By on January 27, 2010

TTAC Commentator sastexan writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Long time fan, never called in.  Here’s my problem hope the TTAC community can help with – my sister’s ’01 Escape 2WD 68k miles with the Duratec 3.0 V6 threw a P0304 (Cylinder 4 misfire) as she was driving up to Dallas from Austin for Thanksgiving (as she was stuck in traffic around Temple).  She said car was running fine, so I said no worries keep driving but keep engine speed down.  Indeed, the misfire was apparent when the engine hit around 4000 RPM – violent stuttering.  Replaced the ignition coil, no effect, and the spark plug was clean.  Ford dealer pulled valve cover off and said no springs broken, so did compression test – one of the exhaust valves is leaking, 22%.  Rest of the engine is fine.  Maintained perfectly.

Mechanic (gotta love a service adviser that you can drag back into the shop to deal with mechanic directly) said that he has seen a number of these Duratec V-6 engines with a number 4 cylinder problem – one or two valve springs but generally exhaust valve leak, probably hot spot (it is the outer edge of the engine, although on the radiator side).  They said you need to replace the entire head (and all the gaskets of course associated) to the tune of $3600.  My issue is – especially for my sister who just graduated from grad school and is job searching still – is it really worth it?  A full reman engine with a full warranty from Ford couldn’t be that much more, could it?  I don’t think (operating) the car is worth more than $5k or $6k.  Although she really loves the car.

Sajeev replies:

I cannot question the service advisor’s logical diagnosis, not to mention your fair analysis of the situation.  Yes, head swaps on the Duratec are not worth the cash. My advice is simple, stemming from my somewhat positive assessment of the 3.0L Duratec on the road and on the Internet: throw a low-mileage junkyard motor (usually sold with everything except the wiring) at the problem instead.

There’s a method to the madness, because the Duratec is a throw away motor. For example, the cost of replacing all the torque to yield bolts for a head swap will be $50 by itself.  Add new gaskets, and the insane amount of labor on a transverse-mounted DOHC V6 and you’re deeper than the average $800 asking price for a low-mile take out motor from a reputable automotive recycler like LKQ or

I am sure an honest mechanic can perform a junkyard motor swap in a day, including a compression test to verify the motor’s condition.  And it will cost about $2000 for everything, including a 6-12 month warranty.

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64 Comments on “Piston Slap: Escaping A Duratec Headache?...”

  • avatar

    Without engine issues, the vehicle is worth about $6,000. Sell it on craigslist disclosing all issues for $3,000 (or whatever you can get) and find another car. I would not spend the money, time and effort involved with swapping engines or fixing heads. What’s your time worth dealing with it?


    • 0 avatar

      Doing two swaps on an ’88 cougar, I have to agree.

      I only say this based on Sajeev’s comment:
      “I am sure an honest mechanic can perform a junkyard motor swap in a day, including a compression test to verify the motor’s condition. And it will cost about $2000 for everything, including a 6-12 month warranty.”

      I had a good, honest mechanic years ago . . . he now runs a greenhouse. Never found one since. —- it’s just an awful lot of money to put in the hands of someone you NEED to be straight and honest with you.


      The maniac in me sees an opportunity:
      If you’re swapping the engine out . . .what else would fit for the same labor? :D

    • 0 avatar


      Ouch! You got me! NOT

      Your a known Ford flamer on the site.. “dash is of cheaper plastic than ANY GM built in the past 15 years”….are you for real man??

      Otherwise hows mother?

  • avatar

    Duratec motors, which Ford is still producing en masse, are utter garbage.

    Ford has gotten a total free pass from the main stream media and even automotive specialty rags regarding both the piss poor reliability and refinement (lack of) on the Duracrap V6s.

    Almost any other V6 on the market today is more efficient, more reliable and more refined than Ford’s bastard child of a V6.

    • 0 avatar

      … except for none of that is true.

      The current Duratec 3.0 found in the Escape makes 240hp and gets class competitive fuel economy. Compared to V6 engines in competing models the power output is on par per liter with any of the others.

