Mercury Cougar

The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

November 1999

Dear Ford Owner:

Thank you for contacting the Center
for Auto Safety (CAS) about your 1985-97 Ford Thunderbird, Mercury Cougar
or Lincoln Mark which are built on the same platform and share common
features. After 1997 Ford killed off the T-bird/Mark and replaced the
Cougar with a car built on the same platform as the Ford Contour and Mercury
Mystique. The T-bird in its dying days little resembled the legendary
’55 T-bird and may come back in 2001. CAS has received many complaints
from consumers concerning fires, brakes,
, stalling, transmissions, and unintended
in the Mark, T-bird and Cougar.

Although among Ford’s most reliable
cars, these models still have their share of problems. Consumer
Reports rates the electrical system and brakes as the most trouble-prone
areas on 1988-93 models with worse than average frequency of repair ratings.
CAS has been flooded with brake complaints on these cars, particularly
premature brake wear. Some owners have reported replacing
brakes as often as every 2-3,000 miles. There have been four safety recalls
for various brake defects on many 1988-97 models. Although not as dangerous
as brake defects, Ford has also issued numerous service bulletins about
engine and transmission problems.

A common and expensive defect is peeling
on 1985-92 models. Ford attempted to cover up paint problems
by buying off aggressive consumers under a secret warranty and ignoring
consumers who don’t complain loudly. CAS petitioned the Federal Trade
Commission and every state attorney general in 1994 to take action on
Ford’s peeling paint secret warranty. In 1987, Ford recalled 3.6 million
1986-87 vehicles for faulty fuel line couplings that
caused engine compartment fires. In 1996, Ford recalled 1988-93
Cougars and T-birds for defective ignition switches that started dash
fires but refused to recall earlier 1983-1987 models with the same ignition

Another dangerous defect in full-size
Fords is sudden or unintended acceleration. CAS pressured
DOT to investigate sudden acceleration in 1983-86 Fords with 3.8 and 5.0
liter engines, but DOT failed to order a recall despite almost 500 complaints
and 136 reported injuries. NHTSA also investigated 1991-93 models with
3.8 liter V6 engines for high idle speed but again closed
it without a recall. Although Ford recalled 1.1 million 1984-85 cars with
1.6L and 2.3L engines for stalling at highway speeds
when ignition modules mounted on the distributor overheated, Ford failed
to recall any larger engine T-birds, Cougars or Marks with similar modules.
Ford continued this design through 1988 on T-birds and Cougars and 1992
on Marks.

You’ll find information on these and other T-bird class defects below
and what you can do about them plus a complaint
. Your information will help us build a strong case against Ford
on the defects we know about and help us spot new ones.

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
and entitles your 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.
Every home should have this invaluable consumer guide.


Clarence M. Ditlow
Executive Director

Ford technical service bulletin numbers are in parentheses.
(Only post-1984 models are covered.)
Cougar=Cougar Mark VII=M7 Mark VIII=M8 Thunderbird=T-bird

ABS cycling on rough roads,’93-94 M8, ’93-96 Cougar/T-bird (95-20-2, 98-5A-6);
Roughness during brake application, ’93-95 All (95-6-2); Front disc “thumping”
or “clacking”, ’94-95 Cougar/T-bird (94-23-5); Brake pedal pulsation from
rear drum roughness, ’92-95 Cougar/T-bird (95-6-2); Distorted rear brake
drum ’94-97 Cougar/T-bird (98-5A-18).

Thrust bearing & crankshaft failure, ’82-88 Cougar/T-bird, ’82-90
M7 (91-4-10); Intermittent high idle, ’88-90 M7 (90-21-5); Engine knock,
’85-87 Cougar/M7/T-bird (87-6-9); No start/dead battery, ’83-90 all except
M8 (90-18-3); Hesitation or stall during acceleration or deceleration,
rough idle, coolant does not reach normal temperature, ’92-94 Cougar/T-bird
(93-24-8); “Moan” or “hooting” from engine compartment, ’93-94 Cougar/T-bird
(94-22-4); “Squeal” from FEAD during cold start below 20F, ’93-96 Cougar/M8/T-bird
(96-14-8, 96-14-9); Silicone contamination of exhaust gas oxygen sensors,
’92-94 Cougar/T-bird, ’93-94 M8 (93-23-6); No crank, ’92-96 Cougar/T-bird
(94-26-3); Moan or vibration from exhaust, ’92-95 Cougar/T-bird (95-3-8);
Low pitched “squeak,” “chirp,” or “knock” noise from rocker arm, ’92-95
Cougar/T-bird (95-24-3); Long crank/sticking idle air control valve, ’95-96
M8 (96-19-4); Hard start due to low reserve battery capacity below 32F,
’93-94 M8 (95-16-7); Metallic “rapping”during cold start-up, ’93-94 M8

Electronic cluster shows higher than actual fuel level, ’89-90 Cougar/M7/T-bird
(90-7-11); Driver’s seat sensor switch causes doors to lock when driver
exits, ’93-94 Cougar/M8/T-bird (94-10-2); Erratic distance-to-empty &
fuel gauge readings, ’92-94 M8, ’93-94 Cougar/T-bird (95-2-3); Temperature
gauge reads low, ’92-95 Cougar/T-bird, ’93-95 M8 (95-13-2); Heater output
& thermostat stuck open, ’92-94 Cougar/T-bird (93-24-8); Cluster panel
loose at corners, ’92-93 Cougar/T-bird (94-2-4); Temperature gauge fluctuating
&/or inaccurate high readings, ’92-93 Cougar/T-bird (95-18-5); Inaccurate
fuel indication, ’93-94 M8 (93-26-10); Fuel gauge inoperative, ’93-95
M8 (95-17-6): Fuel pump buzz thru radio, ’94-97 Cougar/T-bird (98-7-3).

