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2004 Taurus SE....104,000 miles....what could I be in store for

I am looking into trading out of my mini van and upgrading year and milage wise to a:
2004 SE Ford Taurus
104,000 miles
3.0L V 6 fl

I was wondreing on the issue of dependability and maintance and such what are people’s thought on this car and where might it fall in the repair needed or issues I should look at when I check it out at the dealership this weekend.

Seems like the weak point is the automatic transmission.


Assuming this has the Vulcan 3.0 OHV V6 . . .

I suspect you’ll be doing the fuel pump and the oil pan gasket sometime in the next few years of ownership

Another thing, which I’ve seen frequently, on your future car . . . the AC compressor tends to seize, which starts a chain reaction. This throws the belt . . . I know the belt is supposed to freewheel with a seized AC compressor, but that’s not the way it works out on this car. Then you have no power steering, no charging, no water pump, etc.

If that happens, you need a new AC compressor, belt, accumulator and orifice tube

This does not happen due to lack of maintenance, in my opinion. It just happens

If there’s a chirping noise, it could very well be the cam synchronizer

The front sway bar links are very likely to be worn out. The boots are probably torn by now

Make sure the brake booster shell isn’t wet with brake fluid, or have blistered paint. that would indicate a leaking brake master. Seems to be common on this car, after several years. Not a big deal to fix, though

As soon as you buy, unless you receive a stack of maintenance invoices, you should treat the car as if it’s never received any maintenance

What’s wrong with your current vehicle?
If the answer is “nothing”, than I think you’re making a mistake.

I have a 2003 Taurus with 43k miles. My Dad bought it new and he got his money’s worth out of the extended warranty. A lot of little things were fixed, the two biggest items were the AC compressor and the entire wiring harness that were replaced. He gave it to his companion about four years ago. About a week after she got it the water pump had to be replaced. After her stroke she had to stop driving and gave it to my daughter last year with 40k miles.

I’ve already put about $1500 into it fixing a few problems and bringing the maintenance up to date. One of the things I’ve replaced was the Cam Synchronizer. It was making the chirping noise that db4690 described.

Ed B.

I can attest to the weak transmissions of both the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sables of that era. We owned a 2003 Mercury Sable and it had a slipping transmission at about 30K or so. My sister has a 2002 Taurus and it’s had 3 transmissions since she’s owned it. If you go by any transmission shop they will tell you the truth about them. People that defend them have no idea what they are talking about.

My reasoning for looking is a couple. I have a leaking rack and pinon that in the near future will need to be replaced. My switch that controls the vans heat/cooling is only working on high switch and it is begining to go so I will have no heat or AC in the van and repair is expensive to tear the dash out and repair the electrical contacts. The van is at 175,000 miles and eats gas. I don’t have to replace it, but would rather move to something with fewer miles if possible if within my budget range.

The dealership I am looking at has about 3-4 cars in my budget range, from the Taurus to a Dodge neon to a Sebring all around 2002-2004 models with milage between 99,000 to around 118,000.

The neon and Sebring are real dogs. What is your price range?

@bertrand … please stay away from the Taurus, the Neon and the Sebring. Start looking in other areas and looking at other vehicles like Toyota, Nissan, Chevrolet and Honda but be advised that Hondas are usually over-priced.

Nothing over 4,000 dollars as I want a car I can pay off in no less then 2 years. Dad has a Neon, a 96 and has had it since 96 with nothing but just normal repairs needed over it’s life time and repair costs were never huge. The Sebring comes in at 117,000 miles and 3000 dollars, but has lether seats that are not what I really want.

For a vehicle that is 10+ years old, the condition is more important than the make. On the Taurus you are considering, perhaps some of the alleged problem areas, such as the AC compressor, have already been repaired. If you could get the service records of the vehicle, that might give you a clue. In any event, pay a trusted mechanic to evaluate the car and look for the trouble spots. I owned a 1988 Taurus and a 1989 Sable and had no air conditioning nor transmission problems in well over 125,000 miles. The Sable had the 3.0 engine that gave no problems. I realize that the Taurus you are examining is much newer and I suppose the components could have been cheapened.
You do know the problems with your present minivan. You might want to check with an independent shop that specializes in electrical work about your AC fan switch. That problem sounds more like a blower resistor than the switch. A steering rack is expensive, but much less than the payments on a newer vehicle that may also have problems. Furthermore, gas prices are coming down which possibly compensates for the poorer mileage of your minivan. Your statement “Nothing over 4,000 dollars as I want a car I can pay off in no less then 2 years.” suggests to me that you might be better off with your present vehicle than an unknown used car that may have even worse issues.

