2003 Ford Escape problem

Tiny
BUBBY6565
  • MEMBER
  • 2003 FORD ESCAPE
  • 3.0L
  • 6 CYL
  • 4WD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 150,000 MILES
I own a 2003 Ford Escape, and early today I had my car in the shop for a tie rod replacement. I was advised my car was repaired and was told to get it, so I did. I paid them the 120$ USD for the repair and on I went to test drive it. I got about 3 miles before my tire started rubbing the fenderwell and pulling hard to the right I had to fight to keep my car from hitting things and about 30 seconds after that started I was on my way back to the garage. And all of a sudden there is a very loud clunk sound from my passenger front tire. And my front end dropped and wheel locked up. Causing me to lose control of my vehicle. Nearly missing parked cars. My guess is control arm but I have no clue
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Friday, October 30th, 2015 AT 5:29 PM

31 Replies

Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
What is the question? After a tie rod replacement the car would need an alignment. A conscientious mechanic will not just set "toe", (the direction a wheel is steering), which is set by adjusting the tie rods. He will also adjust "camber" to make it perfect. Camber is the inward or outward tilt of the wheel as viewed from in front of the car. A tire will pull in the direction it's leaning so camber has to be approximately equal on both sides so those pulls offset each other, and so a tire isn't riding on one edge which causes rapid bad tire wear.

For many years the engineers at Ford designed in real high camber to create real smooth ride quality, but they didn't want you to know the tires would barely last 15,000 miles. To add to the insult, camber was not adjustable, so you were stuck buying lots of tires. I am very pleased to tell you your car uses a strut design exactly like what Chrysler has used since the late '70s, and many GM cars have used. One of the lower strut mounting holes is slotted or can be ground out to provide for camber adjustment. Along with that though, comes the same problems a mechanic can run into. The first is those bolts have to be tight enough to hold the wheel in place. Imagine holding a dinner plate with your hand with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other side. Now there's a force trying to spin that plate. You have to squeeze your fingers tight enough to prevent that from happening. That is what the two lower mounting bolts have to do to hold the wheel in place standing upright.

Chrysler used to use "cam bolts" that could be turned to make the camber adjustment, then the offset head would help hold the wheel there. Today, to save money, most manufacturers use regular bolts, then rely on the squeezing force to hold the wheel in place. One problem I used to run into was rust buildup in the threads of those bolts. That rust caused the nuts to get tight before they reached the needed clamping force, but they felt tight. Later, the adjustment could slip, especially when the owner hit a pot hole or big bump. Another problem is simply not tightening the bolts enough. That is more due to inexperience but it can happen to anyone.

The worst one I ever had was on a car that I set camber on both wheels with the car jacked up off the hoist, and when I set it down to take the readings, both sides slipped badly. I had to start all over, then the same thing happened. After the third or fourth attempt, out of frustration, I really tightened those bolts for all I was worth, and I actually snapped one of them. (Those bolts were almost 3/4" in diameter)! Snapping it was a stroke of luck because I had to remove the wheel to replace the bolt, and that's when I found the overly-conscientious mechanic who had just installed new struts coated all the bolts with anti-seize compound before sending the car to me for the alignment. He thought that would make the bolts easy to free up years later, but what it did was make them too slippery to hold the wheels in place. Just the weight of the car was enough to make those adjustments slip. It took me almost an hour to take everything apart to clean that lubricant off and to replace the bolt.

Had that car made it into the owner's hands and onto the road, the wheels would have slipped on the first bump, and it sounds like that is what happened to your car. First, if the left wheel slipped, it would tip in on top, and that would cause a hard pull to the right. Second, due to the steering and suspension geometry, tipping will also cause that wheel to turn left or right. The car would go that way and you'd have to counteract that by turning the steering wheel.