Paint peeling & contamination, all ’85-92 models (91-18-1); Exterior
clearcoat “microchecking,” “hazing,” or peeling, ’92-93 Cougar/T-bird
(93-8-4); Rough texture, ferrous metal contamination, & acid rain
discoloration or etching, ’92-97 Cougar/T-bird, ’93-97 M8 (95-6-1); Lower
body side paint abrasion, ’93-96 M8 (96-5-2).

Steering column “clunk” & “looseness”, ’87-88 Cougar/T-bird (88-4-9);
“Chatter” during tight turns or turns after highway driving, ’92-96 Cougar/T-bird
(96-12-9); “Growl” from steering column while turning, ’93-96 Cougar/M8/T-bird
(96-12-2); Intermittent increase in steering effort at low speeds, ’94-96
Cougar/T-bird (96-4-2); Lack of center feel, shudder during deceleration
or braking, premature tire wear, & wander, ’92-93 Cougar/T-bird (93-13-2);
“Clunk” from rear end during turns, ’92-94 Cougar/T-bird (94-10-11); Pull
or drift to right & vibration or shake above 45 mph, ’93-94 M8 (94-12-2);
“Grunt” after steering wheel released from full lock position during low
speed or parking maneuvers, ’93-94 M8 (93-22-3).

Intermittent loss of torque during or after 3-4 upshift, ’94-95 Cougar/T-bird
(95-5-15); Water intrusion into MLP/TR Sensor causing shift &/or engagement
problems, ’94-95 Cougar/T-bird (95-3-13); Vibration or shudder under light
acceleration above 35 mph in 3rd or 4th gear, ’94-97 Cougar/T-bird (95-23-4,
97-10-6, 98-8-7); Lubricant leakage through cover & vent hose, ’92-94
Cougar/T-bird (94-11-12); No 3-4 upshift or slipping 4th gear, ’92-93
Cougar/T-bird (93-23-18); Reverse shudder when backing up incline or under
load, ’92-93 Cougar/T-bird (93-19-7); Erratic 1-2 shift, ’94-97 Cougar/T-bird

W/S film, ’93-97 All(96-22-1); Loose catalyst/muffler heat shields, ’92-97
Cougar/T-bird (94-7-10, 98-6-4); Fuel spit-back when filling tank, ’93-94
M8 (93-26-7); Hole worn in evaporator core tube by carbon canister purge
hose, ’92-93 Cougar/T-bird (93-25-2); Chirp or squeak from blower motor,
’94-97 Cougar/T-bird (97-25-5); Rear axle whine or howl, ’94-96 Cougar/T-bird

Copies of recalls may
be obtained by calling NHTSA’s Technical Reference Division at 202-366-2768.

3,508 ’85 Cougar/T-bird – Master cylinder (85V-025); 16,000 ’86 M7 – Fluid
indicator light (86V-023); 38,000 ’85-86 M7 – Pump motor fails (86V-109);
113,200 ’89 Cougar/T-bird – Increased brake pedal travel (89V-081).

19,200 ’85
M7 – Air suspension control module (85V-040); 72 ’90 Cougar/T-bird – Battery-to-starter
cable short (90V-026); 500,000+ ’88-93 Cougar/T-bird – Ignition
switch short (96V-071).

’86-87 all models – Fuel line coupling disengages (87V-139); 124
’88 Cougar/T-bird – Rollover valve leaks (88V-165): 125,000 ’92-93 Cougar/T-bird
– Fuel line rubs against floor pan & leaks (97V-159).

’93 M8 – Damaged retractor (92V-166).

10,600 ’89 Cougar/T-bird – Rear suspension knuckle fracture (89V-080);
57,000 ’91-94 Cougar – Frame mounting bracket fractures, loss of steering
control (95V-194).

5,000+ ’91 Cougar/T-bird – Park does not engage (91V-048).

100+ ’86 M7 – Throttle sticks (85V-115); 20,000 ’86 M7 – Ignition
key fails to return to on (86V-108); 682 T-bird Turbo Coupe – Rear wheel
separation (88V-033); 125,000 ’90-91 Cougar/T-bird – W/S wipers malfunction
(91V-076); 10,000+ ’96 Cougar/T-bird – Defroster blower malfunctions
(96V-007); 5,000+ ’96 Cougar/T-bird – Driver door latch opens
(96V-070); 45,000 ’93-94 M8 – Lights short out (98V-009).


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