Ford Escape Problems: 16 Common Issues

The Ford Escape is a small SUV that has been in production since 2001, and in these years, it has had its fair share of problems.

The first and second generations of Ford Escapes were well-known for their rust problem and rear window glass shattering for no reason. The third generation had transmission and engine stalling issues.

To help you make a more informed decision, we’ve broken down these issues below and looked at some Escape recalls you need to be aware of (especially if you have one of these models).

2023 ford escape with skyscraper in background

16 Common Ford Escape Problems

1. Engine Stalls

This is a problem that the first and third-generation Escape experienced, but for totally different reasons.

The first-generation escape would turn off entirely; usually, driving downhill between 30 to 50 mph (48.3 to 80,5 kph) is an intermittent problem, and so far, there is no fix.

The third-generation Escape had a faulty water temperature sensor that would detect an overheating situation, put the car in limp home mode, and turn off the engine shortly after.

Some owners had their cars shut down while driving up to six times daily. 

The fix is replacing the faulty water temp sensor and getting an updated coolant bypass valve that will pay you back $1,590.

2. PCM Failure

The PCM or Power Control Module’s job is to control many electronic things on the vehicle and store error codes.

In the first generation Escapes, the coil packs can break or short circuit, breaking the PCM in the process.

This happens at around 100,000 miles (160,934 kilometers) when the coil packs are close to the end of their life span, and the only fix is to replace the coil packs, and if your PCM dies as well, a new PCM that will cost between $2,000-2,500.

3. Unwanted Acceleration

Between 2001 and 2012, the Ford Escape had an issue where the clearance between the engine cover and the throttle cable was too close.

This clearance issue causes the throttle to get stuck at wide open throttle; some owners had horrible accidents because of this. 

A free fix is to remove the engine cover, the car might have a bit more engine noise in the cabin, but at least it won’t accelerate without you wanting to.

4. Leaking Brake Line

The first generation Ford Escape had an issue where the brake lines near the ABS module would start to leak and could land on hot objects like the exhaust and cause smoke and, in some cases, even a fire.

This happens at around 78,000 miles (125,529 kilometers), and the fix is replacing the line; some vehicles may also need to replace the ABS module.

5. Automatic Transmission Failure

Many first- and second-generation Escape owners will suddenly experience the overdrive light flashing on the dashboard. 

The car will not drive after the light on the dashboard appears, as if the transmission is slipping.

This is a recurring problem as some owners are on their third gearbox in under 180,000 miles (289,682 kilometers).

This usually means that it has a total transmission failure and will need the transmission replaced, that cost around $2,720.

On the third-generation CVT automatic, the transmission has an issue where it disintegrates itself. 

The only sign it is busy dying is when the car starts jerking forward and hesitates when accelerating.

The fix is to replace the gearbox, which can cost about $4,640.

6. Paint Peeling Off

This was a major visual issue with the first and second-generation Ford Escapes. 

It was all the effect of a lousy applied undercoat.

This isn’t the regular clearcoat fade or degradation we usually see on cars. 

On the Escape, the top coat and clear coat peal off, leaving only the exposed undercoat.

This happens at around 75,000 miles (120,701 kilometers).

The affected areas are the bumpers, hood, and roof, and the costs are pretty close to how much it would cost to fix scratches on the paint.

7. Rust

The rust problems were not so kind on the first, and second-generation Ford Escapes, especially around the suspension towers.

It is so bad that the suspension separates itself from the vehicle’s frame and can punch into the car’s interior.

The rust does not stop there; the wheel wells and outer lips of the wheel well are also prone to rusting badly, so severely that on some owners’ vehicles, you can see the interior carpet through the rust holes. 

8. Rear Window Explodes

The rear window is prone to exploding on its own for no good reason on the first and second-generation Ford Escapes.

There are two reasons for this to happen: the bolts holding the glass can rust and expand and put pressure on the glass, causing it to shatter, and secondly, the expansion of Nickel sulfide in the glass itself. 

