By on March 9, 2018

2011 Ford Flex Titanium, Image: FordJay writes:


I’ve been enjoying your work on TTAC for several years and (unfortunately) have run into a situation where I think I need your help.

After reading Mark’s review of the Ford Flex several years ago, I test drove and fell in love with one — a 2012 Titanium Ecoboost model, to be precise. Fast forward to last month, and I am driving down I-395 when the car starts to lurch; $1,900 later, I have a new fuel injector and a picture of a leaky turbo (rrg). In hopes that Ford would have some type of pity on a 5.5-year-old car with only 53K miles on it, I took it to the dealership. $167 later, we’ve added a transmission seal issue to the running list and they’re asking more than $5,000 to square everything away.

I’m hoping you have a magic bullet for this one or, barring that, something snappy to say that will make me laugh.

Sajeev answers:

Magic bullet? Make you laugh? I’ve made enough Panther Love jokes alongside my cheap shots at the D3 chassis during the Panther’s demise. The original Five Hundred/MKS was an easy target, but hopefully Ford Motor Company throws goodwill repairs your way. They should if you’re the original owner: age and mileage is right at the border. So ask for it.

None of this is surprising. A turbocharged/direct-injected engine has more moving parts, more seals/gaskets to wear out relative to the base V6 Flex. Also, big vehicles with 300+ horses and front-wheel-drive-based transaxles with power take-off units are under more pressure than the same size vehicle with rear wheel drive inefficiency a more conventional transmission with room for beefier internals. That said, your Flex uses an upgraded transaxle, so hopefully the new seal is all you need for now.

Get that goodwill repair cash from Dearborn, fix whatever you feel comfortable repairing, get second/third opinions from independent mechanics, and trade it in for the Next Big Thing whenever the repair bills on this relatively complex machine overwhelm you.

Because there’s always a new big thing, son!

[Image: Ford]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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55 Comments on “Piston Slap: Goodwill Repairs to Hit ’em With That Flex?...”

  • avatar

    …Aaaaand inane comment from EBFlex in 3…2…1…

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Sad to hear this….our Edge (3.5) was our first ‘domestic’ car in 30 years. Over 100k miles we had 3 repeated breakdowns with the cooling system, the first covered by warranty and the other 2 costing $1200-1500 each; worse, it was always a “stranding my wife” issue. We fled back to Japan Inc.

    Oddly, our Nissan, Toyota, Lexus and Subaru built in NA have all given us superior service. So NA can build them….if the systems are designed well.

    I love the design and utility of the Flex. If only it had Japanese-designed mechanical systems….

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    ….None of this is surprising. A turbocharged/direct-injected engine has more moving parts, more seals/gaskets to wear out relative to the base V6 Flex…

    Some really enjoy trashing the dealer experience up to and including the F&I guy/gal on this site. Service contracts are not always a bad idea especially if the plan is drive a car for 6-8 years and put 100k or better on it…an additional $2500 to cover everything for the entire time is not necessarily a bad idea.

    • 0 avatar

      Not sure about the injectors, maybe gasoline quality is not Top Tier that you use or your drive cycle is short.
      Turbo seals do leak oil on thr exhaust but doe not constitute a failure. But the turbo is the first to go when oil changes are not done on time with synthetic blend or bettr. Seal and journal bearing kits at $50.00 a turbo. At 10K miles annually it sounds like this was a family taxi and missed some oil changes.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        Could be, there is usually more to the story in most cases. Either way, a solid service contract will handle these repairs and the ownership experience would be vastly different.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          But in all honesty, why should an extra cost contract necessary?

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            No. Not for a family wagon anyway. I’d consider it for a 5.0 Mustang.

            Though, when your 4900 pound family wagon is equipped with an engine that can keep up with a 330i, you may be blurring some lines. That’s a pretty potent mill, I may be expecting some additional ownership cost.

        • 0 avatar

          nonsense. we recently purchased a car costing a few tens of thousands (CDN). having scalped us for that ransom, the dealer put the high sell on a $4k(CDN) service package just in case the wonder of the world he had just sold us turned out in the future to be an ill-designed and/or ill build p.o.c. high profit, low risk for him, and a warning that not everything in the future was going to go well with this p.o.c. we took the warning but not the policy

      • 0 avatar

        Norm I am not sure I could guarantee when buying a used car. It’s an unknown what kind of gas they used, etc. so problems could still persist.

      • 0 avatar

        “Seal and journal bearing kits at $50.00 a turbo”

        Yeah but what’s the labor like on a transverse mounted 3.5L twin turbo ecoboost? For all we know it’s an engine-out job. Claiming it’s just a few dollars in parts is asinine.

