippie

    Laundryguy moves on
  • I posted in November 2003 concerning front end clunking in my 1996 Ford Windstar. To this day, the clunking noise seems more noticeable even after doing the repairs I had noted. I was going through some paperwork filed away on the van and remembered the following notice I received from Ford:

    Program No. 01M093
    Model: 1996 Ford Windstar

    Extended Coverage Info:
    The front coil springs on your Ford Windstar are now covered for 10 years from the warranty start date, regardless of mileage. This part may prematurely wear or break, especially when operated in high-corrosion areas of North America (where salt is used on the roadways in winter) for an extended period of time. Coverage is automatically transferred to future vehicles owners.

    What is covered?
    Effective immediately, Ford is providing extended warranty coverage for repairs, including parts and labor, directly related to your vehicle's front coil springs.

    The notice indicates that the front coil springs may be susceptible to corrosion - which could ultimately lead to spring fracture. What you would most likely notice if your front coil spring fractures is that one side of your vehicle will appear to be lower than the other.

    I'm not noticing any problem with one side being lower than the other but it's had me wondering if it may be related in some way. I had gone to the local Ford dealer and they told me they checked the springs when I brought the van in for another recall and said everything was fine. I was told that long before I started hearing the front end clunking.

    FYI, I live in NH so we have plenty of salt use during the winter months but I was hearing the clunking noise prior to the cold winter months.
  • beernutbeernut Posts: 329
    Go back to message 1366. Its probably not the coil springs. I got the same recall notice and had the springs looked at a number of times - they're not the problem. I believe its the bushings discussed in the earlier messages. My front-end noise went down by 90% with the replacement of one of the two links, but as later messages noted, its a Windstar and they have crappy, noisy front-ends - so returning to the quiet it had when new is likely not in the cards. The link noise does not come on slowly. It just starts all of a sudden once the link starts to touch the frame. Also, I seem to remember that the recall was associated with the possibility of the spring breaking and puncturing a tire. So ... have them checked again and again and again and again and again and again.
  • Neighbor replaced tie rods for $300+ to solve his "clunking" - apparently second time, or once every circa 35,000 miles. Other suspension clunking can be the ball joints being shot.

    I replaced tie rods at 75k and "lifetime" sealed right ball joint at 112k. Left was in bad shape. Happily parting ways with it tomorrow for the tax writeoff. Good luck with your Windstar - you will need it!
  • tamu2002tamu2002 Posts: 758
    Hi all, we're looking to buy a used 1998-2000 windstar in the below $8000 price range, preferably with relatively low milage. My questions are:

    1. What's the reliability like for these model years? After reading the Edmund's consumer ratings and posts here, I'm a little concerned to say the least. We have four friends who have windstars and are happy with them.

    2. How does the windstar compare to other domestic models, reliability wise? I'll be happy with average reliability. And we'd like to limit our choices to domestic vans to keep the cost low.

    Thanks for any input.
  • merseemersee Posts: 12
    I had a 96 and 01 windstar. Each I can say had virtually no problems at all. They were both thoroughly maintained. I purchased the 96 and sold it in 01 to buy a newer one. I leased the 01 because of the resale value of the 96. The 96 was in prestine condition inside and out and I believe that allowed me to get top dollar back in 01 compared to other 96 minivans selling. It took us about 4 months to sell, but I can safely say the family that bought it from us got them selves a bargain. So I guess like anything else in life, there are good ones and bad ones!

    The 01 Windstar was a great looking car (for a minivan)! It was the Sport SE model in black, very sharp looking. My kids loved the rear spoilier. I've seen it in red and white also, but the black was the nicest IMHO because the Sport model had black acccents on the wheels and on the body. We just recently purchased a 04 Expedition. I was just "done" with the minivan mode. Not to say that I didn't like it, I just needed a change. I do however miss the ease of getting in and out with the kids. Good luck on your search!
  • tamu2002tamu2002 Posts: 758
    Thanks mersee for the input. That's reassuring to hear. I had always had a positive view of the Windstar because we knew quite a few people that were satisfied owners, untill I checked out the edmund's consumer rating and this board. Come to think of it, almost all the people I know that own mini vans have Windstarts with one exception who has a Mercury villager which is essentially a Nissan Quest.

    The chevy venture seems to have pretty good reliability too. Maybe we'll check that out too. Having two toddlers, minivan is the way to go. I don't buy into that image thing at all, why let others dictate what you think. Plus it'll be the wife's van anyway. The Honda oddysy is just plain expensive.
  • beernutbeernut Posts: 329
    What part of the country are you looking in?
  • I'll first state that I am a former 95 Windstar owner having parted ways with mine to charity just last night (Yippie!). I spent no less than $2500 in repairs over the last 14 months, mainly from 100k to 120k.

