1998 Ford Windstar GL 3.8 V6 from North America


Fun, practical, and reliable if you treat it properly


The transmission blew a gasket back in August, after driving for 4 hours at relatively high speed with a very heavy load. After temporary repairs (Trans-x added to the transmission fluid), made the rest of the journey with no incident (4 more hours), was repaired by local dealership at destination. Transmission completely died a month later due to shoddy repairs, replaced over half the transmission by a different shop, no further problems. Transmission now works well, other than disengaging while shifting from first to second gears, causing a lurch if gas pedal is not released briefly.

A school bus collided with the left front while van was parked on two separate occasions, badly denting the body and popping the side indicator light off. No frame or alignment damage has been observed.

Seat belt sensor no longer works, not a big deal.

Suspected alternator issues, lights will dim occasionally, particularly when driving over a puddle on the right side. Has not stalled because of this, corrects itself after a few seconds. Not a big problem.

Power lock on sliding side door does not function properly, takes several tries to lock/unlock. Cleaned contacts, no improvement.

Anti-lock braking system tends to engage unnecessarily when coming to a stop. Not a big problem, seems to happen mostly in hot weather.

General Comments:

Despite transmission problems and the apparent fact that this van is a bus magnet, I have enjoyed my Windstar greatly.

It accelerates quickly for such a large vehicle, and is reliable even at high speeds. Have taken it over 100mph, stability was not an issue. I was surprised at how quick this van is, the larger engine (which is identical to the one put in the V-6 Mustangs of that year) is a must if you decide to purchase one and do a lot of highway driving. Engine might be a bit overpowered, in fact, as I have no trouble spinning the tires from a dead stop, even in dry conditions, if I'm too heavy on the gas pedal. Engine sound is aggressive.

Suspension is good, maybe a bit soft around corners, but I have never felt that the van was in danger of rolling over. Turning radius is a bit wide, but that is to be expected from such a large vehicle.

Fuel mileage is an issue, I estimate 15-18 mpg, though I drive fast, which may contribute to the poor efficiency.

Cargo room is excellent, seats are easy to remove and install. I fit four people, two weeks worth of camping supplies and gear, including five large plastic bins full of clothing, shovels, rakes, wooden poles, five tents (one of which was enormous), two large pavilions, a dozen tiki torches and 6 gallons of fuel, three coolers, two large folding tables, two small folding tables, five camp chairs, six folding metal chairs, a hammock, four sleeping bags, four air mattresses, and several other small things, all inside the van, without having to resort to the roof rack, and STILL had enough space to see out the rear window. Granted, this was when the transmission died, but it had already been having problems and had survived through two owners.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 27th October, 2006

27th Oct 2006, 22:46

The Windstar is a very UNDER RATED vehicle. They are usually very reliable. The transmission failure is most likely due to a lack of recommended maintenance at the 50,000 mile mark, especially if it had been used in heavy towing. As a mechanic, it surprises me to see any well-maintained Ford product have ANY problems before 100,000 to 150,000 miles. I've seem some go well over 300,000 miles with only routine maintenance.

1998 Ford Windstar GL 3.0L from North America




Hot cold switch failed.

Door and hatch contacts failed.

Power window locked up.

Water leak at driver side seat belt and second row seat bealt.

Mystery squeal at pulley.

Transmission failing.

Head gasket starting to leak.

General Comments:

This is my wifes car. She went from an 87 Monte Carlo SS to the mini van when our family grew. She was not happy becoming a mini van mom. She has since changed her mind and loves the mini van. The exception is the constantly failing door contacts. Transmission is now failing at only 64,000 miles, And the mystery squeal. The other problems I repaired myself and consider them annoying. I am not going to rave about USA cars or Japanese. They both have there great ones and there Junkers. The Ford Ranger lasted 224,000 with only maintenance items needing repair. It was a standard transmission and the clutch needed replacing at 99,0000 and again at 210,000. It was still running great when I sold it. The Fiesta I drove into the dirt. The Datsun had 200,000 plus miles. The Monte Carlo had 99,000 when I sold it. All were good cars and served me well.

However. The transmission problems, which Ford has, know about in prior years and the head gasket. Let us not forget the mystery squeal at the pulley that caused me to replace the water pump, which turns out is the head gasket leaking and getting on the belt, which slipped momentarily. I found fluid on the water pump and figured it had to be the cause. Hey water pump, been there done that, no big deal. Not until you find out the engine has to be raised 2 inches to remove the water pump. Oh well, it's a mini van with everything crammed half way under the dash, what do you expect. I knew working on it wouldn't be easy.

The door and hatch contacts are another story all there own. I can't tell you how many times I have polished and cleaned them to get them working for a while. After several attempts I could no longer fix the sliding door contacts or the back hatch. I disconnected one of the rear hatch connectors and jumped the sliding door. Now the interior light doesn't work when you open the side door and the other rear hatch contact is starting to fail. I personally know others with the same problem.

We are currently looking at buying another mini van. I am reviewing the web sites to basically see which model has the least significant complaints. As of this writing I am not sure which one my wife will fall in love with. She is leaning toward the Odyssey. We still have test drives to go on and research to do. I will say that the premature failure of the Windstar transmission problem, the head gasket and door contact have left a bad taste in my mouth and is not in the consideration. If Ford gave me a new Freestar to review I would take it. I'm not crazy, but not with my $25,000 to $30,000 hard earned dollars. I know its only three problems, but they are major expense problems and should not happen to so many with so few miles. Well maintained miles I might add. Good luck with the new model mini van Ford, I will have to read in the future how others faired. It won't be me.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 19th August, 2006

8th Sep 2006, 19:12

My 98 Windstar was great at first, but it has had some problems. Such as the Tranny going at 172,000 KM's, and the Power Steering going at 200,000 Kms. There have been lots of minor things. But I have found since I first owned it, that it had way too many computer glitches, which was very annoying! I like how the van drives, the steering is a bit to tight, but the rest of it is great. It quite powerful for a van too, passing is quite easy.

31st Aug 2008, 03:31

Trans went out in Disney world at 72000 miles. 2 weeks after I had it into the dealers I bought it from for maintenance service. $3000.00 and ended our vacation. No problems until it went out. No warnings at all.

Now at 123000 miles, head gasket. If Ford has a better idea they should let us know cause this idea of theirs is not working. Looking at Toyota or Mazda. Never owned a rice burner, but too old to be laying under a car every weekend.