Dr. Andreas Kasper did a study on this, which is fascinating to read.

The only fix is replacing the rear glass with a second-hand one or a new and the cost averages around $460.

9. Engine Failure

In the first generation, all the engines had an issue at around 88,000 miles (141,622 kilometers). 

It will start consuming oil at an alarming rate, and the oil warning light is more of a notification light that the engine needs to be replaced.

Some owners’ oil lights on their Escape did not turn on, while the engine had no oil in the motor.

The only solution is replacing the engine, which costs around $4,480.

10. Transmission Cooler Leak

The second-generation Escape, at around 45,000 miles (72,420 kilometers), had an issue where the automatic transmission oil cooler could start leaking.

If it goes unnoticed, this can lead to catastrophic transmission failure, which you do not want to experience, especially the cost.

The fix is to replace the oil cooler, which will cost around $620.

11. Power Steering Failure

On the second generation of the Escape, Ford installed an electric power steering column. From the new, it could just randomly stop working and start working again.

The big problem is that the steering gets heavy when the powers-assisted steering goes out. 

I would argue that it is much heavier than a regular hydraulic-assisted steering system that doesn’t work.

The PSCM, Power Steering Control Module, is the culprit behind this and needs to be replaced with an updated version. 

However, the bad part is that it is part of the column and costs around $1,500.

12. Ignition Barrel Play

There is excessive play in the ignition barrel in the second-generation Ford Escapes that can cause the key to get stuck in the ignition barrel, or you have to use so much force to move the key into different parts of the ignition barrel. 

Due to it having much play in the barrel, a replacement ignition switch will fail again in a short while.

13. Airconditioning Failure

The second-generation Escape was also plagued with a desiccant bag in the receiver dryer that failed and disintegrated the entire air conditioning system, even the aircon pump as well.

The entire system will need to be replaced, costing anywhere from $2,500.

14. No Throttle Response

Again it is the second generation Ford Escape suffering from another fault, and this time, the models equipped with the electronic throttle body that causes it.

Since an electronic throttle body has no mechanical connection to the throttle pedal in the vehicle, the pedal actuator or the throttle body actuator can fail.

At around 54,000 miles (86,904 kilometers), the Escape owners noticed the car would not react to any throttle input. 

It will only idle, even when driving, which can occur randomly; the only way to fix it quickly is to turn the vehicle off and on again to reset the throttle body.

Replacing the throttle body at around $430 will ensure another trouble-free 50,000 miles before the chances of it starting acting up again.

15. Coolant Loss

The third-generation Escape has a bad-quality radiator system, which causes the motor to lose coolant. 

Some owners are very unlucky and lose most of the coolant in a short time frame causing the engine to overheat.

The fix is to buy the updated factory hoses and radiator at around $980.

16. Parasitic Battery Drain

A total nuisance on the third-generation Escape is the parasitic power drain on the battery.

Something inside the vehicle’s electronics only partially turns off when the car is off, resulting in the battery draining.

It is quite substantial because it is normal for the car to drain the battery twice a month for many owners.

Ford Escape Recalls

While many Ford Escapes have been recalled, many out there were not repaired, so consider these problems when buying a second-hand Escape. 

If you own an Escape, take your vehicle to a dedicated Ford dealer to rectify these problems as soon as possible.

2010 Recalls

  • 2010 model-year vehicles have a park rod guide retention pin that may not correctly install, which can cause unintended movement while the parking brake is engaged.

2012 Recalls

  • 2012 model-year vehicles have mispositioned carpet padding on the center console trim panel that can be pushed outboard of its original position. This can cause the driver not to transfer their foot properly to the brake pedal, causing worse braking performance.

