Automotive Forums .com - the leading automotive community online! Automotive Forums .com - the leading automotive community online!
Automotive Forums .com - the leading automotive community online! 
Latest | 0 Rplys
Go Back   Automotive Forums .com Car Chat > Ford > Windstar
Closed Thread Show Printable Version Show Printable Version | Email this Page Email this Page | Subscription Subscribe to this Thread
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old 02-11-2007, 12:40 AM   #1
AF Moderator
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Posts: 3,625
Thanks: 0
Thanked 110 Times in 86 Posts
General Windstar Information

In order to avoid filling the first page with a bunch of "Sticky threads" at the top.....I am including some general information in this LONG post.
This is from what I have read.....much of it is from the great members on this forum.
You can scroll down to one of the following headings,

One of our regular members, catvents, recently made a great suggestion for this post....
The 1999 and newer Windstar uses a front end electronics module and a rear end electronics module to control the lights, brake, park, turn signal at the front and rear of the vehicle.
The +12 volts is supplied all the time to the bulbs....and the front/rear electronics modules switch the ground to illuminate the bulbs.
For this will find ground at the buld ONLY when it is being lit up......and you will find +12V all the time.
This is also why you need a special adapter module if you add trailer lighting to the circuit.
Please take note of this when troubleshooting the lighting circuits.

In the USA, you can get your OBDII "P" codes read for FREE at many auto part stores.

Make sure that you get the actual Numeric Code, and write it down.
Then do a search in this room on that code.....and if you do not find the information you a question.
Example, P0171
NOTE, P0171 and / or P0174 are almost always caused by a vaccum leak, NOT a oxygen sensor.

Most published manuals will refer to this front wheel drive engine as follows.
Front wheel drive, "Front" of engine is on passenger side.
Contains the water pump, power steering pump, serpentine belt, tensioner pulley (toward fire wall), idler pulley, Alternator, etc.

"Right" side, also "Bank 1" is the side of the engine that is toward the passenger compartment. Contains Cylinder #1. on the passenger side, #2 in the middle, and #3 on the driver side.

"Left" side, also "BANK 2" is toward the front, radiator. Cylinder #4 is on the passenger side, #5 in the middle, and #6 on the driver side.

1995 3.8L has a aluminum upper intake manifold, with no Intake Manifold Runner.
1996-1998 3.8L has a black nylon upper intake manifold with the Intake Manifold Runner....called "Cross Port Induction".
A second opening is opened up at or just above 2900RPM to provide more power under hard accelleration, boosting the horse power rating to 200hp starting with the 1996 year.
1996 - 1998 are vaccum controled
1999 and newer are electrically controled.
A search in this forum on " IMRC " will get you lots of information on this system.
Codes P1357 and / or P1358 are common failure codes for the IMRC.

1999 and newer has a different upper intake manifold.
FORD TSB # 3-16-1 is an important one for 1999 and newer.
Common Codes P0171 and or P0174
A link to a site, posted by a member, that really covers this extremely well is here.
The issues with the "isolator bolts" are for 1999 and newer ONLY.

There are 4 oxygen sensors on the 3.8L windstar.
2 are "upstream" sensors, 1 for each bank (rear bank 1, and front bank 2) which are located in the exhaust pipe between the exhaust manifold and the catalytic converter.
The exhaust passes over the upstream oxygen sensor before entering the catalytic converter.
The upstream oxygen sensors are used by the PCM to adjust the air / fuel mixture to maintain the optimum combustion.

The other 2 oxygen sensors are the "downstream" sensors, 1 after each catalytic converter.
Being located downstream from the catalytic converter, the downstream oxygen sensors are used ONLY to monitor "catalyst efficiency".

Oxygen sensors are often replaced in response to "lean codes", namely P0171 and / or P0174.
These codes are almost NEVER caused by oxygen sensors, but rather usually a vaccum leak, fuel system issue (clogged fuel injector) or a MAF issue (dirty).

There are 2 circuits in the oxygen sensor.
1 is the circuit that carries the signal that indicates the oxygen level.
This circuit works by a chemical reaction caused by a difference in the oxygen level inside the exhaust pipe, and the oxygen level in the atmosphere.
This difference in oxygen levels generates a voltage that is sent to the PCM.
For this reason, when working under the vehicle, care should be taken to avoid sealing the oxygen sensor's exposure to the atmosphere.
Operations such as rust proofing and under coating (should not be around the hot exhaust anyhow), and spraying penetrating oils to remove oxygen sensors are some examples.

