2002 Ford Taurus SES 3.0 Liter Vulcan Flex Fuel from North America
If you love fixing automatic transmissions¸ then this is the car for you!
Previous owner: Defective fuel level sensor. Expensive to repair, but refilling every 180 miles on the trip odometer ensures you are never stranded. Every now and then the check engine light disappears and the fuel level is believable.
87,000 miles: Windshield washer fluid hose deteriorated a couple of days after purchase and squirted fluid all over the engine.
87,000 miles: Engine refused to start for about half an hour. It repaired itself and hasn't refused to start ever since.
87,000 miles: Power door lock on driver's door.
91,000 miles: Transmission broke!
I only owned the car for 6 months and it has proven to be a poorly designed Ford product.
The little things:
- Power door lock replacement was very tedious. I spent the extra money to buy a genuine replacement part to avoid getting a Chinese knock-off. The genuine replacement part is made in China... This being said, the part is doing very well.
- Odometer numbers are very crooked most of the time. The top of the instrument cluster needs to be tapped a few times for the numbers to re-align themselves.
- Poor steering wheel ergonomics. The 9 - 3 o'clock hand position is very uncomfortable (the steering wheel was changed on Tauruses 2004+ if I'm not mistaken).
- Flimsy headrests (marginal safety rating according to IIHS in 2004-2006 models).
- Poor interior plastics and terrible factory painting of the plastics (doesn't match from one material to another, and factory overspray is apparent).
- Poor interior panel assembly (interior window rubber trim never wanting to stay in window frame for more than a car ride, rear pillar plastic trim sticking out, lower side plastic panel overlap of rubber trim).
- Poor molding of some panels. Most notably steering column and steering wheel (bubbles from low quality molding process, and some plastic sticking out where the parting line for the two molds would have been).
- Radio sound quality is mediocre. Acceptable, but mediocre. I do not have the Mach speakers in the door. Perhaps the Mach upgrade makes a difference.
- Button placement on the radio-climate control unit is not intuitive. Taking your eyes off the road is often a necessity. Takes a lot of getting used to.
- Rubber hoses inside engine compartment are of poor quality.
- No rear headrests.
- Only Automatic transmissions on Tauruses 1996-2006.
The bigger things:
- The ABS is over-sensitive and makes me question the car's ability to stop in rain, snow and ice. This problem is worsened by the fact that Ford replaced the rear disc brakes with drums for this generation of Taurus sedan to reduce the purchase price. The wagons still had disc brakes all around thankfully.
- The transmission BROKE in traffic. The car hasn't yet done 91,000 miles and yet the transmission broke without warning (perfect one moment, defective the next). This is a 1500 - 2500$ job. I remember hearing horror stories of transmissions breaking at the 80,000 to 100,000 mile mark on practically all Fords from the 80s to early 90s (especially Taurus and Windstar), but I didn't know this still happened on 21st century Fords. I am very disappointed. The Taurus began life in the 80s, and by the early 2000s the transmission issues clearly hadn't been totally resolved. I was naïve in thinking they would be taken care of for the 2002 model year.
- Love the dual bench seats and 6 passenger capacity.
- Very nice handling.
- Great styling. This car gets a bad rep for being boring because of the awkward-looking 1996-1999 generation that preceded it. If the badge had been changed from "Taurus" to anything else, I think people would think better of the Ford Taurus exterior styling. It is very aerodynamic and very nice to look at.
- "Good" safety rating from the IIHS in offset crash tests.
- Economical for a car with a V6 engine. 20 MPG+ combined in the summer.
- Flex fuel compatibility is a plus.
- MASSIVE trunk. I read somewhere that it was the biggest trunk of any full size sedan in 2002.
- Automatic trunk release is a great feature.
In a world where the transmission didn't fail so miserably, I'd say this car is fantastic. It is stylish, safe, economical and handles well. Before the transmission broke, I was recommending the Ford Taurus to my friends.
In this world where the transmission broke however, I'm saying: Run for the hills! Spending extra money on a premium car brand for the quality is worth it. It is truly a shame how such a great car is ultimately ruined due to a weak automatic transmission. It isn't like the car was owned by lead-footed maniacs either. The previous owner was a soft-spoken history teacher, and I personally go all out to ensure my car is always in tip-top shape. This was my first Ford, and probably my last. I am left with mixed emotions.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No
Review Date: 3rd December, 2013
4th Dec 2013, 22:17
You got it with 87,000 miles on it. Are you certain the previous owner(s) didn't flog on it the whole time?
Yes, the automatic transmissions on these Taurus and Mercury Sable cars are a known weak point, and have been since they came out in the 80's. However I had a '91 Taurus L which reached over 175,000 miles on the original transmission before it was totalled in a hit-and-run (I sold it and still saw the buyer driving it around a year later with the rear end still demolished). My '98 Windstar reached over 130k before I sold it, also on the original tranny. Both cars had the 3-liter Vulcan (the Windstar with the Vulcan was a rare find), were bought with less than 30,000 miles on them and were well-maintained. I have a feeling the previous owner of your USED Taurus didn't maintain it well or beat on it. Or both. Not the car's fault. If you bite the bullet and fix the tranny and then take care of it, it should last another 100,000 miles.
Another thing to keep in mind is a lot of these basic Ford Taurus sedans were bought in fleets for rental companies. The used market is over-saturated with them & you can bet they had a hard life.
4th Dec 2013, 22:29
I obviously didn't read the whole review (the last paragraph) before my last comment. Since I hate it so much when other people do that, I gotta apologize. If the last owner took good care of the car like you say, then yeah that does suck. I got great service out of both my Vulcan-powered Fords though... maybe it's just the luck of the draw with these things (I like to think my timely maintenance and sane driving style helped though).
I'd still rebuild it and go for the next 100,000 with regular fluid/filter changes, but definitely wouldn't blame ya if you jumped ship.
5th Dec 2013, 23:02
"- MASSIVE trunk. I read somewhere that it was the biggest trunk of any full size sedan in 2002."
The Taurus was a mid-size back then. The Crown Victoria was the real full-size model. Fuel economy didn't vary that much between the two.