1998 Ford Windstar 3.8 liter
Middle of the road
Since I am a novice mechanic with front wheel drive cars, I try to effect repairs myself!
My wife owned the car before I got it. She bought a 2000 Windstar, and so far so good (knock on wood).
As for my '98, I had to have the cam sensor replaced; I couldn't diagnose this problem.
Symptom; the Service Engine Soon light would come on, and all fluids were fine. The engine ran good, so I just couldn't figure it out. A local mechanic found the problem, as the cam position sensor top was bent, and pieces were missing.
This unit runs the oil pump like the distributors of the 70's and tells the ignition system when to fire the spark plugs. I had it repaired, and there were no problems until one day the brake light came on, and the brake reservoir was low. I added fluid to find the leak and regained the pedal.
Thinking I needed a new master cylinder, I put off this repair because of the location of the master cylinder. Upon doing research I found there is a cruise control switch on the master cylinder that had been recalled in other models, but NOT the Windstar. (Go figure!) So I went to the dealer and acquired the replacement switch at the staggering cost of $25.00.
Also during this time I found the serpentine belt tension pulley to be fully extended, and worn to the point that the belt was almost ready to slip off. I purchased the tensioner and belt from a discount parts store. The tensioner is held on by 1 bolt and I had a difficult time getting it loose. After about 2 hours of prying and and pushing and hoping the bolt didn't break, it finally gave up, and the rest was a cinch.
I did find that the cruise switch will cause the cruise to STOP working; this is the first symptom. Brake fluid, which is extremely flammable, and a heavy duty solvent, close to a caustic, wicks down the wiring into a plug that has a lot of hot wires in it. That means voltage is supplied, and switched off at the accessory that these wires are meant to power like the ABS system. The failure of this cruise switch has at the minimum caused the owner nightmares with warning lights (AKA Idiot lights) coming on without the car needing anything but this switch replaced, and the brake fluid in the harness neutralized. Rinse with baking soda water (2 tablespoons soda to 1 quart of water) and/or a spray of WD40, Buggy Blaster, or any kind of water repelling spray. Also, closely inspect the wiring harness and connectors for signs of heat such as; dark spots on the plastic plugs, melted or deformed wires, melted or deformed plugs.
My research has also found head gasket problems, but I can't recall if it was the 3.0L or the 3.8L.
I feel lucky! Some owners lost the car and their houses due to the car catching fire in their attached garages; again, go figure.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know
Review Date: 18th November, 2008
"the cruise switch will cause the cruise to STOP working; this is the first symptom."
I don't think this is the first symptom. I am monitoring the switch on my Windstar regularly. When I see it getting wet around there, I'll have it replaced before any other symptom occurs. To monitor it, you have to open the hood and look over and behind the air filter housing.