Introduction of certain chemials into an oxygen sensor can not only interfere with the chemical reaction necessary for operation, the chemical makeup of the sensor can be permanantly rendered useless.
For this reason, the sensor can be damaged by coolant, "general purpose" silicone and other sealants and chemicals that are NOT labeled "sensor safe".

The other circuit is a heater circuit that heats the sensor to a level that is required for for the chemical reaction to take place.
This enables the PCM to use the input from the oxygen sensors much faster upon starting up the engine.
It only takes about 15 seconds to go from "open loop" to "closed loop".

There are a lot of codes in the OBDII code set that cover actual failures with the oxygen sensors.
These codes will direct you to which one of the 4 sensors is having a problem, and what the problem is.
One thing to check when under the vehicle is to make sure that the wires that go to each sensor are NOT touching any part of the exhaust system.

The oxygen sensors on the windstar are rated for AT LEAST 100K miles.
They are NOT a regular tune up replacement item.
So they should not be replaced unless there is an actual failure code....such as a slow response code.
An open circuit code should lead one to verify the wiring before replacing the oxygen sensor.

When changing an oxygen sensor, once the system is cool, spray the threads where the sensor goes into the exhaust system with a good penetrating oil....and let it soak.
Then, use a wrench (a oxygen sensor socket is best) to turn the sensor.
IF the sensor is mounted into a catalytic the bank 1 downstream sensor was on my 1996 3.8L, use extreme care as the sensor mounting thread ring is mounted in very thin metal, and can very easily twist out, which would require that the "Y" pipe (includes both catalytic converters) be replaced.....and the FORD OEM replacement is over $1200.

The cooling system uses an aluminum radiator with plastic side tanks.
The fins that you see from the front, if you have air conditioning are the air conditioning condensor coils, which cover the front of the radiator.

Coolant flows through the engine, not including the radiator until the engine is warmed up to about 190 degrees, when the thermostat opens.

Coolant flows through the passenger compartment heater core all the time when the engine is running.

There is a cross over tube that goes from the front of the engine (passenger side) to the rear of the engine (driver side), top of the lower intake manifold.
At this point the heater "IN" hose connects, and the coolant flows through the heater core, and back to the water pump.

When the thermostat opens, coolant flows out of the engine through the top radiator hose, and into the driver side plastic tank on the radiator.
From there the coolant flows through the radiator from driver's side to passenger side plastic tank...and back into the engine through the lower radiator hose.

The transmission cooler is located inside the passenger side radiator plastic tank.

Engine Temperature sensors are located in the lower intake manifold, next to the thermostat....which is where the upper radiator hose connects.
1 sensor, over the thermostat on my '96 3.8L is for the temperature gauge in the dashboard ONLY.
The other sensor, behind (closer to the firewall) the 1st sensor, more over the heater hose connection is for the PCM, and is used for engine control.

There are 2 fans behind the radiator that the PCM controls by sending a signal to relays (on my '96, the relays are in the CCRM).
The fans have 2 speeds, Low and High.

The fans should be ON whenever the A/C is on (including in the defrost position) and the vehicle is not traveling above a certain speed.

There is a dropping resistor that is involved with the low speed van operation.
It is a COMMON FAILURE item.
To test to see if you have low speed fan operation, with the engine at running, in PARK, with the parking brake set, Select an A/C ON setting.
Observe if the fans are running.
If not.....then you may have a defective fan dropping resistor.
I have pictures of the location of this item, and how to change it posted in my pictures that the link in my signature will take you to.
No low speed fan operation will cause your engine AND TRANSMISSION to run hotter when not moving.

The big issue with coolant is when you have coolant loss, and it is not out of the engine.
Head gaskets are a concern on the 1995 3.8L
They made casting changes in 1996 to reduce problems with head gasket failure, so it is not common on 1996 and newer windstars.

The 2 places that are known weak points on the 3.8L engine are the Lower Intake Manifold Gaskets (can leak coolant into the cylinders and into the engine oil) and the Front Cover, aka Timing Cover. (Can leak coolant into the engine oil, as well as out of the engine). The front cover is what the water pump, and oil pump are mounted on.

The new replacement gaskets from FORD are improved, so you should only have to do these repairs 1 time.

Some of us have solved the front cover gasket with Bar's brand of Stop leak....if caught in the early seapage stage.

The Front Cover gasket is cheap.....the work, or labor involved in changing it is very major.

Lower Intake Manifold Gaskets are NOT reusable, and must be replaced whenever the lower intake manifold is removed.
The upper intake manifold gaskets ARE re-useable.