      The Duratec 3.5 and 3.7, which are nearly brand new (only been out since ’07) are great engines that are happy to rev up, provide great power and torque curves, and as seen under the EcoBoost variants, have a lot of performance potential with some modding.

      Reliability is very good overall for both engines. Looking at TrueDelta the current (2009 and on on the Escape, 2010 and on with the Fusion) Duratec 30 and Duratec 35 are just as dependable as powerplants from Toyota or Honda vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      The data you are using only compares newly designed engines less than 4 years old. The newer 3.0 finally got variable valve timing when competitors had it in their comparable engines several years before Ford finally added it. The 3.5 Duratec is the new Cyclone engine and is not a Duratec design. The engine at issue is the old 3.0 Duratec Ford has been producing since the 90’s (not the same engine) and before they added variable valve timing. It made 200-220 hp and sold in a wide variety of cars and crossovers.

      Ford has had a lot of issues with these motors and the auto transmissions. The newer Cougar was well known to have a 50% transmission failure rate – no warranty was ever extended for these transmissions. Many sub 100k motors have this head issue and no recall was ever issues to address this. Toyota had the engine sludge issues and Honda with v6 transmission failures which people raked them over the coals for but the problems with Duratec 30 and the 4 speed auto were just as bad or higher – but somehow Ford got a pass with the problems. Do I even have to note the SVT Duratec motors and their problems and poor design? Trying to make an engine with poor NVH rev high was never a good idea.

    • 0 avatar

      Right on Snap.

      My mom’s 2001 Escape needed lower intake manifold gaskets, spark plugs, upper intake gaskets, water pump, long before any competent engine would need them.

      Add to that the V8 mileage and the excessive noise and you have one poor engine.

      But the engine (half-assed design) is just one component of the whole vehicle…which was terribly designed. There is no noise insulation at all, road noise is terrible, there is ONE single dome light for the passenger area, when you lock the windows, even the driver cannot roll down the windows (how moronic is that?), the dash is of cheaper plastic than ANY GM built in the past 15 years, you can only change the front parking/turn bulb by removing the inner fender, the arm rests are rock-hard plastic, the doors sound like they are made of tin foil, and so much more. The fact that the Escape was class competitive when it was first introduced really shows how low the bar really was.

      And the new Escapes are virtually the same as the 2001s. Fisher price interior, lackluster driving manners, poor engines, etc.

    • 0 avatar

      “Ford has had a lot of issues with these motors and the auto transmissions. The newer Cougar was well known to have a 50% transmission failure rate”

      So what your saying is those transmission failure rates can be directly attributed to the motor? Are you familiar with the crappy 4 speed autos that Ford recently phased out?

      Duratecs are unreliable? I’ve had 3: 3.0 with 115K, a 2.5 with low mileage and a 3.0 PIP with 55K no of which have given me issues. Is there some hard data out there that claims otherwise?

      The 3.0 is an unrefined unit, especially at higher RPMS but cruising it’s about on par with everything else. Outside of refinement these engines are competitive in terms of fuel economy and performance. The only stand out in terms of fuel economy in the midsize car segment (V6s at least) is the Accord (and we all know why that is the case).

    • 0 avatar

      “Ford has had a lot of issues with these motors and the auto transmissions. The newer Cougar was well known to have a 50% transmission failure rate”

      As Maxwell Smart’s antagonists would say “I find that hard to believe”. Do you have a reference for this claim? Even Chrysler’s A604 debacle had a failure rate of “only” 17-18%, mostly due to having the wrong fluid added.

    • 0 avatar

      Though the Duratec 30 was an average engine it was a much better engine than the Essex and Vulcan v6 engines it replaced. Ford spend a lot of time getting a modern (all aluminum) DOHC v6 in their lineup and hurried leading to several problems.

