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Ford Buying Guide: Drivers Must Be Aware Of These Critical Things

Cameron Eittreim November 21, 2023

When drivers look to buy a Ford vehicle, they need to consider several key factors to make a wise investment. Ford, a well-known name in the auto industry, boasts a lineup from the classic Mustang to the robust F-150, each with its unique history. This Ford buyer’s guide highlights the most important aspects to keep in mind when buying a Ford. For a long time, Ford hasn’t had the best reputation among consumers. But over the past ten years, the company has worked hard to change that negative image.

Potential buyers should be aware of the varying performance and durability aspects of different models. For older classics like the Thunderbird or Taurus, understanding their maintenance history and long-term reliability is vital. For newer models, it’s important to consider technological advancements, safety features, resale value, and the overall cost of ownership. We looked at the most important things to watch out for when it comes to buying a Ford vehicle. These are the things that you’ll want to pay the most attention to before you go splurge on a brand-new Raptor or Mustang Mach-E.

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Transmission Issues

Some Ford vehicles like the Focus and Fiesta have encountered significant transmission problems. Owners of these models have frequently reported issues with the automatic transmission, including shuddering, jerking, and difficulty shifting gears. These issues often result in a less-than-smooth driving experience that may require costly repairs or replacements. Ford has addressed some of these concerns through extended warranties and recall initiatives, but it remains a point of concern for potential buyers of affected models (via Stockwise Auto).

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The transmission problems are largely attributed to the PowerShift dual-clutch automatic transmission system. This system, designed to improve fuel efficiency and provide smoother gear changes, unfortunately, fell short in terms of reliability and performance in real-world conditions. While this transmission might be a cool gimmick, it doesn’t necessarily make sense for a used car buyer.

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PowerShift Dual-Clutch Automatic

The PowerShift dual-clutch automatic transmission, particularly in Ford’s Focus and Fiesta models, has been a major source of dissatisfaction for many owners. This transmission type, which was introduced to enhance fuel efficiency and performance, has been plagued with issues, including rough shifting, stuttering at low speed, and even transmission failure. These problems have led to numerous complaints, lawsuits, and ultimately, a tarnished reputation for what were otherwise popular Fords (via Motor Biscuit).

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In response to these widespread issues, Ford has taken steps such as extending warranties and issuing software updates to mitigate some of the problems. However, the lingering effects of these transmission woes have led to a decline in consumer trust. You’ll often hear owners of these vehicles talking about the transmission issues on Forums.

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Exhaust Odor in Cabin

A significant number of Ford Explorer owners have reported experiencing exhaust odors inside the cabin. This issue, predominantly noted in models from the mid-2010s, poses not only discomfort but also concerns about potential health risks due to inhaling exhaust fumes. The problem seems to stem from design flaws that allow exhaust gases to seep into the vehicle’s interior, particularly when accelerating or when the air conditioning system is in use (via Who Can Fix My Car).

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Ford has responded to these concerns by offering to repair affected vehicles, which may involve sealing and updating the air conditioning and exhaust systems. While these repairs have been effective in many cases, the issue of exhaust odors is common. This isn’t something that you can check in an initial test drive. You’ve got to let the car get hot and then drive it in order to smell anything.

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Faulty Door Latches

Door latch issues have been a recurring problem in several Ford models. These faults can lead to doors not closing properly or, in some cases, doors opening while the vehicle is in motion. Not only does this pose a significant safety risk, but it also leads to recalls and additional maintenance requirements for owners. The problem has been attributed to a malfunctioning pawl spring tab, which can break and render the door latch ineffective (via Car Parts).

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Ford has acknowledged these issues and has issued recalls to address the problem in various models. However, potential buyers should be aware of this history and check if the vehicle they are interested in has had its door latches inspected or replaced. No one wants their door to fly open while they are driving, so naturally, checking this is a must.

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Engine Cooling Problems

Engine cooling issues, particularly in the Ford Escape and a few other models, have been a point of concern. These problems include overheating, coolant leaks, and faulty thermostats. Such issues not only affect the vehicle’s performance but can also lead to more severe engine damage if not addressed promptly. The cooling system problems often require significant repair work, which can be costly for the owner (via Mach-E Forum).

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Ford has taken steps to address these issues through recalls and service bulletins, but it remains an area of concern for potential buyers. Before purchasing a Ford, especially a used Escape or similar model, it’s essential to check the vehicle’s history for any cooling system repairs or ongoing issues. A thorough inspection by a qualified mechanic can also help identify any latent problems with the engine cooling system.

