There’s no escaping these problems with my Ford

The on-board computer on Shannon Stout’s Ford Escape went on the blink. It’s out of warranty. Is she out of luck?

Question: My 2005 Escape is having on-board computer problems after seizing up while my fiancé was driving it last fall.

Our local mechanic and a Ford dealership diagnosed the engine light problem and says we need a new on-board computer. The car has 57,646 miles.

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I am seeing in online forums that there’s a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) for this problem on the Escape. It is my understanding that TSBs are a precursor to recalls. Most, if not almost all, have had this problem while the car was still under warranty. But since this car has been driven so minimally, it didn’t have this problem until now.

I followed Ford’s website instructions by having the problem diagnosed at a dealership. I emailed Ford through their website today and received an email basically saying “no.” Can you help? — Shannon Stout, Haddon Township, NJ

Answer: If your car’s out of warranty, your car’s out of warranty. But I reviewed the form response Ford sent you and took a look at the TSB and wondered if they were missing the forest for the trees.

I mean, here’s a car that’s hardly been driven, with a known problem with its on-board computer. If you’d driven this Escape the way most normal people do, and discovered the problem sooner, then this wouldn’t be an issue.

Point is, there’s a time to stick to the warranty and a time to consider making an exception and repairing the vehicle. I agree with you, this might be one of those times.

But, to be clear, Ford was under no obligation to fix its faulty computer. It should have manufactured a car with a working on-board computer, not one that fails after 50,000 miles.

You can appeal this to an executive at Ford. I publish the names, email addresses and phone numbers of their top customer service executives on my site. But I decided to take this case.

Things didn’t work out so well for me. Ford ignored my message for a month. I contacted the company again and this time I received a somewhat defensive email from a spokeswoman.

“Ford is absolutely committed to top quality and customer satisfaction,” she wrote. “Coverage of any vehicle is determined by eligibility under the provisions of the New Vehicle Limited Warranty, a customer satisfaction program or a recall. We recommend that customers with any questions on our products either contact their dealer directly or visit Owner Support at Ford.com or call 1-800-392-3673.”

You didn’t take “no” for an answer. You contacted Ford again and appealed. The company agreed to contact your dealership to see if it would offer you a warranty price for the repair. Ford agreed to cover half of that price.

This article was originally published on May 25, 2015.

12 thoughts on “There’s no escaping these problems with my Ford

  1. Even for a 10 year old vehicle, 57K miles is not “hardly been driven”. 11K+ miles per year is in the range of average use.

    BTW, where did the stock photo come from? SE Asia?

  2. TSBs are not precursors to recalls. They’re Technical Service Bulletins that inform service centers of procedures and recurring, unusual or common problems. Because a problem is common does not necessarily mean that ‘all’ vehicles will have the issue. TSBs can be accompanied by warranty extensions.. An example would be GM’s 2004-2006 Vortec I-5 engines that had a head issue that could result in abnormal valve wear. GM issued the TSB along with a warranty extension to 7 years/100k miles.

    TSBs are often issued for things such as informing service centers of proper procedure for recharging A/C.. Proper billing codes to use for repairs. Updates on times that should be billed for work and other mundane things.

  3. The most cost-effective means of fixing this problem (probably even cheaper than half the warranty repair cost at the dealer) would have been for a mechanic to order a used ECU from a “parts recycler” (a.k.a. junkyard) and install that. Many junkyard parts even come with a warranty. (A quick check showed that depending on engine, the part ranges from $70-$385, neither of which is an unusual cost for a part for a 10-year-old car.) I’m not personally familiar with the Escape, but on most cars, installing a new ECU is not labor intensive.

    1. Problem is.. You then have to spend another several hundred to have the dealer program the junkyard ECU to the vehicle. ECU controls everything, up to and including keys. You generally can’t just swap an ECU..

      There are services out there that repair the ECU, so that it’s still matched to the vehicle. Costs seem to be around $299. And it seems that this particular vehicle has a habit of burning out the ECU when an ignition coil fails.

      1. Again, I’m not personally familiar with the Escape, but on my VW, coding an ECU from scratch is about a five-minute job with a scan tool; you look up the necessary codes in the service manual (which gives explicit instructions on which ones to use, based on the set of options installed), punch them into the scan tool, program the immobilizer (another set of explicit instructions), run a throttle body calibration, and you are all finished. It’s a 1hr labor charge.

        But if there is a $300 repair service? Even better! (And still way cheaper than putting in a brand new one.)

    2. Even with a warranty from the parts recycler (which is likely to be a comparatively short warranty), wouldn’t there still be costs related to installing/programming, etc., and you still might have a failure of the replacement ECU if it’s a part from a 2005 car. There still may be a greater benefit in getting a new, dealer-installed one, as this individual did.

  4. Some parts in cars wear out or fail because of mileage, some because of age. The Escape’s on board computer was 10 years old. It does not matter how many miles on it. Things like this happen on a ten year old car. Their expectations that this is something that Ford needed to cover was wrong. It was a nice thing that Ford did to cover half the cost.

  5. Now, see, THIS is where a third-party option insurance product would actually come in handy. Extended warranties are available that cover this kind of thing. I understand the OPs frustration at having car repairs, but I would gently remind them that any 10-year-old vehicle is at risk of having breakdowns. Ford very clearly outlined that they would warrant the powertrain on their product for 5 years or 60,000 miles, whichever came first, when the car was purchased. If this had happened at 5 years and one day, or 60,001 miles, I could certainly understand pushing for some consideration from Ford, but now…. I’m glad for the OP that Ford came through with a gesture of goodwill, but if they hadn’t, I don’t think this would be an instance of a big, bad corporation abusing its customer.

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