1998 Ford Windstar GL 3.8 V6
Fun, practical, and reliable if you treat it properly
The transmission blew a gasket back in August, after driving for 4 hours at relatively high speed with a very heavy load. After temporary repairs (Trans-x added to the transmission fluid), made the rest of the journey with no incident (4 more hours), was repaired by local dealership at destination. Transmission completely died a month later due to shoddy repairs, replaced over half the transmission by a different shop, no further problems. Transmission now works well, other than disengaging while shifting from first to second gears, causing a lurch if gas pedal is not released briefly.
A school bus collided with the left front while van was parked on two separate occasions, badly denting the body and popping the side indicator light off. No frame or alignment damage has been observed.
Seat belt sensor no longer works, not a big deal.
Suspected alternator issues, lights will dim occasionally, particularly when driving over a puddle on the right side. Has not stalled because of this, corrects itself after a few seconds. Not a big problem.
Power lock on sliding side door does not function properly, takes several tries to lock/unlock. Cleaned contacts, no improvement.
Anti-lock braking system tends to engage unnecessarily when coming to a stop. Not a big problem, seems to happen mostly in hot weather.
Despite transmission problems and the apparent fact that this van is a bus magnet, I have enjoyed my Windstar greatly.
It accelerates quickly for such a large vehicle, and is reliable even at high speeds. Have taken it over 100mph, stability was not an issue. I was surprised at how quick this van is, the larger engine (which is identical to the one put in the V-6 Mustangs of that year) is a must if you decide to purchase one and do a lot of highway driving. Engine might be a bit overpowered, in fact, as I have no trouble spinning the tires from a dead stop, even in dry conditions, if I'm too heavy on the gas pedal. Engine sound is aggressive.
Suspension is good, maybe a bit soft around corners, but I have never felt that the van was in danger of rolling over. Turning radius is a bit wide, but that is to be expected from such a large vehicle.
Fuel mileage is an issue, I estimate 15-18 mpg, though I drive fast, which may contribute to the poor efficiency.
Cargo room is excellent, seats are easy to remove and install. I fit four people, two weeks worth of camping supplies and gear, including five large plastic bins full of clothing, shovels, rakes, wooden poles, five tents (one of which was enormous), two large pavilions, a dozen tiki torches and 6 gallons of fuel, three coolers, two large folding tables, two small folding tables, five camp chairs, six folding metal chairs, a hammock, four sleeping bags, four air mattresses, and several other small things, all inside the van, without having to resort to the roof rack, and STILL had enough space to see out the rear window. Granted, this was when the transmission died, but it had already been having problems and had survived through two owners.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 27th October, 2006
The Windstar is a very UNDER RATED vehicle. They are usually very reliable. The transmission failure is most likely due to a lack of recommended maintenance at the 50,000 mile mark, especially if it had been used in heavy towing. As a mechanic, it surprises me to see any well-maintained Ford product have ANY problems before 100,000 to 150,000 miles. I've seem some go well over 300,000 miles with only routine maintenance.