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Steering Issues

Steering problems in some Ford models have raised safety concerns among drivers. Issues reported include loss of power steering while driving, making the vehicle difficult to control. This problem isn’t only dangerous but can also lead to accidents if the steering fails unexpectedly. Models like the Ford Fusion and Ford Escape have been particularly noted for these steering issues (via Consumer Reports).

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In response to these problems, Ford has issued recalls and extended the warranty coverage for the power steering system in some models. A test drive can also help assess the current state of the steering system. Most of the time a vehicle that has been heavily modified is going to have power steering issues. So take the time to look under the hood and give it a good test.

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Faulty Fuel Pumps

Certain Ford models, including the Ford Taurus, have experienced issues with fuel pumps. Faulty fuel pumps can lead to a variety of problems, such as the engine failing to start or stalling during operation. This not only causes inconvenience but can also pose a risk if the vehicle stalls in traffic. These issues are often attributed to defective components or wear and tear over time (via OSV).

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Ford has addressed these fuel pump issues in some models through recalls and service campaigns. When considering a Ford, especially a used model, it’s important to check if there were any recalls related to the fuel pump and if the vehicle in question received the necessary updates or replacements. Having a fuel pump go out on you in the middle of a road trip is no fun.

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Electrical Problems

Many Ford models have faced various electrical issues over the years. These problems range from minor annoyances like malfunctioning infotainment systems to more serious concerns such as electrical shorts that can cause fires. Owners have reported issues with the instrument cluster, GPS, radio, and other electronic components. These issues not only affect the driving experience but can also lead to costly repairs (via Get Jerry).

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The electrical problems in Ford vehicles often require professional diagnostics to pinpoint the exact cause. Before purchasing a Ford, especially a used one, check the electrical. You never know what kind of modifications the previous owners did to the car. The electrical issues are quite expensive to fix and you’ll never really track them down.

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Rust and Corrosion

Rust is common in older Ford models, especially those that have been used in harsh climates. This can affect various parts of the vehicle, including the undercarriage, wheel wells, and body panels. Extensive rust not only compromises the vehicle’s structural integrity but can also lead to more significant problems if left untreated (via The Auto Plan).

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Prospective buyers of used Ford vehicles should inspect them carefully for signs of rust. You should be paying special attention to areas that are prone to moisture accumulation. Repairing rust can be costly and sometimes not feasible. It’s important to assess the extent of corrosion before making a purchase. Some cars might be cool, but they just aren’t worth the headache and you won’t be able to save them.

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DPFE Sensor Failure

The Differential Pressure Feedback EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) sensor, particularly in Ford trucks, is prone to failure. This sensor plays a crucial role in reducing emissions and improving efficiency, but when it fails, it can lead to a range of performance issues, including poor fuel economy, rough idling, and emission test failures (via Haynes Manuals).

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Owners should be aware of the signs of DPFE sensor failure, such as the check engine light coming on or noticeable changes in engine performance. Replacing the DPFE sensor is typically not a costly repair, but it’s time-consuming to find the issue – especially if you get a used Ford like a Mustang or an F-150 that has a custom exhaust system that wasn’t installed correctly.

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Spark Plug Ejection

Certain Ford engines have a known issue where spark plugs can become loose and eventually be ejected from the engine. This problem is not only alarming but can also cause significant damage to the engine, including stripping the threads in the cylinder head. The repair for this issue can be expensive, especially if it involves repairing or replacing the cylinder head (via Reddit).

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When considering a Ford model known for this issue, it’s important to check the service history to see if there have been any repairs or replacements related to the spark plugs or cylinder heads. If the previous owner kept up with the maintenance you shouldn’t have that problem. However, if you get a Ford that’s been mistreated this could potentially be a problem you’ll be facing.

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Timing Chain Issues

Timing chain problems have been noted in several Ford models. These issues can range from premature wear to complete failure, which can cause significant engine damage. Symptoms of timing chain problems include rattling noises from the engine, rough running, and in severe cases, the engine fails to start. It’s not uncommon to hear an older Ford model ticking when you test-drive it. But you want to make sure that the timing chain has been inspected and replaced on time because it’s a major flaw that can cost you thousands (via Ford Authority).

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Before purchasing a Ford with a timing chain, it’s crucial to have the timing chain system inspected, especially if the vehicle has high mileage. Timing chain replacement can be a costly and labor-intensive process, so understanding the condition of this component is essential. Again, a few Fords in particular are known for exhibiting timing chain problems which include the 2000s Ford Mustangs and anything with a Triton V8.

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EcoBoost Engine Problems

Some Ford EcoBoost engines have faced various issues, including overheating, cylinder misfires, and even a loss of power. These problems can affect the overall performance and reliability of the vehicle. The EcoBoost engines, while known for their efficiency and power, require proper maintenance and attention to ensure they function optimally. Most new Ford cars offer some type of EcoBoost engine as the main option, and buyers love these engines because of the fuel efficiency and performance (via Hot Cars).

