2001 Ford Escape Woes (long)

I’m not sure if you guys can answer my question, but I feel like I can at least get some good places to look.
Anyway, so the “O/D Off” light started blinking on the car at around the same time as it started to make a whining noise whenever I accelerated. Sort of like something was spinning really quickly. It kept on blinking, and after a while, the check engine light came on. So I checked the owner’s manual and it said that a blinking O/D light meant something could be wrong with your transmission, bring it in immediately. At that moment I was on the highway in rush hour traffic about 20 miles away from home, so it had to wait until the next day. We brought it in, the guy said he’d look at it, and then we got a call from them later that day saying they flushed the transmission fluid (apparently it was filled with contaminants) and they thought it should fix the problem. Total bill = $600. Ouch. Then they said that it might not fix the problem, and if it doesn’t, it’s going to need a new torque converter. Which will cost over $1000. So we drive it back, and it still makes the whining noise. Worse, after the engine warms up, it won’t go in reverse. And it barely goes in drive. It’s like the gears just aren’t engaging at all. So we bring it back (after it cools down), and no service guys were there so we have to wait until Monday morning.
My question is, is this a common problem on '01 Ford Escapes? It only has about 52k miles on it, been to all its yearly checkups, etc, etc, and never really had any big problems like this before. This was just out of the blue. Do I have a legitimate complaint to Ford? I mean, the car’s not old, it doesn’t have that many miles, it’s been treated well, and suddenly it needs over $1500 in repairs… Stupid Ford. No wonder foreign cars are always ranked so high over domestic. Any ideas on what could be the matter, how it could have happened, what I can do about it…?

The first thing to do is make sure you’re dealing with a shop that knows what they’re doing. Now, it may well be that you’ve left out some pertinent details, and the service you’ve received so far was appropriate and correctly done. BUT, as described, it doesn’t sound good. The computer memory should have been checked and the trouble code(s) recorded. A fluid flush doesn’t sound like the type of service that would address the problem. And even figuring some testing and adjustment you didn’t mention, $600 for a flush sounds astronomical. So, either there’s so much info lacking as to make impossible for us to render intelligent advice, or this shop is messing up.

To your essential question, if the suggested maintenance has indeed been done, it’s certainly worth inquiring about warranty coverage. Even if it’s actually out of warranty, sometimes goodwill adjustments will be made. Usually these need authorization from above the dealership level, such as a zone manager or even Ford itself. Keep asking until you get a “yes” or there’s no higher level to appeal to.

$600 for a transmission flush??!?!?!??!?!

It costs like $50 at Valvoline, and they do it while you wait.

I would look at the bill closely and see if they didn’t do more than a flush. Like “Removed some things that may or may not be important to letting your car go into reverse - $550”

I’ll repeat the incredulity – $600 for a friggin’ transmission flush???

To be fair, all of the latest data show that US manufacturers and Japanese manufacturers are now of the same quality level, and some US manufacturers actually surpass some Japanese manufacturers’ quality levels.

So, what I recommend you do is the following: when you return to the dealer, ask to see the service manager. Tell him you expect “After Warranty Assistance” for your concern. Let him know everything that’s occurred, including the fact that you’ve paid $600 for a friggin’ tranny flush. Of course, you’re not going to be a jerk or an idiot. The AWA program exists to keep customers satisfied and to encourage customers to continue being customers in the future. If you go in saying you’re going to buy a Nissan, I wouldn’t expect much help.

The AWA program also demands that the customer foot a portion of the bill. This is where I would point out to the service manager that you already paid $600 for a friggin’ transmission flush, and that their faulty repair should be credited back to you entirely.

If you get nowhere, try calling the Ford brand Customer Relationship Center at 800-392-3673, or write them at
Ford Motor Company
Customer Relationship Center
P.O. Box 6248
Dearborn, MI 48121

Since I work at a Ford dealership, I can tell you they shouldn’t charge you $600 for a trans flush, unless they made you buy the machine that does the flushing! I think we charge around $80 for that. As far as AWA goes, dealers only get so much of that, and if you’ve never gone to that dealership for anything else, or if you didn’t buy the car there, it is very unlikely they’ll help you there. We usually reserve it for regular customers here. By the way, if you call Ford, the only thing that usually happens is that the complaint is forwarded to the dealer. If the dealer will get up with his zone rep he can maybe get you more help.

