April 26

How Reliable Are Ford Cars?

Ford Cars


Mark: Hi, its Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC, talking about cars. We're going to talk reliability of Ford cars this morning. How you doing, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well, Mark.

Mark: So, there's lots of Ford cars out there. We've talked a lot about trucks, but not much about cars yet. What do you think about their cars overall?

Bernie: I'd say they're mixed. Some of them are pretty good, some of them are not so good. I mean, Ford's been around for a long time and we've been working on Ford cars for a long time, so we've got pretty good experience with them. But yeah, overall I'd say they're mixed.

Mark: All right. So let's talk maybe some different models. The Taurus was very popular for a long time, but now there's not so many of them it seems like on the road. How have Taurus' been?

Bernie: I think Taurus' are mixed, in my opinion. I remember when they first came out when I was younger, and they were the most bizarre looking car. I remember thinking, "Man, these things are ugly," and it didn't take long ... I think they were just so far ahead of their game in terms of styling that soon they become the norm, and a lot of cars look like them, and when you look at a first generation Taurus now you go, "What an old looking thing," but when that car was new it was pretty amazing, the styling. Nonetheless, the old generations, I would say weren't that reliable. After a while they'd develop fluid leaks from all over the place. Remember replacing rack and pinions, and just oil leaks, there's a whole variety of issues, water pump, coolant leaks.

Of course, with cars it's always good to put things into context of the era, I mean cars are just a lot more reliable now than they used to be back in the 80s when those cars came out. We'll talk sort of newer Taurus', maybe around the late 90s, 2000s models. Overall not bad cars, but you really need to know which ones to buy. Say, for instance, say around the 2000 model year, three liter engine Taurus, the ones with the pushrod engines, very reliable, not a lot of engine problems. If you bought a 3.8 liter blown head gaskets are a problem. The three liter, the performance model with the overhead cams, again, issues with those. So, if you know which car to buy it's not a bad buy. There's a lot of things that do go wrong with them, there's coolant leaks, there's brakes wear out like they do on any car, nothing in particular. Again, the key thing is to do your research and buy the right car.

One example of a Taurus, we have a client, it's got over 300,000 kilometers on it, it's around a 2000 Taurus, early 2000s. He's meticulous with his maintenance, he does everything, and the car still drives like a brand new car. It's an example, even a car that's maybe not got the best reputation, if you take good care of it, you do all the work, it'll last you a long time. What you give to the car it gives back to you. Now, Taurus' don't seem to be so popular these days. We don't see many in our shop, any of the newer versions yet, but certainly some of the older ones. They need more work than your average car.

Mark: All right. What about Crown Victorias? They were very popular with the police and folks who like rear wheel drive vehicles. How's their record of repairs?

Bernie: They're pretty good, but they share a lot of drivetrain components as with the trucks. The V8 engine's one of the issues, they do blow the odd spark plug out in the earlier models, so that's one issue to deal with with Crown Victorias. Overall they're a pretty good car. There's some plastic components like intake manifold, and things where you'll develop vacuum leaks or coolant leaks, and that makes for an expensive repair. If someone wants your sort of traditional American rear wheel drive gas guzzling boaty kind of car, they're a pretty good option and actually one of the only ones left, because Chrysler and GM don't make that kind of thing. The reliability's pretty good considering the police use them and yeah. Overall, a good car if you want to go for something like that.

Mark: All right, let's move to the Mustang, that's been around since 1964. Awful long time. Where do you want to start with those?

Bernie: Well, start at the beginning. Pretty amazing car right from the beginning, and I would say up until the early 70s pretty nice car, pretty reliable considering the era. A lot of very beautiful looking cars, the fastbacks, the convertibles, fantastic. A lot of very fast ones, too. Very desirable. Of course, if you want an every day driving car you don't want to buy a '65 mustang, because it's just a little too old.

Good running car, we just had a client with a '72 Mustang who we did a bunch of work for, and I was amazed. Simple technology, two barrel carburetor, nothing fancy, the car starts nice, drives well. Again, it's a 1972, so you don't expect modern technology and air bags and all that kind of stuff, even the seatbelts are just lap belts. But just a nice driving, easy to drive, nice running car.

