If you take a look at the brief history of the Ford Escape, you’ll instantly realize this compact crossover has a storied past. The Ford Escape has been one of the most popular crossover SUVs. It was released in 2000 (2001 model year) and has been in Ford’s lineup for four different generations, undergoing several makeovers over different model years.
Initially, Ford Escapes and crossovers, in general, weren’t as popular as they are today. It was primarily because they were released in an era where larger, body-on-frame pickup truck-style SUVs dominated the market. However, with releases like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, these more compact crossovers and SUVs gained steam, and the Ford Escape found its entry point into the market.
For the most part, Ford Escapes have been efficient vehicles known for top-tier fuel economy and eventually were made available as hybrid models as an additional option for drivers. However, the model wasn’t without its problems, with certain model years being plagued by problems. We’ve compiled a list of the Ford Escape years to avoid, in case you’re in the market for a used one.
2005 Model Year Ford Escape (1st Generation)
The 2005 Ford Escape is wedged firmly in the middle of the first generation (2001-2007), so you’d think Ford had enough time to work any issues out by this point. However, this wasn’t the case. In fact, other Ford Escape model years prior to 2005 were solid – the major issues didn’t surface until the 2005 saw the light of day.
So what specific issues were so bad that made this model stand out from other Ford Escape years?
Ignition Issues. Ignition misfires that severely hampered the vehicle’s performance were the most commonly reported in 2005. But there wasn’t one blanket issue regarding the ignition. The most prevalent repair problems included the misfiring of 3 of the 6 cylinders in the V-6 model. High humidity also led to coil failure and problems with the coil short circuiting the PCM. Luckily the ignition coil only cost between $125 and $200 to fix. However, doing this several times per year would certainly add up.
Engine Problems/Check Engine Light. The 2005 model year Ford Escape also had problems with the engine. You’d find that it’d hesitate and delay accelerating even after pressing the gas pedal. This was mainly due to a faulty EGR valve that incorrectly measured fuel circulation. The cost of repair for this problem is right around the $250 mark.
Transfer Case on 4WD Ford Escape Models. Numerous reports indicated a loud noise similar to that of a failed bearing that ultimately turned into a clicking noise came from the transfer case. This was a factory defect that required a full replacement, which could cost upwards of $250 for the part excluding labor.
Rust. Rusting issues make the 2005 one of the major Ford Escape years to avoid. Around the 120,000 mile mark rust developed in the wheel well – mostly on the metal around the strut tower which impacted the connection of the suspension strut. This compromised the structural integrity of these Ford Escape models and made them unsafe to drive. The cost to repair this is over $1,200.
2008 Model Year Ford Escape (2nd Generation)
The 2008 Ford Escape was the first model of the second generation. It didn’t make a very good first impression, as the 2008 Escape suffered from some expensive repair issues.
Transmission Failure. The transmission on the 2008 Ford Escape most commonly failed around 90,000 miles. Complaints about the Ford Escape’s reliability pestered the company that year. Unfortunately, the transmission problems didn’t have an easy solution. The only remedy was a new unit, which cost owners around $3,500.
Power Steering Failures. The power steering problems with the 2008 Escape led to issues with steering columns, steering wheels, and everything in between. There was even a recall issued for this component. Replacing the steering column and torque sensor was the only remedy, and the damage was about $1,300.
Engine Failure. To top things off, the faulty engines installed in the Escape for the 2008 version irked drivers nationwide. The issues seemed to only lie in the 4-cylinder version – and while it did get exceptional fuel economy, it doesn’t matter if you deal with the vehicle breaking constantly. Around 90,000 miles this Ford Escape model would experience engine issues, leading to a whopping $4,000 fix.
There were also reports of brake failures, noisy brakes, malfunctioning ignition switch, poor scores for every safety test (mostly regarding rear crash tests). One of the only positives was the fuel economy.
2009 Model Year Ford Escape (2nd Generation)
It’s only logical to expect Ford to get the issues right the very next year. While the engine troubles did get much better, other vehicle components got much worse.
