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Ford Escape Transmission Problems: Which Year Models of Escape Should You Avoid?

in Reliability

Ford Escape owners weigh in on which models are the most likely to have transmission issues

Photo of Ford Escape

Since its introduction 20 years ago, the Ford Escape has been a top contender in the increasingly competitive compact SUV space. Shoppers looking for a budget-friendly vehicle that is practical, fuel-efficient, and fun to drive have found much to love with the Escape. Ford has sold millions of these vehicles over the years, but even best-selling vehicles like the Escape are not free of mechanical issues.

Among the most common (and costly) issues with the Escape are automatic transmission troubles that range from minor sensor errors to complete transmission failures that can leave a driver stranded on the side of the road.


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Here’s what you need to know about Ford Escape transmission problems – which years are prone to having issues with the transmission, average Ford Escape transmission repair costs, and how to avoid driving a Ford Escape with an unreliable transmission off the lot.

Quick Answer: Avoid 2005, 2008, and 2013 Ford Escapes

Ford Escapes model years 2005, 2008, and 2013 have high numbers of owner-reported transmission problems. Other year models are much more reliable.

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Which Years of Ford Escapes Have The Most Transmission Problems?

According to Ford Escape owner complaints on forums such as and Reddit, model years 2014 and 2008 are the most common years for transmission problems in the Ford Escape. However, year models 2006-2009 were also more prone to transmission problems than other models.

Ford Escape Year Models With The Least Reliable Transmissions

2014 is especially notable due to the severity of the issues, with several reports of Ford Escapes ceasing to function while on the road. Ford Escape owners like u/regularfellar on Reddit report that the vehicle suddenly displays a “Transmission Fault: Service Now,” which renders the vehicle unable to drive. Other users have reported that the car comes to a complete and total stop on the road without warning.

Transmission fault service now warning on dashboard

Image source

The 2008 Escape is prone to a wide variety of transmission issues, with users on forums such as and Reddit reporting a bevy of problems ranging from complete failure to lurching into gear and hunting for gears on the road. We recommend avoiding any vehicle prone to “in motion” errors such as this that could put the operator in danger.

Additionally, owners of the 2006-2009 models report higher rates of transmission problems than other years, so it might be a good idea to steer towards the 2010 models and later.


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Do Ford Escapes Have More Transmission Problems Than Similar Models?

Overall, Ford Escapes are slightly more prone to problems (most notably, transmission problems) than similar models of similar years.

The Ford Escape has 4,167 reported issues on, with transmission issues accounting for many of those. In terms of reliability by model year, the 2006-2009 Ford Escapes have the highest transmission issues, with many customers reporting needing a new transmission after approximately 80,000 miles.

When comparing the Escape’s transmission to other full-size SUVs like the Pathfinder and Enclave, the Escape tends to be less reliable than other models.

The Pathfinder has 2,044 total complaints, with the most common transmission-related problems being coolant leaking into the transmission with 424 complaints. This typically requires a transmission replacement at around 80,000 miles. While the severity of the problem is equal to the Escape, the Pathfinder has fewer numbers of reported transmission failures.

The 2008 Buick Enclave was plagued by transmission problems, with owners reporting the need for a new transmission at roughly 90,000 miles. If you’re looking for a large SUV with reliable transmission, the Buick Enclave is a better bet than a Ford Explorer – just avoid unreliable 2008 Enclaves. On the other hand, the Enclave tends to be much more reliable than the Ford Escape, with one notable exception.

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What Is The Average Cost To Repair The Most Common Ford Escape Transmission Problems?

Repair costs for the Ford Escape range greatly depending on the diagnosis and type of repair needed. However, average transmission repair costs across all Ford Escape models tend to average around $4,000 (since a new transmission is commonly required), and these repairs tend to be needed in the 80-120K mile range.

According to, the average repair cost to replace a transmission on a 2008 Ford Escape is $2950. This is an average cost that includes complete replacement work and minor repairs as well.

For the 2014 Escape, a user on reported that her daughter paid $5400 to have the transmission replaced. Several other reputable sites also indicate a replacement cost north of $5000 is standard, with some users reporting costs north of $6000.


