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Ford Windstar

About how many miles can you get on a 1997 Ford Windstar engine? I have 135,000 and am trying to decide whether to make some necessary repairs or buy another used car. I do not want to make the repairs only to discover within the next few thousand miles that I am near the end of my engine’s life expectancy

Which engine do you have? The 3.8L is notorious for head gasket problems, while the 3.0L is pretty stout. Of course, all bets are off if the vehicle hasn’t been properly maintained.

And what, pray tell, are the “necessary repairs” to which you referred? Some things can wait, but some others need to be done before you take to the road again. Brakes come to mind in the latter category.

What are the repairs? That would highly affect my answer.

Hi Thanks for your reply. i don’t kow which engine but will check my paperwork when I go home tonight and reply again. the necessary repairs are that my mechanic says my steering is breaking down and I have a month or two to decide whether to repair $800. its making a grinding and there are metal shavings in the steering wheel fluid so i think he has that right. It needs tires and a tuneup (stalling out) I bought it used 2 years ago and I have done the maintenance and from records the seller provided appeared they did to. I had the brakes done, tie rod replaced lots of underbody safety related work done and body isn’t rusting but I don’t want to get all three donw to find that the average engine life is 150,000 miles and I’m at 135,000. Thanks I’ll reply again with which engine I have. Lynda

Hi - I do have the 3.8L engine. So from your response I am thinking that I should not put the money into it and get a new old used car like a Windstar with the 3.OL engine. thanks for your help with this. Lynda

How pricey are the repairs? Putting $1000 into a van and getting another 6-12 months and more likely a few years without serious issue is far better than replacing unless you have cash in hand to get something a lot newer.

Lynda, please be aware that Ford Windstars have other problems, such as weak transmissions, short lived radiators, fuel pumps and a few others. If you really want a Windstar, buy one with low mileage and full maintenance records. Then drive it carefully and maintain it well till about 150,000 miles maximum, then get rid of it. These vehicles were nicely styled and convenient to use, but they are not very robust!

Andrew, if that were true, I would agree. A friend of mine’s wife was the unhappy owner of a Windstar and the breakdowns NEVER STOPPED. Her previous car was a Mazda 626, which she drove for 10 years without major problems other than normal maintenance. She now drives a Honda Odessey miniva.


It is true that the Windstar has some weaknesses - including the head gasket and transmission.

However, with an 11 year old vehicle, most of the work you had and need to have done I would classify as maintenance. I would classify the steering problem as a repair.

Since your engine made it this far, if there are no other warning signs, there is no reason to believe its demise will happen in the next 15k miles. To minimize your chances of a head gasket problem, you must be especially vigilant for any cooling system problems and take care of them before the engine has a chance to overheat.

The Windstar transmission absolutely needs the fluid changed every two years or 24k miles (or so). If you haven’t done this yet, do it now. Also, These transmissions will not stand up to towing anything over about 1000 lbs, and last a lot longer of the driver doesn’t have a heavy accelerator foot.

If you decide to buy another Windstar, the head gasket problems in the 3.8L engine were largely fixed with the 98 model.

The 3.0L engine is very durable, but I didn’t like the way the transmission was programmed with the 3.0L. In your test drive, be sure to try some hills, then decide for yourself.

The transmission was improved in the 2001 model, but remains a weak point.

Hope this helps.

You are getting to the end of economical vehicle operation for a minivan. The Windstar isn’t known for longevity or reliability. Yours, however, sounds like it is one of the winners in this war of statistics. Trading it will cost you quite a bit of money; so if you just ran it for another year and a half, you would be better off even if it got towed away in the end. If it’s running right, you can make it to the end of the road, and every day after that is a bonus. The engine is the least of your problems right now.

And to the contrary, my aunt bought one with 130k on it and it has been flawless for years and many miles.

My MIL purchased a late 90’s Windstar for $3500 with 50k miles. She now is nearing 95k and has not had a single issue with it. Its driven hard in the sense of nearly all short trips(<2 miles) with long warm ups.