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Ford Freestar Transmission Problems



  • That was not the case either time mine went. First time, the van was empty, driving it alone with no cargo on a mild summer morning. Second time was just my daughter and I in the van, no cargo, and it was an early evening in February. I'm not letting them off the hook with a weather explanation. This issue seems to me to have not as much to do with the weather and conditions inside the vehicle as it does with faulty engineering.
  • sunburnsunburn Posts: 319
    Not the case here. It failed on a cold December evening with only the driver in the van. Temperature has little effect. Hot transmission fluid would be around 200 deg under a heavy load. That wouldn't even soften lead.

    From what I've been able to learn is that it is due to inadequate heat treating of the input shaft. This could happen a couple of ways. 1). Ford decided to save a few bucks and skimp on the heat treating. 2) Ford specified the correct level of heat treating, but their supplier decided to make a few extra dollars and skimped on it. In this case, Ford's QA staff should have caught it.
  • Well, mine was just one passenger (140 lbs) on a rainy evening in March. Had not been on any recent road trips and I was just coming home from a quick trip to Home Depot. (2006 Freestar, 46,000 miles)
  • Roger that...I was drawing my conclusion on several write ups, which I believe was the straw that broke the camel's back...."Metal fatigue is the progressive and localized structural damage that occurs when a material is subjected to cyclic loadings." Yes I believe that the spline shaft material had defects
    , either from the heat treatment or just poor raw materials.

    "The AXOD and its successors are built in Ford's Van [non-permissible content removed] Transmission plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Production of the final member of the family, the 4F50N (a renaming of the AX4N), ended in November 2006."

    Youtube video shows Ford's tranmission plant, even with the torque converter robot.
  • "Why ATF Wears Out
    An automatic transmission creates a lot of internal heat through friction: the friction of the fluid churning inside the torque converter, friction created when the clutch plates engage, and the normal friction created by gears and bearings carrying their loads.

    It doesn't take long for the automatic transmission fluid (ATF) to heat up once the vehicle is in motion. Normal driving will raise fluid temperatures to 175 degrees F., which is the usual temperature range at which most fluids are designed to operate. If fluid temperatures can be held to 175 degrees F., ATF will last almost indefinitely -- say up to 100,000 miles. But if the fluid temperature goes much higher, the life of the fluid begins to plummet. The problem is even normal driving can push fluid temperatures well beyond safe limits. And once that happens, the trouble begins.

    At elevated operating temperatures, ATF oxidizes, turns brown and takes on a smell like burnt toast. As heat destroys the fluid's lubricating qualities and friction characteristics, varnish begins to form on internal parts (such as the valve body) which interferes with the operation of the transmission. If the temperature gets above 250 degrees F., rubber seals begin to harden, which leads to leaks and pressure losses. At higher temperatures the transmission begins to slip, which only aggravates overheating even more. Eventually the clutches burn out and the transmission calls it quits. The only way to repair the damage now is with an overhaul -- a job which can easily run upwards of $1500 on a late model front-wheel drive car or minivan.

    As a rule of thumb, every 20 degree increase in operating temperature above 175 degrees F. cuts the life of the fluid in half!

    At 195 degrees F., for instance, fluid life is reduced to 50,000 miles. At 220 degrees, which is commonly encountered in many transmissions, the fluid is only good for about 25,000 miles. At 240 degrees F., the fluid won't go much over 10,000 miles. Add another 20 degrees, and life expectancy drops to 5,000 miles. Go to 295 or 300 degrees F., and 1,000 to 1,500 miles is about all you'll get before the transmission burns up.

    If you think this is propaganda put forth by the suppliers of ATF to sell more fluid, think again. According to the Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association, 90% of ALL transmission failures are caused by overheating. And most of these can be blamed on worn out fluid that should have been replaced.

    On most vehicles, the automatic transmission fluid is cooled by a small heat exchanger inside the bottom or end tank of the radiator. Hot ATF from the transmission circulates through a short loop of pipe and is thus "cooled." Cooling is a relative term here, however, because the radiator itself may be running at anywhere from 180 to 220 degrees F.!

    Tests have shown that the typical original equipment oil cooler is marginal at best. ATF that enters the radiator cooler at 300 degrees F. leaves at 240 to 270 degrees F., which is only a 10 to 20% drop in temperature, and is nowhere good enough for extended fluid life.

