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Ford Windstar Should I buy one?

leesanrayleesanray Posts: 7
edited September 2014 in Ford
Given the apparent negative feelings for the Windstar/FreeStar that are common out there, I thought I should add our positive experience for balance.

I do not think purchasing a windstar or freestar brand new was a good idea, but because of the severe depreciation they experience, I think buying a used one can be a good move.

Our experience:
We bought a used 1998 Windstar GL in May of 2001 for $9000 with 81000 miles. Eguipment was typical for a GL (3.8L V6 engine, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, front and rear A/C, cruise, roof Rack, power rear quarter windows, rear wiper, rear defrost, AM/FM cassette, mini spare, seven passenger seating)

Now, at the end of June 2007 we have 136500 miles on the vehicle.

We have had to fix the following (total cost - About $600 at my local mechanic):
Window motor
ABS gear (required new half axle)
Door ajar switch.

We have had the following Maintenance items:
Wiper blades,
Oil and filter changes,
Coolant changes,
Trans fluid and filter changes,
Two new tires,
Front brake pads,
Fuel cap,
Fuel filter,
Air Filter.
(end maintenance)

The van still looks close to new. It still runs like new. It has never failed to start or stranded us.

If you are concerned about total cost of ownership for a mini van, I think a used Windstar/Freestar should be a strong candidate if the vehicle fits your needs.


  • jeff68jeff68 Posts: 5
    Bought one of the last 98's made. We now have 132k miles. Had to have the intake gasket replaced at 60k for $500. Electrical switch on the rear a/c at 100K. Those are the only non-maintenance items I can think of.

    I expect to drive another 2-3 years and 40k on it.

    Not all windstars have problems.
  • jeffyscottjeffyscott Posts: 3,855
    We have a 1997 with about 105,000 miles. The only really significant problem was leaking engine gaskets (front cover, intake, and head gaskets. This started around 95,000 miles. These are very expensive to replace, as the engine has to be removed from the vehicle. Dealer wanted $2800, other options were maybe $2000.

    We instead sent it to a tech school for 2 months and only had to pay for parts. Gaskets were maybe $500 and we added another $500 to replace a bunch of "might-as-well" stuff while they had the engine out. So we are satisfied with what it has cost to keep this van going only because of the free labor we got from the tech college.

    The thing that is really annoying is that Ford paid for gasket replacements in the 3.8 engine, if it was in several other vehicles, but not in the windstar.

    The other aspect that leads me to call it semi-positive, is that at the time we bought a Honda or Toyota minivan would have cost maybe $3000-5000 even with a big repair bill at 100K, the overall cost would still be about the same or less for the Ford.
  • leesanrayleesanray Posts: 7
    On the advice of my trusted mechanic, we avoided the model years 1995 - 1997, primarily because of the head gasket problems in the 3.8L. The 3.8L was also used in the Taurus/Sable. The problem was fixed for the 1998 model year.

    My mechanic also advised me not to consider the Windstar if I planned to tow anything heavier than a 14 ft aluminum boat. The transmissions are not up to it.

    Finally, he said it was imperative to change the transmission fluid and filter every 30,000 miles. (You can only easily change about 1/2 the fluid each time.)

    Over the years, his advice has been spot on.

    (happy owner of a 98 GL with 136K miles - see post #1 this thread)
  • jeffyscottjeffyscott Posts: 3,855
    Yeah and I think the Taurus and Sable got free replacement of gaskets as did the F-150 and some other models.

    We had towed a pop-up camper weighing probably 1300 pounds when loaded and have had no transmission problems. We do change fluid every 30K.

    I'm hoping to keep ours going for another 5 years. It does not get too many miles put on it anymore, though. Ours is used by kids and for occassionally hauling stuff that does not fit in our sedans. So, if we do get 15 years out of it, it may be only at about your mileage by then.
  • hondafordhondaford Posts: 51
    I agree with the negativity about a new one. But that is a moot point as ford is out of the minivan business.
    We leased a 98 in 97, for three years. I was doing seminars on the road at the time and put a lot of hiway miles on far from home. Turned it in at the end of the lease + several months. No troubles, warranty or not.
    Later, bought one of the very first ones produced as a used vehicle. Had 60K, drove it another 60K. No trouble at all until I heard a rod going. Sold it to mechanic who is still driving it.
    bought a 03 (last year of production) in Feb 04. Paid invoice minus 5K rebate. Trouble free and looking good.
    I do not buy fords anymore due to their social engineering taking preference over their business, but in the past have been a staunch ford man and happy with my 3 windstars.
  • I'm glad all of you had good luck with your Windstars, but I'm here to tell you there are a lot of people not happy-me included. My 95 Windstar had the head gasket go and I over heated the car. After repairing and driving it no more than 50 mph for a year I traded it in for the 2000 Windstar. I could have bought another new car for all the major repairs needed on the 2nd Windstar. Waiting on repair of my 3rd transmission at 125k miles, intake manifold gasket at 50k, again intake manifold gasket at 125k, window locks, window motors, heater won't work, etc. I tow only myself to work 10 miles everyday. Even the dealer service consultant says I have had my share of problems. Two months ago I just bought my last Ford. Too many lemons in one decade!
  • I'll be happy to keep you all posted on the reliability of mine. It's too soon to tell right now.

    I got mine because of the price, and the fact that I am a tall person who is disabled with arthritis. I have plenty of room in this minivan except for one minor issue.