    Maybe the 1998-2000 are out of the woods regarding many of the Windstar problems, but I know of several still having issues with tie rods and ball joints (don't kid yourself - the sealed ball joints won't meet your "life" expectancy - just Fords). I would look for a grease zerk on the ball joint - if it is not there don't buy it. Each ball joint repaired at a shop will run about $250 - $300. Tie rods seem to last 35k to 50k, then need replacing - eat tires if you ignore. Transmission issues, timing cover gasket, and head gaskets were very bad in 95 and 96 years - absolutely don't buy years.

    I think some of the 1997 and 1998 suffered from persistant issues with sliding door locking mechanism - haven't seem anything on later models. I have three co-workers with 1996 to 1998 models and all are looking to dump them because of reliability issues rising up at 75k. Saw new Freestar adds circa 18k in Chicago area. Price is surely to drop on these with new Dodge out. If you can wait a little for your used car - you will save even more because of price pressure on the new car level.

    Used Odyssey is too expensive I'll agree. A 2001 EX was priced on sale for $21,500 here in Upper Midwest - might as well buy a new LX for $22,700 or less. Seeing new 2004 Dodge Grand Caravans for $15,991 in newspaper ads today with air conditioning, power windows, power locks, CD, cruise, tilt, tinted glass, and 70/70,000 warranty provides another possible option, with interest rates at record lows (most banks loaning at 4.4% or less). If nothing else, rock bottom new car prices on 04 will drive down older used car prices on existing inventories.

    If safety means anything to you - the Chevy rates the worst - garnering "poor" in crash tests. Windstar may keep you alive if you get hit by many of the idiots driving a zillion miles an hour in those big SUV's.

    Good luck.
  • jtk152jtk152 Posts: 139
    I would definately not go older than 1998 with a windstar & highly suggest going 1999 or newer. 1999+ has the newer body style + more reliable & updated 3.8L and a much better/more reliable intake manifold design. 2001+ have a (supossedly)stronger & hardier AX4N auto tranny, where the older models have the notoriously problematic AX4S tanny. As with any used vehicle, if it was maintained, it will last. FWIW- I just picked up a 2001 Windstar LX, 33Kmi for $11K.
  • tamu2002tamu2002 Posts: 758
    Thanks for you all's input. We'll move to the greater Seattle area soon and will be looking over there, probably in the latter part of the year. jtk152, that was a good deal you got there. I'm hoping to find a 2000 or 2001 model with lower than 50kmi for less than $8k. Realistic? laundryguy, sorry to hear about your problems. Like I said I'm a little troubled by all the complaints I read on Edmunds. We have a friend whose brother, mother (and herself) all own and love the Windstar. I have a co-worker who has had two of them and love(d) both. Anyway, I'll see what I can find once we settle down. I guess it'll all depend on what's available and in what shape. Thanks again. It was very informative.
  • jtk152jtk152 Posts: 139
    It may be possible to find a 2000 with 50Kmi for $8K, but that would be a tough find. I have seen high milage (60Kmi+) 2000-2002's go for $8K or less- which would be a good deal if it was WELL maintained and/or has an extended warranty. Having recently bought my 2001 windstar, I can tell you, you get the most for your buck with a windstar. I shopped, haggled & test drove all the domestic minivans (2001)- chrysler, GM variants, ford. I liked them all, but the same money (for the same year & milage range) will only get you a short wheel base, smaller engine, GM or chrysler van.
  • tamu2002tamu2002 Posts: 758
    In an area where domestic brands are popular, do the used ones tend to be cheaper or more expensive than in an area where imports rule? On one hand, being more popular means there're more used cars available which should drive down the price...but demand is high too; on the other hand in an unpopular area, there're fewer domestics to choose from which ought to drive the price up, but since demand is low, the sellers might be more willing to negotiate? Does anybody have any thoughts on this?
  • beernutbeernut Posts: 329
    I think that you think too much. Have you considered buying a Volvo?
  • tamu2002tamu2002 Posts: 758
    Maybe I do :) And I don't quite understand the connection with Volvo...
  • I heard that Surburbans can be picked up in Janesville, WI, where they are manufactured, cheaper than anywhere else because employees buy them often at a discount - then sell used one themselves and get new more often. The whole area seems to get lower prices near the plant of manufacture. Just what I have heard. If you live near where a model is made that you desire, you may see a similiar result based on local ads.
  • jtk152jtk152 Posts: 139
    Used import vans will always command a higher price than a comparable windstar regardless of area. Consumers are willing to the pay the price for a second-hand honda or toyota. It's a matter of supply and demand. If it's important to you to buy new & drive it for many years (say 7+ yrs) you will be better off with a honda or toyota van. I usually dont keep a daily driver much past 100Kmi, so nearly any make/model will get you there. Living in the rust-belt as I do (Buffalo NY), a premium dollar honda will rust out just as fast as a ford. In most cases the import bodies don't hold up as well as the domestics.
  • tamu2002tamu2002 Posts: 758
    I was thinking of domestic vs domestic in different areas. Based on the supply-demand rational, I guess domestics should be cheaper where they're more popular. I used to be in Texas as you all probably guessed. The domestics there (a college town) seem to be cheaper than those in the college town in the Midwest where I'm now. I know domestics are very popular here in the midwest...Well I guess the demand could be a lot higher. Anyway, we're moving to Seattle where imports must rule. I'll see what kind of a deal on the windstar I can find. There doesn't seem to be a lot of them though looking on the internet.
  • I own a 2000 ford windstar SE. I am having a problem starting my windstar. I turn the key and nothing. I have 3 keys and 2 of the 3 keys do the above but the 3rd key works after the second try and only after a hestitation. Had it in the dealer and they reprogramed the keys (all 3) and it seemed to work but went out the next morning and the problem occurred again.