    Any number of things can push ATF temperatures beyond the system's ability to maintain safe limits: towing a trailer, mountain driving, driving at sustained high speeds during hot weather, stop-and-go driving in city traffic, "rocking" an automatic transmission from drive to reverse to free a tire from mud or snow, etc. Problems in the cooling system itself such as a low coolant level, a defective cooling fan, fan clutch, thermostat or water pump, an obstructed radiator, etc., will also diminish ATF cooling efficiency. In some cases, transmission overheating can even lead to engine coolant overheating! That's why there's a good demand for auxiliary add-on transmission coolers. "
  • nadinebnadineb Posts: 190
    The explanation of the failures is somewhat foreign to me, but I do understand that the fear I felt as this vehicle failed. Ford needs to fix this situation and make it right. I can not believe that our government has not stepped up to the plate to force Ford to correct this issue as they did with Toyota.
  • 1ST time I have ever done this. My 2004 Ford Freestar had a complete transmission failure with only 29,000 miles on it and of course Ford put a new one in and this Aug 14th, that one failed with 32,000 miles and no warranty left on the 3 yrs...and it failed completely on ;90 just into NY at 60 miles an hour.....horrible and of course I was stuck up there for a week...I can't understand this whole thing - of course I had to put in a new transmission and there went 3,000.00 One person in car with vacation things and one collie...
  • Who should I address my complaint at NHTSA - I sent it to the general address but it was returned saying I had to put a name and floor number in the address. Thanks.
  • I went online to their site to register my complaint. I also talked to Ford Customer Service. A lot of good that did. I am saving all my repair information in case Ford has a change of heart. Not holding my breath on this! I checked into the class action suits but, my understanding is that an attorney wants a retainer and if the suit is won they will, after taking their fees send your portion of the settlement. Wasn't willing to put out anymore money at this point.
  • Ours died this past weekend, oh my goodness they said $1400.00 to fix. Who has this kind of money? and they were not sure if the pump is ok yet in the tranmission. UG!!
  • My 2004 Ford Freestar transmission failed just like that in heavy traffic and I had to spend $3000 to do the R&R transmission. I complaint to Ford, BBB Autoline and also NHTSA. All this happened Oct 2009. As usual Ford did nothing and BBB couldnt help it either.

    I just got email from NHTSA that they are investigating this and asked about my specific problem (mine was the torque converter). All those who have been cheated by Ford and whose family's safety was compromised on should approach NHTSA. I know the justice is not done yet or not sure if we will even receive one but it is worth a try.
  • Same thing on my 2004 Mercury Monterey. Fortunately I saw the light on and and was able to get it to the shop in time but had to ave the transmission rebuilt. About $3,000 as well. I reported this to the NHTSA in July but I have not been contacted by them.
  • I need the person's name at NHTSA and address as I had my letter returned for lack thereof. Thanks.
  • I bought this vehicle new & do not drive it that much since I am a trucker by trade.

    I was driving down the freeway & lost all power. The tach was going from 1-5 & I had to pull to the side. I had to be towed. The car has less than 90,000 miles & I have kept the car in top shape. I always made sure I did correct maintance on the car.

    Im getting the run around by Ford in Roseburge Oregon they just want to tell me the maintaance that should of been done on the vehicle that wasnt done on it is the reason it failed me ..A vehicle that doesnt have excessive wear and is drove easily should not have done this.. Iam very disappointed in the Ford dealer amd in this car,I will not buy another Ford vehicle again .. freestarmom
  • nadinebnadineb Posts: 190
    You can address you letter to Stephen McHenry, to Secretary Ray LaHood, and your Senators and Congresspersons.