      Here’s a laundry list of common Duratec 30 problems:
      – intermittent ignition problems & power loss
      – intake manifold leaks
      – loss of compression leading to very rough running engine (traced back to one of Ford’s first all aluminum engine problems and poor cooling design which was been resolved in the modern engines)
      – rough shifting I believe with the AX4N transmission.
      – catalytic converter / exhaust problems

      I’m trying to find the Mercury Cougar information – there was an owners message board I was researching 3-4 years back where most of the owners had failures (it was alarmingly high). It had to do with how Ford made changes to the to faster shifting in order to increase acceleration and aggressiveness. However now looking back at it I could not expect it to be so high (however personal experience with a local guy has had 3 transmissions before 100k miles – 3rd one was installed just before sold). Anyway, the Cougar was basically a Contour coupe with the Duratec 25.

      For some reason the Mazda AJ (same motor) had very little of these problems. We figure it was b/c Mazda spent more time doing a better quality testing.

    • 0 avatar

      “For some reason the Mazda AJ (same motor) had very little of these problems. We figure it was b/c Mazda spent more time doing a better quality testing.”

      Forgive my ignorance, but was Mazda utilizing the same transmissions as their Ford counterparts?

      And in listing common Duratec 30 issues, which Duratec 30s are your referencing?

    • 0 avatar

      The issues were more common with the earlier motors. As is normal with Ford they work out many issues over time unless the design was completely defective from the start then they just hope it does not become a big black eye – see cruise control devices and 16M trucks / cars recalled over several years.

      Transmissions can be programmed – the Mazda’s likely used the same transmission but had different programming and may have made slight updates to the consumables within.

      Mazdas aren’t without their faults…ever try to modify a MazdaSpeed 6? Don’t even try b/c the car will likely break. The ECU is so tapered down you do anything other than some very small bolt ons (such as catback or BOV) it will quickly throw codes or act funny. From the factory it runs ok but is not friendly to modification.

  • avatar
    George B

    If the Duratec 3.0 is a throw away motor, why not just drive it until it fails and then install a recycled motor? Delay spending $2000.

    NulloModo, the Toyota/Honda reliability standard is 10 or more years of vehicle use with no major expensive repairs. Just change fluids and replace tires and brake pads. TrueDelta data for year old vehicles doesn’t prove long-term reliability.

    • 0 avatar

      Good point. But this motor has been around for 13 years in the three liter configuration.

      So how durable is the 1996-2005 Taurus with the Duratec 3.0? I’ve seen a couple with well over 100k and needed nothing but tune-up stuff. One of them finally died at 220k because the owner wouldn’t put another Ford transaxle in it. (And who can blame him for that?)

    • 0 avatar

      A lit CEL is an instant fail for OBDII cars in some state inspections.

    • 0 avatar

      @Sajeev Mehta – The 1996 Taurus 3.0 Liter Duratec, that I traded in for an ’05 Montego, was one of the, 130K of sales rep hard city driving, with nothing but basic maintenance. No tranny trouble either.

  • avatar
    Tiger Commanche

    I replaced the same ignition coil on my duratec at about the same mileage. Be happy it was one on the front of the engine – the rear ones are a pain to get at. I did not consider having a compression test done, and now you have me worried. I’m at 83K miles, and if your sister plans on keeping the car she should prepare for O2 sensor and/or cat problems in the near future. That could be up to a $2K investment if she has to pass emmissions in her area, or a $4.00 workaround like I did. And I need to replace my oil pan gasket whenever the weather warms up enough for me to tolerate 4 hours on my garage floor. Yes, an oil pan gasket. Like how is that even a real thing to do on a car with 83K miles? Anyway, the 02 sensor issue may not necessarily be “duratec” related, but thought I would mention it nonetheless. I have an ’03 MPV.

    • 0 avatar

      Eh, the japanese makes have loads of O2 failures – my mom’s ’96 I30 (Maxima) had each one go out 2-3 weeks apart in successive order at about 55k miles. O2 sensors aren’t that expensive nor difficult to replace (besides transverse mounted engines in a crowded engine bay).

    • 0 avatar

      I replaced both O2 sensors 3.0 Duratec 05 Sable. Front easy access. Did the rear without removing intake manifold. Difficult part is one hand separating the plug. Practice on front sensor. Easy access with slotted socket.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    The name says DURATEC. DURABLE TECHNOLOGY, so it must be good.
    Just perhaps not good enough on cylinder #4. But, hey, 5 out of 6 is good enough for 68K miles! Your engine warranty expires at 60K, right?
    Ford did its part.

