2009 Ford Escape Dinghy – Flat Towing Problems

May/4/2011 71 Malia Lane
Ford Escape - Towing Issues

I’ve decided to post my experience with towing the 2009 Ford Escape here in hopes that by drawing attention to the issues I’ve had, it will help others and maybe get some definitive help from Ford and assurance that this car is indeed safe to be flat towed per the representations by the dealer and in the Owner’s Manual provided.

As a legal assistant, I know how important it is to outline the facts with an established timeline, so I have prepared that and will keep it updated.  I have also started keeping a record of all of my correspondence with Ford.  That and other documentation is linked below.

I’m sharing here and on the website in hopes of saving others some of the time and trouble I had.  Link to website page of what I’ve learned through this process.

April, 2013: I’ve escaped the Escape!

For my birthday, I treated myself to a new toad! I absolutely love my Honda Fit and it does fit the bill perfectly for me. See Facebook page for pictures and more details (it’s public so you don’t need FB account to view). Since then, I’ve towed it from Austin to Tennessee with no problems at all – very quick and simple process. Plus I love how I can zip around much better while exploring and never a problem fitting into a parking space! I’m thankful my Ford dealer (Leif Johnson in Austin) worked it out so I could trade it in. As I’ve said, I have no problem with them, but I will never, ever buy another Ford car due to the unscrupulous way Ford as a company has handled this matter.  If you’ll read any of the info below or on my website, you’ll see why.

August 1, 2011:

The left front axle fell off!  See blog post: Ford Escape Problems Even Worse Now!


As for my overall experience with Ford, I detailed all of that in the documents linked below, but to recap, for the most part, if my only problem was the friendliness of the Ford people, I’d have had no problem whatsoever.  My unhappiness was due to the car I bought not being reliable and possibly even dangerous, whether it was being towed or not.  Do a Google search for “Ford Escape transmission problems” and you’ll see enough to get what I mean.

At first I thought the transmission issues were related to it being flat towed.  That was my particular interest so that’s what I concentrated on.  I started seeing, though, that it’s not only towed cars that are having these issues, and was surprised at the number of other folks in the same boat with these cars.

I learned a lot in this process, I’m used to doing research, and I looked all over to see if I could find an official statement from Ford about these continued transmission failures.  Nothing could I find.  It does look like Ford is trying to take care of the customers, replacing transmissions multiple times in some cases, replacing parts as needed, etc.  But sometimes that is of little consolation, especially to RVers whose entire trips sometimes have been ruined by having to deal with these dangerous breakdowns over and over again.  So I’d still like to see some official statement from Ford and assurance that they are really working on a permanent fix to these issues and that continuing problems will be resolved even when the cars are no longer under manufacturer’s warranty.

The inconvenience I experienced with my departure being delayed briefly was mild compared to some of the horror stories I heard from other RVers.  But the anxiety I experienced when they couldn’t tell me how long it would take to even get the part after almost 3 weeks of waiting was certainly no fun.  And the thought of 2,600 other people out there waiting for the same part didn’t help.

Kathy at the regional level of the Customer Relationship Center was also a huge help, made me feel like she was on my side and assured me she would be my contact to get me any help I need no matter where I am in the country should I have further problems.  I’m really grateful to her for that!

I do encourage anyone else going through this to post comments here and on the forums I’ve linked below.  I think we all should stick together and share information to help each other through this as Ford figures everything out on their end!

Questions for Ford about recurring transmission failures

I’ve been told by reps via Twitter on May 18 that engineers will answer my technical questions, so I’ll post here if they do.  If anyone has any questions to add, please post here!

Brief history:

In 2009, when the Saturn I had flat towed behind my motorhome since 2001 needed to be replaced, I was going to buy another Saturn because I had been so happy with the trouble free towing of it for so many years. But once I discovered that Saturn was basically going out of business, I decided to research to see what other cars with automatic transmissions were okay for flat towing.