    • 0 avatar

      When the F&I guy tries to peddle a service contract or extended warranty, I always reply that if I really need the thing, we should cancel the purchase because the vehicle they are selling me is fundamentally flawed.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        Kendahl, where do you come up the vehicle is fundamentally flawed?

        Stuff breaks. It happens. If you have 5k to fix it great, but the the owner of the above Flex would have been way better off with a Ford ESP, his car would be fixed and he would be out zero dollars other than the cost of the contract.

        The service contract isn’t for repairs next week, we all know the dealer will fix those. It is for the repairs that happen 4.5 years from purchase. Especially on late model used cars, you have no idea what the previous owner did and in most cases did not do.

        My final point to the original individual; fix the car or trade the car. Writing in to ask what to do is silly. Ford doesn’t owe him squat. It is a 2012 Flex, it is now 2018. It does not even state if the owner of the Flex is the original, if it was bought used….an even bigger pound sand. 6 year old cars break every now and again.

    • 0 avatar

      Manufacturer-provided (not 3rd party) extended warranty contracts can be a good idea for some people but there is almost zero need to purchase one from a dealer’s F&I salesperson at the time of purchase.

  • avatar

    Why must you turn Piston Slap into a den of lies?

    Modern gasoline turbocharged engines never break in the first 500k miles.

    What’s in your Flex is basically the exact same thing that’s in a sleeper cab Peterbilt and those use turbos and are also virtually maintenance/repair free over at least 1 million miles.

    My suggestion is to take your definitely mechanically perfect Flex and get a tune from Cobb/APR/Trifecta/HONDATA/Livernois. According to very independent sources these tunes will give you at least 100 more horsepower and triple the torque of your engine all while increasing your fuel economy by 60%. They will also have no negative effects on reliability. If anything your Ecoboost will last even longer after a performance tune.

  • avatar

    If i owned this car, and planned to own it for some more time, the question i’d ask myself (or the mechanic, or forums, or Sajeev, etc) is what caused turbo failure this early. Is it likely to happen again if I fix it, and if not, is the car still worth its price with the added five grand expense per fifty thousand miles? That would decide how I feel about fixing it. Generally speaking, my approach to repairs is not how do I pass this on to the next consumer, but rather, how can i take care of this problem so the car doesn’t get closer to becoming junk?

    That said, I don’t have to ask these questions often, because I own a BMW. Wooof!

    PS: To add to MrGrieves’ excellent advice below, I would also be open to splitting the cost, in case I was repeatedly told no. 50/50 is worse than not paying anything, but better than paying all of it. And it might increase your negotiating chances.

    • 0 avatar

      Oil changes, ot lack there of at 53K. They should have had 6 oil changes by now and probably only did half that.

    • 0 avatar

      My Lincoln MKT ecoboost (platform twin to the flex) also had a transmission seal leak. I bought mine with a service contract though however, I also tow with my lincoln. In the end I split it 50/50 with the dealer. If you plan to keep the flex you have to decrease the intervals between oil changes. That’s the death of ecoboost. The turbos are extremely oil intensive, more so with towing. That being said, the numbers they are giving you for cost of repair are stupidly high. You can have a brand new engine brought in with the price they are quoting you. I’d honestly dump it and get a used Durango. They depreciate enough where the gap between what you lose on the flex and gain with a newer one (off lease durango) would be pretty close to the cost of ownership on the flex.

  • avatar

    The only auto maker that I’ve gotten a “goodwill” repair from was VW when my Jetta TDI ate its High-Pressure Fuel Pump at around 65,000 miles. It would have been $6500 out of my pocket without the goodwill. But even then I had to make around 6 or 7 calls to get VW’s OK. The dealership threw their hands up in the air and said “you must’ve put gas in it instead of Diesel. Sorry.” I had to arrange a conference call between myself, a VW customer service rep, and the dealership service department to make it happen.

    But, I’d definitely try for goodwill from Ford. The mileage is reasonable but I’m guessing the Flex in question is too old (2012.) Ford will probably balk at it, but be persistent.

    • 0 avatar

      GM did a goodwill repair at 40K of replacing 3rd & 4th gear along with some sycros in my wife’s manual transmission Vibe (this was outside the 3 year/36,000 mile warranty). She had bought hers a few months before they rolled out the 5 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.) A warranty that they have since rescinded.

      She didn’t have to fight anybody.

      However when my inlaws were having problems with the 3400 V6 in their 108,000 mile Torrent the same dealership just threw parts at it and was never able to actually fix the problem.

