FEOA Forums banner
1 - 11 of 11 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
2 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I wanted to inquire about the Ford Escort as a beginner car, and any relevant information: best years to pick, options to look for, problems or issues to watch out / check for, etc., because I love these cars, but want to know if buying one will become my daily driver or a money pit.


EDIT: I also want to know, if you're willing to share the knowledge, insurance, registration, and smog test information for the cars too. Don't wanna buy a car for daily use only to have it be denied access! For reference, I'm hoping to live in California, so the emissions standards, as far as I know, are pretty strict. (Speaking of, what happens if you bolt on a catalytic converter from a higher HP car to a lower HP car, like taking a Corolla catalytic and installing it into the exhaust system to replace the OEM catalytic?)

I have had some experience with both driving and fixing cars, but nothing beyond routine maintenance (fluids, spark plugs, air filters, lightbulbs) and casual driving (mountain roads, city streets, and highway)

However, I do have both a skilled knowledge of Google and general car parts, so don't worry about having to explain things in unnecessary detail! (although please do refrain from using odd abbreviations, that's the one thing I can't really understand beyond the usual ECU, EFI, MAF, MAP, etc.)

I have also only driven two cars, a similarly powered '04 Suzuki Jimny Sierra and a '02 Corolla Altis, and am relatively new to the driving experience (although people that know me say I drive like a reincarnated soul: as if I had been born in the driver's seat)

If I've posted this in the wrong section, please let me know, I'm kinda new to this!
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
10,473 Posts
I would say it depends on whether you do most of your own work, or would need to have work done by a repair shop. Any escort is going to need a fair amount of maintenance, not just oil changes and bleeding the brakes. Some things that might go bad could involve parts that arent manufactured. I own five escorts, all the 2nd gen LX kind, meaning the are from 1991 through 1996. I also have had two parts cars, one of which I stripped down to being just a shell (no motor or transmission, a dashboard removed, door panels wiring harnesses outs and seats out, etc. The other one is complete, but not running due to a couple of essential assemblies that are so far unobtainable . The five that are running are all daily drivers for the wife and i; and its nice having a car old enough to be more simple, not requiring abs brake parts, nor air bag systems, and only a $2 hardware store key. I have rebuilt the automatic transmissions in e of my cars, and replaced clutches in both of the ones with the 5-speed manual trans. Im retired, and have plenty of time, and am happy to have the exercise. We live in two places sasonally, and keep 2 cars in Virginia and three in Texas. And it can be essential to have an extra car, to use when getting parts for the other one. I also keep a shed filled with escort spare parts.
Good Luck.

For a replacement newer car, im thinking of a 2010 to 2015 Chevy Malibu.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
296 Posts
I've had escorts from all 3 generations. I would stick with the 2nd (91 to96) and 3rd (97 to 2003) generations because they are much better cars, roomier and are nearly identical, so parts are easier to deal with. they also tend to be very reliable and easy and cheap to repair. The 2nd generation chassis is a Mazda design (BG?) that was quite a successful chassis for racing. The 3rd generation used a slightly different rear subframe and suspension design that is stronger and supposedly a better configuration than the 2nd generation. The rear control arms on the 2nd gen do tend to fail at the pivots. Also body has additional reinforcement for crashes and air bags, but also was value engineered to had non-flexible side mirrors, no hood insulation, and other things like no hatch light in the wagon. These changes added about 150 lbs to the 3rd gen. I've owned 3 2nd and 3rd gen wagons and they have enormous cargo capacity.
The 2nd gen with a 1.9 engine was capable of impressive highway mileage if some simple modifications are made to the nose of the car to improve aerodynamics. I was able to push 50mpg on my 93 wagon running a steady 62 mph on long drives. This was due to the fact that the engine management system would be allowed to "drift" very lean during extended periods of time at light throttle at steady speed. The 2nd gen also cam with the Mazda DOHC 1.8 engine... a world renowned engine that could be modified for incredible power. I've never driven one of these, but they were in the GT coupes and some Mercury Tracer sedans ( 1991 car of the year), but I understand they need to be revved for power, whereas the 1.9 was more torquey. For crazy power, this chassis was equipped with a v-6 in the mazda versions and can be swapped into these cars.
The power for the 1.9 can be improved noticeably by simply removing the very restrictive sound attentuator plumbing under the air filter housing and plumbing a new fresh air pathway to the air filter box. Also, the plug wires should be changed on most cars because worn out wires will cut power considerably, but not cause misfires or CEL. These changes will extend the usable power range from idle to 2800 rpm to idle up to about 4300 rpm. This give you a great balance of lots of bottom end torque, but greatly increased passing power and better fuel economy.
I've only driven the 3rd generation 2.0 spi motor a few, but it does seem that the 97 are most prone to valve seat failures, so a 98 or up would be better. The spi is rated about 20HP over the 1.9, but I've read with the simple intake mod above, the 1.9 is actually faster that the latter 2.0spi... the 1.9 car is lighter. I've read the spi if a good fuel sipper too, but probably can't beat the 2nd gen 1.9. My first 93 1.9 was at 225,000 miles and had just started using a little bit of oil ( maybe 1/3 quart every 4000 miles), so nothing needed to be added between oil changes. For whatever reason, cooling system hoses seem to really hold up on these cars.
The powerhouse for the 3rd gen is the 2.0 DOHC ZETEC that was only available from the factory in the ZX2 coupes. This engine went through a group on minor changes from 99 to 2000, so many parts are not interchangable. This drivetrain is a direct swap into the 98 and newer standard escorts if you are interested. It is rated at 130HP and has plenty of bottom end power. With a manual trans 0 to 60 times were around 7.8 seconds, nearly that of most current day SUV's. Eliminating the intake plumbing restrictions on this motor really opens up the midrange and high end power. I am running the stock wagon exhaust on my ZETEC auto swapped wagon, but once that is changed out ( header is already in place) Also, it it noted in numerous places that the knock sensor is "overly sensitive" and tends to pick up other engine noise and retards the timing excessively. I disconnected mine and immediately got better idle and power, with a boost of maybe 1 to 1.5 mpg in mixed city/highway driving, but you need to run higher octane ( at least on my 98). I've never been able to break 30mpg in the car yet, but it doesn't go for long open road driving often. I can get in the mid to upper 20's in the city with an auto.
With an upgraded exhaust and standard bolts on, most people seem to get 150 to 160 HP out of these engines ( many are dynoed, so not just guesses).
The automatic transmissions shift poorly (on my 93's and my 98), especially the 1 to 2 shift. I have a shift kit to install that supposedly helps this out quite a bit. The 91 to 97 is an old fashioned mechanical controlled trans, the 98 up are computer controlled.
The manual shifted fine on my 93, but I understand that transmissions can be a limiting factor when getting above 160HP or so. Limited slip differential are/ or were avialable aftermarket.