That's enough of what could have happened. Regardless of the cause of I suspect a slipped adjustment, the shop is going to take care of this for you. That should include the cost of a tow truck, at least that's how this would be handled at the dealership I used to work for. All mechanics make mistakes from time to time, just like doctors, lawyers, and accountants, and they deserve the chance to correct them. What you need to do is call the shop where the work was done. Don't call the tow truck on your own. Shops either have their own tow truck or they have a preferred service they use for this type of problem. They may get a better rate, or they might want to avoid some towing services that have a reputation for being careless or rough with their customers' cars. It's easier for a shop to pay a towing bill as a business expense than it is to try to reimburse you for a towing bill after the job is done.
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Friday, October 30th, 2015 AT 7:48 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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I'm back with another possible cause for your dilemma. Take a look at this person's problem with the same model, year, and mileage. Your mechanic may have done nothing wrong. This could be related to a safety recall.

http://www.2carpros.com/questions/2003-ford-escape-subframe
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Friday, October 30th, 2015 AT 10:05 PM
Tiny
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Holy cow! Thats just like my damage! That is crazy. See I didn't want to jump to conclusions and blame my mechanic, I've been dealing with him for 20 years. Now this is reassuring! But what do I do now? Should I contact Ford? Because that persons issue is identical to mine! Thank you so much!
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Saturday, October 31st, 2015 AT 8:09 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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Read the whole reply. I told him to go to the dealer to see if they would be able to do anything for him. You have to remember the dealer wants the work and they don't care if it's you or Ford paying the bill, but if it's Ford, they're limited in things they can do. Ford will only pay for certain things.
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Saturday, October 31st, 2015 AT 1:11 PM
Tiny
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I took my car to ford, they looked at my car. Confirmed it has an open safety recall, and the damage to my car was confirmed to have been caused by the faulty part. But they flat out refused to do anything for me. Saying it was not their problem. They wouldn't even tow it home for me. I had to pay. What should I do?
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Friday, November 6th, 2015 AT 1:33 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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Now I have to defer to my ten years experience working for a very nice family-owned Chrysler dealership, but I suspect other manufacturers follow similar procedures. In our case, the dealer is going to do everything possible to help you because they want your repeat business and they understand word-of-mouth advertising is very important. My boss' quote was "it takes more advertising dollars to get one new customer than it takes to keep ten current customers happy".

They would prefer that the manufacturer pay for the repairs because as long as they follow proper procedures as outlined in the warranty agreement or recall notice, there is no argument over cost of parts, what is repaired, etc. They just fill out the paperwork, and wait to get paid.

When there is something that results in the warranty or recall not being in force, there are other options before you are required to pay. First, you can request a meeting with the district representative. The dealer will set up the appointment for you and will often inform you of that option when you aren't aware of it. The district rep. Comes to town once per month for things like this and just to spend a day with the dealer. There are things the dealer can't do, as in give away the manufacturer's repair dollars and parts, and they are bound to follow the manufacturer's rules and procedures to maintain their franchise agreement. The district rep. Is not bound by franchise rules. My rep. Told me he could warranty anything and even offered to warranty the battery in my '93 Dynasty. I thanked him but refused as there was no defect with it. The car today has only 4,500 miles so it was lack of driving that allowed the battery to go bad.

In this meeting, the dealer's representative is your advocate and the district rep. Is the manufacturer's representative. You get to state your case, and whether you followed all the recommended service intervals, steering and suspension system inspections, and any other requirements. The district rep. Will explain why they can't help if that is the case, but given his higher authorization, he will usually come up with a plan to help or to make the problem less of a hardship on you. That could include paying for half of the repairs, paying just for the parts, or something like that. If they just supply the parts, often the dealer will offer to help out with the labor charges.

Before things get to the level of calling the district rep. My dealer had access to a special warranty program that few people know about, including people who work at the dealership. In my case, this goes back to when the standard warranty was 12 months or 12,000 miles on a new car. Most warranties are much better today. The dealer could write up your repair as a warranty repair up to 18 months or 18,000 miles and submit it to Chrysler just like any other warranty paperwork. There were a limited number of dollars they could do that for though. As I recall, they had access to $100,000.00 per year for that. Those dollars were reserved for really good customers and for repairs to things that are technically out of warranty but really shouldn't have happened. This wasn't for little piddly things like a burned out bulb. It was usually used for things like major engine or transmission work, and for electrical problems that took a real long time to find.

