New UPATE: Ford has sent a letter saying they will repair the throttle body, or reimburse you if you paid to have the work done. Up to 10 years and 150,000 miles. I got a full reimbursement for the work done on my car.
The car “started to accelerate by itself. And nearly plowed into the car and pedestrians in front of me.”
If I asked you to name the make and model of the car involved in the above incident, I doubt the Ford Freestyle would leap to mind. But that quote was from an owner of a 2006 Ford Freestyle, and it is just one of many that can be found with a simple search on the internet.
Like you, I knew nothing about issues with Ford Freestyles, and other models with similar engines. Last year we purchased a Certified Pre Owned 2006 Ford Freestyle. It has been a great car. We wanted something reliable, smaller than a full size SUV, but with room for three kids and luggage. The Freestyle fit the bill. It is the perfect size, and with Ford’s recent reliability ratings we decided to get one.
Imagine my surprise when we were on a family trip, states away from home, and the car began to lunge backward as soon as I shifted into reverse. The “Yellow Wrench” and engine light would come on and off, and I knew this was a significant issue. I did not want to be on the highway with whatever this was. I suspected it was a transmission problem. We headed to the nearest Ford dealership.
At first there was some confusion about what was wrong, and I finally got on the phone with a service tech from another dealership. When I described the problem, he immediately knew what the problem was. It was like he had diagnosed this multiple times. A few minutes later I knew exactly what needed to be done, and how much it would cost. Yes, even though this is a major part of the engine, it is not covered by the CPO Power Train Warranty. I needed a new throttle body. I asked what exactly was wrong with it, but the tech didn’t know. He said he didn’t know how they work, but that they always replace the whole thing.
Oh, and it’s not an inexpensive part either. The quote came back at $920, but ended up only being $892.
I don’t mind telling you, that was a shock. I bought a recent model car, for more money than I had ever paid for a car before, with a certified pre owned warranty. For me to be hit with a $900 repair within a year of that purchase is unthinkable. I was reeling a bit.
Knowing I had several hours to kill, I pulled out my phone and started to research this “throttle body”. I couldn’t believe the number of complaints. Plus, very quickly it became clear that this was not just a couple of cars with this problem. Several people reported over 3 months waiting time for the part. One reported that there were 1500 orders ahead of his. Basically, during the last part of 2009 no one could get a throttle body for their Freestyle. Another reported that the part numbers for the new throttle bodies are different, and the factory that made the old one has closed.
It was obvious that there was a real problem with the throttle body in these cars. And I began to realize just how lucky we were. The complaints mentioned cars at intersections suddenly lunging forward. (“My wife was driving the Freestyle on [sic] day and was coming to a stop and the car accelerated into the intersection.”) They talked about cars driving at highway speeds and suddenly stalling. (“LOSS OF POWER ON A BUSY FREEWAY!!!”) Our car began acting up in a parking lot. The thought of my entire family driving down the interstate, and suddenly stalling out in traffic… well it’s not a good one. At the very least we could have been stranded in the summer heat with my children.
One forum member posted a service bulletin from December of 2005:
“Copy of TSB:
The part “5F9Z-9E926-AA Throttle Body” is over $200.
There was a Technical Service Bulletin TSB that your dealership should be made aware of (tell the dealership to look up TSB 05-25-13 or just print out the following):
05-25-13 MIL ON WITH VARIOUS DTCS
Publication Date: December 13, 2005
FORD: 2005 Five Hundred, Freestyle
MERCURY: 2005 Montego
Some 2005 Five Hundred, Freestyle, or Montego vehicles built on or before 3/9/2005 may exhibit the malfunction indicator lamp (MIL) on, with any or all of the following diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs): P0068, P0121, P0221, P0222, P0223, P1120, P1121, P1124, P1125, P2100, P2101, P2106, P2107, P2111, P2112, P2135.
Perform normal diagnostics. If normal diagnostics lead to an electronic throttle body (ETB) replacement, refer to the following Service Procedure.
Replace the throttle body referring to Workshop Manual Section 303-04, and reprogram the powertrain control module (PCM) to the latest calibration using WDS release B40.4 and higher or B41.1 and higher. This new calibration is not included in the B41 CD. Calibration files may also be obtained at http://www.motorcraft.com.
PART NUMBER PART NAME
5F9Z-9E926-AA Throttle Body
Eligible Under Provisions Of New Vehicle Limited Warranty Coverage
BASIC PART NO. CONDITION CODE
NOTE: The information in Technical Service Bulletins is intended for use by trained, professional technicians with the knowledge, tools, and equipment to do the job properly and safely. It informs these technicians of conditions that may occur on some vehicles, or provides information that could assist in proper vehicle service. The procedures should not be performed by “do-it-yourselfers”. Do not assume that a condition described affects your car or truck. Contact a Ford, Lincoln, or Mercury dealership to determine whether the Bulletin applies to your vehicle. Warranty Policy and Extended Service Plan documentation determine Warranty and/or Extended Service Plan coverage unless stated otherwise in the TSB article. The information in this Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) was current at the time of printing. Ford Motor Company reserves the right to supercede this information with updates. The most recent information is available through Ford Motor Company’s on-line technical resources.”
Ford has known about this problem for years, and continues to make cars with a part that will eventually get someone killed. How long until we start hearing about people that have been run over in crosswalks as a result of these sudden lurches forward? Or a major accident where the Freestyle stalls on a highway and fatalities are involved?
I have filed a complaint with the NHTSA. If you own a Ford Freestyle, 500, or Mercury Montego with this issue, file a complaint. Call the company. Tell your friends. Together we can make Ford do the right thing, and recall this part. I have started a Facebook page where people can share their stories.
UPDATE: I handed off Admin duties to another member of the Facebook page.
In less than 2 years a new Throttle Body on my 2066 Freestyle has started doing the same thing again. The lunging isn’t as hard, but there is lunging and hesitation again. It must be a design flaw, not an engineering problem with the part.
Because I learned so much more about the issue, and because I don’t have almost $900 to drop on a new one, I went for cleaning the throttle body. It was unbelievably easy. I was done in under 5 minutes. I literally loosened one screw and pulled the hose off. Tucked it down and sprayed the Throttle Body cleaner i picked up at a auto parts store for $5. There was a decent amount of black hunk built up around the valve area. I cleaned all that off. Maybe that was binding up the valve, causing the computer to rev the engine to get it free?
So far, the lunging and hesitations is gone. If it comes back I will clean it again, until cleaning it has no effect.