Ford Finally Fixed?

Aug/3/2011 14 Malia Lane
Ford Escape - Towing Issues

I wish I knew the answer that question.  More than anything I wish I could believe that I could answer it definitively with a resounding, “Yes!”

Why Did My Axle Fall Off?

I really wish that the axle falling off as I posted on Ford Escape Problems Even Worse Now was not due to the negligence of the last Ford repairman who fixed my car in SC.  It took so long to get that part when it was backordered, etc., that I came to really care about the Service Director there and truly believe she was looking out for me.  And it’s not that I still don’t believe that – but the Service Director, Matt, here in Sault St. Marie at Soo Motors said that while they certainly can’t say with 100% certainty what the cause was, their best guess is that the last repairman didn’t properly “torque” the nut and bolt that holds the left front lower control arm and it finally worked its way off which made the axle fall off.  The service tech (Randy) who worked on it this time agreed, confirming that this left axle was the same one that was replaced in SC.

Matt said he had never seen this happen before, and that if it was a case of a defective part, he thinks there would have been evidence of the bolt being sheered off, but that did not seem to be the case.  When I talked with Bruce today (my “angel” who helped me so much on Monday) he told me that he even looked for it at the scene and down the street (he just happens to be a former master mechanic and knew what to look for).

I couldn’t understand why it would have taken since May for it to finally work its way off, but Matt explained that wasn’t so unlikely since there’s usually tension that would keep it in place or something like that – he went into a more detailed explanation than I could begin to understand at that moment, but I understood he was saying it holding on since May and then falling off was certainly possible.

So I really don’t know for sure what caused that axle to fall off.  But I really want to believe that it’s fixed now!

Should the Escape be Flat Towed?

However, it didn’t make me feel better to hear Matt flat out say that even though the Escape was supposedly designed to be flat towed, “From everything I’ve seen, if it were me, I’d use a dolly – I don’t think it should be flat towed.”  My response to that was that I was not interested in having a car that had to be towed with a dolly – yet another piece of equipment to deal with, find a place for at sometimes crowed campgrounds, etc.

And other than the towing problems, I absolutely love my Escape.  But – and this is the all-important but – I would have never bought that car if I thought it couldn’t be flat towed in exactly the way Ford said it could be.  I then spent thousands to get it all set up for flat towing with new base plate and an auxiliary braking system (Brake Buddy) because it was heavier than the little Saturn I’d been used to towing for the 8 years before.

Re: Remco Auxiliary Pump

I asked Matt about the Remco pump that was referenced in the Ford Service Bulletin (TSB 11-7-15) where it says at the bottom:

“For customers that do not comply with the Flat Tow guidelines, Ford Motor Company is aware of an accessory cooling pump available from Remco Industries that a customer can purchase and have installed. This pump may provide an alternative to the Owner Guide Flat Tow guidelines by circulating transmission fluid during towing operations; however, Ford Motor Company does not warrant this aftermarket product.  Further, the use of an aftermarket product may void your … warranty…”

First, I commented that I thought it was interesting that Ford used the language “For customers that do not comply with the Flat Tow guidelines…” when I and so many people who have experienced transmission failures most certainly do comply with the flat tow guidelines (which are certainly simple enough) and are still having problems.

Matt said, “The way I read it is the auxiliary part would help because that would remedy the fact that the original equipment transmission doesn’t circulate the fluid, so that pump would help.”

My question to Ford:  so why can’t Ford come up with something like this that they can warranty???  I’m sure the engineers are working on it but that doesn’t make people who are towing the car they bought for that purpose feel any safer on the road right now.  Nor can most afford to just take our lumps, get rid of the Escape and go buy another car for towing – especially when taking into consideration the expenses associated with new base plates and prepping the new car for towing.

“I faithfully follow Ford’s towing guidelines –
why did my transmission still fail?”

His opinion on why people are still having transmission failures when they scrupulously follow the guidelines:  “What I think would be the problem is that the internal components of the transmission are still spinning even though it’s in neutral and engine’s not running, the pump is not circulating fluids through the transmission to properly lubricate or cool the parts that are moving.”

He did say that the particular problems I had twice – the left axle seal leaking – was not related to overheating, which is the problem most people are having that have resulted in multiple transmission replacements.