  • avatar

    We used to have a 2009 Flex Limited for about six years. I absolutely loved it. Great for long distance road trips, super comfortable and plenty of space… but within the six years we had plenty of repairs to do on it and it was just getting too expensive. We only put about 90-100k miles on it but had to change brake rotors three times, it ate tires in less than 15k miles. Front suspension parts were failing all the time. Transmission and ESP sensor problems. Fuel pump problems and rust was developing in difficult places. Finally decided to get rid of it in 2016. Really love the boxy design though and wish Ford would continue them.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Not super awesome. At 53K, you probably haven’t yet gotten much value from the car, you can’t sell it as is, $5000 for essential powertrain repairs is galling for a car so young, and once you do fix it there’s a good chance you still will not fully trust the vehicle.

    This is how automakers lose customers for life.

    I think the only way you win here is if Ford covers a good portion of the repairs and you sell the thing afterwards for something else that won’t make your adrenaline spike the next time you feel a slight “lurch”.

  • avatar

    Wow, that sucks rocks.

    Best of luck with FoMoCo, Jay!

    Please report back.

  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    The Magic Bullet is putting it in neutral on a boat ramp.

  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    The best way to buy a D-platform crossover is still a CPO MkT. Lower price than an Explorer or Flex, longer warranty included.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    If post warranty goodwill repairs were easily obtained there would be no market for extended warranties. Best to buy a brand with a reputation for quality and reliability.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Trade it now and take the loss. You don’t think this is the last major trouble you’ll have with this car, do you?

  • avatar

    Oy. I feel like the guy should have bought a Hemi Durango AWD with tow package.

    And that’s coming from someone who loves that Ford had the guts to build something styled like the Flex! Wagons HO!

  • avatar

    I use an EB Mustang as a D.D… I have just over 2 years to go before I lose the power train warranty. Given our harsh climate I anticipate some out of warranty repairs as the vehicle ages . Ive had all the scheduled service done at the dealer. Any perceived issues are all documented. I will certainly play that card for a “good will” fix. I’m not banking on it though.

    I can live with wear items..I’m playing “wait and see” re – premature Turbo failure . I’m 64 years old, my next DD will be leased .If it turns out that I’m making the equivalent of a monthly lease payment for repairs ..The Mustang will be gone.

  • avatar

    “None of this is surprising.”

    Which is why I ultimately gave up on domestic cars after many years of blind loyalty…my Toyota and Honda are both older and with many more miles than this and my costs (apart from maintenance and wear items) for the Toyota at 92k miles totals $0, and for the Honda with 165k around $800 over 13 years of ownership.

    A pity, I love the looks of the Flex and would totally consider one were it not a Ford.

    • 0 avatar

      Same here. Honda with over 120K, recently had some brake work but other than that, just fluids. Toyota with over 110K, just fluids. Of course, neither of these has DI or a turbo. You wanna play, you gotta pay. I do like the Flex too.

  • avatar

    internet stories ain’t the same as data.

    No car line-up is perfect, but it still *seems* like vehicles from GM-F-CJD get hit with negative-lottery repairs like OP’s a lot moreso than Honda-Toyota.

    OP’s problem makes a busted Odyssey transmission seem mild by comparison.

    And I’m guessing that it all boils down to design and/or quality tolerances for OEM components?

    Want to get a V8 Durango. but would rather have Honda/Acura drop a V8 into the Pilot/MDX cuz I like to keep cars in the family for 100,000+ miles.

  • avatar

    I feel responsible for this. I mean, I’m not gonna do anything about it.

  • avatar

    Hold on a second: $1900 for a fuel injector and a “picture” of a leaky turbo? I’d like to see the list of charges on that repair.
    Now they want $5k more? Does this smell a little to you? Cause it does to me.

  • avatar

    I’d be tempted to give this thing the Kim Jong un treatment (put it in the middle of a field and fire artillery shells at it), or the Freiburger/Finnegan treatment (run over it with a Chieftain tank).

  • avatar

    Just keep the fluids topped up.

  • avatar
    Eric the Red

    Owner of a 2012 Ford Flex with 117,000 miles on it. No Ecoboost. I haven’t done a thing to this vehicle since I bought it. Still runs quiet and smooth with absolutely no issues. Still looks good with no rust or bubbles anywhere.
    Let me repeat that “no work done to this vehicle in 6 years and 117,000 miles”. I think I have done the brakes once. Haven’t even changed the shocks. Never added any extra oil, topped off brake fluid, etc.
    Regular oil changes at 5,000 miles. Fluid changes at recommended intervals. Wax it twice a year.

