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 915.00
So Many Problems Over the Years - Big and Small - 1999 Ford Windstar
By KP - December 13 - 12:39 pm
I bought this vehicle used (the 3.6L model) with fairly low mileage. After just a couple years of owning it, the transmission failed. So I ended up having to spend $1,700 on having the transmission rebuilt. Just a couple days ago it wouldnt start and it wasnt a battery issue. I had to have it towed to the shop and found out it was done...I would need a new engine. So I ended up having to salvage it. After all that was done I wrote down a list of the problems I experienced over the years with it. Its a long list: 1. Had to have the transmission rebuilt at less than 70,000. It might have been 50K but I cant remember. 2. ABS lights would come on and off for no apparent reason 3. Dashboard gauges would constantly flicker and youd have to bang on the dashboard to get them to display properly, but that only worked occasionally. Most of the time the fluttering happened every day. This was an issue for years. 4. Power locks would fail/not be consistent and constantly would have to unlock/lock manually 5. Sliding doors for backseat wouldnt easily open. Heavy lubrication would help for a while but then the problem would recur 6. Air conditioner failed several years ago and was too expensive to fix 7. In the winter, the heat would not come on until at least 15 or 20 minutes of driving and even then it wasnt always consistent 8. The air/heat would suddenly come on in the back even when the back vents were turned off 9. The windshield wiper fluid reservoir sprung a leak so no windshield wiper fluid would stay in it 10. The rear axle had to be replaced in a Ford recall 11. The body, especially the undercarriage and the lower part of the drivers and passengers side sliding doors started to rust and corrode 12. Would constantly go out of alignment, wearing tires out. 13. The drivers side tire, in particular, would lose air and even when I would replace it, whatever new tire Id put on it would start losing air over the course of the next months. I never could figure that one out. 15. The power windows on both the drivers and passengers side doors had to have their motors replaced more than once. After the motor went out on the passenger side window, I just gave up and dealt with it. 16. One of the power windows in the rear stopped working years ago. I also didnt bother to get it fixed. 17. I had to have a new exhaust flex pipe put on it, which cost several hundred dollars. 16. There were issues with the struts and suspension but I didnt bother to get them fixed. 17. The engine hydrolocked/seized and we found out the head gasket blew, meaning the engine needed to be replaced. It was then that I decided to get rid of it. If I had gotten every broken item on the aforementioned list fixed, I would have spent thousands of dollars more on the van than what I originally paid. I wont buy another Ford.
Made a Huge Mistake - 1996 Ford Windstar
By Don Benson - December 5 - 10:07 am
Growing up my family never had Fords. I never knew why and when we needed the space of a minivan we thought we’d try the Windstar as our thinking was it was based on the Taurus so how bad could it be? Well it was bad ... really , horribly bad. In the 4 years of ownership ( bought Executive dealer car with 15k miles ) it went through 2 head gaskets , 3 transmissions, 1 AC compressor , 2 water pumps , an alternator and power steering pump. Ford covered the first transmission and head gasket but after that we were on our own. Every time we thought it was repaired another issue would surface. It was a horrible mistake and the final straw was the brake system. We found out the brake lines were rusted to the point that it was leaking and unsafe to drive. I drove it across the street to our local Honda dealer and traded it for a used Odyssey..which I should have purchased in the first place. We haven’t even considered a Ford since and with the latest news of countless transmission failures in their Focus , we probably won’t ever buy a Ford again.
Terrible turning radius - 2001 Ford Windstar
By Nick - June 4 - 7:19 pm
Drove one of these for 20 minutes. Pulled a U-turn and the tire exploded. Now I have no friends and I have to walk everywhere. Would not recommend
Wouldnt 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 youd turn on the left one would flash a light on the dash like a bulb was out (it wasnt). 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 theyd just randomly come on and stay on or sometimes theyd strobe. The back passenger door quit opening from the inside and would only unlock whenever it decided to. When the door wouldnt 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 its was a older vehicle so I wasnt 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 dont. 2013 I had to replace the front frame that holds the transmission and engine due to it rusting out so bad, if i didnt the transmission would of fell on the ground, I talked to Ford but they said they cant 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 its surprised me for a Ford. its actually be a reliable van. Its 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 cant stay perfect forever and people cant expect these cars to stay that way.
Dont 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 its not worth the couple thousand they go for used. Save your money.
Unless you get a used up model, its 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 wasnt totally dead, but it wasnt 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