The Importance of Not Overfilling Transmission Fluid

Because I’d already been exposed to at least 3 other Ford service techs who obviously did not know, I asked Randy if he fully understood where the proper transmission fluid levels were for towing and the procedures that had to be followed to get the correct reading.  He assured me that none had leaked out so he did not have to add any fluid and after test driving, etc., the level still looked good to him based on the Ford service bulletin.

But he said he did notice my fluid is darker – that it had changed color from the new bright red – which indicates it is getting heated more than what comes from normal driving.  I asked if he could tell from the records if the transmission fluid had been replaced in SC when the axle assembly was replaced and he said he thought it was probably just topped off at that point.

Driving/Towing Styles and Procedures

They also said that my driving/towing style probably has contributed to me not having the overheating problems others have had.  I never drive over 60 mph (usually have cruise control set to 55), I usually never drive more than 200 miles in a day, and since being in MI, mostly less than 100 miles in a day.  And I follow all instructions about letting the motor idle at least 5 minutes before towing, running through the gears before and after starting after towing, etc.  But now I understand better that I need to be doubly diligent about stopping and letting it cool off, run through the gears, etc.

While Ford guidelines say not to tow for greater than 6 hours at a time, Matt said he would stop and go through the procedures outlined in the guidelines at least twice that often.  He also said that outside temperature could be a factor in the transmission overheating so that’s another factor I have on my side while towing through Michigan.

Ford Bashing?

I have seen some comments that people didn’t think it was right for me to “bash” Ford as having a product that “sucked” based on my experience because it wasn’t necessarily representative of the quality of their entire line.  But really, my own experience with my own Ford product is my best teacher and that’s what I’m going to write about…

Honestly, it really is not my intent to bash Ford. I totally bought into the documentary I saw: “Ford: Rebuilding an American Icon – The inside story of Ford Motor Company shows its astounding comeback just a few years after nearly collapsing”.  I was impressed with the interviews with President and CEO Alan Mulally who said, ““The company is determined not to repeat past mistakes.”  I was even more impressed that Ford did not take the government bailout and I still can’t believe this dedicated company can’t figure this transmission thing out, so I’m keeping the faith for now.

But I will also not back down from speaking what I know to be the truth from my own experience.  I will also advocate for those readers that I hear from whose stories are sometimes heartbreaking.  Trips they had planned and dreamed of for years and have been completely ruined by these problems.  Can you imagine driving a 36′ or larger motorhome, towing a car behind you, and having a car pull alongside you gesturing wildly at your rear, trying to let you know your car is smoking like crazy?  Then trying to find a place big and safe enough to pull over…and having to spend your long-planned for vacation dealing with service reps, and then constantly worrying that the whole process will be repeated next time you’re on the road?

Thanks, Soo Motors!

Anyway, I’m tired and will get off the soapbox for now.  But again I have to say how impressed I am with most of the Ford people I’ve dealt with.  When I arrived at Soo Motors in pretty much a state of shock after seeing my axle on the ground and wheel all crooked, then totally aggravated after dealing with the total incompetence of the Ford Roadside Assistance rep, I was greeted by a friendly and smiling face of a woman who did her very best to take care of what I needed at that moment.

I was also extremely impressed with Matt, the Service Director, as he patiently answered all my questions and was unabashedly honest in his opinions and didn’t even say, “off the record!”    Only problem is he said he was shy and didn’t want his picture taken…  🙂

So since I always like to include a picture of the person I’m thanking for being one of my angels, please meet Sandee, my service advisor:

Thank you, Sandee – you were very much appreciated by me Monday and today!

3-12-12:  I updated my website page with more information (and conflicting opinions from Ford about whether they’ll pay for the Remco pump).

As for me, after the fix above (August, 2011), I haven’t had any other issues with the Escape after towing it another 3,300 miles since then.  Whenever I’ve had oil change done, though, I make the dealer firmly note on the work order not to fill the transmission fluid.  I’ve learned that not all dealers are aware of how critical the fluid level is.

 

  • Bruce

    Sandy is a Yooper and all Yoopers are nice, are intelligent, have a great work ethic and are just plain wonderful. But then, not everyone can be a Yooper. Sorry.
    I’m glad you are getting back on the road girl. I will be following you now that we have met and will keep you in my daily prayers.

