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Did I unnecessarily buy a new car?

The OD OFF light started flashing on the instrument panel of my 2000 Explorer. Stopping and turning the engine off and restarting made it go away. Pressing the button for overdrive had no effect. The vehicle drove normally and seemed to have overdrive. This happened several times, weeks apart. I’d kind of forget about it and did not get it in for service. Then one day, it came on as soon as I started the engine and restarting did not work. A few miles later, when I shifted into reverse, the car would not move. I shifted into drive and it wouldn’t go forward at first, then, it finally began to go, just far enough for me to turn around and start back home. Then, it quit in the middle lane of Route 40. I pushed it in to a parking lot. We were 4 blocks from a Ford dealer, so, we walked there and takled to the service department. He said around $3,600 for a new transmission if that was what it needed. (He had not seen the vehicle.) Since the Explorer was 10 years old and had 145,000 miles, we decided to buy a new escape instead of putting money into the old vehicle. We had spent $2,500 last summer fixing everything that needed attention, new belt and hoses and muffler and brake work, etc. The car hardly had a scratch and was in perfect condition other than the fact that it wouldn’t move. But, I wonder if it was likely it really needed a transmission, or, if some computer chip that controls shifting might have gone bad and I could have fixed it for a few hundred dollars. I really liked the old Explorer and miss it, but, I really like the new Escape also. But, did I really need to buy a new vehicle?

Did you at least check the fluid? Have you ever had the transmission serviced?

An independent shop could have rebuilt the tranny for $1800-$2200 …You paid that in taxes, license, insurance on the new Escape…How much did the dealer give you for it??

Yes, you needed new. If you had the bucks for new, then you did good. Enjoy the ride.

What I don’t understand is why you didn’t get this checked out right away. Why did you keep driving this vehicle instead of taking it in to have it checked out?

A new vehicle may not have been necessary if you had heeded the warning your Explorer was trying to give you. Now that you have ignored the problem, and probably ruined a repairable transmission, you are better off with a new car.

I suppose if you have the money for a new Escape, you can afford to ignore the warning lights on your car until it stops working completely.


The answer is, NO.
However, you should enjoy your new beautiful Escape.

My 3500 shares of Ford stock (ticker symbol F), thank you profusely for your Escape purchase. Also, please make sure next time that obnoxious O/D light starts flashing, you just go ahead and ignore it. Even better, get a jump on this now, and just put some masking tape over it. This way it will never dare to inconvenience you.
Heck, you might as well go nuts with that masking tape and cover all the other crazy lights too. They serve no purpose anyway.

When you first noted the OD OFF light flashing, it was trying to tell you that your transmission had a problem. If this happens again on your new Escape, pay attention and have the transmission checked out.

The first check is to look at the transmission fluid level. There should be a transmission fluid dipstick. How to find it and check it is described in your owner’s manual. If the transmission was low on fluid you need to add fluid and find out if there is a transmission leak somewhere. The fluid went somewhere so just adding more doesn’t solve the real problem.

Was your transmission shot and needing replacement or rebuilding? If you had not had the transmission fluid changed about 4 times over the 10 years you owned the Explorer then it is very likely the transmission was damaged and needed significant repairs. The Ford dealer will evaluate the problem and either fix the transmission and sell the car used, or will send it off “as is” to an auction. Some used car dealer will buy it and fix it and resell it.

Did you need to buy a new car? Perhaps not, but you were looking at spending about $2,000 for a transmission overhaul. Driving the transmission until it won’t work at all is going to mean an overhaul. If you hadn’t driven it into the ground the transmission might have been repairable for less money. I think you knew the transmission was “toast” or you won’t have been open to buying a new car. At this point the Explorer is gone. Take out your owner’s manual on your new Escape and review it. There is some good stuff in there to help you keep the Escape in good working order for the next 10+ years.


For future reference, I want to give you the preferred sequence of events in a situation such as you experienced:

  1. O/D light begins flashing.

  2. Car owner opens glove compartment, and takes out Owner’s Manual in order to see what the manual states regarding this warning light.