Coolant leakage into the engine oil WILL cause serious damage to the internals of the engine if not repaired.

If you suspect coolant leakage, the only way to tell if it is in the oil, before it caused serious damage, is to have the oil tested for coolant.
You can get a free sample kit and instructions on taking an oil sample from The test costs about $20.

Head gaskets were a failure issue on the 1995 3.8L Windstar.
Casting changes were made for the 1996 year, and the head gasket reliability was greatly improved.
However, the problems with the 1995 model year caused people to suspect head gaskets with any coolant leak.
The common failure on a number of years for the 3.8L windstar was lower intake manifold gaskets.
The lower intake manifold gaskets often cause coolant to leak into the intake manifold, and be drawn into the cylinder(s) near the leak.
Upon finding coolant in the cylinder(s) and / or onto one or both upstream oxygen sensors, often the head gaskets are blamed, when replacement of lower intake manifold gaskets will solve the problem.
Replacing the head gaskets requires replacement of the lower intake manifold gaskets, so the problem will be resolved with the head gasket job.
However, the cost is higher for work on the heads.
For this reason, established troubleshooting practices need to be followed to determine if indeed the issue is caused by the head gaskets or the lower intake manifold gaskets.
This can include a test on a sample of coolant to check for combustion byproducts.

FORD TSB # 02-1-4
specifies that the head gaskets are to be DRY fitted.
This means that NO sealant aids are to be used, and they want ALL oil removed from the mating surfaces.

FORD TSB #2-11-4
FORD also states that NO metal is to be used to clean the mating surfaces.....they even go so far as to say NOT to use razer blades.
Wooden, or nylon tools with solvent are to be used to remove all gasket materials from the head gasket mating surfaces.

The reason that they give is that any nicks, however small will lead to wicking of coolant and / or oil and gasket sealing failure.
The same statement is made about any oil or sealant materials that get onto the mating surfaces.....that they will prevent correct bonding of the gasket to the metal surface.

Make certain to get the correct replacement gaskets for YOUR year.
If buying from a FORD dealership's online website, make SURE to include your VIN with your order as they advise.

NOTE, READ THE LABEL for yourself as things change

Your windstar owners manual will call for 1 of 2 types of ethylene glycol coolant, depending on the year.

Older windstars call for "traditional green" silicated coolant.
This is NOT a long life coolant, and needs to be changed every 2 years as the silicates tened to fall out of the solution, creating a sand like substance that causes wear inside the cooling system, or falls into a goop that clogs passages.
This is getting harder and harder to find.
Motorcraft Green is this type of coolant.

Newer windstars call for a coolant known as G-05
Motorcraft Gold is this type of coolant.
This is a long life coolant.
If you change from a traditional green coolant without COMPLETELY removing all the old coolant, or add the long life coolant to the traditional green system, the resulting coolant is still considered to NOT be long life, and should be changed on the 2 year schedule.
G-05 is a Hybrid Organic Acid Technology (HOAT) type of coolant.
It has the long life organic acid technology protection system which can take several thousand miles to build up protection....and loses protection at locations where water bubbles strike (cavitation) or small particles strike, with some silicates to to to provide instant protection until the other protectants can cover the surfaces.
So G-05 give you the best of both worlds, long life protection of the OAT coolant with the instant protection of the silicates.

The other type is a Organic Acid Technology (OAT) coolant.
It has NO silicates or phosphates (phosphates are used instead of silicates by some Japanese and asian car manufactures) to provide instantant protection.
OAT type coolants are also long life.
Most "all makes all models", "universal", or "Global" coolants are OAT type coolants.
Again, a read of the label will tell you....If it says "No Silicates or Phosphates" then it is a OAT type of coolant.
Dexcool is also a OAT type of coolant.

Again, all 3 types mentioned are still ethylene glycol coolants
FORD TSB # 01-23-6 states that FORD does not endorse Propylene glycol based coolants for the windstar.

When changing the coolant, use steam distilled water, NOT tap water to mix with concentrated coolant.
The engine cooling system is very commonly overlooked in vehicle maintenance.
When you change the coolant, it is very likely that you will get air into the system.
It will take some time to "burp" the air out of the system.
When running the engine after changing the coolant, keep an eye on the temperature gauge, and shut the engine OFF if the temperature gets high.
Once cool, check the coolant the radiator and add coolant as needed.