2013 Recalls

  • 2013 model-year vehicles equipped with the 1.6 engine have an engine compartment fuel line that can split, causing a leak and a potential fire.
  • 2013 model-year vehicles equipped with the 1.6 engine may have a freeze plug that can get dislodged and cause loss of coolant, and the glycol in the coolant can cause a fire.
  • 2013 model-year vehicles equipped with the 1.6 engine can overheat and cause the engine to leak fluids onto the exhaust and cause a fire.
  • 2013 model-year vehicles have a left rear door child lock built incorrectly, resulting in it not working as intended. 

The door can still be opened from the inside when locked.

  • 2013 model-year vehicles equipped with the 1.6 engine can experience localized overheating in the cylinder head, causing an oil leak that can potentially cause a fire.

2014 Recalls

  • 2013 to 2014 model-year vehicles, the driver and passenger seatback assemblies are produced with substandard weld joints. 

They are not strong enough for the requirements of the FMVSS, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard.

  • 2001 to 2004 model-year vehicles may experience excessive rust at the lower control arm that can separate and cause loss of vehicle control.
  • 2013 to 2014 model-year vehicles may have a faulty restraint control module that can cause a delay in the deployment of the curtain rollover airbags.
  • 2013 to 2014 model-year vehicles due to an assembly misalignment between the door outer panel and door handle will cause the doors to be challenging to close and possibly open while driving.
  • 2008 to 2011 model-year vehicles may have a faulty steering torque sensor that cannot correctly detect steering input resulting in the power steering not functioning properly.
  • 2014 model-year vehicles equipped with the panorama roof may have glass not adequately bonded to the bracket, which can cause the glass to separate from the car.
  • 2013 to 2014 model-year equipped with the 2.0-liter engine has a fault with the wiring harness to the MAP (Manifold Absolute Pressure) sensor; this can cause incorrect signals to the PCM (Powertrain Control Module) and lets the car hesitate or stall.
  • 2014 model-year vehicles’ FDM (Fuel Delivery Module) may crack between the filler cap and the filler body, which can cause low fuel pressure driving the car to stall.
  • 2013 to 2014 model-year vehicles have a coating on portions of the RCM (Restraint Control Module) that may crack and, when exposed to humid air or moisture, cause the circuit board to short circuit.

This causes the airbags and the seatbelt pre-tensioners not to function as intended.

2015 Recalls

  • 2014 model-year vehicles have improper nickel plating inside the fuel pump that can result in the pump failing, and the car can stall without warning.
  • 2014 to 2015 model-year vehicles have a software incompatibility issue between the PCM (Powertrain Control Module) and the MFD (Multiple Functional Display).

This causes the vehicle warnings and chimes not to be displayed or heard.

  • 2015 model-year vehicles may keep running after the car is turned off with the key or the start-stop button.

2016 Recalls

  • 2013 to 2015 model-year vehicles have a component in the door latch that can break, preventing the doors from latching all the way.
  • 2010 to 2012 model-year vehicles with the 3.0 V6 engine can have the FDM (Fuel Delivery Module) crack causing a leak close to an ignition source.

2017 Recalls

  • 2017 model-year vehicles, the settings on the power-operated windows that control the force of closing can allow the window to close on an object like a body part without going into auto-reverse.
  • 2014 to 2015 model-year vehicles equipped with the 1.6 GTDI engine, if the car is driven or started with insufficient coolant, the engine cylinder head can overheat and crack and start leaking oil.
  • 2016 model-year vehicle, the knee airbag was manufactured without the inflator gas generant material; this will cause the airbag not to inflate appropriately in an accident.
  • 2014 to 2015 model-year vehicles have improper manufactured bolts used on the seats, seatbacks, seatbelt buckles, or seatbelt anchors.

2018 Recalls

  • 2018 model-year vehicles have components in the curtain airbags that can detach when deployed, sending projectiles into the cabin in the event of a crash.
  • 2018 model-year vehicles may be installed with incorrect-length front brake hoses that can chafe against other components and cause a leak resulting in worse brake performance.
  • 2013 to 2014 model-year vehicles equipped with six-speed automatic transmissions have a bushing that attaches the shifter cable to the transmission that can degrade over time, causing it to get enough play. 