Getting into more modern Mustang, lets move up a couple of decades, around the 80s. Pretty horrible cars, like a lot of American cars. They're pretty horrible, lackluster styling, not a lot of performance and reliability, just a lot of problems with a variety of things. The one thing I do remember Mustangs for sort of around the 80s is the heater cores were really easy to replace. You could remove the glove box, slide the heater core out, something like less than an hour you could change a heater core, which is miraculous because a lot of cars it takes you a day or two to actually take the whole dash apart and change the heater core. They seem to fail a lot more back then, though, and I was thinking about it. Probably modern antifreeze technology cooling system components last a lot longer, whereas back then antifreeze would start attacking your coolant component and cause more leaks, so things have improved. Newer Mustangs, yeah, pretty good cars. We don't really see a lot of issues with them. They're good.

Mark: And maybe lastly, the Ford Fusion, I guess. I think we're going to talk about the Focus, too, but let's stick to the Fusion for now. How are those vehicles?

Bernie: Yeah, we'll talk about the Fusion and get onto the Focus. Fusion, not a great car. There's a lot of issues with these, like throttle body problems, this'll cause your vehicle ... You're driving, all of the sudden the vehicle just won't accelerate and it'll go into a fail safe mode, so there's a lot of issues with those. The other issues with Fusions that are very common are steering rack failures. These vehicles use electronic power steering, which is pretty common in a lot of cars, but there's a lot of failures with the electric power steering unit. So, again, it'll go into a manual steering mode, which is not great. So, I mean, it's not that the car fails to steer, but you just have a manual armstrong steering. My impression of the Fusion is it's a car that uses modern technology like a lot of other vehicles, but for some reason they kind of got it wrong. There's a lot of problems with it, so it would be a car I would avoid.

Mark: And the Focus?

Bernie: Probably not a car I would avoid. Focuses are a cheap car, but they're fairly reliable. They do have a few issues that we see reoccurring. Things like they'll develop coolant leaks from plastic thermostat housings, that's one issue that we see a lot of. Oil leaks develop after a while, usually valve cover gaskets, though, so they're not that hard to fix. Other than that, sort of normal brake wear, and some of the steering suspension components wear out over time. The Focus is one of those cars that just keeps getting better year over year. The Focus, it's a successor of the Escort, which was really kind of a piece of crap. Although we do have one customer who's got an older one that she keeps pretty good care of and it seems to be pretty reliable, but Escort, they had a lot of head gasket problems and things. Focuses don't have that, they're much more reliable. I'd say if you're looking for a low priced sort of economical car, Focus is a good one. Not as reliable as a Corolla, but usually a lot less money to buy, so you're further ahead of the game.

Mark: So, what about ... I'm going to toss a little bit of a wildcard at you. Ford has had some pretty horrific engineering failures over the years, and they've started another one with Fusions and Focuses where they're catching on fire again, they just issued a massive recall for those. How's Ford's engineering overall?

Bernie: I'd say mixed. We've talked about some of their trucks, the F350s with the six liter diesels, which I think are a kind of disgusting failure in terms of engineering, and just so many problems. The V8 engines with blowing spark plugs and seizing spark plugs. The 3.8 liter V6, which we touched on earlier in the Taurus, but also in Mustangs, they used them in a lot of different cars, chronic head gasket failures. You'd almost be guaranteed of a head gasket problem in those vehicles. So, I'd say Ford engineering is mixed. You get some cars that a really reliable, a lot of transmission problems in Fords, too, over a variety of models, too, which we didn't talk about earlier. I'd say they're mixed.

The Fords marketing department is fantastic, though, because they keep selling cars and they keep doing pretty well. I remember when they had all these problems with the 3.8 liter engine with the head gaskets, the problem was so bad they actually offered people $5,000 trade in credit on their vehicle. This would be over and above the trade in they give an extra 5,000 bucks to buy another Ford car, and I kept thinking, "Who would want to buy one after all those problems?" But it actually worked, it kind of kept the issue low profile, people don't really ever talk about it anymore. And I had a lot of clients who had those vehicles that actually bought new Ford products, so it worked. But overall, I'd say their engineering's mixed, but they're not the only ones, we can talk about other manufacturers.

Mark: Of course. So there you go, if you have a Ford that you're looking for service in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. You can reach them at 604-327-7112. You must book ahead for an appointment, or check out their website pawlikautomotive.com. Thank a lot, Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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