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Signs Your Ford Escape Has Transmission Problems

The transmission system is one of the most prone to mechanical issues, even with meticulous maintenance. If your Ford Escape has transmission problems, these are the signs you may encounter:

  • Clunking sounds - If you’ve heard sounds you’ve never heard before, that’s not a good thing. Clunking, humming, and buzzing sounds are indications of transmission issues that warrant a visit from your mechanic.
  • Burning smell - A burning smell coming from your car is never good. The burning smell may point to many different things, and one of them is overheating fluid transmission.
  • Sluggish or no response - A working transmission system will slide into proper gear without issues. Meanwhile, a bad transmission will hesitate or slow to respond while shifting.
  • Fluid leaks - Make it a habit to check underneath your Escape. A clear puddle of liquid is not a cause for concern. However, if you see a red or brown fluid, you might have a leaky transmission.
  • Check engine light - An illuminated check engine light may indicate many issues. One issue might be a faulty transmission system. At this point, you should get your Ford Escape checked by a mechanic.

How to Avoid Buying a Used Ford Explorer With Transmission Problems

There are several ways to test for issues with a transmission before purchasing a used vehicle. Since most transmission issues can only be detected while the vehicle is moving and shifting through gears, it’s crucial to set up a test drive before buying any used vehicle that might be prone to transmission issues. During the test drive, pay close attention as the vehicle moves through gears during acceleration and slowing down. If you feel lurching, surging, or shuttering while driving, it’s best to have it checked by a mechanic.

Ford Escape Steering Wheel Interior

Image source

If your engine is increasing its output, but you are not moving forward, or you are moving forward at a slower pace than expected, the transmission on that vehicle may need attention. Another common way to tell if the transmission has issues is if it “slips” during acceleration. During your test drive, make sure to hop on a freeway/highway where you can accelerate more aggressively than in town.

However, your best way to avoid issues with a transmission on a Ford Escape is always to get it inspected by an independent, local mechanic before purchasing. These inspections are often comprehensive and can unearth other potential issues with the vehicle that you may miss during a test drive. This smart option allows you to have the peace of mind necessary to spend your hard-earned money on a vehicle confidently.

Should You Buy a Used Ford Escape?

Overall, the Ford Escape is a well-loved and reliable SUV, although a few older model years should be avoided due to reliability problems. With a very sharp decline in the number of issues reported by Ford Escape owners of year models 2017 and newer, we recommend buying a newer-model Ford Escape. They’re proving to be reasonably reliable, and many are still eligible for CPO offers.

Which year models of used Ford Escapes are safe to buy?

Based on complaints submitted by Ford Escape owners, the following models are safe to buy. These year models are less prone to complaints than other year models, and the complaints against them are less severe.

  • 2001 Ford Escape
  • 2002 Ford Escape
  • 2003 Ford Escape
  • 2004 Ford Escape
  • 2007 Ford Escape
  • 2009 Ford Escape
  • 2010 Ford Escape
  • 2011 Ford Escape
  • 2012 Ford Escape
  • 2014 Ford Escape
  • 2015 Ford Escape
  • 2016 Ford Escape
  • 2017 Ford Escape
  • 2018 Ford Escape
  • 2019 Ford Escape
  • 2020 Ford Escape

Ford Escape year models to avoid

We recommend avoiding purchasing the following year models of Ford Escape due to high numbers of user-reported reliability problems.

  • 2005 Ford Escape
  • 2006 Ford Escape
  • 2008 Ford Escape
  • 2013 Ford Escape

Ford Transmission Problems: Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are common transmission problems in the Ford Escape?

A: Common transmission problems in the Ford Escape include erratic shifting, slipping transmission, difficulty in shifting, overheating, and complete transmission failure. Unfortunately, transmission issues can be expensive to repair especially when not addressed sooner.

Q: How much does it cost to repair or replace a Ford Escape transmission?

A: The cost to repair a Ford Escape transmission can vary widely, but it can range from $1,500 to $3,500. The cost can be higher if the entire transmission needs to be replaced, around $3,500 to $6,000.

Q: Can I drive my Ford Escape with a transmission problem?

A: While the vehicle may still be drivable with a transmission problem, it’s not recommended. Driving with a transmission issue can cause further damage to the vehicle and may pose a safety risk.

Q: What should I do if I suspect a transmission problem in my Ford Escape?

A: If you suspect a transmission problem, it’s important to get your vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic as soon as possible. They can diagnose the problem and recommend the best course of action.


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