Transmission Problems. The famous Ford Escape problems with the transmission continued. However, the 2009 received complaints regarding the automatic transmission that failed at 50,000 miles. Reliable transmissions can last 200,000 miles when properly maintained. These reported issues were widespread, causing many owners to deem the 2009 one of the worst models of all time. There were no engine failures – but this did little to make up for the transmission issues, which were about a $3,000 fix.
Power Steering Motor Issues. The 2009 model year was equipped with electric power steering. Often, it was the motor that was deemed faulty but the issue can affect the entire system. These electrical system issues triggered a recall, adding more woes to one of the worst years for the Ford model. This required about a $1,000 repair – as the recalls failed to cover everything.
Throttle Body. Throttle body actuators which caused what some described as a “vibrating car,” but this was just the sputtering that this component caused. To fix this issue, Ford Escape owners had to shell out around $500, and it happened at about the 70,000 mile mark.
2013 Model Year Ford Escape (3rd Generation)
Is there a curse that affects the first year of a Ford Escape generation? Continuing this trend, the 2013 was equally awful as the 2008 – only with a different set of issues (but great gas mileage). For its 2013 model year, the Escape racked up an incredible 22 recalls.
Loose Interior. Ford received numerous complaints about the vehicle’s interior fit. Owners claimed that fabric and carpet didn’t fit right, leading to damage and tears all over the inside. It’s difficult to estimate due to the varying scope of repairs. This kind of negates the spacious interior and up to date technology features.
Air and Water Leaks. Water and other leaks thanks to the coolant system and A/C system hurt the 2013 Ford Escape.
Anti Lock System. Low quality parts caused issues with the locking system and door latch. This was about a $350 repair that Ford would eventually fix.
Motor and Wire Failure. Issues with a few of the powerful turbocharged engine options gave owners problems due to failing wires that caused fires for many drivers.
Weather Stripping and Paint Bubbling. Stripping issues caused water leaks and ultimately led to paint bubbling and other cosmetic damage. This is potentially an expensive fix depending on the scope of the damage.
Transmission and Powertrain Issues. Finally, the transmission on the 2013 Escape had many challenges, including failure at 70,000 miles. The vehicle would also shift on its own with no warning or explanation. This happened at about 17,000 miles. To replace the transmission, this model required about $2,700.
2014 Model Year Ford Escape (3rd Generation)
Ford still didn’t get it right after 2013. The 2014 model year Ford Escape also featured a slew of problems worthy to land the iteration on this list. Here are some of its persistent problems.
Coolant Issues. Coolant leaked into the engine bay, causing fires and big issues with overheating. This happened sometimes at mileages as low as 60,000. Drivers with these problems had to fork over almost $600.
Windshield and Windows. The windows in this edition of the Escape inexplicably cracked, causing drivers to purchase replacements as many as three, and sometimes four times. Each time it cost them about $400.
Brakes. The safety features that were part of the brake system (ABS, etc.) had issues, in addition to the entire brake system itself. Depending on the damage, this was a pricey fix.
Finally Getting Things Right
To be fair, when not suffering from these issues, the Ford Escape can be a decent vehicle. Even the 2013 and 2014 model years got some praise for decent performance. They even had innovative high tech features, backup cameras, and other bells and whistles, which were pretty nice for those model years. Unfortunately, they are still money pits if they exhibit any of these common problems.
Fortunately, most of the problems with this Ford crossover came with the gas only Escape model. The hybrids actually came out in 2004, which gave some owners relief during these perilous generations. However, it wasn’t until the fourth generation Ford Escape that the lowest operating costs would manifest as a result of better engineering. These model years were somehow blessed with some decent Ford Escape reliability.
Since then the Escape has received outstanding crash test scores, a favorable reliability rating, and none of the typical electronic ignition, internal transfer case, engine or transmission problems. Stick with generations four and beyond – the best Ford Escape years – and you’ll have no problems getting extended life out of your vehicle.