Periodically check to see if there is coolant in the overflow bottle.
After driving, with the engine hot, and OFF, carefully grasp and squeeze the upper radiator hose, it should be firm, and HOT......and full of coolant.
If it is not firm, you may need a new radiator cap, or to clean the radiator cap sealing surfaces.
If it is not full of coolant, and this can happen with a full overflow bottle, then you will need to fill the radiator with new coolant....when the engine is cool.

If you have no heat, or fluctuating temperature, or hot engine temperature, you need to check the cooling system.

There are 3 separate control issues so you will need to determine which one is causing you a problem.
The engine coolant flows through the heater core all the time whenever the engine is running. When you select a setting on the heater temperature select, a electric motor runs to open and close a " Blend Door " to determine how much air will pass over the hot heater core.
If you can only get cold air, then check to see if the cooling system is full, and if it is, do a search on " blend door " for a lot of great information on what to do.

If you have air going to the windshield (defrost) only, regardless of what you set the air location for (vent, floor, etc) then you have a problem with the vaccum controlled selector system.
Defrost is the default position, with no vaccum.
The vaccum for this control comes from the back of the upper intake manifold, to a vaccum resevior box that is on the inner fender, on the passenger side. This box holds some vaccum to hold the controls in place while the engine is off. From the resevior box, a vaccum line passes through the firewall into the passenger compartment to provide the control and drive to the diverter system.
If this is your problem, do a search on " defrost only "

Fan control is selected on the dashboard, and switch setting determines which resistors the electric to the fan must flow.
The heater fan dropping resistor is located up under the dashboard, behind the glove box. It is up inside the air duct, and has a electricall connection.
I have pictures of my heater fan dropping resistor replacement process posted in the pictures that the link in my signature will take you to.
Of course no fan can also be a blown fuse, bad fan motor, bad fan switch or damaged wiring.

FORD TSB # 02-1-9 states that SAE 5W-20 oil is recommended for all windstar years, 3.8L and 3.0L.

My own opinion is that a full synthetic will provide the best protection in the cold and hot conditions.

Any need to add coolant periodically would make having an oil sample tested a very good idea.
This is because coolant into the oil can cause engine failure...and at levels that you cannot detect by looking at the oil or inside of the oil fill cap.
For more information on having the oil tested, do a search on " oil test "

The engine oil requires that harmful items, such as fuel (gets in when started, particularly in cold weather, and from fuel system issues), combustion chamber blow by products, etc be removed.
The PCV system does this by pulling some air out of the rear valve cover (1995-1998) or the front valve cover (1999 and newer) through the PCV valve, and into the upper intake manifold.
This pulls the harmful elements out of the crank case where, if not removed would lead to sludge buildup and other oil breakdown issues.

The line from the PCV valve to the upper intake manifold can become damaged or disconnected. One location for leakage is the 90 degree elbow that is located on top of the upper intake manifold, next to the throttle body.....a crack can develop on the inside of this elbow.

A leak in the PCV line can cause P0171 and P0174 lean codes.

Air into the crankcase to replace the air drawn out comes through a tube that comes from the flex hose that is in between the Manifold AirFlow sensor (MAF) and the throttle body and goes in to the front valve cover (1995-1998) or rear valve cover (1999 and newer).
If this tube comes out of the flex tube, air can enter the engine that the computer does not know about...possibly leading to a P0171 and / or P0174 lean code.

The 1999 and 2000 model years had an issue with the front valve cover design permiting too much oil to be drawn into the intake.
This is covered in the information at

The towing package included a engine oil cooler that is a heat exchanger between the coolant and the oil.
This is mounted in between the oil pump and oil filter, with the oil filter mounting to the cooler.
There are metal lines that carry coolant to and from the oil cooler to cool the oil.

This is a weak point on the windstar, and many other minivans.
One major factor is HEAT.
The transmission is electronically controlled.
The PCM sends signals to the transmission to activate solenoids to shift the gears.
The PCM depends on a number of electrical inputs from a LOT of sensors, to make the determination of what speed to select.

The standard equipment cooler for the transmission is inside the radiator plastic tank on the passenger side.
Metal tubes connect to the back side of the passenger side radiator, and go down and over to the driver's side. From there, rubber hoses carry the fluid to metal tubes that connect to the transmission.
In the metal tubes, in front of the transmission is a small square-ish metal block. This metal block is a thermal switch that causes the fluid to bypass the cooler(s) when below about 32 degrees F.

The towing package included a small auxillary cooler for the transmission and for the power steering.
Many of us highly recommend an auxillary cooler, even above and beyond the one included in the towing package.

The way to add a cooler is to mount it so that the transmission fluid flows through the in-radiator cooler, then through the auxillary cooler, and back into the transmission.