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When considering a Ford with an EcoBoost engine, it’s important to check for any signs of engine trouble, such as unusual noises, loss of power, or the check engine light being on. Regular maintenance and addressing any issues promptly can help mitigate these problems. The EcoBoost engine was one of Ford’s most recent designs and there are still a lot of kinks to work out.

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Rough Idle and Stalling

Ford vehicles, especially older models, have been known to experience issues with rough idling or stalling. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including problems with the fuel system, ignition system, or engine sensors. Rough idling and stalling not only affect the driving experience but can also be symptomatic of more significant underlying issues (via Repair Pal).

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Prospective buyers should pay attention to how the vehicle idles and responds during a test drive. A comprehensive inspection by a mechanic can help identify the root cause of these issues and whether they can be easily fixed or are indicative of larger problems. The Triton V8 engine in particular has been known for timing chain failures, which can affect idle timing.

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Ignition Switch Failures

Some Ford models have had issues with their ignition switches, leading to problems starting the vehicle or, in some cases, causing the engine to stall. This can be a significant inconvenience and, in some situations, a safety hazard. The ignition switch issue is often due to electrical faults or wear and tear over time. Most newer Fords have an electronic ignition switch that uses a key fob and is quite expensive to repair (via Ford Raptor Forum).

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Before purchasing a used Ford, it’s advisable to test the ignition system thoroughly and check for any history of ignition switch repairs or replacements. A faulty ignition switch can usually be replaced but on new vehicles, it’s going to be an expensive feat. You’re looking at spending thousands of dollars just to get one replaced.

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Rear Suspension Problems

Issues with the rear suspension have been reported in certain Ford models. These problems can include premature wear of suspension components, leading to a rough ride, poor handling, and potential safety risks. Suspension issues are often more prevalent in vehicles that have been used extensively on rough roads or have carried heavy loads. The Ford F-150 is one of the most popular pickup trucks on the market and finding a used one isn’t a hard task. But you want to go through this truck with a fine-tooth comb nevertheless (via Vromo).

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Inspecting the suspension system, including shocks, struts, and bushings, is an important part of evaluating a used Ford. Repairing or replacing suspension components can be costly, so understanding the condition of the suspension system is crucial for an informed purchase. Most used Ford F-150 models have been driven fairly hard or used for manual labor, so the suspension will probably need some repair.

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Airbag Issues

Ford has been involved in the larger Takata airbag recall, which affects millions of vehicles across various brands. The recall is due to potentially dangerous airbag inflators that can rupture upon deployment, causing injury. This is a serious safety concern that has led to fatalities in extreme cases. The Fusion was one model that was hit extremely hard by this recall. The first-generation Fusion was very popular but the airbag problem is a major safety concern. Before you ever buy one of these it’s important to check that (via Vehicle History).

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Potential buyers should check if the Ford model they are interested in is part of the airbag recall and whether the necessary repairs have been made. The 2000s were a decade that was ripe with airbag defects and recalls. Even though a used car is probably going to have some safety issues you definitely want to make sure the airbags are good.

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Oil Leaks

Oil leaks in various Ford models, particularly older ones, are a common issue. These leaks can originate from different parts of the engine, such as the valve cover gasket, oil pan gasket, or other seals. Oil leaks not only lead to a messy engine bay but can also cause engine damage if not addressed. By the time the original Focus hit the market Ford had perfected a lot of these issues. But the car still had a reputation for leaking valve cover gaskets, especially on the SVT model which was a special edition (via Focus RS).

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When inspecting a used Ford, look for signs of oil leaks or residue under the vehicle and in the engine compartment. The Focus is a small car and there are a lot of tight areas in the engine compartment. Finding the leaks ahead of time before your purchase is difficult. But, it’s an important step to make sure that you’ve purchased a decent example.

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Blown Head Gasket

The head gasket is a critical component in the engine and its failure can lead to significant engine damage. Blown head gaskets can cause coolant and oil to mix, leading to overheating and engine failure. Symptoms of a blown head gasket include white smoke from the exhaust, overheating, and coolant loss. The Focus RS has been plagued by these issues in particular. Since that’s one of the most popular models it’s also one of the most concerning (Focus RS).

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Blowing a head gasket is one of the worst things drivers can have to happen to their ride. Unfortunately, it’s a fairly common occurrence in some older Focus models. This is why it’s important to give these cars a thorough inspection before your purchase, even if you have to take it to get inspected by a professional.

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