We just sent the last payment on our 1999 Ford Windstar to Ford Motor Credit last week. In California a smog test is required in order to license a car when it turns four years old. To my complete surprise, our car failed its first smog test with less than 33,000 miles showing on the odometer. Other than the three recalls that were performed, routine oil changes and a defective side door switch I repaired myself, we have never had any indications of problems. A nuisance check engine light came on but was reset once by the dealer. It came on about a month ago, but I thought I would have it checked at the next service occasion. As it turned out, the light was on because the plastic intake manifold on the 3.8 L engine was cracked.
We took it to the local dealer for repair and was shocked by the $1300.00 repair estimate. What could we do? It had to be fixed in order to get the smog certificate and license renewal. I ordered the repair which was expected to be completed the next day. The following day I received a call from the dealership's service department. I was told that a problem came up with the car. When the technician did a test drive after replacing the manifold, the transmission failed. The service representative although apologetic, said that Ford would offer us a $1200.00 discount on a $2600.00 transmission replacement.
Whoa!!! We have never experienced any indication of transmission problems. Now, while the car is in the service shop it suddenly experiences a complete transmission failure with less than 33,000 miles on it. Normally a car has 36,000 miles or more on it by the end of the 36 month warranty. We drive carefully and conservatively so in four years, we have yet to reach that milestone.
Even with Ford's "generous" offer of a $1200.00 discount on the transmission replacement, it seems that what should have been a $65.00 smog check has exploded to about $2700.00. I have purchased three new Ford vehicles over the past six years. I am returning to the imports and I would strongly recommend any reader of this article to do the same. My recent research has pointed to excessive numbers of head gasket, manifold and transmission failures in the Windstar vehicle line. Watch out for this lemon!!!