The bodies hold up well in the rust belt and often the visible body will stay quite good. On my wagons rust was worst at the rear trailing arm mounts and rocker panel/frame, top of the rear fender tire well, the bottom of the hatch and at the drivers side front subframe rear mounting point. Also many people have the rear strut mount location rot out. This is all on 20 plus year old cars in the rust belt.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
6,152 Posts
Judging by the mention of the '04 Suzuki Jimny Sierra and a '02 Corolla Altis - which were never sold in the USA - I'm guessing you are in another county.

This group is for the US spec Ford Escorts, so we're not going to be very helpful for the versions sold overseas.
 
  • Like
Reactions: denisond3

·
Registered
Joined
·
151 Posts
I own a ZX2 as my daily in Colorado and is primarily what I can speak towards. I get about 32 MPG mostly highway driving and have a fairly heavy foot on the throttle, however I do downshift constantly and keep the car in gear whenever I am slowing down which helps bring back some of the fuel economy I lose from revving it out, I caused an AC leak and haven't gotten around to fixing it, so I have not tested fuel economy with use of AC.

California is indeed very picky about catalytic converters, Colorado unfortunately just adopted CARB compliant cat requirements too, this means if you need to replace the catalytic converter you are typically looking in the $900+ range for the part alone (on average, have not looked at an escort specifically) because it must be a CARB Compliant cat, which is going to be an OEM (don't know if you can even get this from Ford anymore) or an approved catalytic converter from their list of cats. I don't believe Colorado visually checks to see if it is a CARB cat, but you won't be able to buy a cheaper aftermarket cat, California may very well check though.

A ZX2 can be had very cheap, most people I believe would recommend getting a manual transmission car, however it can be very annoying to have to constantly be clutching and only doing 1-2 shifts sit in stop and go traffic which the only two times I went to California was pretty much a constant any time I drove during the day with a few exceptions where I was able to cruise in the HOV lane. I had a rental car with an auto though. Some people have had automatic transmission issues, others have had no issues, installing an external transmission fluid cooler wouldn't be a terrible idea (it has one built into the radiator on ATs). Typical issues of an older car like vacuum leaks, and you will want to make sure the A/C works with no leaks living in California.

3rd generation escort sedans with the SOHC split port motor are known to drop valve seats, you will have a noisy engine long before it fails, but if you ignore it the engine will blow up on you. Otherwise they are very reliable engines, especially once the valve seats have been replaced, The Zetec DOHC motors are also reliable, many people have gone well over 200K miles on either engine.

