I bought this car with a bad transmission in early 2004. The transmission was completely locked up and the car would not even roll. I replaced the Auto trans with a used one, and did the install myself.
About 6 months later the trans cracked in 2 pieces due to faulty trans mounts. I replaced both transmission mounts with dealer parts ($150 Total), and installed another used trans. No problem since.
The timing belt jumped time at about 132,000 miles. Luckily I was rolling into my driveway at the time. Tore the timing cover off and found a fairly new belt with a new water pump. The tensioner was faulty causing the belt to jump. The tensioner was only $50 at the dealer along with a $20 belt from the local auto parts store.
Currently the flex pipe has rusted/broken and is leaking. The part alone is $200. I am searching out a cheaper way to fix this problem than shelling out that kind of money for the part.
The Front Brakes on these cars are TERRIBLE. Within the past year I have done 4 front brake jobs on Escorts (including this one). The Caliper pins severly stick and cause the calipers not to slide freely like they should. This causes the inner pad to severely wear, warps the rotors, and gets quite expensive to fix. Calipers, pads, hardware, and rotors are the way to go.
The A/c works very well, and the car drives nice. Parts are reasonable and the car is very easy to work on.