2008-2012 Ford Escape: common problems, engines, pros and cons

Updated: August 21, 2022
The Escape is one of the last small SUVs that still look like a truck. Its square shape provides excellent all-around visibility and interior space.
2011 Ford Escape 2011 Ford Escape.

The Escape comes with a 4-cylinder or V6 engine, in a front- or all-wheel drive configuration. It drives comfortably and is practical inside, which is why it was the best selling small SUV for many years.

A used Ford Escape is not very expensive, but what are the common problems and how expensive are the repairs? What model is better, 4-cylinder or V6? We've done our research and will try answering these questions:

2008-2012 Ford Escape Reported Problems: ABS Tone Ring: The front ABS sensor ring (tone ring) may break causing the ABS light to come on and the traction control acting erratically. See the photo. The tone ring replacement part is not very expensive; expect to pay 1.0-1.5 hours of labor in the shop.
Rust damage to the rear quarter panels, tailgate and other areas is often mentioned by the owners in the Rust Belt. If you are buying a used Escape from the Rust Belt, have it inspected carefully for rust damage.
Ford Escape 2011 interior Ford Escape 2011 interior.

Worn ignition lock module: When one of the parts in the ignition lock module is worn out, it may cause a no-crank no-start condition or the vehicle may start after wiggling and pushing in the ignition key.

The part is not too expensive, but takes some work to replace. Your mechanic may charge you about 2.2 hours of labor plus the part for the repair. Here is a good video explaining the repair.

Failed Purge Valve: The code P0456 and/or P0455 could be caused by a bad purge valve/solenoid. The EVAP system must be tested for leaks and the purge valve must be checked for not holding the pressure. If a bad purge valve is confirmed, it's easy to replace. The part is not expensive. Watch these videos.

Blower motor resistor: If your A/C blower motor works only in 3-rd and 4-th speed, it's very likely that the blower motor resistor has failed. The part costs from $30 to $60; aftermarket parts are cheaper.

The blower motor resistor is located on top of the HVAC duct behind the glove box and is easy to replace.

Front sway bar links go bad often causing a knocking noise in the front end when driving slowly over small bumps. It's an easy and inexpensive repair: 0.5 hours of labor for one front link plus the part. This thread describes the DIY repair.

Corroded liftgate glass hinges: The hinges that hold the liftgate glass can also corrode in the Rust Belt. If you see the signs of corrosion around the hinges, have them checked, as a bad hinge might separate creating a safety hazard. A pair of aftermarket hinges costs from $30 to $70; the replacement is not very expensive. See these YouTube videos for more info.

Corrosion at the liftgate release switch can cause the rear glass or the liftgate not to open from the outside. The release switch is the button located under the liftgate chrome bezel that you press to open the liftgate or the rear glass. The switch is also inexpensive and is easy to replace.

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Leaking driver's transaxle seal: Many owners mention the leaking left axle shaft seal in the 2009-2012 Escapes. Symptoms include dropped transmission fluid level and fluid leak on the driveway, in the left front area.

The repair involves replacing the seal, inner CV-joint housing and possible axle bushing. The repair kit is available from Ford dealers. This repair cost $350-$620.

The Check Engine light with the code P0171 could be caused by a contaminated MAF sensor. Cleaning the sensor usually helps.

Blend door actuators could make a buzzing noise in the 2008-2009 Ford Escape hybrid. Failed blend door actuators need to be replaced.

Throttle body issues are not uncommon too, but according to many sources, Ford has extended the throttle body warranty coverage to 10 years or 150,000 miles. Read more at the NHTSA website. Ford also issued several recalls that you also can check at the NHTSA website.

There are many reports of transmission failures at higher mileage, especially in 2008, 2009 models. Replacing the transmission with a used unit will cost up to $2,300.

A number of owners mentioned problems with electric power steering even after the recall 14S05 has been done. The part that typically fails is the EPAS Torque Sensor. Symptoms include a lack of steering assist, warning light and the steering wheel shaking by itself. The repair is expensive if out of warranty.

2008-2012 Ford Escape Mechanical: The Escape comes with a 2.3L or from 2009, 2.5L 4-cylinder engine or a 3.0L V6. Transmission choices include a 4-speed or from 2009, 6-speed automatic. A very rare 5-speed manual transmission is only available on 4-cylinder front-wheel drive models.

