Hello. I have a 1999 Ford Windstar LX. The check engine light has been on for a little over 2 years. It has had over $1500 in repairs over the last year or so. The last mechanic replaced some sensored, but not all. He said he wasn’t sure which others needed to be replaced. Is this a normal maintenance issue with this van?

Step #1 is to get the stored trouble codes read–free of charge–at an auto parts retailer. If the CEL has been lit up for over 2 years, there could be a number of trouble codes in memory as one unresolved problem cascaded into another.

After you get the codes (in the format of P0123), come back to this thread and someone will be able to help you interpret them. Then, you need to find a competent mechanic. If your former mechanic did not know what needed to be replaced, then I suggest that you replace him with someone who knows what he is doing. Start asking friends, relatives, and co-workers for suggestions on which mechanics in your area are both competent and honest. Whatever you do, DO NOT take the vehicle to a chain operation such as Midas, Meineke, Monro, Sears, Firestone, etc.

As to what is normal for this model, it is impossible to say, since we don’t know much about its condition other than the CEL having been lit up for a very long time–and that is not a good thing. For that matter, we don’t even know exactly what the current problem is, other than the one unexplained word–idling–in the title of the post. Perhaps you can elaborate on that situation.

That CEL (check engine light) is just a kid in class waving her hand trying to get you attention because she has the answer. You need to have the codes read. Some places will read them for FREE. Try Autozone or Advanced Auto Parts. Get the exact code (like P0123) not just their translation into English and post it back here.

Regarding warning lights:

  1. if the coolant temp light comes on, shut off the engine ASAP
  2. if the oil warning light comes on, shut off the engine ASAP
  3. if a FLASHING MIL/CEL comes on, shut off the engine ASAP

Without knowing what maintenance has been done or how many miles the van has it’s impossible to say what’s normal, however I can tell you that the response you got from the “last mechanic” is not acceptable. It sounds like he’s just been throwing parts at the problem at your expense because he lacks diagnostic skills or equipment.

Make mine another vote to find a new shop.