Overview & Reviews
Introduced in the mid-1990s, the front-wheel-drive Ford Windstar minivan campaigned with an emphasis on, and reputation for, safety. And in the hotly contested family minivan market of the time, that was an especially solid piece of ground to be on. As long as buyers didn't need to haul adults in back on a regular basis -- or find it necessary to remove the heavy third-row bench seat from the van often for additional cargo room -- the Windstar generally served a family's needs just fine.
Unfortunately, the Ford Windstar's general reputation for reliability was notably poorer than other competing minivans, particularly those from Honda and Toyota. The van's engine and transmission were particularly troublesome. In addition, we often criticized the Windstar for its noisy engines, poor interior space utilization and floppy handling.
Consequently, we suggest most shoppers take a look at other choices in this segment. But if you are set on getting a used Windstar, we'd at least suggest focusing on the most recent generation and consider opting for an extended warranty, if available.
Most recent Ford Windstar
During its nine years on the market, there were two Ford Windstar generations. The most recent was produced from 1999 to 2003. (Ford renamed it the Freestar for 2004.) The '99 van was completely redesigned to look more modern and sporty while upgrading mechanicals and adding a driver-side sliding door. The second- and third-row seats were now on rollers for easier maneuverability, and up front the instrument panel was reworked for improved ergonomics. There were also upgrades made to the suspension, transmission, brakes and air-conditioning.
Models now included base, LX, SE, SEL and Limited versions. Powering the van was either a 3.0-liter 150-horsepower V6 engine or -- a much more desirable -- 200-hp 3.8-liter V6. In reviews of the Ford Windstar at the time, our editors lauded the 3.8-liter engine for its power but complained that it was noisy under acceleration. We were also unhappy with its disconnected ride and handling, poor interior space utilization and weak reputation for reliability. Positive attributes included a plethora of convenience and safety features and top-notch crash test scores.
If we were shopping used Windstars, this new-and-improved second-generation version is as far back as we'd go. There were a few updates made through the years. The most significant of these were standard power-adjustable pedals, an optional rear-seat video entertainment system for 2000, the switch to the 3.8-liter engine as standard for all models in 2001 and the availability of safety-enhancing AdvanceTrac stability control for 2003.
Past Ford Windstar models
Ford introduced the front-wheel-drive Windstar in 1995 to replace its outgoing Aerostar rear-drive minivan. The new Windstar featured an extensive list of standard equipment, including dual airbags, antilock brakes, a four-speed automatic transmission and V6 power. Inside was seating for seven, including a unique integrated child seat.
The Windstar's only available engine was a 3.8-liter V6 which produced just 155 hp, but a more generous 220 pound-feet of low-end torque. Only a base GL model was available, but a more luxurious LX trim level was added in 1996 when a 3.0-liter 150-horsepower Vulcan V6 was made standard and an upgraded 3.8-liter V6 engine rated at 200 horses was optional. That year also saw four-wheel disc brakes fitted on vehicles equipped with traction control or the towing package. In 1998 -- the final year of its first generation -- the Windstar's driver's door was widened as a stop-gap measure to help access to the second row until the completely redesigned Windstar arrived a year later with a fourth door.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 912.00
Wouldn't buy another 99 Windstar! - 1999 Ford Windstar
By Rachelle - January 5 - 4:04 pm
Bought the van from an elderly couple with only 128k. Seemed great at the time. The blinker for some reason whenever you'd turn on the left one would flash a light on the dash like a bulb was out (it wasn't). No mechanics could figure out the problem. The heater fan quit working. Developed some electrical problem with the dome lights so when your driving at night they'd just randomly come on and stay on or sometimes they'd strobe. The back passenger door quit opening from the inside and would only unlock whenever it decided to. When the door wouldn't unlock you could not do it manually so the kids would have to climb through. Then around 140k the head gasket started leaking and between 140k and 150k the tranny just blew. I am a Ford lover all the way but they totally FAILED with this vehicle!
Do not buy - 1999 Ford Windstar
By Meechie - December 18 - 4:07 pm
When I firt purchased in March of 2010 I was excited. We had our 4th child, we needed the room. I purchased with 128,000 miles. First 6 months of owning caliper was sticking which cracked my rotor on front driver side. 2 weeks later the heat sensor went and the water pump along with power steering pump. I knew it's was a older vehicle so I wasn't expecting top notch condition. Only passenger side door unlock and lock when pressing the button, have to unlock and lock driver side doors manually. The driver sliding door keeps sticking so you have to keep putting oil on it or WD-40. I kept regular maintenance (oil changes, breaks etc.) Could never fix antifreeze leak, it would just leak in another spot. Seems like each time I turn around something else needed to be fixed. Each time I got the engine light off to get inspected if comes back on a month later for another issue so I gave up and just waited when it was time to renew the inspection. In 2011 experience signs of transmission failure. August of 2013 around 140,000 miles had head gasket replaced. February of 2014 transmission failed completely, replaced with another used transmission. The cluster instrument also goes hay wire I also had that replace and doing the same thing again. Emergency break never worked from the beginning and still don't. 2013 I had to replace the front frame that holds the transmission and engine due to it rusting out so bad, if i didn't the transmission would of fell on the ground, I talked to Ford but they said they can't do nothing about it. The van now has 146,000 miles on it. This is nothing but a money pit I would not recommend this vehicle to anybody. I wish I would of done my research but you live and learn. Not reliable at all, the only thing I can say I never was stranded I always got home when something went wrong.