No one at a dealership should ever say, "there's nothing we can do for you" unless the problem is a result of abuse or serious neglect. You most likely were turned down by a service adviser / service writer. They usually were never a mechanic so they don't understand what goes wrong with cars, and they never were in management so they don't understand what's in the best interest of the business. As soon as you heard that, you should have asked to speak with the service manager. His job includes working with customers who have a legitimate complaint. You'd be surprised how often when he hears your story, it's the first time he heard it. If the service adviser had consulted him previously, and the result is they have to deny warranty coverage, the service manager will usually tell you himself and explain why. He won't leave that up to "the hired help", so to speak.

If the service manager can't help but he thinks you could have a legitimate complaint, he will get the dealership owner involved. At some dealerships the owners are really well-insulated from their customers, and hard to reach, but at mine they were always running around to see where they could help or what could be improved. My dealership owners wear jeans to work, and we have a real high rate of repeat business thanks to their customer-friendly business practices.

As for your specific case, the only thing I can think of why they won't fix the car is if a long time elapsed between receiving the recall notice in the mail, and the breakdown. The manufacturer can argue they were willing to replace defective parts before additional damage was caused, but you waited too long. That is putting the responsibility on you to be aware of the recall and to have it preformed. Denying coverage after the fact based on a loop hole is a "customer-unfriendly business practice". Some national-level instructors rate Hyundai, Toyota, and Chrysler as the top three in customer-friendly business practices. I rate GM, BMW, VW, and Audi as having the most customer-unfriendly business practices, but that is just my opinion. Ford falls somewhere in the middle, and I have no good or bad stories to relate that to. They just don't make the news in that regard.

A less-savory action you can take is to park the crippled car in front of your house, with a sign on it saying, "dealer won't honor recall". You might also consider trading the car for a safer brand. I used to run into people asking if they were better off trading a broken tv or trading it for a new one, and my reply applies to cars too. Suppose repairs to your tv were going to cost $100.00. If you have the tv fixed, then trade it in, you might get $150.00 credit toward the new tv. You'd be 50 bucks ahead. However, if you didn't fix the tv and traded it in broken, you still might get $100.00 credit. You would have been better off trading it in broken. With cars, every dealer knows there are going to things that need to be fixed on your trade-in, and they have that factored into the price they offer you for it. Some people think if they hide intermittent problems they'll get more for the car, but that is rarely true. Most of the time you'll get a value for your trade, based in large part on the new car you're looking at, at that value won't change as you divulge more problems.

If you trade at a new-car dealership, they'll have a tow truck and won't charge for the towing. If you trade at a used-car dealership, many of them don't have their own service facilities or tow truck. They contract out to an independent repair shop for all their towing, safety inspections, repairs, and cleaning services. In that case it's up to you to get the car there, but they may help out by getting you a better rate with the towing service they contract with.

One last comment about dealing with anyone who can help with this problem. People who resort to strong-arm tactics like threatening a lawsuit or spreading your story about your dissatisfaction rarely get the results you want. They've heard those threats before and aren't worried about them. What you need to try to do is show them why it's in their best interest to help you. Or, you might point out that you've been a loyal customer and you know they want you to come back for your next car. Working WITH them usually works better than fighting against them.

Don't overlook talking with the people at a different dealership. My mother was refused a repair that should have been under warranty, but it was approved at a different dealership where I was in the process of buying a new car. That was in 1980. That dealer remembered me ten years later when he hired me. Hope you reply back with better news next time.
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Saturday, November 7th, 2015 AT 5:30 PM
Tiny
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I don't know if this can help you out about figuring who told me no or not.

When I was called back into the dealership, I parked by the service place or whatever that is. And walked into a garage, it had vehicle lifts and stuff. And I was told to speak to this lady behind a glass window with papers and keys. She told me there was nothing they could do since my subframe is completely rotted. But I brought up the point that the recall was for this exact issue but she wasn't having it.

