really awful
Crashes / Fires:
2 / 2
Injuries / Deaths:
3 / 0
Average Mileage:
113,931 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Ford Escape engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Ford Escape Owner Comments

problem #18

May 152014


  • 148,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Escape. While driving 75 mph, the contact smelled smoke coming from the engine. The contact noticed the vehicle was smoking and rushed home. The vehicle was taken to a dealer where it was diagnosed that the brake system module harness and master cylinder needed to be replaced. In addition, the ABS warning light illuminated and the braking system caught fire. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failures. The failure mileage was 148,000. The VIN was not available.

- Sterling Heights, MI, USA

problem #17

Jun 272015


  • 166,836 miles
While I was driving back from the shooting range the engine did a hesitation and then when I pushed down on the gas to see if it would clear up the instrument panel gauges went haywire. The fuel, speed, RPM and heating cluster level arms all went to the max point and when I let off the acceleration to pull over the cluster panel gauges died like there was no power and when the engine idle leveled off the gauges went back to normal. The instrument panel did it 4 more times before I actually got home. I am afraid to drive it to work and this is my only transportation. What is causing the issue with this? I need to know as soon as possible. Thanks.

- Heath, OH, USA

problem #16

May 132015


  • 180,000 miles
The contact owned a 2003 Ford Escape. While driving approximately 5 mph, there was smoke coming from the front driver side of the vehicle without warning. The contact discovered flames underneath the vehicle. A police officer extinguished the fire. The vehicle was destroyed and towed to an independent mechanic. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 180,000.

- Belelville, IL, USA

problem #15

Sep 262009


  • 52,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Escape. While driving approximately 30 mph, the engine began to rev unexpectedly and the throttle became stuck even though the accelerator pedal was not depressed. The brake pedal was engaged and the vehicle resumed normal operation. In 2012, the vehicle was serviced under NHTSA campaign number: 12V353000 (engine and engine cooling, vehicle speed control); however, the failure recurred twice after the remedy was performed. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where the idle air control was replaced. The manufacturer was notified of the issue. The approximate failure mileage was 52,000. Updated 6/3/15

- North Tonawanda, NY, USA

problem #14

Mar 242015


  • 160,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Escape. The contact stated that while driving at 67 mph, the cruise control failed to disengage. As a result, the contact crashed into an embankment and the vehicle rolled over multiple times. The air bags failed to deploy. The contact sustained minor scrapes and bruises and the two passengers in the rear of the vehicle sustained bumps, bruises and scrapes that required medical attention. A police report was filed. The vehicle was destroyed. The VIN was included in NHTSA campaign number: 12V353000 (engine and engine cooling, vehicle speed control). The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 160,000.

- Sand Point, ID, USA

problem #13

Aug 102014

Escape 6-cyl

  • 124,826 miles
As I was driving, I pressed the accelerator approximately 3/4 of the way to pass a vehicle. When I released the pedal- the vehicle continued to accelerate. I was eventually able to get the vehicle to stop after placing the transmission in neutral and firmly applying the brakes. As I came to a stop, the vehicle was beginning to smoke, and I feared it was going to catch on fire. I immediately exited the vehicle, and the engine was still running at full throttle. After several minutes, the vehicle began to smoke worse and then I heard a loud bang. The vehicle motor stopped and a large puddle of oil and metal was on the ground under the vehicle. I have since learned that there is an active recall for this exact problem from Ford due to a throttle cable sticking. Ford has refused to repair the additional damage caused to my vehicle caused by an active recall.

- Bonham, TX, USA

problem #12

Apr 252014

Escape 4WD 6-cyl

  • 171,000 miles


My 2003 for Escape refuses to start after being driven until several hours if not days later. I have replaced the starter twice the first time it worked for 2 months and it did it again on 9-2-14 replaced the starter again and it will not start still there is no power going to any of the electrical parts in the engine compartment and there is a strong smell of fuel. I have replaced all relays and fuses and still nothing. I was stranded with my 5 month old and 16 month old in 100 degree weather.

- Pueblo, CO, USA

problem #11

May 012014


  • 150,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Escape. The contact stated while driving approximately 45 mph, the front end of the vehicle began to shake violently which caused a loss of steering. The contact was able to regain control and maneuvered to the side of the road. The vehicle was towed first to an independent mechanic and then authorized dealer. The technician informed that the passenger's side engine cradle was completely rusted. There was a voluntary recall issued by the manufacturer related to a newly designed engine cradle cross member bracket. The vehicle was repaired under the recall and the problem persisted. The remedy failed to correct the problem. The vehicle had not been repaired for the most recent failure. The manufacturer was notified of the defect. The approximate failure mileage was 150,000.