Take note that if the radiator fan low speed operation is not working, your transmission will run hotter during stop and go traffic.
Read about low speed radiator fan operation under the cooling section of this post.

FORD TSB # 03-14-8 states that if transmission overhaul or replacement is performed that the transmission cooler MUST be flushed...and with ATF ONLY and to NOT use any cleaners.
There is a revised process with new equipment as earlier methods did not work.
The statement is that the #1 reason for repeat repairs of transmissions is contamination from the cooler lines gets back into the transmission.

A very common, inexpensive failure with the transmission not shifting correctly is caused by the Transmission Range Sensor ( TRS) which is also called Neutral Safety switch.
For more information on this, do a search on " TRS " .

The TRS is connected to a cable from the gear select lever on the steering column.
The TRS tells the PCM what gear you have selected, and the PCM then tells the transmission which solenoids to operate to select the correct gear.
The default mode for the transmission is to NOT shift higher than 2nd gear.
This can be caused by a defective well as other things.

The Vehicle Speed Sensor (VSS) is located on the firewall side, middle of the transmission....toward the top. Very hard to get at as the exhaust system is right there. This is for the speedometer and the PCM to know the vehicle speed. If this sensor needs has been recommended to get a new nylon "driven" gear sometimes the failure is the nylon gear, and sometimes it is the sensor......and it is best to replace both to avoid having to do it again.
For more information do a search on " VSS "

The Transmission Speed Sensor or Turbine Speed Sensor (TSS) is located on the cover on the driver's side of the transmission.
It is not so hard to replace....but seems to rarely fail.
The TSS measures the speed of the shaft that comes OUT of the Torque Converter, before the various gear ratios, and is used by the PCM for transmission control.
The PCM knows the speed of the shaft going into the torque converter by the engine RPMs.

There is a light inside the gear select lever, near the end, that is labled "O/D"
This corresponds to the button at the end of the gear select lever that you press to disable overdrive. If the light is lit bright (it will glow very dimly at night with the lights on) it means that you have disabled the overdrive, and the transmission will shift normally except that it will not use 4th gear.
If this light is FLASHING, it is indicating that a failure has been detected.....and there are transmission codes stored.
You may or may not be able to read them with a OBDII code reader.....
It will usually require a more advanced code reader, that would only be found at a advanced repair facility, due to the cost of these units.

IF you are not able to physically shift out of Park after starting the engine, the shift interlock in the steering column has been activated.
To Test....Turn the engine OFF, and shift into Neutral, start the engine... If you are able to shift into gear......the MOST likely cause of the problem is the Brake On OFF ( BOO ) switch.
The BOO switch is up under the dashboard, connected to the brake pedal shaft.
Once common failure is that a wire breaks off the switch....and a new, longer wire should be added.....taking care to make a good solid connection that will not fall apart.
The switch is cheap, and easy to replace.
I have pictures of the BOO switch replacement posted in my pictures that the link in my signature will take you to.

FORD TSB # 06-14-4, which supercedes former TSB's, and many of my own posts in the past (that say to use only mercon, and not Mercon V in vehicles that say mercon)....states that MERCON V is now the transmission fluid (ATF) to use in all windstars. Mercon will not be licensed after July 1, 2007.
For this reason, you will see ATF labeled "for use in vehicles that specify Mercon or Mercon V".

Do not use Mercon SP in the Windstar as this fluid is for a different type of transmission.
This is also stated in TSB # 06-14-4

Change that fluid AT LEAST every 30K miles, or 21K miles for "severe service".
If you experience transmission issues such as slipping or shutter, a full fluid exchange is the way to go.
Some folks do a partial fluid change.....changing the fluid in the pan, on a regular basis, such as each oil change.
This method gets only about 1/2 of the total fluid changed, but doing this on a much more regular basis than the 30K mile interval, keeps the fluid and additives fresh.
HOWEVER, once you have a problem that may be fluid related, the full exchange is needed.
The FACTORY transmission pan gasket is a high quality reusable handle it with care...and DO reuse it if possible as it will do a better job than the cork replacement gaskets.
I have pictures posted of how I do the fluid exchange with pan drop and filter change....including detailed pictures of that pesky filter seal that likes to stay stuck.

FORD TSB# 99-18-4 for Windstar and Taurus years 1995 - 2000 adresses a harsh 3-2 shift and/or Shudder on accelleration and turns.
This can be caused by air being drawn up through the filter due to slightly low transmission fluid level.
The solution is to make sure that the transmission fluid level is filled to the top of the hatch marks on the dip stick.
To get an accurate reading, the vehicle must be at operating temperature, on level ground, transmission in PARK, engine at idle.

