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Are you wondering if the 2001-2007 Ford Escapes are reliable?

In this article, we go over the most common problems that affect the 1st generation Ford Escape based on the hands-on experience of experienced ASE-certified master technicians. 

Table of Contents

The most common problems with the first generation Ford Escape range from check engine light coming on, engine misfire, oil leaks, transmission to transfer case failure, and blower motor working only on high and rust. The Hybrid version also struggles with the coolant pump failure. 

Common Problems

Engine Misfire

Multiple Misfire Codes: P0300 P0301-P0306  

Ford Escape Engine Missifre

Engine misfires often occur due to spark plug conditions or coil-on-plug issues—boot failure on the coil on plug or the coil itself being weak or shorted internal. 

The worst part is when spark plugs need replacement at 100,000 miles; the upper intake must be removed to access the number 1, 2, 3 spark plugs.

Needless to say, if you go to that much effort, it is recommended to replace coils 1 thru 3 to avoid the potential issues in the future. 

You might also consider checking to see if all misfire TSB’s have been performed; most of those reprogrammed the PCM. 

Check Engine Light On  

Common Codes: P0420-P0430  

Ford Escape Check Engine Light On

Check engine light may come on due to codes related to catalyst efficiency.

Common symptoms include:

  • Hesitation
  • Lack of power or acceleration
  • Stumbling
  • Decrease in fuel economy

However, catalyst efficiency codes are hardly ever due to a bad oxygen sensor. 

Usually, misfires damage the front catalyst, there is one for each Bank, and they are NOT Cheap to repair! DPFE sensor for the EGR system would trigger the check engine light with code P0401 to come on. Sometimes if the catalyst got real blocked, it would melt the sensor and the hoses.


Ford Escape Rust Problem

The first-generation Ford Escape is now over ten years old, and rust is starting to affect most Ford Escapes on the road. 

Rust is common at the lower edge of the door and also on rear quarter panels. If you are looking to buy a first-generation Ford Escape, check for rust. 

Engine Noise

Ford Escape Engine Noise

Engine noise was common on Ford Escapes if the owner waited for 7000 or 10,000 miles between oil changes. However, if regular maintenance and oil changes were performed every 3,000 miles, this problem was rare.

If engine oil were not changed frequently, timing components and sludge would build up and restrict the oil sump, which meant a death sentence to the engine. 

The Ford Escape also used a base engine. Unfortunately, it was a 2.04 cylinder that had its share of issues, such as misfire. 

Engine misfires on the older Ford Escape were often caused due to worn spark plug wires and plugs.

The early 2000s models did not have coil-on plugs at first. Instead, they used a single four coil assembly that often would short out if the plug wires had too much resistance.

In addition, spark plugs that were worn needed replacement before the recommended scheduled 100,000 miles maintenance interval. 

If the vehicle owner took extra care, most issues were usually avoided.

Catalytic Converter

If engine misfires were ignored, it could lead to more expensive problems. Multiple misfire codes and damaged catalysts, the dreaded P0420 code for catalyst insufficiency, were likely coming resulting in a hefty repair expense with both front and rear catalysts being damaged from excessive fuel and overheating.

It wasn't uncommon for this problem to be misdiagnosed as bad oxygen sensors. If the car required all of the O2 sensors (Oxygen Sensors) replaced only to find out that it was MISDIAGNOSED and the catalytic converters needed to be replaced as well. 

Alternator Failure

Another common problem with Ford Escapes is the failure of the alternator. Once the alternator fails, the red battery lights come on, and the vehicle drives for another 15 minutes at maximum, then shuts off. 

The alternator on Ford Escapes is located on the rear of the engine. The bracket holds the alternator in place. The tight space makes replacing the alternator on Ford Escape with the 3.0 V6 engine difficult even for an experienced auto mechanic! Therefore, it is not recommended to replace the alternator on a Ford Escape if you do not have a lift present. 

Other things to keep in mind when replacing the alteration on a Ford Escape are:

  • It is not uncommon to get burned if you don't let the engine cool down. 
  • Replacing the alternator on a Ford Escape is even more difficult on an All-Wheel Drive Model. 

Ford Escape alternations fail so frequently due to oil leaks caused by the valve cover. 

Keep in mind that if you replace that alternator and don’t address that oil leak, you’re going to have a failure again, and in extreme cases, you may even have a fire due to this issue.   