Worst vehicle I have ever owned! - 2001 Ford Windstar
By FORD, Never again! - September 10 - 8:32 pm
I purchased a 2001 Windstar, brand new in October of 2001. Since new, this car has been nothing but problems. Major safety issues including the rear axle and front subframe (which are all over the internet), make this vehicle unsafe to drive. I have to say that FORD motor Company SUCKS, since they chose to not fix/replace my rusted and subframe. The metal completely failed and the subframe is ready to collapse! Additional problems include the instrument panel cold soldering failing, the intake manifold gasket failing, the plenum (which is sometimes called the upper intake manifold) isolated bolt gaskets/grommets failed, two alternators, one fuel pump, camshaft position sensor, coil pack, the struts, and the transmission all failed This van is a piece of crap and in my opinion, FORD SUCKS! This is the last FORD I will ever buy.
Confortable ride - 2000 Ford Windstar
By paulnbedford - May 31 - 2:21 pm
Bought this van used back around 2004 with about 54,000 miles on it and I have to say it's surprised me for a Ford. it's actually be a reliable van. It's had the usual things, tires, brakes and the odd sensor, but over all it has been a good vehicle and never left me stranded. Like most Fords though it does seem to be plagued with recalls and electrical issues, now which I am starting to suffer from. Locks not starting to work and gauges starting to go crazy on me. And from online research it looks to be faulty soldering on the backside of the cluster. It does have 190k plus on it now though so it can't stay perfect forever and people can't expect these cars to stay that way.
Don't waste your money - 1999 Ford Windstar
By toomanyfords - March 26 - 8:05 am
Purchased a used 99 in 2010 with about 100 k miles on it. Within a year the transmission went out. Had it rebuilt and it did fine after that. Bought it with a small oil leak and it burned more and more oil over the next 4 1/2 years until one day the engine seized out of nowhere at 145k miles. I have to say the engine held up for a long time with obvious issues before it finally quit. But... it did have the issues in the first place. Other than that, never had any other problems with it ( lol). My overall impression of this van... well it's not worth the couple thousand they go for used. Save your money.
Unless you get a used up model, it's awesome. - 1995 Ford Windstar
By smoo4asw - May 21 - 7:50 am
We got a used up model, so within a year it was knocking. But based on the service it gave us before it proved just how used up it was, it was awesome. Our Aunt Wilda and Uncle Ray had just gotten a new house the winter after we bought it and it powered up those hills with an aplomb equal to our 2003 F-150 with the 4.6 liter V8. It proved that pushrod technology wasn't totally dead, but it wasn't destined to stay as long as I would like. If it stayed as long as we would have desired, then we would have probably chosen to keep it over the F-150. We really loved it, until it died unfairly.
happy with windstar - 2001 Ford Windstar
By massroor1969 - October 19 - 11:05 pm
I have ford windstar minivan and I am driving it from 2010 I naiver have any problem with it. I drive it across Canada along with towing UHALL container from Ontario to Saskatoon I really enjoy the comfort drive
waste of money - 1995 Ford Windstar
By itsjimsley - June 20 - 3:19 pm
i bought this off the lot back in 95 with 13 miles now has 232,000 worst car ever. 2 raidiators, blown head gaskets,numerous leaks, new catalic converter, air filter, a trillion spark plugs before i figured out fords electrical system is a joke, etc. Car turns off on command, you need 20/50 oil and 91 fuel for a slightly better ride, and car is loud as hell. After all the repairs i made before it finally gave up for good i have 26,000 dollars in maintenence never buy a ford. My fault for not choosing a toyota previa or caravan
2003 Ford Windstar .. AVOID - 2003 Ford Windstar
By panhead_mike - April 17 - 8:38 am
I never thought I was a stupid man, but now I'm beginning to wonder. I bought a used 2003 Ford Windstar with about 170,000k's on it. The safety recalls had been done and the transmission had be re-built at a Ford Dealership not long before I bought it. I thought I had it covered! Within 3 months the transmission was dead again. The repairing dealership was not interested in talking to a different owner and Ford doesn't want to talk to me. There are a lot of companies building vans, Do Not Buy a FORD Van...or in my case, a Ford Anything..as long as I live. You have been warned!
Nice minivan - 1999 Ford Windstar
By yermom123 - April 1 - 5:05 pm
Its a good car, when the transmission works. I have had to replace it 3 times. Honestly it drives really smooth! 200,000 miles and just took it to Nashville, Tennesse which is about a 12 hour drive from my house. Does well in the snow. I have had it for 14 years and no major problems except the tranny. It is very confortable. I am 6ft and 275 pounds and am very comfortable driving it. I feel really safe driving my kids in it with the triple 5 star crash test rating. Would recommend this vehicle, but make sure the tranny is good first!