Ford Escort

Tagged with:
Auto Defects > Ford

January 2001

Dear Escort/Tracer Owner:

Thank you for contacting the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) about your Escort or Tracer. CAS has received numerous complaints from consumers on passive seatbelts, fires, transmission failures, tie rod breakage, premature tire wear, stalling and costly engine damage.

Despite being Ford's top-selling subcompact, pre-1991 Escorts have few strengths and many weaknesses. Premature cracks in gaskets on 1984-87 Escorts cause expensive engine repairs and oil leaks. In 1994, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation into electrical fires in the steering columns of Escorts. Ford was forced to recall 7,500,000 vehicles, including 1988-90 Escorts, due to an internal short circuit in the ignition switch. Although 1983-87 Escorts have similar switches which also causes fires, NHTSA failed to recall them.

All 1984-90 Escorts/Tracers with 1.6L or 1.9L engines have defective ignition modules that may cause the vehicle to stall at highway speeds. NHTSA conducted four investigations into Ford stalling but only recalled 1.1 million 1984-85 models with 1.6L and 2.3L engines. Because Ford concealed significant information from NHTSA, the agency mistakenly closed its investigation into other models. A common and expensive defect is peeling paint on 1985-93 models. Ford attempted to cover up paint problems under a secret warranty and ignoring consumers who didn't complain loudly. CAS petitioned the FTC and every state attorney general in 1994 to take action on Ford's peeling paint secret warranty.

A 1991 redesign based on the Mazda Protégé gave post-1990 Escorts/Tracers more responsive steering and handling, but did little to improve their reliability and safety. The motorized seatbelt system on 1987-96 Escorts (passenger side only in 1994-96) have several problems. Most owners forget to buckle the separate lap belt after the motorized shoulder belt engages. Failure of the shoulder belt to hold in a crash prompted NHTSA to investigate 1987-90 Escorts. Despite receiving more than 580 complaints, NHTSA failed to order a recall.

You'll find more information on these and other Escort/Tracer problems below and what you can do about them plus a complaint box. Your information will help us build a strong case against Ford as we fight for action on Taurus/Sable defects.

We need you to support the Center for Auto Safety in our fight for consumer rights and against poorly designed and unsafe cars. Your contribution is tax-deductible which entitles you to our quarterly newsletter, Lemon Times. Please submit the membership form along with your contribution and complaint. If you contribute $35 or more, we will send you the current edition of The Ultimate Car Book, by Jack Gillis.


Clarence M. Ditlow
Executive Director

Ford technical service bulletin (TSB) numbers are in parentheses.

Brakes: Front disc "knocks", 1992-96 Escort, Tracer (96-6-1, 98-5A-14); Roughness during application, 1992-95 Escort, Tracer (95-6-2); "High pedal efforts" or "too much pedal travel" after cold start, 1992-93 Escort, Tracer (93-1-7); Shudder during deceleration/braking, 1992-93 Escort (93-13-2); Front brake "squeal" below 35 mph, 1993-96 Escort, Tracer with 14" wheels (97-3-2, 98-5A-19); Clicking after turns, 1997-99 Escort, Tracer (99-8-10)

Electrical/Instruments: Fuel gauge always reads full, 1992-94 Escort, Tracer (94-25-3); A/C blower motor "ticks," "chirps" or "squeaks" at low speeds, 1992-93 Escort (95-6-5), 1993-94 Escort (96-15-8) & 1993-97 Escort, Tracer (97-6-10); Temperature gauge inaccurate, 1992-94 Escort, Tracer (95-13-2 & 95-18-5); Poor heater output, 1992-94 Escort, Tracer (93-24-8); Horn inoperative, 1995-96 Escort, Tracer (96-8-5); W/S wipers streak, 1992-96 Escort, Tracer (96-8-4); MIL illumination, 1992-94 T (95-10-2) & 1996-97 T (97-8-6); Free repair of speedometer cable speed sensors, 1991 all models (91B04); Battery dead due to fan not shutting off, 1997-98 Escort, Tracer (98-13-8)