Hence, the driver struggles to get the vehicle into park and can’t remove the key then.

2020 Recalls

  • 2020 model-year vehicles, the recliner mechanism may be missing the third paw required for seat back strength resulting in a loose seat back.
  • 2013 to 2015 model-year vehicles were recalled due to doors being difficult to latch, and the problem was not completed correctly.
  • 2020 model-year vehicle may have an improperly crimped diffuser in the side airbags that can detach from the inflator in the event of a crash.
  • 2020 model-year vehicles, the start-stop accumulator endcap may have loose or missing bolts.
  • 2020 model-year vehicles have a poor connection to the rear camera resulting in an intermittently black or distorted image on the backup screen.
  • 2020 model-year vehicles with key-start ignition systems BCM (Body Control Module) may intermittently not pick up the TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) or the remote keyfob.

2021 Recalls

  • 2020 model-year vehicles may have inadequate lubricant in the rear drive unit, seizing up the rear drive axle.
  • 2019 model-year vehicles equipped with Continental tires may have a tire cured for too long in production, resulting in a break in the sidewall and loss of air pressure.
  • 2021 model-year vehicles, the fuel delivery module can leak inside the fuel tank resulting in low fuel pressure and the vehicle stalling.
  • 2021 model-year vehicles equipped with the 2.5 hybrid powertrains, the high voltage battery can fail, resulting in loss of power.

2022 Recalls

  • 2021 to 2022 model-year vehicles’ rear brake linings may have been manufactured incorrectly, affecting braking performance.
  • 2021 to 2022 model-year vehicles equipped with the 2.5 hybrid powertrains, the high voltage battery can fail, resulting in loss of power.
  • 2020 to 2022 model-year vehicles equipped with the 1.5-liter engine have an oil separator housing that can crack and start leaking oil and drip onto the exhaust system.
  • 2013 to 2019 model-year vehicles have a bushing that attaches the shifter cable to the transmission that can degrade and detach over time
  • 2020 to 2022 model-year vehicles equipped with the 2.5 hybrid powertrains, in the event of engine failure, the engine oil vapor may accumulate near an ignition source and result in a fire in the engine compartment.
2019 ford escape in city centre

Final thoughts on Ford Escape Problems

The Ford Escape name has been with us for over 20 years and with age comes problems and a lot of them.

The worst is the first and second-generation rust around the suspension towers and the paint peeling off.

The best thing to do if you own a Ford Escape is to take it to a Ford dealership and have them check for any recalls that haven’t been completed.

If you are in the market for a used Ford Escape, get a full vehicle history report and avoid any models with an outstanding recall.

Hopefully, you found this article helpful, and this will help you decide if the Ford Escape is worth your time or not.


Is the Ford Escape a reliable car?

No, the Ford Escape has many problems, from severe rust issues to total engine and transmission failures.
The Ford Escape, especially the first generation, should be avoided at all costs.

What year did Escapes have transmission problems?

2001 to 2012 were affected by transmission problems and failures.
With a price of over $4,000 for a replacement transmission, it is not something you want to deal with.

Is Ford Escape really 4wd?

Yes, the models sold as 4WD have a differential front and rear with a transfer case.
While it might not be as capable as its bigger Ford siblings, it can still traverse dirt roads, snow, and even some offroad obstacles.

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Article by

Jaco Schrader

Jaco is the automotive heart of our platform. Born and raised in Namibia, he began his journey in the automobile sector in 2012. Launching his own automotive repair business in Africa and fitting a Toyota 1UZ-FE V8 in a Ford Sierra, Jaco brings over six years of hands-on automotive experience. He’s a self-taught expert in various mechanical and electrical aspects of vehicles.

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