  • avatar

    First, more information on how the “22% exhaust valve leakage” was determined. A normal compression test does not determine the source of leakage. Was a “leakdown” or “differential compression” test performed?

    If the exhaust valves are indeed leaking I would venture to say that a valve job (just on #4 if that is known to be especially troublesome) would be much cheaper than either a new head or a used engine. If it lasts another 68,000 miles, well that’s not too awful.

    • 0 avatar

      IIRC the problem is with the warping of the head which goes beyond what you can do milling and getting a valve job. You maybe able to have custom made valves to better seal the affected cylinder but that is probably expensive.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with most of what TR4 said. Take the head to a machine shop. If it is in fact warped, they will be able to resurface it flat. Since it has gone through 68K miles and 9 years of heat cycles, it should be pretty stable now, and not likely to warp again. That along with valve jobs on all the valves will yield a very solid repair. The mechanic will also have to replace the intake manifold gaskets. You should now have a solid vehicle. The 3.0 Duratec isn’t as bad as some here are making it out to be.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Reading comments about Ford engine defects puts Toyota’s ePedal issue into perspective, except the Ford is unlikely to accelerate at all.

  • avatar

    I thought the engine issues common with Escapes were due to the CatExhaust design?

    Aside from some early issue with Duratec 2.5’s, I haven’t heard many negatives about Duratecs.
    The one in my Mazda6 is holding up after 3.5 years 40K.

    My friend who is a shop owner has never said anything negative about them and if I see a Duratec engined car in his shop it is usually a mid to late 90’s Taurus and even I can’t recall talk about motor issues.

    • 0 avatar

      The 2.5L Contour/Mystique/Cougar has that problem. Never heard about any 3.0L powered Ford with it, there might be a unique exhaust manifold for these small Fords: not a stretch to consider, given the tiny engine bay.

  • avatar

    My experience disagrees with the negative comments about the Duratec 3.0’s reliability. I am currently driving a 2002 Taurus Wagon with the Duratec and the AX4N transmission. The car has driven 160,000 hard, rural miles and the engine and transmission have worked very well since I bought the car over 100,000 miles ago. Although I would agree with the characterization of the engine as “rough” and “unrefined”, it has been as reliable as my ’92 Honda’s engine to this point. That and it does average 22 – 24 mpg, not bad for a wagon.

  • avatar

    Typical Ford bashing going on here. Based on anecdotal evidence never the less. The 3.0 Duratec was highly praised when it was first available in 1996. The engine is a modern design, and while NVH is not the best it’s certainly better than than other V6s from the D in that era. If anecdotal evidence is all it takes around here to bash something into the ground, I would use that same logic to say that I have 10 friends with various cars that have 3.0 Duratec (2 Mazda 6, 2 Escapes, 3 Fusion/Milan, and 3 Taurus) with between 70k and 165k on the clock that have had 0 issues with engine internals on their cars. All of the Taurus did have trans issues though (but not the other cars on this list).

    As for the other stuff that is lumped into this thread. What do spark plugs, cats, O2 sensors, timing belts and water pumps have to do with reliability??? Those are normal wear and tear items on ANY car. I’ve seen cats go on most cars with > 100k. Spark plugs should be replaced at 60-100k if platinum and more often if not. Timing belts and water pumps should be replaced at 60-100k depending on vehicle. Failure to do maintenace on your vehicle is not the manufacturer’s fault.

  • avatar

    I don’t get why a head has to be replaced because a valve is leaking or burned.

    • 0 avatar

      Totally agree. I just fixed an SVT Focus whos owner neglected to change the timing belt after 130K hard miles. Every valve was bent, and the VVT solenoid was horked up bad. All the machine work to fix the head was less than $500, including the VVT parts. I am slow. It took me 3 hours to pull the head, and 3 to replace and retime it.