Even though I had not been traveling for a couple of years at that point, the most important consideration was that it could easily be flat towed because I still intended to resume my fulltime RVing lifestyle as soon as I could. The 2009 Ford Escape looked like the best option to me. I didn’t see anything to cause concern at that point, it was highly rated by Consumer Reports, and the flat towing instructions clearly outlined in the owner’s manual were not complicated or burdensome.

I purchased my 2009 Ford Escape XLT (4 cyl., automatic transmission) on November 19, 2009.  The first time I flat towed it was in February, 2010.  That’s when the saga begins…

My first letter/plea to Mr. William Clay Ford, Jr., Executive Chairman of Ford: (link to pdf copy)

No response from anyone on corporate level on this either…

May 4, 2011

Mr. William Clay Ford, Jr.
Executive Chairman
Ford Motor Company
P.O. Box 6248
Dearborn, MI 48126-2798

Dear Mr. Ford,

Although I have addressed my concerns via the comment form on your website and Twitter, I am old fashioned enough to prefer to address a real letter to a real person.  But besides that, my problems are of a pressing nature at this point and I am not at all assured that they will be addressed by these impersonal, anonymous methods.  But I guess this is a long shot, too…

I am a solo female fulltime RVer travel writer. I bought a 2009 Ford Escape because of its ability to be flat towed behind a motorhome. I’ve towed it less than 2,000 miles now and even after the transmission was replaced in 2009 and the axle bushing, seal & axle assembly replaced in 2010, I am now being told my transmission shows early signs of failure and the same repairs need to be done again. I am meticulous about following the manual and the May 2010 supplemental bulletin’s towing instructions. I flat towed a Saturn for 8 years with no problems at all before the Ford, so this is not a new concept for me.

I am on assignment for MotorHome magazine and will need to tow my car all over Michigan this summer. I am now in SC waiting yet again for the back ordered parts to be sent to the dealer. They cannot tell me how long it will take or that the car is safe to drive in the meantime.

I really need some top-dog help here, Mr. Ford. Most of the dealers and people I’ve talked to have been very nice, but the last person I talked to at Customer Service (Connor) was of no help whatsoever. And I need more than friendly voices or expressions of concern that you want to keep satisfied customers. As a woman traveling alone, driving a 36’ motorhome towing a car, I have enough to worry about. I need assurance that I have a safe car that does what Ford says it was built to do. I can’t afford to spend my time sitting in service centers while your engineers figure out how to fix a problem that should have been addressed a long time ago.

I’ve written about my experience with as much information as I can provide at https://www.maliasmiles.com/blog/2009-ford-escape-dinghy/. I beg you to please help me keep the faith in Ford and contact me with a real solution to this problem so I can go about my business in Michigan this summer without constantly worrying about my car giving out on me in the middle of the Upper Peninsula with limited resources. I hope and pray that a real person with a warm heart and real conscience receives this and is moved to provide some real help!

In a 11/15/2009 press release, you were quoted as saying “I want us to be a company that makes a difference in people’s lives; one that delights its customers…“to do that we are focused on delivering desirable products…”

So I beseech you, Mr. Ford, make a difference in this one woman’s life.  Deliver the desirable product I bought and help relieve the tension and anxiety I now feel with this unreliable car.


Malia Lane

Monday, May 16:

I’m sending another snail mail letter to Mr. Ford with recap of all communications with Ford to date.  Am I a fool to believe that if someone at corporate actually takes the time to review my case, I’ll have better success than with the canned responses from the not-appropriately named “Customer Relationship Center?”  Here is link to that letter with all documents attached.

Timeline and other Documentation:

Timeline of issues with towing Escape

Communications with Ford via Twitter

Communications with Customer Relationship Center – Ford Motor Company (CRCFMC)

Forum Posts:

From FMCA Administrators on their forum:  Ford 2012 Escape, Fusion No Longer Towable (May 2012)
FMCA recently learned that Ford Motor Company has amended its information concerning flat-towing 2012 Ford Escape and Fusion vehicles equipped with front-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive, or all-wheel-drive systems. In February 2012 the company published an Owner Guide Supplement for these vehicles. It states:

This Information Replaces The Recreational Towing Information In The Tires, Wheels And Loading Chapter

Recreational Towing

Note: Put your climate control system in recirculated air mode to prevent exhaust fumes from entering the vehicle. Refer to the Climate Control chapter.