The standard brakes were front disk and rear drum brakes.
Optional brakes were disk brakes in front and rear.
I have pictures posted of brake jobs, including replacement of rotors (aka disks) and drums in my pictures.

It is very important to properly torque the lug nuts that hold the wheels on correctly.
They should be torqued to about 100ft/lbs in a "star" pattern.
In other words, don't tighten them by going from nut to the next nut....but to skip one and go around until ALL have been tightened.
Failure to do this, and have them all at the same tightness will cause the disk brake rotors to warp.....which you will feel when you apply the brakes as they grab, release, grab....etc.....
This will also cause the pads to wear much faster, and 1 pad to be worn out while the other one is just fine.
The only correct way to resolve warped rotors is to replace them.
If you replace 1 rotor or pads, you need to do both sides.

It is also recommended that you bleed the brake fluid at each wheel once a year.
For more information on bleeding brakes, do a search on " Bleeding brakes "

IF you have no cruise control, a very common cause is failure of the brake pressure switch on the bottom of the master cylinder.
The replacement switch is cheap, and easy to replace.
Mine came with a small wire harness.

BRAKE PRESSURE SWITCH.....There have been several posts about this switch failing in such a way that the brake fluid leaking into the switch has caused an engine compartment fire.
It is a very good idea to inspect the switch, and if even slightly damp, replace it.
If in question....just replace it.
Hopefully the new switch is improved, and will not leak.

The ABS braking system is standard on all windstars.
The ABS system works by monitoring the speed of each wheel, and when one or more locks up, while you are pressing on the brake, the ABS system will pulse the brakes on and off very quickly, causing the growling sound.

As the system determines if wheels are locked up by compairing all 4 wheel speeds, a problem with one wheel speed sensing will cause the ABS system to be disabled and the ABS light to come on.

Now, the first thing to check when the ABS light comes on is the brake fluid level in the master cylinder. It must be FULL, right up at the FULL line.
The level sensor is set to trip at a level that is very close to the full line....and that will light the ABS light.

Another very common cause for the ABS light is a problem detected with one of the wheel speed sensor systems.
Each time the vehicle is started up and driven, the ABS system will do a self test when the brakes are applied with the vehicle going at some minimum you will find out very quickly when a problem comes up.

The speed sensor at each wheel consists of a exciter ring that looks like a gear....and a magnetic sensor with wires.
Each time a tooth of the exciter ring passes the magnetic sensor, an electrical pulse is generated, that is sent back through the wires from the sensor.
The number of pulses is proportional to how fast the wheel is turning.
For more information on the ABS system including the wheel sensors,
do a search on " ABS "

All windstars came with Power steering.
The towing package included a power steering fluid cooler with fins that was next to the ATF cooler.
The non-towing package windstars came with a power steering fluid cooler that was just a tube, with no fins that runs in a loop in front of the radiator, below the front bumper.

The windstar is known for cooking the power steering fluid, even with the cooler.
Periodically changing the power steering fluid is recommended.
This alone very often corrects the concern of noisy power steering.

The correct fluid to use is Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF), NOT power steering fluid.
Older windstars call for a Type F ATF, and newer windstars call for a Mercon ATF.

A synthetic power steering fluid is highly recommended as it will hold up to the heat better, and provide better cold temperature flow.
I have Redline Synthetic Power Steering Fluid in my '96, which calls for a Type F fluid.
Mobil 1 is a good, easy to find fluid that meets the Mercon requirement.
For more information on how to flush the power steering fluid,
do a search on "power steering fluid"

If you have leaks from the power steering rack, then most likely, you will need to replace the steering rack.

If you get a squeeking noise when you turn the steering wheel, you may have an issue with the tie rod ends, or maybe the lower ball joints being dry (no grease).

The factory tie rod ends and ball joints do NOT have grease fittings.

Some of us have bought a GREASE NEEDLE at the auto parts the grease section.
This grease needle has a grease fitting so that it will connect to the end of a grease gun.
Then you poke it into the seal that covers the joint......tie rod end, or lower ball joint, or ends of the stabilizer link, and pump a SMALL amount of grease into the joint. The grease comes out faster than one would think...and you don't want to over do it.

This is NOT as good as getting grease in through a grease fitting, but the alternative is to replace the joint.
The addition of grease only needs to be done, say once in 2 years or so.