      Are we losing the ability to train folks in basic auto mechanics? It’s pretty sad.

  • avatar

    If it was my vehicle, I would pull the head and get it repaired for a few hundred bucks, or less. Radiator side? Easy access. If you are not mechanically inclined, there are many out of work ASE cerified mechanics and idle machine shops that would tackle this job for FAR less money. Craigslist Automotive Services is your friend. Ask to see any potential wrenches paperwork and licenses.

    Swapping the engine with an unknown junker motor when this is the only problem is a terrible (and costly) idea.

  • avatar

    I think that gearheads (like Sajeev) grossly overestimate the ability of a common citizen, even one who knows a hood from a fender, to pull off stunts like replacing a motor. Until I read this article, I did not even know that LKQ or were supposed to be reputable! And finding a honest (honest!) mechanic who can swap a motor in a day (!), that’s just plain insane. Of course they exist, but to find them is a different issue entirely. Even if you can find an honest one, I don’t know just how he would do it (correctly) even with having all the parts and tools on hand. I once swapped a motor in Neon and it was a months-long ordeal.

    So I suggest going with Two’s suggestion about Craigslist.

    {Not going to comment on misfire: the only time I had one it was when the dealship mechanic forgot to clip the harness right and an injector’s connector worked itself lose to create an intermittent connection. Yes, the only time. So I don’t know squat about misfires.}

  • avatar
    George in Georgia

    Interesting thread. I had a ’96 Contour SE with the 2.5 Duratec. I drove it to over 180K miles, then gave it to my daughter and her then-husband for round-town use. The only engine work it needed was replacing the waterpump, which had a plastic impellor (what was Ford thinking!) which would quietly disintegrate. No damage done, thankfully. There was some oil leakage, which I carefully monitored, and a rattle on the first startup after sitting all night. I suspected that the hydraulic timing chain tensioner was leaking down overnight. With well over 100K when these things occured I was well satisfied.

    And yes, I told Mike, my then son-in-law, about all these possible problem points.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m in the same boat. The 2.5 duratec in my ’01 Cougar just turned over 200,000 miles last weekend. Other that routine engine maintenance, it has only needed an ignition coil, a radiator hose and an IAC — all well north of 150k. It uses about 1.5 quarts between oil changes, which I assume is a leak, but haven’t bothered to track down. And it still gets the same gas mileage (~26 mpg in mixed driving) that it got when new. Sounds like some people had trouble with the automatic; my standard tranny has been trouble free, and I got 196k out of the original clutch.

      Not “utter garbage” in my book.

    • 0 avatar

      I, too, have a Duratec V6 – 2.5L in the Contour SVT. Over 132k and nary an engine issue. Well, the engine itself – few sensors went out (O2, crankshaft positioning, IAC) and one vacuum leak from a failed gasket – but relatively minor over 12 years. And I’m hard on it – I track it, plus as daily driver it spends plenty of time with both intake runners open just to hear it wind out.

      I also have used Mobil 1 since about 12k miles and am religious about maintenance. Replaced the water pump as preventative maintenance due to the aforementioned plastic impeller, among other items. I’ve sent off the oil for analysis 3 times – each time, clean as a whistle, no wear issues, plus never used a drop of oil between (extended due to analysis) changes.

      I find it interesting that the mechanic specifically pointed out the #4 cylinder exhaust valve as having seen it before – the furthest on the passenger radiator side of the engine – and said he thought there was a cooling problem. Did Ford change the design of the oil passages in ’02 or ’03, or the radiator placement, or grill design?

  • avatar
    Andy D

    It maybe apples and oranges but I had similar problem with burnt exhaust valves in a Honda 4 banger. I replaced the valves for about 300$ worth of parts. I dont know how bad off the valves are , but if you caught the trouble early enough, maybe just adjusting the affected valve’s clearance would help it.