    Ask for a hearing too!
  • vbouievbouie Posts: 2
    My '05 Freestar died on sept. 25 while I was on my way to Kentucky to my sons graduation from Army Basic Training. I had it serviced last year in Sept. had a tune-up in February and had the oil changed every 3000 miles. I am leaving tomorrow to go 5 hours from where I live to pick it up from AAMCO at the grand total of $2400. I called Ford and they were absolutely no help. I am also looking for my money back.
  • dfg28dfg28 Posts: 1
    edited October 2010
    my 05 freestar has been a great vehicle,until yesterday when the powertrain malfunction light came on. today i went to my mechanic and he put it on his computer. he drove it a few miles down the road and when he returned he says well all i have is bad news for ya. i was stunned when he told me all the things he knew about these tranny's,and that it would run somewhere in the $1800.00 range to fix it. he said that there's a flaw in the trans case that allows pressure to escape and it cause's the trans to not shift into overdrive. he said there are some trans shops that can fix the case but it requires a complete overhaul of the trans,but afterwards it would be fixed. this doesn't sound like anything i've ever heard about a trans.. so just for kicks i come to my computer and thank the good lord i found this site.does this sound like anything others have experienced? he tells me it will soon go completely out,and that if im not going to be driving over 45mph that i might as well run it till does fail,and that it wont end up costing anymore as it is going to have to be rebuilt anyway.please help i dont have that kind of money,and for sure dont want to be stranded on the side of the road in my wheelchair waiting for someone to rescue me !!!!!!!
  • We are experiencing some of the same issues. We actually had the transmission rebuit last year under warranty and after lots of fighting with the dealership and the warranty company. Right before the 100,000 experation of the warranty I noticed the transmisson slipping after the engine would get hot. RPMs would ramp up. Took it to the dealership 3 times and they never could find a problem or get it to do it. Even after driving it with my husband for 30 miles, but I think on the highway not around town. It comes and goes. THis morning I noticed that the transmission light was on. Found this forum and now I'm ticked. I did have them document that it was slipping again before the 100,000 mile mark. Now I hav 105,000 on it. Thank god they aren't making these anymore.
  • Hi,
    I have been following these forums and I have had the same problem with my 05 freestar...water damage to the PCM. I completed the TSB for sealing the PCM, and the damage has caused me to replace sparks and plugs twince within the past 4 months...the first time I had no other issues until a downpour, which dried up and ran fine....until now.
    We had a massive rain storm where we live a week or so ago, the van was horrible...had the plugs and wires replaced again (they were fried) BUT the problem now I am pretty sure I need to replace the PCM. My question is thus: Is it possible to replace with a used PCM, of course ensuring it is from the same model and engine? If I can get away without having to talk to another ford mechanic again and spend wasted money I will. I have found the PCM online, but I need to know that I will not need to have it programmed etc, as long as it comes from the right model.
    Any help is appreciated
  • nadinebnadineb Posts: 190
    Message 941 from vebbie may hold an answer for you. I have pasted below. Good're gonna need it with the Freestar!

    greetings and hopefully some good news for fellow victims of soggy PCMs and power loss and transmissions that won't go into reverse and $1000 fixes that don't work.
    I too experienced all of the above, had the PCM removed and the Ford service fix for the problem installed only to get 350 miles and be stranded by the same problem.
    Mechanics were at a loss to figure out the source of the water infiltration and the next step was to be a new wiring harness. turns out the new repairs were more than the "trade-in" value and I was reluctant to dump it on an unsuspecting private buyer.
    So I figured if I was going to junk it I would just try to find the water source myself.
    I followed the instructions for getting to the PCM by removing the wiper arms, special puller required, about $15 at most auto stores,don't try to pry, you'll wreck the pivot arm, removing the outer cowling, couple of screws and pops off the windshield side, removed the inner cowling, 10 screws. you'll have to remove the wiper fluid lines and connector to the wiper motor to get good working room and lift off the whole assy. just take your time and don't make things worse. or give this fix to your mechanic.
    sounds difficult but actually only takes about 30 minutes if you have all the metric sockets.
    now the PCM is locate under the dash on the passenger side. there is a 40 pin connector that has a mounting bolt that you can see from the engine compartment. carefully remove that bolt and the connector will back out so you can remove it. mine had water dripping out. Its not a good thing but don't panic yet.
    there are 2 nuts that hold the boot cover over the PCM. you'll need a deep well socket or nut driver to remove them. 7/16 works but its 10mm metric.
    pull off the cover and the PCM will pull out of its bracket. my replacement had water in it too. shook it out and gently heated witha blow dryer on low.
    now carefully, reach inside the hole where the PCM bracket fits and feel if there is any moisture on the interior above where the PCM was installed. if it's wet I know your problem. The tubular cross member that supports the firewall is full of water.
    Ford uses foam like Great Stuff to fill that tube, probably for sound deadening.
    on my vehicle, both ends were foamed and the middle was not.
    I removed the clips that hold down the outer cowling and there was an inch or so of water in the tube. the clips are not water tight and the gasket on the cowling make a nice dam to hold water on the clips and over many years the tube gradually fills until its gets to the cover plate over the PCM and you get stranded..
    I pulled back the insulation in the middle of the cross member. drilled a 3/8 hole at the bottom using a cordless drill to keep from being electrocuted. and watched the Ford fountain spew out. I drilled holes on both sides as well and used them as blowout holes with my compressor. water blew out everywhere. I put a small heater on the areas and after 2 days and several blowouts the chamber is dry.
    you'll need to dry out the PCM and connector. not too hot just drying it out low blowdryer. check the gasket around the pins on the PCM and make sure it is around all the pins. this is the seal to prevent moisture from getting into the connector.
    to test you can just slip the PCM in the bracket, install the boot and carefully install the connector and start the car. My trouble lights all cleared and the car ran fine.
    if all is good reassemble in reverse order.
    I purchased new clips from Ford and siliconed all them in. I thought about filling the member with foam but opted to just leave the middle hole for drainage.
    My thought is that the crossmember was supposed to be entirely filled with foam.
    There would never had been the internal leak if it was filled.
    I think some were and some were not would explain why we had the problem and others think the Free Star was the best car ever.
    Best to a
  • I am a newb at cars, but does anyone have any pics or description of what vebbie posted? What is the firewall?
  • nadinebnadineb Posts: 190
    NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has the TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) posted. Web page below. It may help to make some kind of sense out of the mess Ford created with this vehicle. You should look at the page quickly before Ford attempts to get the page removed. 10/PE/INOT-PE10033-41489.pdf