    • Thanks, again for everything, Bruce – it’s especially nice to have an angel include you in their daily prayers!  🙂

  • Glenda Alexander

    All your troubles make me ache!  May this be the end of a l-o-o-o-n-g ordeal!!

    It makes me doubly thankful for my faithful little Toyota ECHO (“Sweet Pea”) with manual transmission.  She’s a joy to tow.  I also use a Brake Buddy even though she weights only about 2000 pounds.

    • I’m glad your “Sweet Pea” is humming along behind you without causing the problems my car is.  If only Saturn hadn’t gone out of biz, I most definitely would have stuck with them.  But I don’t really like driving a manual transmission and life I’ve said so many times – I so love my Escape – everything about it – except of course, the transmissions and related towing problems.  I keep praying and hoping the Ford engineers will find the final fix soon!  I met a retired Ford engineer at a MI campground and was so impressed with what he told me about how they really do want to fix the product and welcome the feedback, so I’m holding on to that faith!  🙂

  • Richard Marcoux

    Bonjour Malia,

    I just want to forward the letter that I received from Ford, by reading their answer I can see that they took time to look at your blog:

    From: crccan@ford.comSent: Thursday, August 04, 2011 6:46 PMTo: Subject: Ford of Canada
    Dear Mr. ,
    Thank you for contacting the Ford of Canada Customer Relationship Centre.  We received your message sent on 8/3/2011 regarding your feedback pertaining to the Solo woman Malia Miles who is experiencing concerns with her 2009 Ford Escape.

    We regret the circumstances which have prompted you to contact us.
    We pride ourselves on becoming the world’s leading consumer company for automotive products and services, and the satisfaction and safety of our customers is one of our highest priorities.  Ford of Canada makes every effort to maintain a high standard of quality control in our manufacturing process. 
    Mr. , customers can contact us by phone, or forward us correspondance by email, or through regular mail.  We are not equipped to receive faxes from customers.  Please be advised that we have a Customer Relationship Centre to handle any of our Ford or Lincoln customers inquires or concerns.  Customers may contact us Monday through Friday from 8:30-5 at 1-800-565-3673 their local time or send correspondance to:
     
    Ford Motor Company of Canada Ltd.Customer Relationship CentrePo Box 2000The Canadian RoadOakville, OntarioL6J 5E4

    Feedback such as yours is highly valued by Ford of Canada.  At Ford of Canada, we consider the satisfaction of our customers as one of our most important objectives. 
    If you have any other inquiries or concerns, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to address them.  
    Thank you for contacting Ford of Canada. 

    Sincerely,
    Michelle Ford of Canada Customer Relationship Centre
    Ford Confidentiality: 
    For security reasons, please do not submit any sensitive personally identifiable information, such as a credit card number, a driver’s license number, or date of birth, etc. Thank you.[THREAD ID:1-5W0DQU]
    Malia, I don’t think that you were “bashing” Ford, I think that you were making your reader aware of a possible problem with this car. Thank you so much for sharing, this might just save someone life. I have still concerns, so far I am satisfied with my Ford truck, mind you I don’t flat tow it, but when it need to be replace, I will not get a Ford. My main point is that if someone like you, that has done everything by the book, that is well known (like I said a Super Star) can’t get a satisfied resolution, what is the chance that a private person has to get any where with them!

    I will prayed that the latest saga is over and that we can travel safely with you anywhere you want to bring us to.

    On a more personnel note, I think that you used to have a section about gifts (donation), do you still have that available somewhere?

    Bonne journée mon amie,

    Richard

    • Richard,

      Again, you just amaze me with your interest and kindness – thanks so much for that letter to Ford!  I firmly believe that every message like this helps to bring attention to this matter that’s so important and is causing so much trouble – not just RVers who tow are having trouble with Ford and Mercury cars with this type transmission!  Bad enough ruined trips and frazzled nerves –  I’m afraid the next thing we’ll be hearing about is a death or serious injury as a direct result of this issue and would like to do everything in my power to see that doesn’t happen…

      So, again, thank you for taking the time to do this and let me know.

      As for donations, I honestly can’t remember if I have that on the site anywhere anymore, but besides, your donation of time, feedback and that letter is more than enough for me!