Where I live there is another Ford Dealership about 45 miles away. Should I try them or what? Thats where the car was originally purchased. But i'm not the original owner, my aunt is. I have my title and everything if that makes a difference. I'm just so frustrated, losing my job over this has really taken a toll on my current situation.

Thanks for taking your time to help me. I really appreciate it. I wish the people at the Dealership was as nice as you.
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Saturday, November 7th, 2015 AT 6:43 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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The person behind a window, with your keys, is the cashier. She should have directed you to the service adviser in charge of your car. She has no more authority to tell you what is going to be done than she can divvy out pay raises with her boss' money. At the very least I would have asked her if they normally sell cars that rust out in ten years, and if so, why should you buy another one? I live in the middle of Wisconsin where they throw a pound of salt on an ounce of snow, but until recently I was driving a 26-year-old minivan that has never gone through a car wash and never been kept in a garage, and I didn't stop driving it due to rust. You also might approach a new-car salesman and casually mention how disappointed you are with their product. Watch how fast things happen if they're with a prospective customer!

Definitely go to the other dealership. They are likely to recognize the car as "one of theirs". I suspect you're going to have better luck or at least get some answers.
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Saturday, November 7th, 2015 AT 7:00 PM
Tiny
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Hey, thought I'd give you a quick update on my situation. It's good news this time!

Ford just called me and said they ordered the new parts, subframe, control arm and a few other broken things and said they were going to fix my vehicle at no cost!
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Wednesday, November 11th, 2015 AT 9:58 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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Dandy. Was that the first dealership or a second one? If it is the first one, what likely happened is the service manager contacted Ford on your behalf, but didn't want to tell you he was doing that in case he would have to give you bad news. I'm pleased that Ford stepped up and took responsibility. The story would have been quite different if you had been seriously injured or killed in a crash.
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Wednesday, November 11th, 2015 AT 8:31 PM
Tiny
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Yes, it was the first dealership. And it was someone above the other people. I don't know who. But they contacted Ford, sent some pictures and Ford
Apparently okayed the repairs. They said quote on quote "This was a very serious issue, and could've caused a very bad car accident. And apologized for this happening to me" they have reimbursed me for the towing fee. And are covering everything that is damaged. My car is basically going to have a new front end put on. I'm so happy.
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Thursday, November 12th, 2015 AT 8:47 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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What you need to do now, once you've had the car back for three or four days, it drives straight and the steering wheel is straight, is stop in, thank them, and drop off a box of cookies. Every week at the dealership I worked at we had someone bring us cookies or donuts. Chocolate chip are preferred!
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Thursday, November 12th, 2015 AT 7:14 PM
Tiny
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Well, I got a call from Ford. They have subframe replaced, my control arm and a few other broken things. But when they we're trying to align my car they discovered that something they called "rack and pinion" saying when this incident occurred it broke the teeth on it or something. :( Now i'm back in the same boat.
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Monday, November 16th, 2015 AT 9:41 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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The rack and pinion assembly is the steering gear. That is one of two designs and is the one used on small cars and lightweight vehicles. I would expect Ford would pay to replace that along with the other parts. If they don't, tell the shop to align what they can, ("camber", on both sides), then give you an estimate for the new steering gear to be done at a later time. Get a second estimate from an independent tire and alignment shop. A rebuilt rack and pinion steering gear should cost around $150.00, give or take 50 bucks. The dealer may try to sell you a new steering gear which would cost about three times that much. We only install new steering gears when the vehicle is under warranty and the manufacturer is supplying the part. For out-of-warranty repairs, 99 percent of replacements are rebuilt, (just like reusing pop bottles). The only way we would install a new steering gear out-of-warranty is if the car was so new that a rebuilt one wasn't available yet.

The second reason to wait with this part is to see if it really is needed. I've helped work on smashed cars that were hit hard enough to bend the steering linkages, and it is extremely rare to find a damaged steering gear. Given what happened to your car, I find it very hard to believe the gear could be designed so cheaply as to sustain damage from that.

