Had an Escort of the same year before my Subaru, and really had no issue with it. Once I inherited the Subaru, I sold the Escort. So when my Subaru packed it in at 460,000 Kms, I bought another Escort to replace it 4 months ago.
3 months were without issue. My expectations weren't all that great. I just wanted something to do point A to point B.
1 month ago, I went to close the passenger's window using the switch on the driver's door (power windows), and the switch disintegrates. No biggie, I can still reach across and open and close it that way.
3 weeks ago, I went to go to work one morning. Put it in gear, and the car kicked and bucked like a wild horse with a hangover and a bad attitude. This was completely out of the blue.
Press the accelerator hard, and it bogs like it's starving for power. Let off the throttle a bit and the power comes back. Press down and it's gone again. Gear down manually (automatic transmission) and the power seems to be there, but back into drive and give it gas, and it bogs.
Along with that, it idles OK, but in gear the idle gets rough. Put the defroster on when in gear and the idle gets REAL rough (see bad attitude horse with drinking problem analogy).
But no check engine light.
Took it to the shop. First we replaced the fuel filter and it ran better for about 4 hours. Then back to running like crap. Next week changed the fuel pump, because the pressure numbers were on the low side. No change. In fact it was probably worse.
Next week, changed the battery because it was testing as BAD, and the mechanic said he'd seen it before that a bad battery caused this sort of problem. So, installed the new battery - no change.
Next thing to check I'm told is the MAF sensor, but it's going to be a couple of hundred bucks to find out, and since there's no check engine light, it's only a guess that it'll fix it. The mechanic was skilled in the way he suggested that I might want to reconsider putting more money into this thing.
Without a check engine light to give you those error codes, it seems it becomes a matter of replacing sensors until you find the right one. If that doesn't work and you've already spent more than the car is worth, it becomes time to start chasing electrical problems. At that point the car is an intolerable money pit.
Took it to a Ford service centre. They wanted a blank cheque to go look at what they said "could be a thousand things". I walked out.
I'm now in the process of looking for another car, that hopefully won't be an undiagnosable nightmare when it goes wrong.