      Merci beaucoup!
      Malia

  • Jackie

    Did the towing break your axle? I was thinking about getting a Ford Escape which I would not tow but now am wondering if I should go another route

  • Hi Jackie,

    If what the tech at Soo Motors told me is correct, the axle breaking was not directly caused by towing.  However, it was that left axle that was replaced twice and Soo Motors theorized that the last time it was replaced in SC, that tech did not properly tighten the nut/bolt so that it eventually fell out, allowing the axle to fall off.

    Now, whether the axle problems are directly related to towing, I can’t say.  When I first started researching all this, I thought all the transmission problems in the Escape were because of the towing.  But this Ford forum convinced me otherwise and showed that many people who have never towed the Escape are having serious transmission issues:  http://www.fordforumsonline.com/forum/ford-escape/318-2009-2010-auto-transmission-issues.html?utm_source=Ford+Forums+Online+List&utm_campaign=edb97f5d6f-FFO_Email_2011-06-23&utm_medium=email

    And if you look at the following site, it shows how the Escape ranks as far as overall problems:  http://www.carcomplaints.com/Ford/Escape/2009/ which again would be enough to convince me to look elsewhere at this point.

    As I’ve said repeatedly, other than the problems, I love everything else about the Escape.  But of course the purpose of having a car is getting around with it in a reasonably reliable, safe way!  If only it lived up to the reviews I read about it in 2009 when I was doing my research – it had glowing reports from Consumer Reports and everywhere else I checked at that time.  But 2 years later, from my experience, hearing the experience of others, and the fact that Ford still has not publicly addressed these issues but just keeps putting baby bandaids on gaping wounds, would I recommend a friend to buy one?  Absolutely NO WAY!

    Having said that, I’ve heard from other people who have 2009 Escapes that have had no problems. I’ve heard from a former Ford engineer who I really respect that leads me to believe that the Ford team really does care and they will continue to work on this problem. But, again, if asked would I buy this car again or would I recommend it – I’m sorry to say I just honestly can’t…

    Good luck, Jackie and thanks for commenting!

  • Mac

    Well, I wish I had read this article just a few days sooner: me and my neighbor purchased a 2011 Ford Escape expressly to tow behind our Class A’s. And this past Labor Day, while driving from Birmingham, AL to Nashville, TN, both of us burned up our transmissions! This situation with Ford is both unethical, and immoral, and could eventually cost some unsuspecting RVer and their family their lives.

    • Wow – two of you – and at the same time??? That goes to show it’s no “coincidence” that this keeps happening. And I’m sure you’ve heard the first question that makes it seem like it’s something you did: “Did you follow the towing instructions explicitly?”

      I remember hearing that over and over like I didn’t know what I was doing – even though I had towed a Saturn for 8 years previous with no problems!

      And even though Ford may be fixing things as they come up while (hopefully) trying to find the “final” fix, I worry about the same thing you mention – besides costing us all the hassle and travel disruptions – at some point it could lead to an accident that will cost lives.

      I hope you’ll keep in touch and let us know what is happening in your case.

      Many thanks!
      Malia

  • Tjhwrd

    After installing 3rd tranny since new Dec 2011 (2011 Mercury Mariner) Ford
    installed Remco pump at Ford’s expense.  I still follow all Ford procedures
    and have towed 5500 miles since pump installation.  No problems so far.

    • Hey, thanks a lot for letting me know that!  Sounds like Ford changed its position that I wrote about above (that it would void warranty).  So since Ford installed it for you, they will also warranty that work, is that correct?  I will see what my dealer has to say about it when I next take my car in.  Thanks a bunch for keeping us informed!

  • Robert Gardner

    I just got off the phone with Remco. Now they only make the pump for Ford. My Ford dealer in Camdenton Mo wan’ts 2905.00 for the pump and WILL NOT INSTALL IT.

    • Wow, Robert, another example of being given totally conflicting information! But besides who pays for what, I still have concern that the Remco pump is not a guarantee that is the final fix. And even if Ford pays for it, what happens once the Ford is out of warranty? I’ve seen comments from others that say it worked great for them and from others with fried transmissions even after the Remco pump was installed.

      I know you saw the info on this blog post, but I also did a page on Malia’s Miles about this: http://www.maliasmiles.com/RVTravel/ford-escape-remco.htm

      Hope you will keep us informed on what you do and how it worked. Thanks a bunch for contributing!