If you get a "clunking" noise from the front suspension, a common cause is the front suspension lower arm bushing has worked loose in the front subframe.
The solution is to have this welded.
The large nut that you see in the front subframe, right in front of the oil filter, is the location of the passenger side bushing.
I have pictures posted that a member sent me of his welding repair job.
The link in my signature will take you to the pictures.

The fuel system consists of a electric fuel pump inside the gasoline tank.
There is a "sock" filter over the pickup end that floats up and down with the fuel.

The fuel level sensor is a part of the arm that goes from the pump to the fuel pickup.

The high pressure fuel goes through a fuel filter that is located under the vehicle....driver's side, in front of the rear wheel....on the inside side of the unibody frame member.
For information on changing the fuel filter, do a search on " fuel filter "

The Vapor recovery canister is located inside the frame member, next to the fuel filter.

The high pressure fuel then goes up to the engine, connecting to the fuel pressure regulator, on the passenger side of the crome fuel rail that goes to all the fuel injectors.

There is a vaccum line that goes to the fuel pressure regulator that causes the fuel pressure in the fuel rail to be less with more vaccum and more with less vaccum.
This is to give maximum fuel pressure during hard acceleration and less fuel pressure at idle, or less engine demand.

The fuel pressure regulator sends fuel back to the fuel tank.....more goes back for less pressure in the fuel rail, less goes back for more pressure in the fuel rail.

The OBDII system on the windstar does not in any way measure or monitor fuel flow or pressure.
For those who have the trip computer that displays a Miles Per Gallon value.....fuel usage is calculated by taking the airflow reading from the MAF, and taking the ideal Air/fuel mixture of about 14/1 to give the amount of fuel used.
As the OBDII system does not measure fuel usage or pressure directly, problems with the fuel system will not show up with a code that says "no fuel", or "low fuel pressure".
So troubleshooting is required to determine a no / low fuel delivery issue.

There are a number of posts concerning failure of the electric fuel pump, the relays that control it, and even the wiring to the fuel pump.
If you turn the ignition key to "ON", but do NOT start the engine (with the heater fan set to minimum, and the radio off), you should hear the fuel pump run for a second or so, then stop.
For more information on Fuel pump and the relays that control it, do a search on " fuel pump "

The fuel injectors rarely seem to fail.
There have been issues posted with electrical connections for the injectors, or even a failure of the PCM causing an injector(s) to not work.

In the 3.8L engine, the fuel injectors are physically mounted into the head, in the intake air path, just before the intake valve.

The fuel injector has 2 electrical connections.
1 pin is always "hot" whenever the ignition key is ON.
The other pin, through a few wire harness connections, connects directly to a pin on the PCM.
A PCM pin is provided for each fuel injector.
The PCM provides a momentary ground to activate the fuel injector.
The length of time that the ground connection is made determines the length of time that the fuel injector sprays fuel into the intake.
The electrical activation to the fuel injector energizes a coil inside the injector assembly.
When the coil is energized, the plunger inside the injector moves, opening the path for fuel.

The most common issue with injectors is crud building up inside the end cap that is over the spray end of the injector.
I have tried to show this in a couple of my pictures.

I have found success with using Berryman's B-12 Chemtool, in the metal can, available at most auto part stores.
This is a solvent based cleaner that seems to work once the injector(s) start causing engine miss.

I use detergent based cleaners, such as Chevron Techron, Redline Complete Fuel System Cleaner, or Fuel Power FP plus, or more recently Scheaffer's 131c "Soy Ultra" to try to keep the system clean.

Take note that no amound of fuel system cleaner will clean the upper or lower intake manifold, EGR ports or intake runner "butterflies".
This is because the cleaner is in the fuel...and the fuel is sprayed into the air AFTER it has passed through the upper and lower intake manifolds.

As far as choosing gasoline to help keep things cleaner for longer,
there is a voluntary program call "Top Tier" that many fuel companies participate in.
In short to be "Top Tier" a given brand must meet certain, higher detergency levels, in ALL grades of gasoline, at ALL stations that display their brand's sign.
For more information on Top Tier fuel, visit

SPARK PLUGS and Ignition:
The windstar factory spark plugs are rated for 100K miles.
The correct replacement spark plug is a double platinum plug......with platinum enhancement on BOTH the center electrode and the Ground tab.
This is because the windstar's ignition system uses a Positive spark on one side of the engine and a Negative spark on the other side. This causes the center electrode to wear faster on one side of the engine, and the ground electrode to wear faster on the other.
At this time, only Motorcraft and Autolite brands carry this type of spark plug.