By the way, it is not a common problem with escapes. I’ve only seen one in our shop with a transmission problem. Really mostly minor problems with the escape(the PFE sensor problem that every Ford has).

mike1dog makes a good point – I was assuming you purchased your vehicle there and that you’re a regular customer, who’s likely to continue being a customer.

If you need help finding a competent transmission shop, there is a trade association that may be able to help… the “Automatic Transmission Rebuilder’s Association.”

Their page for consumers is below. I would reccomend anyone who is having transmission problems or owns a car with an automatic transmission read it.

Good luck. Transmission problems suck.
By the way, you asked if the escape has a problem with this. Not that I know of.
My research on the 'net tends to indicate that most transmissions fit into one of two categories:

  1. They’ll need substantial work between 80K and 120K OR
  2. They’ll last until the doors rust off your car.

So while your vehicle is being a little bit precocious, it’s not that huge of a statistical anomaly.
Paying $600 for an ATF change, however, is freaking ridiculous. If that didn’t include 4 hours of diagnostics, 3 hours of attempted ATF repair and some parts in addition to a few quarts of ATF, you got robbed. Please keep us updated.

I’d just like to point out that the Ford Escape is the same car as the Mazda Tribute, so maybe you could take it to the Mazda dealer?

As an update:
So the transmission flush apparently had some other stuff with it. What, I do not know. But they did check the codes off the computer (I don’t know that it helped much considering they didn’t know what to do and the car was worse afterward), and I’m assumming that they are good people and actually did something to warrant that $600.
Okay, so, after several days (fortunately they finally gave me a loaner car so I could go to work again), they’ve called back and said it needs a new transmission. Total cost for that is $3300 on top of the $600 already. Out of the goodness of their hearts, they say that $300 of that first $600 was work on the transmission so they’ll take that off the transmission rebuild so that it’s only (only!) $3000 now. We call Ford’s customer complaint line, after some phone tag, the lady at the office calls the dealer and they agree to knock $1000 off the price bringing the grand total of everything to $2600. All they told me was that something in the transmission is bad and it needs to rebuilt. I’m a little pissed. I mean, the car is less than 3 years old, 50k miles on it, been to all maintenance appointments… How could they not have seen this coming and done something about it?

None of this is warranty work?! :dubious:

I strongly suggest getting multiple quotes on your transmission replacement.
Find a local ATRA-affiliated shop using the URL I posted, and offer them your business. You may save several hundred dollars. Or not, as I don’t know what this particular tranny costs.
In answer to your question “How could they not have seen this coming and done something about it?”, which I realize you may have posed rhetorically, a lot of times when a mechanical device fails, the first warning sign is the failure itself.
Occasionally buying something you REALLY SHOULDN’T HAVE TO be buying is part of owning a car.

If it makes you feel better, this person had even worse luck, with their tranny dying at 9K.

Any number of ways. Not all automotive problems are predictable, or detectable during routine service. But when I get my X-ray vision and working crystal ball, I’ll change all that.

Yeah, but at least at 9k it’s still covered by warranty. Mine is not. Bummer. Here’s another question I thought of… All that stuff they did the first time was to supposedly fix the transmission. The flush, and whatever else they did, was all done on this old transmission which I will not longer have. Should I still have to pay for that? It seems like they were just testing out a theory that obviously didn’t work and now anything I would’ve gained from that is gone because that transmission will be scrapped. It doesn’t seem right that I should pay for work done on something that I will no longer even have.

You are still obligated for the work they put into saving your old transmission, even though it could not be saved. They put labor into it, and had they known that it could not be saved they wouldn’t have put the labor into it.
Heck, if a transmission came into your shop with 52K miles on it, would you tell the owner to replace it, or try to fix it? What would you say about a mechanic that tried selling you the new one without investigating?
That being said, it would certainly be upsetting to anyone that work had been put into a device that couldn’t be saved, and they had to pay for it.
Some service centers will choose not to invoice you for small amounts of work put into a mechanism that can’t be saved, but at this point the shop is out a healthy amount of wages and supplies for the work they did. It would be kinda’ pricey to “comp” you for this, and perhaps not reasonable to expect.
All of the above assumes of course that both you and the shop are acting in good faith… that they didn’t know the tranny was a total loss until the point when they told you it was.
This definitely sucks, though. I really feel like powertrain warranties covering less than let’s say… 80K are kinda’ cheap.
My heart goes out to you, though. I know I don’t have $3K sitting around wanting to be used on auto repairs.
Side note: I googled “Ford Escape” + “transmission failures” and didn’t get anything alarming, so your failure appears to be more of a fluke than part of a widely-known trend.