    Best wishes.
  • So I completed the instructions that vebbie left on the messae board in response to the wet PCM....well long story short: it failed. My PCM was not wet and had water marks on the connector and not the PCM itself...I drilled the holes and no water was in it...well there is a TINY bit but it was NOT wet behind the PCM. Still I put the PCM in the oven on 100F for an hour and a half, placed the connector under a heat lamp (120watt) overnight and had the pcm under a high power fan all night as well....connected it all back up (broke the housing, but it is just the housing....nothing some superglue cant fix) put everything back together and.....still runs badly upon acceleration and loads....all spark plugs and wires replaced in July this year AND LAST WEEK by a mechanic....they "said" that the coil "looked" good, but the more I research the more I think I need to replace the ignition coil, as it may be cracked underneath where they cant see it :(
    I have a feeling that the PCM (when it WAS wet...the connector that is) destroyed the ignition coil (or caused my misfires and THEN caused the crack in the ignition coil).
    Question: How many misfires are required to kill the sparkplug? I JUST replaced them last week...with GOOD ones too!
  • If you check out the link in message 1331 it ALSO mentions a water issue with the transaxle vent. When I read that I was so excited that I even called my husband at work--we were SO frustrated because we are having trouble again after sealing the PCM and replacing the transaxle (& we have also completely replaced the spark plugs & wires, & then specific wires, & then the complete set up--coil, spark plugs & wires--Due to constant misfire problems--grrrr!!!!) Anyway, I had never heard of this transaxle vent/water issue before--only the PCM--but this makes a whole lot of sense! We thought that we had done everything we could do but our transaxle was, again, in the very early, intermittent, depends on the weather, dying stage but now I'm hoping that the early 'transaxle pains' from my less-than-a-year-old transaxle are really just more misfire problems from this leaky vent thingy-ma-bob!!!!

    Wow! That will probably only make sense to another Freestar owner! Can't wait to get under my hood and see what I can see! Good Luck!
  • I was pulling into an intersection and the same thing happened to me!! I lost all power and the van would not engage in any gear. For all i know it really wasn't in park. I was almost hit by a vehicle because of the loss of power in an intersection. I too have filed a complaint with the NHTSA. Something has got to be done!! This many complaints is to much!!! :mad:
  • email the National Highway traffic safety administration or call them at 1-888-327-4236
    to report that your Ford Transmission is slipping out of gear at highway speeds. They are doing on a investigation on this right now
  • email the National Highway traffic safety administration or call them at 1-888-327-4236
    to report that your Ford Transmission is slipping out of gear at highway speeds. They are doing on a investigation on this right now
  • email the National Highway traffic safety administration or call them at 1-888-327-4236
    to report that your Ford Transmission is slipping out of gear at highway speeds. They are doing on a investigation on this right now
  • vern8vern8 Posts: 1
    I own a 2004 Freestar, has 125K miles, ran fine until now. I took a long trip of about 1500 miles over the past weekend from Detroit to Phili (throught the hills). The van ran the first half of the trip OK. While driving back, I had the tran warning light on. Whenver I stop and put the van in either drive idle or park idle, it was shutting down the engine. I had to restart and proceed with the trip. Came back home safely, but I am wondering, if that is a majaor issue. BTW, before the trans light cam on, the check tire warning came on a couple of times and I had to reset it.

    I would really apprecite any info on this issue.
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