The rear spark plugs can be removed and replaced from under the vehicle, with the front up on ramps, transmission in PARK, Parking brake set, and blocks behind the rear wheels....engine and exhaust COOL. Slide in untill you would be looking at the floor boards if you went back any you are looking up just barely in front of the firewall.
You can also get to the rear spark plugs by removing the cowel that is just below the windshield.
My method is to have ONLY 1 spark plug wire off at a time, so that you are sure to get them back in the right place.

Spark plugs are to be removed ONLY when the engine is completely cool.
Removal from a hot engine may require more force, which may damage the threads.
As the spark plug threads are steel, and the head threads are aluminum, the threads in the head are the ones that are going to be damaged.

Use dielectric grease on the ceramic sides of the spark plugs to provide a seal inside the spark plug boot, and to make the spark plug wire come off easily.

When removing the spark plug wire from the spark plug, pull ONLY by the thicker boot part of the wire....NOT by the wire.
The best way is to firmly grip the spark plug wire boot, as close to the spark plug body as possible.
Then TWIST the spark plug wire boot to work it loose from the spark plug body.
Finally, pull the spark plug wire boot off the spark plug.

The spark plug wires don't last forever, and it is worth trying to get a good set.
The spark plug wires connect to the coil pack...that is located behind the upper intake manifold, on the driver's side.
Acess to this can be helped by removing the cowel.

The coil pack consists of 3 coils in a epoxy block.
The PCM energizes each of the 3 coils....and each coil connects to 2 spark plugs.......1 on each end of the coil....resulting in the positive and negative spark that we just mentioned.
The coil pack has been known to fail by a crack developing in the epoxy body causing a place that can develop arcing.
If I have to remove the coil to inspect......I would put a new one in.
Another thing to do if you suspect that the coil or spark plug wires are arcing is to, very carefully, with the engine running at night.....very dark location, lift the hood...and look for the light caused by arcing.

This is worth a mention. I do not know about the 1995, but the 1996 and newer 3.8L windstars have a EGR port for each cylinder. I show them in several of my pictures. These ports can become clogged by the combination of the EGR carbon, etc and the oil vapors from the PCV system coming together in the intake.
They seem to clog at cylinders 3 and 6, closest to the EGR valve, leaving cylinders 1 and 4 to be the last ones they get all the EGR flow....often causing a misfire one of them whenever the EGR system is activated.
The EGR ports clog right at the it is easy to clean them, once you have removed the upper intake manifold (gaskets are reusable).
Clogged EGR ports can give you a check engine light with codes P0401 for insufficient EGR flow, P0301 and / or P0304 for misfire on clinder(s) 1 and 4
For more information on this issue do a search on " EGR "

Exhaust gas flows through a tube that is connected to the front exhaust manifold and the EGR valve that is located on the driver's side of the lower intake manifold.

There are 2 small hoses that goe from the EGR tube to the Differential Pressure FEedback (DPFE) sensor.
In short, the DPFE senses the actual flow through the EGR tube.
The DPFE sensor is a common failure, and is easy to replace.

The PCM sends a signal to the EGR vaccum control solenoid to open the EGR valve for a certain amount of flow through the EGR tube, as measured by the DPFE.

The EGR vaccum control solenoid (located on the back side of the upper intake manifold, driver's side) opens and closes the vaccum to the EGR valve to open and close the EGR valve to maintain the expected amount of flow through the EGR tube.

If the PCM is not able to maintain the correct EGR flow, the Check Engine Light is lit, and a code is stored to indicate the problem.
Moderator for Ford Windstar room only
Links to my pictures, intended as an aid, not a replacement for, a good repair manual.
1996 3.8L Windstar
2003 Toyota Sienna pictures (not much there yet)

Last edited by wiswind; 11-17-2008 at 07:15 AM.
wiswind is offline  
The Following 15 Users Say Thank You to wiswind For This Useful Post:
65val (05-20-2012), bdrumr56 (06-01-2015), Cessnadriver (01-13-2013), Dekeman (11-12-2012), DontCome2MyHouse (11-15-2011), gregguy (05-25-2012), harryvil (02-11-2012), kafkacell (04-20-2011), markstack (05-15-2012), MarPac (08-23-2011), mxlplx (08-16-2013), phil-l (02-14-2011), Searles Lewis (03-24-2012), TheBackyardDIYer (11-27-2013), Windstartled (11-20-2012)
Closed Thread


Go Back   Automotive Forums .com Car Chat > Ford > Windstar

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 12:01 PM.

Community Participation Guidelines | How to use your User Control Panel

Powered by: vBulletin | Copyright Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
no new posts