Ford Escape was developed in association with Mazda and runs on a front-wheel drive platform with optional all-wheel drive. It has an electric power steering and independent suspension at all 4 wheels, with struts in the front and coil springs in the back. In all non-hybrid models, rear brakes are drums.

2008-2012 Ford Escape Engines:
Ford Escape 2011 engine Ford Escape V6 3.0L engine.
Both the 2.3L and 2.5L inline-4 are Mazda-sourced engines. Both are proven very durable and mostly trouble-free. The 3.0L Ford V6 is also a pretty good engine.

There were some issues with VCT solenoids in 2009 V6 models, but other than that, it's a good engine. All three Escape engines have a timing chain, there is no timing belt.



Is the 2008-2012 Ford Escape a good truck to buy? As of August 2022, Consumer Reports rated the 2008 and 2009 Escape as 'average' for reliability; other model years of this generation are rated 'below average'. On the plus side, it's a reasonable-priced, comfortable, practical truck, and the upright shape provides great visibility.

The Escape electrical power steering and transmission problems and rust damage are the major concerns. Ford issued a recall for the power steering in May 2014, but we found many complaints about power steering problems even after the recall has been done. The repair is expensive. Transmission issues are also costly.

If you are buying a pre-owned Ford Escape, make sure the transmission shifts smoothly and there is no leak from the driver's axle seal. Avoid the vehicle if you feel anything wrong with the transmission, electrical power steering or the engine. Have the truck checked carefully for rust damage. It's not the truck you want to pay top dollars for; buy it only if it's cheap and is good mechanical condition.

Pros: Optimum size, truck-like styling, excellent visibility, practical interior, plenty of cargo space, liftgate glass opens separately, fuel economy for FWD 4-cylinder models, good optional V6, affordable price.

Cons: Transmission problems, electric power steering problems, interior materials could be better, questionable reliability, road noise, stains on the seat fabric are hard to clean.

Related reviews:
Ford Explorer 2006-2010 review
Toyota RAV4 2006-2012 review
Honda CR-V 2007-2011 review
Nissan Rogue 2008-2013 review
Jeep Patriot 2007-2017 review
Ford Escape 2013-2019 review

FWD or AWD? 4 cylinder or V6? The 2010-2011 front-wheel drive 4-cylinder models are much better on gas. The V6 is not bad, but it's a good idea to avoid 2009 V6 Escapes, as there were some expensive flaws with the VCT solenoids that were resolved in later models.

Another minus of the V6 is that sometimes one of the ignition coils could fail and it could be quite expensive to replace coils and spark plugs on the rear cylinder bank in a V6.

The 4-cylinder engine is cheaper to maintain and requires less repairs. The Escape's AWD system is simple and mostly trouble-free.

2008-2012 Ford Escape Fuel Economy: The 2009-2011 front-wheel drive Escape Hybrid is rated at 34/31 mpg, which makes it the most fuel-efficient SUV among 2008-2011 models. However, they are rare to find; only 4 percent of all Escapes on the used car market are hybrids.

On the other hand, about one third of all Escapes are front-wheel drive 4-cylinder models, that are also very good on gas. On a long highway trip, the FWD 4-cylinder Ford Escape can get up to 430 miles (692 km) to a tank.
Fuel Consumption
Ford Escape EPA Fuel Economy: mpg
city/hwy
L/100 km
city/hwy
2010-2012 FWD 4-cyl auto 21/28 11.2/8.4
2009 FWD 4-cyl auto 20/28 11.8/8.4
2008 FWD 4-cyl auto 20/26 11.8/9.0
2012 AWD 4-cyl auto 20/27 11.8/8.7
2010-2011 AWD 4-cyl auto 20/26 11.8/9.0
2009 AWD 4-cyl auto 19/25 12.4/9.4
2008 AWD 4-cyl auto 19/24 12.4/9.8
2010-2012 FWD V6 auto 19/25 12.4/9.4
2009 FWD V6 auto 18/26 13.1/9.0
2008 FWD V6 auto 18/24 13.1/9.8
2010-2012 AWD V6 auto 18/23 13.1/10.2
2009 AWD V6 auto 17/24 13.8/9.8
2008 AWD V6 auto 17/22 13.8/10.7