By on June 28, 2010

TTAC Commentator Sinistermisterman writes:
I have a 1997 Ford Escort (Manual) with far too many miles on the clock. If I’m particularly harsh with the gear changes, I get a clunk every time the revs drop off. I’m guessing this may be the engine/transmission mounts wearing out. Now if they are wearing out, can I just be gentle from now on and not worry about it? Only I really don’t want to spend much on the car. The reason I ask is that when I used to live in the UK I had a 1996 European Ford Escort and the rather puny rear engine mount broke (after thrashing it mercilessly)… and the engine tried to twist its way out of the car in a rather spectacular fashion. Are the engine mounts on US Escorts equally as weak/rubbish as the European versions?

Sajeev Answers:

There are “far too many miles on the clock?”  Thanks for that technical description. I kid, I kid! You might have a love, then thrash, then hate relationship with your Escort.  And that’s cool with me. Don’t get nickel’d and dimed on this car, drive it into the ground.  Eventually the motor (or some other expensive component) will die and you’ll lose interest.  New engine mounts are for lovingly cared cars or old Trucks/SUVs that see a fair amount of towing.  Or if you start hearing terrifying metal-on-metal noises, of course.

Don’t worry about it for now, baby the shifter to maximize the car’s useful life.  I have no clue about the durability of Escort (US or otherwise) engine mounts, but I suspect that doesn’t matter.  Any small displacement, mainstream car with a transaxle simply aren’t designed to handle a “merciless thrashing”, to use your words.  It takes me back to the heydays of the Sport Compact car, and how many of my neighbors spent weekends replacing halfshafts. Or differentials. Or transaxles.  It sure looked like a PITA from my vantage point.

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:
There are worse things in life than being a car abuser. So if you chose this path, do yourself a favor: buy a 4th Generation Camaro or Firebird and have a frickin’ blast. It’s engine (small block Chebbie), transmission (Borg Warner T-56), and live axle (GM 12-bolt, I think) are very close to bulletproof. I’ll take an earlier Firebird T/A with the mullet worthy T-tops and those cool center-mount foglights/covered headlights.  Bitchin.

Don’t believe me? Just look at what the owners are doing to the precious independent suspension of the new, 5th Generation, Camaro.  Kickin’ it old school, uber alles baby!

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21 Comments on “Piston Slap: Escort Service, or Lack Thereof...”

  • avatar

    Wow that shot gives me flashbacks to my 1997 Escort Wagon. Sadly it was an automatic.

    I once was crazy enough to have fantasies about swapping in the drive train from a Sport/ZX2/GT model and having a “Boss Wagon.”

    Beat on it and then send it to the wrecking yard for recycling. No one’s going to cry about the death of an Escort.

  • avatar

    Try to check the bad mount and see if it has metal stops / metal straps / interlocking brackets that will ultimately control the engine motion if the rubber fails. If you got those… drive it till it dies.

    Without them, a fully torn engine mount can allow too much powertrain displacement and you could start to hear things crash into each other. But even then, you should hear it and have some warning.

    The slap nugget isn’t quite right… the 10 bolt in the 4th gen F-cars is far from bulletproof in a manual car. Does pretty ok in an auto but not an abused manual.

    The good news is there are a couple hundred thousand donor cars out there for parts if you do ever manage to blow one out.

    • 0 avatar

      Ah, thought GM had the sense to go with a 12 bolt. No wonder slapping in a Ford 8.8″ rear is a common modification on the Internet.

    • 0 avatar

      Just got rid of my 94 Z28 because the damn thing was bleeding me dry and every repair cost at least 1000 dollars (and never seemed to actually fix anything).

      It never broke down, it would just annoy me with little problems, picking and poking at me with annoyances that made driving it “normal” a miserable experience.

      Driving it like an idiot with the tops out was good fun though. If I had a garage to tinker with it myself I would have kept it.

  • avatar

    Time and weather are probably more to blame for the demise of the engine mounts than anything you did. I had a 97 Merc Tracer a few years back that only had about 60k miles on the clock when I bought it, and it needed a new front engine mount.