Engine/Driveability: Hesitation, stalling &/or rough idle, 1992-94 Escort, Tracer (93-24-8); High idle after highway cruise, 1992-93 Escort, Tracer with 1.9 L (93-9-5); Long crank &/or stall, 1995-96 Escort (96-19-4) & 1995-96 Escort, Tracer with 1.9 L (97-9-5); Spark knock, 1992-93 Escort (92-26-3); FEAD belt breaks, 1992-93 Escort, Tracer (93-25-30); Elimination of cooling system headless pipe plug, 1993-94 Escort with 1.9L (94-12-4); Lifter noise after initial start-up or return to idle from freeway driving, 1992-93 Escort, Tracer (92-17-6); "Knocking" after cold start, 1992-93 Escort (94-14-4); "Squeal" or "whine" from timing belt tensioner after cold start, 1992-94 Escort, Tracer with 1.8L (94-16-2); Loose catalyst or muffler heat shields, 1992-99 Escort (94-7-10, 97-16-6, 98-20-10); Silicone contamination of EGO sensors, 1992-94 Escort, Tracer (93-23-6). Stall, rough idle, reduced power, 1998-99 with 2.0L Zetec (98-13-8, 99-12-3, 99-6-9, 97-3-4, 98-13-6). Oil leak from oil indicator tube, 1997-99 with 2.0L (98-10-5, 99-9-9). For more information on Ford stalling, go to Ford Stalling.

Paint: Exterior clearcoat "microchecking," hazing, or peeling, 1992-93 Escort, Tracer (93-8-4); Rough texture &/or orange/rust dots, 1992-00 Escort, Tracer (92-6-4); Rough texture, 1992-99 Escort, Tracer (95-6-1). For information on how to get Ford to pay for peeling paint, go to Ford Paint.

Transmission: Delayed engagement on shifts out of Park, 1995-97 Escort, Tracer with 4EAT (97-15-11); Whine from transaxle on deceleration, 1995-96 Escort, Tracer with ATX (96-13-4); Harsh or soft 1-2, 2-3 shift, 1992-95 with 4EAT (94-23-12); Slips, fluid leaks, 1992-93 with 4EAT (93-11-6).

Other: Binding or noisy motorized seatbelt, 1988-89 Escort (89-1-3); Lack of center feel, vehicle wander & premature tire wear 1992-93 Escort, Tracer (93-13-2); "Iridescence" or "mottling" in tempered glass, 1992-94 Escort, Tracer (93-21-1); Liftgate hard to open, 1993-94 Escort (94-9-1); Rear door wind noise, 1992-94 Escort, Tracer (95-5-3); Binding &/or high efforts in rolling up glass, 1992-93 Escort, Tracer (94-13-1); Heated backlite inoperative, 1992-94 Escort, Tracer (93-26-1); Ignition lock cylinder sticks/binds, 1992-93 Escort, Tracer (95-5-1); W/S & interior glass fog/film, 1993-97 T (96-22-1); Steering wheel shake at idle, 1993-95 Escort (95-12-4); Fuel pump noise in radio, 1993-99 Escort, Tracer (96-3-7, 99-12-9); A/C musty, mildew odors, 1992-98 Escort, Tracer (96-14-4, 98-2-7, 99-19-5); Blower motor chirp or squeak, 1993-97 (97-25-5); Ignition key will not come out, 1997-98 Escort, Tracer (98-6-1).

Copies of recalls may be obtained from NHTSA's Technical Reference Division at 202-366-2768.

Airbags: 29,000 1995 Escort - Bolts securing passenger airbag module to instrument panel missing (94V-197); 240 1994-95 Escort, Tracer - Driver airbag lets hot gases burn driver (94V-218).

Fires: 200,000+ 1984-851/2 Escort - External cracks in cylinder head or rocker arm cover gasket causes oil leak (89V-095); 200,000+ 1986-87 Escort - Fuel lines disconnect, fuel loss (87V-139); 22,000 1991-92 Escort & 1991 Tracer - Gasoline vapor &/or fuel leak (92V-117); 300,000+ 1988-90 Escort - Ignition switch short circuit in steering column (96V-071); 64,600 1995 Escort/Tracer - Plastic fuel tank cracks (97V-144 & 97V-145).

Seats/Seatbelts: 1,367,500 1985-87 Escort/Lynx - Driver's outboard seat track fails (89V-170); 3,500 1993 Escort - Seat does not fully engage near mid-point of seat track travel (94V-055); 130,000+ 1987-89 Tracer - Takata seatbelt buckle failure (95V-103.011).

Unintended Acceleration: 5,000+ 19851/2 Escort - Throttle does not return to idle (85V-054); 6,000 1991 Escort - Accelerator pedal sticks at open throttle (90V-076).

Other: 200+ 1987 Escort - Decorative lug nuts seize causing wheel studs to fracture (87V-059); 3,300 1990 Escort - W/S separates from body (89V-174); 91,000 1991 Escort & 1992 Tracer - Steering lock-up (93V-057); 43,000 1992 Escort, Tracer - Stop lamp switches malfunction &/or stop lamps inoperative (92V-103); 105 1999 Escort - Transmission shif display not visible (99V-276).

  grey Line