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
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
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
ESCORT & TRACER FACT SHEET
Ford technical service bulletin (TSB) numbers are in parentheses.
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)
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)
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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).
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
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).
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).