    If you’re going to keep the car for a while I would say have the failed mounts replaced. Otherwise sell it with full disclosure or trade it before they fail bad enough to cause a real problem. It’s not that hard to change out the mounts if you have pair of jack stands, a floor jack, and a place to work.

  • avatar

    If the engine mounts are the same piece o’crap ones that they were in the Tempo (and they ought to be, since both cars had most of the same chassis parts), then they are junk. But, IIRC, they weren’t that expensive to replace. It’s just that I had to replace the farken’ things frequently.

    And +1 to the suggestion on the 4th generation F-body. They were a bit cramped (you had more room in Cavalier), but they will freakin’ scream all day long.

    If you’ve got the cash, the last generation GTO is another screamer that seems to take well to mods, too.

  • avatar

    Every single ride in a Ford Escort for me has been a near-death experience.


  • avatar

    Have the engine welded to the subframe and just live with the vibration!

    • 0 avatar

      Funny, just had a conversation with a 24 Hours of LeMons team about that. Their wrecked (badly) Integra GS-R might go down that path.

    • 0 avatar

      Hehehe! I like that suggestion. However I’ve poked a screwdriver into the bushes and they just look old and crappy. I’ll just be kind to her through her last days.
      My european Escort had a metal bracket on the back of the transmission which actually snapped once the rubber had worn out. The engine and transmission tried twisting their way forward out and under the car. Fortunately I was driving slowly in traffic when this happened!

  • avatar

    My neighbor, the drag racer across the street, and I changed the motor mounts on a 1966 Mustang in about 30 minutes; in the driveway.The only problem I remember was finding a 2X4 of the correct length to use as a lever. We did use a jack also.

  • avatar

    I have never seen an Escort that would not easily go over 300k miles with minimal maintenance. And they are super easy to work on, too. Just keep changing those tie rod ends that seem to wear out every 20-30k miles and if you have a wagon replace the broken rear springs once in a while (yes, they ARE broken :)

    You may want to start by crawling under and simply making sure motor mount bolts are tight. The sound may also be coming from the exhaust — see if your exhaust manifold heat shield is rattling around.

    • 0 avatar

      @vvk: Just keep changing those tie rod ends that seem to wear out every 20-30k miles…

      Oh yeah, the another one of the f**king parts that I was always replacing on that car. In light snow at low speed I slid into a low curb and BENT THE TIE ROD! This was 6 or 8 months after replacing them due to the previous winter’s damage.

      I hated that car.

  • avatar

    I’d suggest looking around fleabay or the various other sources for cheap used parts and find replacements of the motor mounts, if you suspect they’re too far gone.

    For the forty or fifty bucks, plus an hour or two of your time to replace them (yourself), you could stave off a far more expensive exhaust destruction, plus a couple other things.

    Easier to invest the pennies now than in the future when you’re less prepared.

  • avatar

    At east give it a look to see how hard it would be to replace. As William442 noted regarding him and his neighbor, I know it’s a piece of cake on a 68 Mustang or a 58 Chevy, but I’m betting it’s a little more complicated on a FWD 97 anything, Escort included. However, it can’t hurt to look, even better if you have a repair manual for the Escort, you can read how to do it and see if it is something you are up to.

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    The following components are at risk if you don’t fix it

    halfshaft CV joints

    exhaust downpipe

    other bits and bobs

    So, to save an hour on the hoist and 20 bucks you risk damaging several hundred dollars worth of parts. Your call.

  • avatar

    I just did the engine mount on my old Stable. The movement of the engine was way too much to leave it. Leaving things like that are not my style either. Anyway, the Israeli made replacement cost $50 from Rock Auto (The Rock Rocks!). Install took about 35 minutes. Should be good for another 18 years! BTW, many cars have premium quality mounts and cheap “compromise” mounts available. Price is often less than half the cheapos. Usually I would say go with the better, but in this case the cheapie might be the ticket.

  • avatar

    I think The amount needed to replace the motor mount would be about a third of a single car payment
    Old cars require small check writing…New cars require LARGE check writing.

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