1996 Ford Windstar GL 3.8 from North America


Take care of it, and it will take care of you


Check engine light came on when I was going about 105 mph down the highway. Stayed on for about 3 months when I finally got a diagnostic check done. Turns out it was a bad O2 sensor, upstream bank 1. So I bought it from the dealer (bad mistake) for a $105. Replaced it myself, everything was fine.

Small rubber elbow joint that connects to the forward top of the engine (part of the pcv valve assembly) got soft and worn. Caused my van to die once in hot temperature. Bought assemble from dealer for about $15. Replaced it myself, works fine now.

Battery died, then alternator died trying to keep it charged. Bought a new battery and alternator, installed myself, works fine.

General Comments:

As I read through all of the negative testimonials for the 98' Ford Windstar. I begin to wonder if these people just drive their vans and not realize that it needs regular maintenance like any vehicle.

I change my oil every 3,000 miles, I change my air filter when it looks dirty, I change my fuel filter every 6,000 miles. I've changed my spark plugs after about 95,000 miles. I've changed my tranny fluid. I've changed both front and rear disk pads when they squealed. I got a shop to do a coolant flush to prevent corrosion. I replaced the drive belt when it squealed.

Want to know what's ironic? I've never had a head gasket blown, I've never had leaking fluid, I've never had power problems. Why? Because I bought an $18 mechanics book from Kragen Auto Parts.

Just treat your vehicle like it's the investment that it is, and it will always do good for you. And try to learn a few simple maintenace procedures and save yourself some time and money.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 6th February, 2003

23rd May 2003, 15:05


Just a quick comment regarding car (van) care. My wife owns a 1996 Windstar that she purchased with 24,000 miles in 1998. We bought an extended 6/60K warranty that we ended up using for a timing chain cover gasket replacement and a few other odds and ends. We had the car serviced in accordance with the specified Ford maintenance schedule...always, without exception. This included a transmission flush and filter at the 55K service. With 64,000 miles on the vehicle, the transmission failed. After 2 hours on the phone with various Ford reps, nothing. The rebuild cost me $1,400.00. I know cars. I used to change out engines on the weekends with my buddies when I was a kid (teens). This is a poor vehicle. Nearly everyone I know that owns one has a similar story. My point is, there are those of us out here that DO realize vehicles need preventive maintenance and do something about it... but we still have gotten screwed over. No one in my family will even own a Ford vehicle again. I will not pay one dollar to a company that will not be accountable for their poor design and quality.

31st Mar 2004, 18:06

I too, have been on top of regular maintenance of my '96 Windstar. My mechanic is fabulous, and does all the work needed in a timely manner. Has kept our cars running well for years and said that the timing cover and head gasket problems are notorious as far as this vehicle in concerned. He told me Ford has refused to acknowledge problems with this vehicle, in particular the head gasket. I have just put over $2400.00 into this car, its so not worth it, and when I called Ford, they said that they had never heard of any concerns regarding the head gasket on this model. Too bad we can't get a class action suit going.

1996 Ford Windstar GL 3.8L from North America


Very Low


Car ran OK to for first 70,000 miles, but then the car fell apart due to major design and reliability issues. Ford needs to step up to the plate and take responsibility for these issues. This is the worst vehicle that I have ever owned. Beware of any car that you have to take to a mechanic to put on a hydraulic lift to change the spark plugs - even then the mechanics say the plugs are hard to reach.

To begin with, engine light stayed on due to engine misfiring. Had ignition wiring and plugs replaced ($200) to no avail. Took vehicle to dealer who then clean engine ports out for $250.

Speed odometer dial started to jump and malfunction. Dealer said that the entire gauge panel would need to be replaced and it would cost $600.

A year and a few thousand miles later, the engine light came back on and then ABS light came on and stayed on. Had ignition wiring and plugs changed and ABS sensor changed at $570. Engine light stayed off, but ABS light stayed on.

Then at 97,000 miles, the intake gasket failed resulting in coolant leaks. Dealer replaced for $800. A day later, the timing cover gasket failed resulting in coolant leaks. This cost me $1300. Now, I'm waiting for the head gasket to fail. I can tell the dealer doesn't think much of this vehicle. Called Ford. Their walk doesn't match their talk when it comes to customer satisfaction. I'm going to try to sell this vehicle in the next few days and buy a Honda!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 1st February, 2003

7th Aug 2003, 17:55

Sounds just like what is happening with MY 1996 Windstar. I know it's no comfort to you, but now I know I'm not crazy.