  • avatar

    It is my experience that Ford will help with an AWA (After Warranty Adjustment) for original owners only, assuming all service records are clear and presentable. In some cases, they will split the cost 50/50 or better. As a second owner, asking for the manufacturer’s participation will at the least require a district rep to review your case. Considered in the case will also be your loyalty (spending history) with Ford sales and service, and the likelihood that you will be retained as a customer should they provide an offer.

  • avatar

    This is why I will never own a car with a turbo, a transaxle, more than 5-speeds. This crap is all fine for a while, then when it goes south, the car is worth less than nothing. Planning on my next car being a 2004-5 LS430 lazy, under-stressed V8, 5-speed trans, RWD. Simple and robust means a lot more to me than gee-whiz factor.

    • 0 avatar

      Nice choice!

      “Simple and robust”

      In terms of drivetrain perhaps, but an LS430 is by no means a Panther or GM B-body. Plenty of doo-dads on the interior that can flake out (albeit not at the rate of an old German perhaps), and pricey one-off suspension components and such. They’re awesome rigs no doubt.

  • avatar


    Thanks again to Sajeev! I really enjoyed reading what everyone thought about my situation. Here’s the update.

    The dealership never called Ford (even though they said they were looking for Goodwill reimbursement), so I did. And boy, did Ford come through. The final bill (after some shenanigans from the dealership) came to roughly $1400 and after about 2 weeks in the shop, I got it back with no leaks at all and running quite well.

    The whole experience left me pretty frustrated (not to digress, but we’ve been really good about maintenance on this car and are now a little gun-shy about future issues) So my wife and I went and cross shopped Highlanders, Pilots, & Q70’s (I’m 6’3″ and we are living the rear-facing car seat dream).

    At the end of the day, we couldn’t find something as peppy and spacious, that was going to cost us so little (let’s face it, new cars depreciate as fast as sushi goes bad). The plan is to keep some money in the savings account and try to get another 50K out of it, then buy something a little less complicated, hopefully when we get to the booster seat stage.

    PS- For those of you not doing math at home, the 40 minute call saved me roughly 3600 dollars for an effective hourly rate of 2400/per hour. Totally worth the time on hold listening to that dreadful recording.

  • avatar

    To the overall article, the only thing I can say is that Ford is living up to my experience with the brand; anything but reliable or…. Found On Road, Dead.

    Even now, I’m driving a “garage find” ’97 Ford Ranger that had a fluid leak in the hydraulic clutch that required a complete system rebuild on a truck with less than 20K miles on it at 18 years old. That repair cost me more than it should, all things considered, but Ford has never made their vehicles cheap to repair since the old Model T.

    But it’s not the cost of repairs that I complain about Ford, it’s their reliability. Not once have I owned a Ford that was reliable. The only reason the Ranger I’m driving isn’t nickle and diming me to death is the fact that so far I’ve only put about 3,000 miles a year on it since I acquired it, vs the previous owner barely breaking 1000 miles. I can say that finally, FINALLY, the little engine is finally broken in and it’s running pretty smoothly and, I think, showing its full 112 horses.

    Don’t get me wrong; Ford has made some nice looking and good performing cars over the years. The Flex is one of the few current models I like for its look (the early versions, anyway) but I simply don’t need the expense of a 3-row when I almost never use a second row, much less haul around capability I don’t need.

    • 0 avatar

      IMO that generation of Ranger is pretty darn solid in terms of the fundamentals, yes the M5OD (Mazda) transmission has an internal slave cylinder which makes working on that component inevitably difficult/pricey, but aside from that and minor odds and ends, their simplicity and low-tech nature make them very dependable rigs. My experience with my ’97 ultimately prompted me to do a double dip and scoop my ’94 (same spec as my ’97 except longbed).

    • 0 avatar

      I have four Ford manufactured vehicles right now (two Fords and two Lincolns), with a total of 1,010,000 miles on them. Ford makes a lot of reliable vehicles good for the long haul, but all of mine are naturally aspirated with other proven technologies. If you want a car to last 300k, it pays not to be on the cutting edge.

  • avatar

    Try for the goodwill, but manufacturers’ warranties aren’t worth much unless you have every service done at the dealership.

    I do my own maintenance and I couldn’t get the local Ford dealer to hear my suspension popping while it was under warranty. As soon as it was out of warranty they found the problem and wanted $800 to fix it. I spent $400 and an afternoon, fixed it myself, lowered my car, and added camber adjustment.

    They did fix my car’s no-start condition one week out of warranty, but only because I’d had it in two weeks earlier for the same problem. You can’t ignore a no-start condition.

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