All very good points. One thing I am interested in seeing is if a warrenty of some type either through the dealership or a secondary company will be an option and if so what does it cover and for how long.

The AC switch is the switch, if you push in on the side of the switch the system will work, but if you stop pushing on it then it won’t. Dealership said this was a running problem with this van as it was the first one Kia put out. Costs huge because tearing about dash board very hard in this van…parts cheap…;-(

Why do you have a minivan? Kids? Hauling stuff? Got it from relative?

It was in my price range when I needed a car and I fit in it and it drove well and was in pretty good condition. I have no kids and really don’t haul much stuff. I use my car to get from point A to point b and around town.


Generally speaking, there are no warranties offered past 100K

And the ones that are available, aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on

The dealer warranty AND the secondary company warranty are almost sure to be worthless

There so many clauses and stipulations, so many loopholes, you could drive the titanic through them. And if you have a problem, they’ll find a way to avoid getting it fixed

Aftermarket warranties are primarily profit-makers for the companies selling them

I have to respectfully disagree that all Taurus/Sable transmissions are junk. There were some issues when the cars first appeared on the market but a lot of it is related to transmission maintenance; or the lack thereof.

Ford manufactured about 14-15 million Tauruses/Sables. The number of failed transmissions due to a factory defect is likely just a tiny fraction of that number so the failure rate is probably within the norm of any manufactured product.

The trans in my old 87 Sable failed at 130k miles. The car was purchased used at 92k miles and likely never had the fluid changed until I bought it. The trans was replaced with another allegedly bad year transmission; an 89 with 40k miles on it. The trans got regular fluid changes and was still shifting like new at 410k miles. 330k miles on that transmission with nary a hiccup.

Two neighbors owned Tauruses and never had any trans issues. Those cars were not maintained well. One was a 96 traded off at 250,000 miles and another was a 90 model with about 280,000.

I used to do some side work for a now defunct Ford dealer here (used cars) and never heard of any Sable/Taurus trans complaints from him; and he sold a bunch of them.

A look at shows 2003-2005 Taurus transmission are a common problem.

However when shopping for a used car 11 to 15 years old a particular brand does not ensure reliability. There may have been a lot of abuse and neglect during the life of the vehicle.

Any of these used cars will likely require the same repairs as your Kia, these are common problems with old cars.

“I have to respectfully disagree that all Taurus/Sable transmissions are junk.”

Noted…but I didn’t say they were junk…just that they were weak. Some people can drive them for a long time if they baby them…other people, like myself, turn them into junk I guess by driving them a little hard. That in itself makes it a vehicle that people shouldn’t own. I never junked a Chevy Turbo 350 by driving it hard. Same goes for the old Powerglide 2 speed and all the Dodge/Jeep automatics that I owned.

I certainly couldn’t complain about the transmission in my '86 Taurus.
While driving on a fairly congested highway, I had no choice but to drive over some debris in the roadway–including a few “rebar” rods. I heard something hit the underside of the car, but I though nothing of it.

Fast forward about 20 minutes, and when I exited from the highway, the trans downshifted extremely hard. Because I was only ~3 blocks from my house, I opted to drive that distance before checking things out.

Well…as you might have guessed…one of those rebars apparently punctured the transmission pan, and when I parked the car, the last qt or so of trans fluid leaked out the trans. The next day, I had it towed to the Ford dealership, as it was still under warranty, and I didn’t want to take a chance on having aftermarket parts installed on my almost-new car.

All the dealership had to do was install a new trans pan & pan gasket, and refill it with fluid, and the transmission performed flawlessly for the remaining 4 years that I owned the car. How many other transmissions could have been run that low on fluid and escaped without damage?