  • avatar

    First, thanks to all for replying and advice. Here’s what we did and why (I’m on kid duty right now so will respond more in full later this evening):

    We decided to have them pull the head to see if we could get lucky and it was a valve spring. Surprise, it wasn’t. Yes, they had done a leakdown test and that’s how they came up with the 22% rate. At this point we were $400 into it ($100 diag plus 3 hours pulling head) so I asked for a full written estimate detailing everything they would do, parts, shop hours, etc. After reviewing I told him we would not agree to more than $3000 for the repair and I expected them to fix the rear windshield wiper and give a full detail, inside and out. He agreed to it. They also warrantied their work and parts for 12 mos / 12k miles with any other Ford dealer.

    Car now looks like it’s new (they did a great job detailing, clean engine bay, just like prepping for used car sale) and drives well. Engine smooth, no codes after 1000 miles, no oil burning or leaking that we can find. My sister is happy, although she has a (interest free) loan to pay back the parentals. They all feel better with the known of this car rather than the unknown of another used car.

    I had him keep the valves from that cylinder – one of the exhaust valves is visibly burned and warped. Easy to tell it was the issue. Reason replaced whole head is Ford replacement head has all valves, springs installed and warrantied – and a few people (including dealer) said attempting to redo aluminum heads was a losing battle.

    Anyone know if this is a common cooling problem with this engine like the mechanic asserted?

    • 0 avatar

      People think of aluminum heads wrong. The valve seats are still hardened steel, and valve guides are a brass or bronze alloy. You “new” head is also most likely rebuilt anyway. OEMs rebuild many of these products too, just in their larger facilities. As I said earlier, this is ultimately better than a new casting, because it has gone through many heating and cooling cycles, and is more stable now.

  • avatar

    I don’t know where you get your data Z71; I haven’t heard anything bad about the 3.0 Duratec. I’ve got an Escape with 110K miles and haven’t had one single problem with it, plus i regularly get 24-25 mpg on road trips, and that’s with only a 4 speed AT so i don’t know waht you mean by “V8 mileage”. oh, that’s right, you hate Fords

  • avatar

    “Although she really loves the car.”

    I could not love a car that kicked me in the nuts with a major engine issue with only 68k miles on it.

    I would set it on fire and piss on its ashes.

  • avatar

    My mother had a 2002 Taurus with the Duratec and when she got rid of the car in 2007 with 60,000 miles it, it had no engine or transmission problems.

    Funny story though; I remember right after we bought the car we opened the hood while the engine was running and it sounded so quiet and smooth. My mother said it’s just like a Japanese engine. Little did I know when I bought my 2004 V6 Accord what a Japanese engine sounded like. I nicknamed the Taurus “The Tractor” after that. Still, the Accord gave me more problems than my mother’s Taurus gave her.

    • 0 avatar

      One of my neighbors has a 2002 Accord that spends more time in the shop than my 1996 Taurus ever did before I traded it in, and more time than my wife’s 2002 Escape, which hasn’t given her any trouble in a 100K miles.

  • avatar

    Hello All! Several points here:
    The Duratec/AJ engine was a collaboration of Ford and PORSCHE.
    The usual cause of the missfire codes are coils, spark plugs–and a broken wire in the wiring loom at the engine control unit which is in the firewall. This usually results in a PO305(missfire #5 cyl).
    A missfire for #4(PO304), and a high leakdown rate as posted has, in some cases been traced to soft camshafts. Allow me to explain:
    The cams can develop an indent at the base circle just before or after the cam lobe. The hydraulic lifter pumps up to make up the difference in clearance. The causes a valve to be held off its seat as the lifter is now “too tall”. I have personally dealt with 2 of these instances.
    Another item to be aware of–using a good air filter. Some filters are too flexible, and pulsate with intake resonances inside the air cleaner housing.Since the aiflow meter in the Escape/Tribute sameples some, but not all the air, this flexibility of the element causes pulses which confuse the airflow meter. Again, I have personally dealt with more than 4 of these instances.
    Replacing the rear spark plugs is a 20-minute deal–merely remove the 2 EGR bolts at the upper intake plenum, take out the 8 bolts, and bungee the upper plenum to the hood striker. Work below the plenum, not a bad job at all.
    The oil pan is likewise fairly easy if you cut the hex nuts off the front exhaust junction( the oem nuts seize on the studs), remove the rubber cover in front of the torque converter area, and remove the lower pan shield at front and tghe rest of the bolts. The gasket is aluminum with embossed neoprene, but the replacement pan(yes, the drain plug threads strip out all the time) has a captured o-ring type gasket–much better.
    The upper and lower intake gaskets do develop vacuum leaks, but with patience, bungee cords, and 2 cans of throttle body cleaner, even that isnt a big deal.