    the dealer said they thought it was in theft mode. any ideas?
  • jtk152jtk152 Posts: 139
    Some things to check: 1) Make sure you have no large metal objects on your keychain.
    2) No other transponder type keys near your windstar key.
    3) No flash pass type cards / transponders near your windstar key(s).

    These things wont wipe the code on your windstar keys, but will cause a no start condition.
  • bigdadi118bigdadi118 Posts: 1,207
    Try to push & hold the shift lever more to the left of 'P' during starting. It may do the trick. The starting sensor may treat the shift lever in 'R' and not yet in 'P' so refuse to start. As you know the car can only be started in either 'P' or 'N'.
  • sobilosobilo Posts: 1
    I'm so confused if I should or shouldn't purchase a 2003 Ford Windstar with 19,000 miles on it. Should I or shouldn't I?

    Can you direct me to reviews only on this year?
  • jtk152jtk152 Posts: 139
    Years 2001-2003 are essentially the same. I think you'll find that you get the most van for your dollar with a windstar- provided you stick with an "LX" model. IMO- SE/SES/Sport models are WAY overpriced. The windstar is no less reliable than any comparable domestic van.
  • phatbunsphatbuns Posts: 20
    My '98 Windstar started making a front end clunk at 90,000 miles. I jacked it up and found the sway bar swaying, so I figured it was banging against the undercarriage causing the clunk. My local Ford dealer replaced the right sway bar link and bushings, handled better, but still clunked. I returned it to the dealer, they said that the strut rod bushings on the Windstar had a tendency to elongate and crack, and suggested welding it. I said sure, try it, it was only $225. The service invoice reads "welded strut rod bushings (sleeves)". No more clunk, no more problems so far.
  • phatbunsphatbuns Posts: 20
    My steering is making a squealing sound whenever the wheel is turned toward the right, no sound on turning left. The power steering fluid looks dirty. I noticed someone had this same complaint a few months ago, any suggestions?
  • ramouramou Posts: 84
    The airbag light on my 99 Windstar LX has been coming on and staying on. I checked with Ford and no recall, it has over local ford mechanic scanned it and said he thinks it's in the steering assembly and he would have to take it off to see if a wire is being pinched or loose....did anyone else had that problem..? thanks.
  • nyorkernyorker Posts: 2
    when i go from park to reverse to get out of my driveway it makes a banging sound as i switch , what can this be? i bought a 2003 windstar lx 2 days ago... it drives fine but the banging sound from park to reverse upsets me.. when i test drove the car at the dealership i didnt hear it, also im parked slighting on an angle can that be it?
  • cptpltcptplt Posts: 1,075
    if you are parking on an incline I hope you are setting the handbrake before putting the transmission into P. having that little teeny weeny steel rod in the tranny keeping you parked on an incline is an invitation to tranny problems down the line if you don't have it already.
  • wijocowijoco Posts: 462
    I agree. Anytime you park a Ford on an incline, you need to apply the parking brake before shifting into park. Don't let it rest on the parking pawl.
  • samnoesamnoe Posts: 731
    only a Ford?

    With any vehicle, you should always set the parking brake when parking up or down a hill. Car companies even recommend to always use the parking brake while parking, just a pre-caution if something goes wrong with the transmission in the middle of the night.

    I have a '02 Windstar which shifts out very smooth from Park to Reverse or Drive.
This discussion has been closed.