If you are handy, I would recommend picking up a set of cheap tools (Harbor Freight is fine to start with, I personally buy better tools, USA made if possible, avoid buying tools from auto parts stores if possible as they charge an arm and a leg for tools) and going through and changing out all the fluids. Power steering fluid and brake fluid I frequently see unserviced on any vehicle, same with coolant. Things to check before purchasing are if the timing belt has been replaced, my ZX2 I believe likely had the original timing belt at 130k and had small chunks of belt missing. ZX2s are non-interference (from factory) and should not spontaneously disassemble themselves if the timing belt breaks, but you don't want to strand yourself. The 98 ZX2 had a superior thermostat housing design and can be swapped to a newer ZX2s no problem, though I believe the sensors need to be swapped as well.

I have owned my 98 ZX2 for just over a year from about 130K miles to 140K now, initially did not drive the car much. Parts that have failed on my car that were replaced: radiator fan (by previous owner right before I purchased it), coolant temp gauge sensor (computer has a separate sensor), fuel slosh module (this can be easily bypassed, but I got a new module), serpentine belt and tensioner, and power steering high pressure line seals.

I do all my own maintenance and have replaced serpentine and timing belt and pulleys, brakes, oil, and air filter. Overall the car is not too bad to work on, though I never want to touch the power steering pump ever again (really it wasn't that bad, I just did not want to remove any more than I had to and worked around the exhaust manifold and such). The blower motor recently stopped blowing, but this was as simple as cleaning the ground terminal for it which is a common issue on all 3rd gen escorts.

Overall, if you can handle basic maintenance of an older car it would be a good first car, just make sure you check over whatever you're buying, a used car inspection is a good idea for the stuff you can't easily check yourself. My thought process is that I can buy OEM or other more expensive parts because I am doing the maintenance myself, I also have put a lot of time into learning diagnostics so I only replace exactly what needs to be replaced instead of firing the parts cannon. The community here and on the various Facebook groups are very helpful too.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Judging by the mention of the '04 Suzuki Jimny Sierra and a '02 Corolla Altis - which were never sold in the USA - I'm guessing you are in another county.

This group is for the US spec Ford Escorts, so we're not going to be very helpful for the versions sold overseas.
I will be going to the USA soon, hence why I'm asking about the USDM-spec Escort.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
6,152 Posts
Gotcha! The advice given above by the others is excellent, and the other big thing to look for is RUST.
 
  • Like
Reactions: zzyzzx and Apex

·
Registered
Joined
·
296 Posts
I thought of a couple more useful things.
These cars are not quiet and none of the engines can be considered smooth, so adding sound deadening helps a lot, but it does add weight. These cars are much lighter than any comparable size car today, so that helps city economy. Also, for long trips, the standard 98 escort seats are uncomfortable ( I drove mine about 2500 miles in 4 days). I have since installed the seats from the 98 ZX2 and they are a huge improvement... they feel softer but provide dramatically better support. Interestingly, they also seemed to make the interior a bit quieter...probably due the fact they're are all cloth covered and the standard seats are vinyl except right where you sit.
The 99 and later Zetec motors use fuel injectors that provide much better atomization of fuel and supposedly can be easily swapped into the earlier 98 Zetec motors ( which use outdated designs from the 1970s)... this is in my plans. Word is they are good for a 1 to 2 mpg improvement, which sounds reasonable.
All of the 97 up spi motors use the better injectors.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
54 Posts
I would suggest you compile a short list of various recommended makes & models & years, because in this case, you're looking at models 20+ years old, mostly very high miles, or driven hard and/or rot or collision-damaged. There are deals to be had on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc. but it requires patience and tenacity and luck. Also, what's your market, because cars from rusty areas in the north will be a tougher buy than San Antonio, Alberquik... New Mexico, (I can spell that!), because of body rot from salt used on the roads when it snows. Also, because of the semiconductor shortage, car prices are high now, and will be lower later in 2022 (hopefully). You might consider a pickup truck, they tend to live longer and are easier to repair.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
136 Posts
@henryinSATX
Witch!!,Witch! He's a witch! Pick-up truck? Pure sacrilege! How dare you suggest such blasphemy? I liked pick-up trucks until I was forced to drive one 8 hours a day for work, I couldn't wait to get back in my EGT at the end of the day.

You buy a 1/2 ton truck and use it as a car only to find out it makes a mediocre car, and more mediocre truck. When I got a real truck that bit$&c could haul 9500lbs of what ever you could fit on the stake bed, with zero f#@$s given. Just today my boss wanted to transport a single pallet of windshield washer fluid with his Silverado 1500 until I told him it weighed 3500lbs, and then I had to explain that was too much for his "1/2 ton" truck, probably rated at 2300lbs because payload wars of the early 2000's, I bet that truck cost 85% of my house. And yet my slow little LTS would destroy almost anywhere on the road, not even a question in a corner, yet the first time he wants to haul anything significant, it's a no go.

Half ton trucks have ruined an entire generation of drivers, just like the minivan ruined my generation of drivers, too heavy, too big, no finesse, just an appliance for transportation, never used for it's intended purpose. When was the last time you saw a minivan with more than four people in it?

#End rant
 
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
Top