  3. Car owner reads text in manual stating, “A flashing O/D warning light indicates an electronic fault in the transmission’s controller. Failure to rectify the electronic fault promptly can result in very extensive mechanical damage to the transmission.”

  4. Car owner promptly takes vehicle to an independent transmission shop for evaluation.

  5. Independent trans shop replaces a sensor and/or other electronic parts, and performs the recommended transmission fluid & filter change.

  6. Car owner pays a bill of a few hundred dollars, and drives away in his vehicle that now has a new lease on life.

So–by failing to actually read your Owner’s Manual, by blithely continuing to drive a vehicle that had an identifiable problem, by failing to get a second opinion from an independent trans shop, and by acting impulsively, you spent many thousands of dollars that could have been saved.

But, as BadaBing stated, I do thank you for helping to enrich the Ford Motor Company. I have nowhere near as many shares of Ford stock as BadaBing does, but you still helped Ford’s bottom line and you helped to pump up the burgeoning price of Ford stock.

On a less cynical note, please enjoy the new car.
And, for your own sake, please read the Owner’s Manual of that new car a.s.a.p., and whenever a warning light shows up on the dashboard, please read the relevant section of the manual in order to determine what the warning light actually means.

Do you really think that “new belts and hoses, muffler and brake work” should influence your decision as to whether or not to buy a new car? First of all, belts and hoses and most likely brakes are something you should be able to do yourself. (Unless you’re one of those in the waiting room that claim “they have no time for DIY” -translation: afraid to get hands dirty)

What’s next? Trade in a car because it ran out of gas? I’m glad I’m frugal, and still have my 1995 Toyota Avalon (Gasp! 15 years old) and 1979 Toyota Celica.

As far as your tranny goes: In my 1982 Cressida, a $23 dollar relay enabled it to once again get into overdrive. Did you check relays, etc. before assuming you needed a new tranny?

My guess is that your Explorer needed a new transmission. It is hard to say whether or not seeing a transmission expert when the OD light started blinking would have would have helped. My son had this problem on a 1999 Ford Windstar and the transmission quit functioning as he was on his way to a transmission shop. He had it rebuilt–the charge was $1200. On the 2000 Ford Windstar, there was no warning and the transmission failed. This rebuild cost him $1600. Both vehicles had about the same mileage as your Explorer.

You did get a year’s use out of the money you spent last summer, so you probably haven’t lost much. My son decided to quit while he was ahead with the 2000 Windstar and we sold him our 2006 Chevrolet Uplander. I wasn’t quite ready to buy a replacement vehicle, but bought a 2011 Toyota Sienna. Although I was perfectly happy with the Uplander, I do like some of the features of the Sienna–particularly the rear seats that fold flat into the floor. Removing the rear seats from the Uplander to haul tympani was a pain. You’ve got a new car, so enjoy it. Don’t worry about the past.

As long as the salesman didn’t smell your “desperation” deodorant you had on when you were looking at the Escape and you got a good deal, continue to be happy with your new ride. It’s hard to make the change from old to new when it comes to vehicles sometimes, but liking the car will help you better accommodate the transition better. Just be happy you aren’t stuck trying to like a small car like the Focus after being in the Explorer

Reply: The transmission fluid was changed when all the service was done last year. There have been no leaks on my concrete parking area. I did stop by the shop and ask about the light. Was told they would have to put it on diagnostic equipment. There was no hint of if I didn’t do it right away there would be a disaster. I could not leave the vehicle there that day. If there is a light that is supposed to tell you to service your transmission, it should not say “Overdrive off.” It should say “Transmission.” No, I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty. When I was young and poor, I bought a car with a shot engine and put an engine from a crashed car in it. I replaced a complete dual exhaust system, wheel bearings, brake pads, etc. I got tired of pushing on a wrench underneath a car to loosen a stubborn nut, then suddenly stripping the corners off the nut and skinning my knuckles when the wrench suddenly moved without resistance. The impact of skinning my knuckles would drop a shower of crud down into my mouth and eyes. I would bang my head on something as I rolled over to roll out from under the car. Happened many times. Now, I don’t have to do that anymore. But I did install the bug deflector on the Escape myself. The salesman did not have us over a barrel. He thought we were going to decide to fix the transmission - and we vascillated between the two choices. But, we would have had to rent a car just to get home. It was nicer driving home in a new vehicle of our own. And my wife worried that if we fixed the transmission, something else might go wrong. We also feel a little greener burning less gas per mile. And, we like the Escape. They have made some improvements in 10 years. And, yes, it will help my Ford stock too by an infinitesimal amount. But, if I had known, I would not have filled the gas tank.

