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2001 Ford Taurus Transmission / AC Compressor Issues

It has been decades since I have owned a Ford vehicle but I recently purchased a 2001 Taurus wagon. I ran into a Taurus owner who told me that these cars have a transmission that will suddenly fail without notice and that I should change the fluid and filter now at 83k miles. He recommended switching to synthetic fluid too. He also said that the AC compressors fail and the pulley will seize and lock the belt train up. I looked online and this car has reasonable reviews. Is there any merit to what I have been told?


In regards to the AC compressor . . . yes, it is a real possibility

We have several of these in our fleets, and I’ve seen it happen several times. I’ve replaced a few myself

The AC compressor fails catastrophically, throws the belt . . . shreds it, actually . . . and now you’ve got no power steering, no water pump, and you’re running the battery down

As far as the transmission, drop the pan, clean it, replace the filter and use fresh fluid. The pan gasket is reusable, unless somebody threw it out in favor of a cheapo aftermarket gasket

I think the previous generations of Taurus were more known for lousy transmissions. We have several 1998-2003 Tauruses in our fleet, and I’m not aware of any transmissions being replaced. Some of them have well over 100K. Then again, our transmissions are probably serviced more frequently than those in private hands

If you plan on replacing the transmission fluid, only use a transmission fluid that the manufacturer specifies.

Using anything else is just asking for trouble.


What you were told by that Taurus owner is applicable to any make of car.

The car you bought is 16 years old so any type of problem can surface at any time. Same as any other make.

As for the first generation transmissions I will say that the '89 Sable transmission I had shifted like new with well over 300k miles on it. Regular fluid/filter changes make a lot of difference.


But I’ve found it to be more common for one of these older Tauruses to have the compressor fail catastrophically and throw the belt, versus some other cars

What I’m saying is this . . . it’s far more likely with a Taurus, versus any other vehicle and/or similar mileage in our fleet

And we do have plenty of other vehicles just as old, or just as old AND with higher mileage

And BTW . . . unless you’re a mechanic, frequently pop the hood and know what to look and listen for, you’ll miss the warning signs. The compressors do NOT howl and shake like a roller coaster before they let go

The A/C compressor clutch on that vintage Ford does tend to come apart, as noted. I can’t say if it happens at a higher rate than normal.

If you don’t want to invest repairing the A/C clutch or compressor, you can bypass it with a shorter belt. If you do a search, you’ll find several sites that not only describe bypassing the broken A/C unit, but will also give suggested part numbers for the shorter belt.

They also sell bypass pulleys, where you remove the A/C compressor and bolt a bypass pulley in its place.

Well, let me be the one to say it

It does happen “at a higher rate than normal”

The situation could also be looked at like this. Ford has churned out millions and millions of Tauri (made that word up…) and Sables.
With huge production numbers problems will be magnified.

The point could be made that a lot of transmissions and compressors have failed but if compared to the total production numbers of cars manufactured the failure rate may not be any higher than anything else.

Another example could be the old GM R4 A/C compressor that was used on everything in the inventory. It developed a bad rap as being a shoddy compressor.
SAAB used the same compressor and no complaints there.
The difference being production number totals.

Just something for consideration anyway.

Certain transmission models in the 1998-2003 Ford Taurus were very weak and failed on a regular basis. If you had that transmission…it had a high failure rate. If you owned the good model of transmission in those models then the failure rate was low. My wife inherited a 2003 Mercury with the bad transmission (2 replacements in just 35K miles). The problem was fixed when the bad model transmission was replaced with a used model that was good and the car now has about 200K on the clock. It also has a new owner (family member). I don’t know the models of the transmissions because I’m not a transmission guy. The only other transmission that I know of that was a bad model was a GM 700R4. They later redesigned that model and it’s nearly bulletproof now.

As far as the AC compressor goes . . .

We have several Tauruses in the fleet, as I mentioned

At our shop alone, half or more have had the AC compressor fail catastrophically and eat the belt

Yet it hasn’t happened with ANY kind of frequency to the various other vehicles in our fleet

Something to think about :wink:

Taurus trannys seem to be a Pot Luck adventure… I honestly knew the cause of their failure problems at one time…but it left my head at the moment.

I see some Tauri make it to 200+ miles with no trouble…and Ive seen some trannys blow up suddenly at 60K… Could be a preventive maintenance thing…I forget…the Taurus trans issue is not a secret…and you can read all about it…and possibly how to avoid it on the Easternet. jk

As for the compressor? They die all the time…just renew…and motor on…

SO…to answer your final question of whether these things have merit? Id say yes on the trans…and everyone has A/C compressor stories…prob no more than the other. But the tranny? Well known offender yes…


Have the fluid and filter changed in the transmission and keep up the other maintenance on the vehicle and, most importantly, quit worrying about something that hasn’t go e wrong. You bought a 16 year old vehicle. Maybe it had transmission work or compressor work done in the past. Consumer Reports reliability charts mean nothing on a vehicle this old and neither does what a former Taurus owner said. I once owned a Ford Maverick that, according to CR had poor reliability record. Yet, nothing serious went wrong with my Maverick. My only reason for trading the Maverick was that it rode like a wheelbarrow and I was driving a lot of miles at the time. I was having to spend more on Preparation H to keep me going from riding in the Maverick than I was on keeping the Maverick going. Let me give you another example: When my brother was 6 years old, he fell out of a tree and broke his arm. The neighborhood kid who was 9 years old told my brother it would really hurt when it was time to take the cast off. My brother was really scared when that day came, but he found out that removing the cast was painless. However, he told the neighborhood kid how terribly painful it was to remove the cast. Six months later, the neighborhood kid broke a bone. When it became time to remove his cast, the kid had to be sedated because he was so scared. The point is that your Taurus is 15 years old, the transmission is still shifting and the air conditioning hasn’t quit. Drive on and quit worrying about what others may tell you about what may go wrong with your Taurus.