  • avatar

    I doubt this additional information about the service adviser would surprise most of the people on this site, but figured I’d post this caution anyways. The guy (very friendly, not the most knowledgeable about mechanical issues when pressed) said he had to type up the estimate in a word document – he couldn’t generate it from their system. When he said that, all the red flags went up and I went on high alert. With good reason – the markup over standard MSRP for the parts was preposterous (I buy all my Ford parts from another Ford dealer who gives me a nice discount so easy to look up the MSRP) – plus, the number of shop hours was bogus. He claimed the mechanic put the estimate together and the shop hours was from Mitchell – but alldata had the same repair on a Tribute for 7.5 hours less – nothing to shake a stick at. I told him I understood if they charged MSRP for the parts, but there was not a chance in hell we would pay more for the parts and the number of hours to pull the front head off (didn’t have to take the engine out even) was ludicrous. Hence, he agreed to knock off about $700 and throw in the other repair and detail job as I caught him with his pants down (and the work performed so far would not be charged additional, included as diagnostic fee – since we had agreed to $400, that meant even if we took it somewhere else would have had to been $400 plus tow less than what they charged – so didn’t seem to be worth it, with them backing up their work and Ford’s part).

    Lesson – ALWAYS insist on written estimate from an actual system and verify.

  • avatar

    Sastexan, no, ‘taint me.
    But I do work on these vehicles most every day, been with Mazda for 28 years, and have done more than my fair share of rebuilding transmissions.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    good denouement, I suppose.

    What action by the young lady owner could have prevented this failure, if any? Was it truly a congenital defect?

  • avatar

    The nature of mechanics is that anything can fail for no apparent reason at any time. Of course there IS a reason, but at this point it’s too late. The engine could have run hot or locally overheated, the materials of the valvetrain or head could have been the culprit(s), etc. An injector could have momentarily plugged, causing a lean condition, you name it.
    Another aspect to this that I have also witnessed: The engine missfires for a while, gets repaired and all is well…then the check engine light comes back on as the missfire damaged a catalytic converter–and on this particular engine the converter IS the exhaust manifold and is $$$$$. The thing to do is monitor the converters with a scan tool after the engine repair so you know what–if anything–is coming your way.

  • avatar

    I was under the impression it was Ford’s 3.8 that was the POS and the 3.0 was a fairly trouble free engine. Can someone verify ?

    • 0 avatar

      Um, yeah. Duh, in fact. :)

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks, Sajeev. I wondered where all the 3.0 hate was coming from. Especially after Steven Lang made it a point to single out the 3.0 in one of his Hammer Times as being a solid and reliable engine.

      It wasn’t a senior moment. Yowza.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe SL was referring to the Vulcan 3.0, which is indeed a bulletproof motor. Both the Ford 3.0’s are good in the durability department, though anyone who changes coolant regularly in a 3.8L and knows to turn off a motor when it overheats is likely to disagree with our assessment of their mill.

      Upkeep, or lack thereof, is usually the reason why “good” motors go bad.

    • 0 avatar

      Caramba. What a maroon.Sorry Sajeev. Got them lumped together.

      My brother destroyed a couple of 3.8 Taurii but hasn’t been able to kill the post 2000 ones with his notorious lack of servicing.

      Have to agree about proper maintenance: not worried about the Dex Douche in the ION, it’s getting changed next month along with the tranny fluid. @ 40,000 miles

  • avatar
    Funk Forty Nine

    I had a 97 Sable with 134k, looked and ran like new when I hit black ice and put it on a guard rail four winters ago. Our 03 Sable has 120k and recently had the misfire issue which the mechanic stated was a spark plug problem but it was never clear to me exactly what that was. I also replaced the oil pan due to stripped drain plug threads. Other than that, no issues. Also, we don’t skimp $$$ on the PM.