"If there is a light that is supposed to tell you to service your transmission, it should not say “Overdrive off.” It should say “Transmission.” "

Your owner’s manual explains that when the OD-off light flashes it means that a fault with the transmission (mechanical or electrical) has been detected and that you must have the vehicle serviced immediately. I wonder what else you don’t know about your cars due to not having read the manual?

Instead, I guess we should all have to pay more for cars so that the manufacturers can add even more lights and alarms.

I can’t speak for everyone, but it wasn’t my intention to put you on the defensive, which we clearly have.

Was the cost of the Escape really worth the inconvenience you would have faced by leaving the Explorer for a proper diagnosis? Wouldn’t cab fare and the cost of the repair have been cheaper than a new car?

The answer to your question, “Did I unnecessarily buy a new car?” is a resounding [i]YES[/i], you did unnecessarily buy a new car.

As to the “greenness” of your purchase, when you include the pollutants produced to make your new car, I wouldn’t call this exchange “green” in any way.

Since it’s already done, there is no use in crying over spilled milk, but you came here and asked for opinions. Don’t get defensive if those solicited opinions don’t sit well with you. As long as you are happy with your new Ford, go forth and be merry.

Reply to VDCdriver and Tardis: Actually, I did read the owner’s manual 10 years ago when I bought the Explorer, and, I consulted occasionally since. As far as I can remember, it said that when the O D Off light came on, it meant the overdrive was turned off. I do not remember it saying, if it’s flashing, the transmission is about to go south. The new Escape has 17 indicator and warning lights on the instrument panel, and, according to the manual, which I read the evening I bought the vehicle and the next day, the wrench shaped symbol warns of a powertrain fault and says to go to the dealer “as soon as possible.” That makes a lot more sense than having “O D Off” flash and expecting someone to guess what that means when the car is still in overdrive.

My hope with my post was that someone familiar with Fords would know exactly why the O D Off light would flash and exactly what it meant. What kind of sensor located where sets it off under what conditions? But, it is a curiosity question. I had the chance to fix the transmission and decided to go for the new vehicle. If, some day, the wrench starts flashing, I will not have to guess what it means. The new cars are better.

The real answer is that you didn’t have the car checked out and we can’t see it or tell you to try various things and report back so there is no way to tell if you acted prematurely. Once you have made an irreversible decision like this there is no point in looking back, most decisions in life you don’t get to find out what the other choice would have brought you. Just do the best you can with the information you have, then move on.

Page 12 of the owner’s manual

“O/D off (if equipped)
Illuminates when the Transmission
Control Switch (TCS), refer to
Overdrive control in the Controls
and Features chapter, has been
pushed turning the transmission overdrive function OFF. When the light
is on, the transmission does not operate in the overdrive mode, refer to
the Driving chapter for transmission function and operation.
The light may also flash steadily if a transmission malfunction is
detected. If the light does not come on when the Transmission Control
Switch is depressed or if the light flashes steadily, have your vehicle
serviced as soon as possible, damage to the transmission could occur.

“If the light does not come on when the Transmission Control
Switch is depressed or if the light flashes steadily, have your vehicle
serviced as soon as possible, damage to the transmission could occur.”

Gee! Do you mean to tell us that reading the manual once, 10 years ago, is not necessarily the best approach to caring for one’s car? Is it possible that the owner should have opened the manual once he saw that light flashing on the dashboard?

Nah! Just buy a new vehicle, and blame the manufacturer for not providing a warning light that displays the exact text contained in the manual.

I don’t have a good feeling about this Escape’s future.

And, when it dies an early death, it will be the fault of the manufacturer, rather than an owner who takes a laissez-faire attitude toward the vehicle.