What you need to watch for is binding in the steering wheel as you turn it, a clunking noise while turning, or if it's really bad, the steering wheel will shift positions at times.
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Monday, November 16th, 2015 AT 10:14 AM
Tiny
BUBBY6565
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I have my car now, I honestly can't really tell the difference. My wheel is a bit shaky at about 60 - 70 mph. But at slower speeds I can't really feel anything. But they want me to spend $500 USD for this part and that doesn't include labor! Do you think I'll be fine? They're repeatedly telling me I need to replace it. I don't know what to do :(
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Monday, November 16th, 2015 AT 2:55 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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Once any car is out-of-warranty, I usually recommend always starting at the independent shops. There are transmission specialty shops, electrical specialty shops, and tire and alignment specialty shops, as well as independent general repair shops. Those places will send you to the dealer when necessary, and the dealer can be the best choice for some things, but for suspension, steering, and alignment, head to a tire store.

When you're in a dispute with the dealer, (or some other shop, for that matter), and you're after a second opinion, when you go to that second shop, avoid telling them what the first shop says you need or found wrong. Give the second shop the chance to find it on their own. I don't mean to make it sound like you're keeping secrets. What my meaning is, suppose the people at both shops are on a real friendly basis. The people at the second shop are likely to support their friends by agreeing with their diagnosis, even if it's wrong. If the people at the two shops are rivals, or if one shop is known to be disreputable, the mechanic at the second shop may go out of his way to find fault with their diagnosis. You don't want either of those. Any mechanic can make anyone elses work seem to be less-than-perfect or substandard when in reality, there's often multiple ways of addressing a problem, and they all can be appropriate.

It should be sufficient to say you need the steering and suspension systems inspected, and "there's supposed to be a problem with the rack and pinion steering gear". You SHOULD share the recent history that was taken care of, but leave it at you just want the work double-checked with a little extra attention to the steering gear. If they don't find a problem, you can safely buzz off into the sunset with a smile on your face! If they DO find a problem, come back here before you run back to the dealer where the work was done. We'll discuss if what they found is related and how it should be handled.
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Monday, November 16th, 2015 AT 4:27 PM
Tiny
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Okay, I got my car scheduled for a mechanic to look at it Tuesday (tomorrow) and Wednesday. Before I go, from the information I've provided you. In your opinion is my car safe enough to drive there or do I need to tow it?. Thank you so much.
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Monday, November 16th, 2015 AT 7:59 PM
Tiny
BUBBY6565
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A independent mechanic declared that my Escapes rack and pinion unit is leaking its fluid. (And not broken teeth like ford said) The leak is not very severe since he had to add a dye to identify where the leak is from. He recommended to drive it as it is rather than replacing the unit immediately. And was not surprised the dealer wanted me to replace it. He said I should be fine as long as I frequently check the leak rate, and reservoir level. But when I go to replace it to just get a rebuilt one, he said that would save me a decent amount of money.
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Tuesday, November 17th, 2015 AT 8:44 AM
Tiny
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*Note, I did not advise him I had been to a mechanic. I made an appointment complaining my car was steering funny, and this was his conclusion*
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Tuesday, November 17th, 2015 AT 8:47 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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That leakage could have been momentary and related to the previous problem. A round shaft slides back and forth through a round rubber lip seal If an impact pushes on that shaft, it can move away from part of the seal for an instant.

If the leak is due to a worn seal, it is going to get worse over time. That doesn't make the car unsafe to drive, but you have to keep the power steering reservoir full. If you allow it to run low enough to where the pump starts sucking up air, it will make a buzzing noise, then Fords have a huge problem with that air expanding and causing fluid to burp out when you stop the engine. That fluid simply makes a mess, but getting the air bled out can be extremely frustrating. All kinds of specialty tools have been developed to try to make that easier to do.
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Tuesday, November 17th, 2015 AT 4:32 PM

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