    Quite frankly I got tired of having to duck my head to look out the windshield of some of these newer vehicles. I also got tired of having to fold myself up just to get inside. This is not an issue with the Windstar.

    I'll not let what I like about the van cloud my judgment about it's reliability. My recent purchase has 91,000 miles on it but I did get a good price.
  • leesanrayleesanray Posts: 7
    We sold our 98 windstar this week. It had 152500 miles on it. We bought it in May of 2001 with 81000 miles on it for $9000.

    While we owned it (8+ years and 71000 miles) we spent less than $1200 on repairs
    (at our trusted local mechanic).

    Our goal with our cars is to keep them until they are about 12 years old. We decided that now was the right time to trade it in because we were near our 12 year target, had a bunch of maintenance items needed (tires, shocks, struts, brake rotors), and it seemed a favorable time to purchase a replacement van.

    For someone considering a Windstar purchase, I say go for it with the following restrictions:

    1. Go 1998 or newer.
    2. Look elsewhere if you are going to tow anything.
    3. Look elsewhere if you have a heavy accelerator foot.
    4. Avoid the 3.0 liter six unless you are never going to go up hills.
    5. Get a good price and/or a good warranty because transmission problems are fairly common.

    After you buy it:

    1. Change the transmission fluid every 24k miles.
    2. Spray all the door locks, door switches, hatch locks, hood locks, and all hinges with silicone spray once per year. It will save you a lot of problems.

  • jeff71jeff71 Posts: 11
    I agree with Lee. We are up to 151,000 miles on the '98 windstar and it runs right along down the highway, a/c works and no transmission or head gasket problems - knock on wood. I know someone who got 215,000 on theirs. I expect mine would go 225-250k miles.

    You can get some real bargains on used ones if you don't mind that it is not as 'refined' as an Oddessy or Sienna. Lotta value without much downside.

    My only regret is it now qualifies for cash for clunkers incentive, so I will probably be trading in shortly. If I miss it, I may later pick up a used one.

    I would add another caveat:

    Run a car fax report before buying and make sure that it was not in a rental fleet.
  • 2002 Windstar bought new.
    1) Oil pan cracked almost immediately due to road hazard. Ford refused to replace under warranty. Pan is CAST ALUMINUM!!! Cast metals are brittle. Oil pan is exposed to road hazards so a rock or other road debris can kick up and hit it. Would not have happened to a steel oil pan.
    2) Intake manifold gasket had to be replaced. Mechanic noted that dealer had kit in stock, indicating it is a common problem (no recall). This happened just after the warranty expired, so that's an outrage.
    3) Brake light switch died and could not start car. This happened at about 80,000.
    4) Alternator replaced a couple of weeks after brake light switch.
    5) At 108,000, rear axle housing cracked 3/4 of the way through. Mechanic stated wheels could have fallen off if it cracked 100% because the only thing holding them on would have been a bushing. Interestingly, the axle housing was in stock at the dealer, indicating another common issue.
    6) Electrical problems - door ajar indicator incorrectly lit. Battery light, ABS & Emergency Brake lights lit for no apparent reason. They come on and off as you drive.
    7) Transmission reportedly (by mechanic) shot at 108,000 - trans "chatters". Feels like you are running over a rumble strip. This is common when slowly accelerating or decelerating at between 35 - 45 mph in city driving. There is also a secondary "bump" - I would not call it "chatter", it's more like hitting 1 or 2 potholes when there are no potholes. Again, commonly at 35-45, but also at higher speeds, such as 65 and going up hills. Symptom usually associated with torque converter, but they say the whole thing is shot.

    Many of the same problems can found all over the net. Buy if you dare.
  • We have had ours (a '99) for only a few months, but have been servicing it for the original owner for the last 5 years. She's had her share of problems with it, needing tie rod ends, and EGR valve, and DPFE sensor and finally (when I got it) a transmission. But she never did any maintenance to it, other than oil changes. She didn't fix any of those items other than the tie rod ends just because she was saving up for a Toyota Rav-4 (didn't want a minivan anymore), so the day the transmission went out, she cheerfully skipped down to the Toyota dealership.

    I got the van, completely fixed everything on it and have been happily driving it for the last several months. Love the space in it. Kids love the auxilary sound system in it. :)

    I do have to second what leesanray stated regarding flushing the transmission frequently and lubing the locks and hinges.
  • jtrai491jtrai491 Posts: 1
    Bought my 2000 Windstar with 27K miles in 2002 and has been nothing but trouble. Cracked intake manifold, eats rotors, water pump and aluminum water hoses on top of engine, fuel pump, ac doesn't work. Currently has 116K miles and they want $800 to replace the fuel pump, I was told the part is $350 alone. A/C another $1200 to fix and the trans needs replacing.
    Van was always maintained, always used synthetic oil and changed the filter each time. By this time next week I hope to have my Honda Odyssey.... Wife already got rid of her Ford for a Camry.
  • when radio plays only drivers side speakers work from time to time the others would come on but that stoppped
  • azharjazharj Posts: 3
    My windstar 2000, ok otherwise, no bubbling, no pulling, no tire problem no sound no accelration problem no electrica problem. But since I changed my serpentine fan belt a whistling sound comes most likely from the power steering pump. The sound stops after firve minutes
    Even when parked on turning the steering wheel right or left ratelling sound comed from the left side of the wheel the sound stops after 10 minutes drive and then in the whole day there will be no sound. I changed the front mounting seat and the broken bearing.
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