    Having said that I did replace the 97 with an 01 I30. Wow, that thing feels like it’s got an electric motor it’s so smooth!

  • avatar

    I’ll believe Ford makes reliable cars when 6 year old Fords have the same amount of problems as 6 year old Hondas. Anyone can make a car that has great “Initial quality”. It just means all the pieces are screwed together.

    My ’95 Explorer put me off Fords since. It was the 160-HP 6 Cyl with 4 speed auto, 4WD XLT model. It was a great car in many ways and I enjoyed owning it. (I did not mind how slow it was; it was a truck to me).

    During the first year I brought it in 6 times to fix many little things under warranty. There was a squeek in the glove box area that could not be replicated and I finally figured out myself- hinge arm rubbing, which was fixed by me bending the arm.

    But: Trans. grenaded after 5 years/45,000 miles (piece got loose inside). Cost $3500 to replace, Ford told me it was out of warranty so I paid it all.

    The swaybar broke off as I drove out my driveway (20,000 miles). Luckily this did not happen at speed because without the
    swaybar the car was extremely dangerous to drive. $300, but Ford paid me back 1 year later when a recall for the sway bar was made.

    Brake discs easily warped and were replaced at 20,000 miles (I am not a hard driver). Ball joints replaced at 50,000 miles (seems wrong to me but all ball joints seem designed to fail early these days).

    The Cam Position Sensor wore out at 60,000 miles; $800 for a 50$ part because it’s at the back of the motor and very hard to access.

    Crappy under-specified OEM tires were replaced with nice Michelins at Ford’s cost. I spent years worrying about the front bearings and suspension, etc because I could hear and feel the thumping (which turned out to be the belt problem in the Firestone OEM’s). So I call that a wash; Ford paid for the replacement but I never trusted the car far away from home.

    My lesson learned from the Explorer is that Ford makes a car that looks and feels great, but any part the customer can’t see has had every possible cost saving applied to it.

    I’m not completely averse to Ford products these days but I would not buy anywhere near list price.

  • avatar

    Came across this discussion while searching the net about my car problem. What problem? Chalk another one up for Ford Escape/Duratec 30 (2006 in this case) with a burned valve on (you guessed it) cylinder #4 at just past 60K miles. A friend of mine also had his Escape Duratec 30 die at 60K a couple of years ago. I grew up in the 1960s one block away from the Brook Park Ford plant (Cleveland Engine Plants 1 & 2) and used to feel some pride when saying that. Yeah, EcoBoost sounds really neat. I’ll check back on those in 2017. Looking at the Craigslist Auto Service options now — rather make an unemployed mechanic happy than give another penny to Ford.

  • avatar

    I own two Mazda MPVs. One is a 2.5 v6 Duratec built in 2001 while the other is the 3.0 v6 built in late 2003.

    The 2001 2.5 DURATEC has been a dream with only standard maintenance such as oil gasket, plugs, oil change, standard tuneup and brake pads. The AIC needs cleaning every other month or so due to some intake humming/buzzing issue but that is tolerable once you have 15 minutes or so to clean it….BIG DEAL right!?…………228K miles and still running like a champ.

    NOW, the 3.0 MPV has been nothing but a headache since the day I purchased it 6 years ago (2010). The motor was only @ 128k miles but with a slight misfire that coils only partially resolved.

    Later on, I did a compression test and found cylinder #4 with piss poor compression. This explains the random misfire that jolts the whole van even at highway speeds.

    For whatever reason, there was some quality control issues at the factory where certain 2.5 and 3.0 duratec motor were assembled. Seems to be a reoccurring theme. Random misfire even though all the plugs are clean and no evidence of misfire due to coils. IMHO, the misfire is due to compression issues with that part of the cylinder head or the piston itself.

    Funny thing is, the 2.5 has 75K more miles that the 3.0 duratec.

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