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Back in May, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started investigating cases of rear axles breaking in late model Ford Windstar minivans after receiving hundreds of complaints from owners. Over three months later, an official recall has just been announced that covers 575,000 1998-2003 Windstars sold in "Salt Belt" states – places where road salt is used to melt away snow and ice during the winter months. Road salt can accelerate corrosion on the rear axle, which can cause the axle beam to break completely.

Ford says that only a small number of reported cases involve instances of the rear axle beams actually snapping, even though NHTSA supposedly received over 200 complaints from owners. Still, Ford will be notifying owners of this potential hazard starting on September 27, and naturally, the problem will be fixed free of charge.

Interestingly enough, this recall does not mention anything about the Windstar's front subframes – another easily corroded area that triggered a second NHTSA investigation in late July. More than 900,000 vehicles could have been affected by this, and we assume that NHTSA's findings did not warrant a full recall. Still, this rear axle issue will be the eleventh recall placed on the Windstar, a model that was only built for a total of nine years.

[Source: Associated Press via Google]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 31 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Is it a solid rear axle?







        • 4 Years Ago
        Yes, it's a solid rear axle that's formed by flattening a steel tube into an upside-down "U" shape, and then welding suspension attachment assemblies on each end. The problem is that water can get inside of the welded assembly - and it then sits there and rusts.
      Lab1230
      • 3 Years Ago
      My sister took her windstar van in 8 months ago to have the recall done and was her only transportation. They gave her a rental for several months free of charge. It sat there all winter and in the spring time they went to move it and would not start and said they the motor had frozen and it was junk. Since that happend they called and said they want there rental back and they would not give her anything for the van. This was about 2-3 months ago, being the only vechicle that she had my parents had to buy her another vechicle to get around in as she holds 2 jobs with 2 kids and a unemployed husband. I told her to call Ford and see if they would fix her engine since this was there problem to begin with and they were real rude with her. Eby Ford of Goshen, Indiana just called last week and said your axle is fixed, get a tow truck and get it out of here or we will have it towed. I personally think they should be liable for her van as it was at there facilty, I even asked around and they say the same thing. She can't afford a lawyer and don't know what else to do.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Recalling the Windstar for a part that is not available? My son brought his in and the crack was so bad he was not allowed to drive it home when they told him it will in late February or early March before its fixed. Yes he did get a rental on Ford's dime but come on people ..use common sense ..he drives this type of vehicle to accommodate the car seats. Why on earth did you rent him a compact? While it's a nice car where is he supposed to put the kids? In the trunk? Which by the way is also small so I guess grocery shopping is out of the question because there is no place to put it. If you recall something at least make sure you have the damn parts to replace.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The funny thing is that where I live (California), I see more of the Windstar's predecessor (Aerostar) driving around than the Windstar. Those things apparently last forever. Mind you, the only people I see driving them are farm laborers, but all the same, they seem to have some longevity.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I do see quite a bit of Aerostars around, thats mainly because thats a 'truck'. It was built on a Ranger platform therefore making it more durable. When the Chrysler vans debuted, Ford had to rush to market and they figured to "haul alot of ass", it was better to use BOF, so they took the Ranger platform at the time. It wasn't till the Windstar that Ford switched to a unibody Taurus platform and cured customers wishes of having the vehicle be softer and more car-like.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Yes, there are still many of these vans around. My family has a 2001 purchased in 2002. We have had the rear axle snap (and yes, we were driving it at the time) and the subframe rust until it is unsafe to drive at this point. We have it parked and will leave it that way. Too bad Ford didn't choose to address these issues when they became obvious in the beginning. Guess money is more important than people or than in having the integrity to stand behind your product. I'll happily buy foreign from now on.
      • 4 Years Ago
      And whats funny is, at THAT time, this one of the better products because there wasn't much competition. And to add, the Ford Freestar that morphed from this in I believe 04-05, was rated higher in reliability by JDPowers in long term dependability, over the Oddysey or Sienna. I know, shocking but true.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Too true.

        People forget that the Windstar did a good job hitting their niche in the day. When I was looking at minivans (I have an '00 Windstar), the Chrysler minivans had added the second sliding door - but also lost their top crash safety rating - which is a big deal in the minivan market. Chrysler was still recovering from some bad transmission years at that time, too.

        The Toyota Sienna of the time was too small for many families - and they were pricey. The "old" Honda Odyssey just didn't cut it as a real minivan. The "new" Odyssey was awesome - but they were hard to get and dealers were charging premiums I couldn't afford. GM minivans of the era didn't even make our list.

        Another item, specific to my situation at the time (3 kids then still in safety seats and a big dog): Only the Windstar offered 4 LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) safety seat positions, which allowed me to remove one middle row seat to make room for the St. Bernard - and still have all three kids in LATCH safety seats.

        Ford really did work out the bugs by the time the Windstar turned into the Freestar (in an uninspired fit of corporate alphabet gamesmanship). I think they came to the conclusion that the only way they could hang on to market share was heavy discounting (Odyssey and Sienna were particularly good at this point; even Chrysler had improved dramatically). They decided it made more sense to get out of that market.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Funny how you mention that "The Toyota Sienna of the time was too small for many families," cause the current version sure fixed that problem according the Sienna review a couple posts down...
      • 4 Years Ago
      I was fortunate to recently acquire my dads '01 Windstar SEL with 220,000 km on it when he stepped up to a Ford SUV. It's been very well cared for and still looks fresh. By "fresh" I mean it is immaculate both visually and mechanically in spite of savage Canadian winters and many coast to coast trips. Why some ppl think vehicles take care of themselves without any effort on their part is beyond me but regular maintenance and a civilized approach to driving will keep most vehicles on the road a lot longer than one would think possible.

      Even though there is a recall on it and the book value hovers around a measly CAN 3,000 - 3,500 I wouldn't hesitate spending reasonably serious dollars towards keeping it on the road. It's just too versatile and solid. I'll be looking at that axle on my own out of curiosity and the front end as well.

      A quick search shows that there are only six listed on the net in Winnipeg so it's not like they're the most common beast around, or maybe folks just hang onto them until they die!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I brought my 2000 Windstar in to dealer for axle recall. If this is a corrosion issue, why is the procedure to " sand off all the corrosion coating, look for cracks, then reapply corrosion coating." ? If corrosion was the issue, the coating would already be compromised, not intact, and would not need to be removed to see damage. This is a structural metal fatigue problem. The corrosion issue is a legal dodge and a lie.
      • 4 Years Ago
      What about people who already made the repair?
        • 4 Years Ago
        They can calm themselves by saying, "Well at least i didn't buy an Aztek"
        • 4 Years Ago
        From an NY Times article I saw elsewhere on this topic:

        "...the recall will be for the rear axle and Ford will reimburse consumers who have already paid for the repair."
      • 4 Years Ago
      Wait 575,000 people bought Windstars?
      • 4 Years Ago
      yeah, was gonna say, there aren't many on the road left to fix.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Come around here...they are everywhere.

        My grandparents bought two later models an 01 and 03...the 01 would still be running if some moron kid didn't decide to roll up the driver's side like a sardine can. The 03 is still running strong and I've told my grandmother about the issue.
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