Follow these guidelines if you have a need for recreational (RV) towing. An example of recreational towing would be towing your vehicle behind a motorhome. These guidelines are designed to ensure that your transmission is not damaged.

Front-wheel drive (FWD) vehicles CANNOT be flat-towed (all wheels on the ground), as vehicle or transmission damage may occur. The front wheels must be placed on a two-wheel tow dolly. If you are using a tow dolly, follow the instructions specified by the equipment provider.

All-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicles CANNOT be flat-towed (all wheels on the ground), as vehicle or transmission damage may occur. It is recommended to tow your vehicle with all four (4) wheels off the ground such as when using a car-hauling trailer. Otherwise, no recreational towing is permitted.

The owners manual for 2013 Escape vehicles includes the same information; therefore, new Escape vehicles with FWD, AWD, or 4WD cannot be towed four wheels down. FMCA has not yet confirmed whether 2013 Fusion vehicles can be flat-towed.

Forum posts with similar problems (pdf document)

I wondered if an option was to trade up for a 2010 model, but this forum doesn’t make that choice look attractive, either:
2010 Ford Escape Transmission Failures (RV.Net)

I also posted a question on RV.Net to see if there were any happy campers towing my kind of car:
Anybody towing a 2009 Ford Escape with no problems?

And it’s not just those who flat tow who are having major transmission problems:
Ford Owners Online: 2009-2010 transmission issues
Escape City:  2011 Escape 6f35 Transmission Problems (see 8/14/11 post)

Technical Stuff:

Ford 2009 RV and Trailer Towing Guide (ok to flat tow)

6F35 Transmission type info (with info on its “ability to provide lubrication when flat towed…”)

Service Bulletins:

  • TSB 11-7-15 – (July 12, 2011) – re: 2009-2012 Escape (and others) – supersedes TSB 09-20-13 below to update model years. This goes into more detail about the dipstick and how to read, but basically information is the same.

However, at the bottom they do mention that there is an accessory cooling pump available from Remco that “may provide an alternative to the Owner Guide Flat Tow guidelines…however, Ford does not warrant this aftermarket product. further, the use of an aftermarket product may void your … warranty…”

So big ole’ Catch 22 from Ford – basically in my mind they’re saying “We haven’t figured out how to make the car do what we said it would do in order to get you to buy it – or at least not so that it doesn’t mess with our profits too much. And if you find a fix from somebody else (after spending money you shouldn’t have to spend if the car towed like we said it would) – you’re totally on your own after that and we won’t even keep putting our little band aids on the gaping wound anymore.” And I can hear the last remark under their breath, “…and good riddance to you, too!”

They continue to recommend that customers follow the Owners Guide Flat Tow guidelines, even though they’re obviously not working!

  • TSB 09-20-13 (October 5, 2009) – re: 2009-2010 Escape (and others)
    6F35 Transmission – Recreational Towing – Vehicle With All 4 Wheels on the Ground – Expanded Guidelines to Prevent Transmission Damage

Issue: “The transmission shieft concern may be caused by heat build up in the transmission due to the transmission fluid level being too high, towing speeds above 65 mph and/or not stopping to run the engine at idle for 5 mnutes ever six hours or less, to cool the transmission”

Action: Transmission fluid adjustments (shows proper level on dipstick) repeats instructions from manual
Notes importance of checking readings at operating temperature per WSM Section 307-01

The above two are ones I’m currently aware of that relate to my 2009 Ford Escape. But I just found this neat website that lists all service bulletins on MyCarStats.com. The search results here are for Ford Escape, but they list for other makes/models as well.