Oil Leaks 

Oil leaks are one of the most common problems that affect Ford Escapes from 2001 to 2012.

Pan gaskets, the infamous front timing cover oil leak, and valve cover leak that throws oil all over the alternator, belts, tensioners, air conditioner clutch, coil are common repairs. 

Oil leaks may not be noticeable right away. They may not even show up underneath due to all the places to pool oil. You are most likely to smell burning oil or see smoke before you see oil on the ground!

Rear main seal and front crankshaft seal leaks were common issues, especially on high mileage Ford Escapes. 

Oil leaks on the front timing If you chose to do this on are costly! O-rings, gaskets, and seals, not so much. It’s the Timing Chain Tensioner and Chains and Guides that are expensive. They are worn out about the time that Oil Leak is starting. This is especially the case if the previous or current owner has not been changing oil every 3,000 miles. This repair is labor extensive and costly. The procedure requires the engine and transmission to be removed as an assembly! 

Timing Belt Failure

Ford Escapes with the 2.0 engine has a free-rolling, also known as a non-interfering engine, meaning it had clearance between valve and piston. This design didn’t bend engine intake or exhaust valves if the inevitable happened and the belt broke.  

It is not uncommon for Ford Escape to break before the recommended mileage interval. Due to the weak tensioner and idler pulley, the bearing got rough and began to drag, and then heat blistered the belt, and finally, one or the other would seize up. 

Oil Pan Gaskets

Oil leaks, indeed most of all the pan gasket (If you want to call it that), I had my own definition! The pan had a grove, and this goo was put in that groove, somehow, and no one really could explain this one.

The gasket material would break down and crawl out of the groove into the crankcase! Then, oil leaks would begin to show up, then, of course, the pan was removed, and there were good chunks of it stuck in the oil pick-up tube! 

Not only did this develop an oil leak, but you ended up with an engine that has had an oil starvation issue to all the important components! Surprise! You are on borrowed time! Not the news any same person wants to hear; after all, it was just an oil leak! 

Valve Cover Gaskets

Since the spark plugs went in the very top, you had O-rings around the plug holes. They filled up with oil, causing Plug wire failure, plug failure, and a wonderful burning oil smell that floated right into the driver and inside the cabin on your morning commute! 

Front Crankshaft seals that ruined timing belts and engine power accessory belts. Rear crankshaft seals that leaked occasionally. 


Another widespread problem with the Ford Escapes was the failure of the transmission. 

Ford Escape with a bad transmission was repaired by installing a rebuilt unit. Due to the complexity of this transmission, it was more cost-effective to install a refurbished or used transmission than to repair the bad unit. 

Common failures were failed torque converters that will trigger slippage codes. Also, shift solenoids that were burnt out. The Escape had a drain plug that allowed you to replace about 4 Quarts of fluid. 

There is no filter to be replaced. The only filter is a small screen way up inside that was non-serviceable. The small screen would often catch big chunks of debris, restricting transmission flow low!

When the transmission has issues, most Ford mechanics will drain it into a clean white pan. If the transmission had excessive wear, brass and aluminum shaving would be present. 

If it was burnt and smelled bad and had lots of sparkles, it meant the transmission had excessive wear. The recommended repair was replacing as an assembly or trade the vehicle for something else. 


The first-generation Ford Escape had a fair number of issues, but most are easy to repair. Engine problems are present, but all the engine failures are caused by a lack of maintenance. 

All things considered, even though Ford Escape has a few issues such as oil leaks, overall, they are reliable vehicles! If well maintained and oil is changed every 3000 miles, a Ford Escape can last over 160,000 miles. Considering that you can not purchase a Ford Escape for under $5000, they make a great commuter or first vehicle. 

If the Ford Escape is maintained regularly and the previous owner took care of them, you can expect the vehicle to last well over 100,000 miles. Overall most Ford Escape owners liked them. 

Ford Escape gets good fuel mileage, around 24-27 MPG, which is impressive for an SUV of its time. Most of all, if you find one with low mileage and has been taken care of, it would make a great second vehicle or even a new driver to learn in. 

Also called  

  • Ford Maverick (Europe and China 2001-2008)
  • Mazda Tribute (2000–2008)
  • Mercury Mariner (2004–2007)


  • April 2000–December 2006
  • 2002–2012 (Asia-Pacific)

Model years

  •   2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007