- Vienna, OH, USA

problem #10

Jun 132012

Escape 6-cyl

  • 130,000 miles
We bought my 2003 Ford Escape June 13th 2012 for 8K. We drove around town and made a quick stop before going home. The Escape would not start back up. We bought a new battery had that placed. Attempted to drive and the truck started and shut back off. We finally got it to start got it back to the dealer and they replaced the entire fuel system. We got on the highway a few day later the car stalled out. So for the past 20 months of owning the car it stalls out at home, on the road, and on the highway. I drive to work and home. Once it has been driven it shuts off. I have taken it to two dealerships including the one that I bought it from groove Ford in Colorado and 8 other mechanics. They cannot diagnose what the problem is as the computer does not state what's wrong. I have put thousands of dollars into this SUV. As well as asking other Ford Escape owners that I see driving around town if they have had this experience. It is totally unsafe to drive a vehicle that stalls while you are driving. Please tell Ford to look into this. [xxx] information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Aurora, CO, USA

problem #9

Oct 172012


  • 120,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Escape. The contact stated that while driving 55 mph, the vehicle stalled as the battery warning light illuminated. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic. The contact mentioned that the failure recurred several times. The technician diagnosed that the rear plugs had popped out, causing damage to the coil pack. As a result, the coil pack needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 120,000 and the current mileage was 181,000.

- North Chesterfield, VA, USA

problem #8

Aug 152013


  • 36,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Escape. The contact stated that the vehicle would independently accelerate. The vehicle was serviced under NHTSA campaign number: 12V353000 (engine, speed control) however, the speed acceleration failure persisted. The vehicle was not repaired and the manufacturer was notified. The approximate failure mileage was 36,000.

- Staten Island , NY, USA

problem #7

Sep 272013

Escape 6-cyl

  • 90,000 miles
While driving my Ford Escape the egr valve blew apart. This has happened 3 times. It was replaced all 3 times and it continues to happen. When it happens the entire vehicle shakes violently and is very hard to steer. It is very dangerous. I have joined a few message boards online and found that this is a common problem with this make and model. I feel this is some type of internal problem and needs to be addressed before someone gets hurt or worse.

- Gibbsboro, NJ, USA

problem #6

Apr 092013

Escape 6-cyl

  • 115,000 miles
The incident occurred during rust hour traffic. My vehicle was on the highway at 70 mph, I had the cruise control on. I tried to slowdown by pressing on the brake but the vehicle started to accelerate. I had to move to the slow lane (2 lanes to the right) to get to the shoulder.I had to literally stand on the brake pedal with my whole weight on the peddle to stop the vehicle. I was able to slow down the vehicle and stop by forcing the gear lever in to park position. When the vehicle stopped, the engine was still accelerating. I had to turn off the ignition to stop the engine acceleration.

- Bloomfiled Hills, MI, USA

problem #5

Apr 112013

Escape 6-cyl

  • 130,000 miles
Upon start-up the engine immediately revved to 4000 to 5000 RPM & would not return to idle. Gas pedal was not depressed. This happened multiple times. Moving the gas pedal had no effect. Car was shut off. Reaching by hand to the end of the pedal assembly where the throttle cable is attached, it was determined that the cable did not return to the idle position. By pushing the end of the cable the throttle returned to idle. The car was started & ran at normal idle speed.

- Crestview, FL, USA

problem #4

Oct 012012

Escape 6-cyl

  • 86,900 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Escape. The contact stated that she received notification of NHTSA campaign id number 12V353000 (engine and engine cooling, vehicle speed control) and took the vehicle to the dealer for recall repairs. The contact stated that approximately six months after having the vehicle serviced under the recall the vehicle began to exhibit acceleration issues. The contact was driving approximately 20 mph and the vehicle would not accelerate over 60 mph. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where they advised her that the catalytic converter failed and needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was contacted and offered no assistance. The failure mileage was approximately 86,900. The current mileage was approximately 88,841.

- Washington, DC, USA

problem #3

Jan 302009


  • 90,000 miles
I preface my comments by stating that I am a powertrain engineer for an american auto manufacturer. I owned a 2003 Ford Escape which I sold to my mother-in-law in 2011. We have experienced throttle sticking with the vehicle both before and after the cruise control recall. After receiving a frantic call from her this evening that the throttle had stuck while traveling 70 mph on the highway, I have grown sick of remaining silent. There is another large problem that the cruise control recall does not address. In cold temperatures, the throttle can freeze due to introduction of humid air from the PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) system. The humid air combines with the sub-freezing fresh air to freeze on the throttle valve and render the gas pedal useless. While I owned the Escape from 2007-2011, I experienced the frozen throttle several times. After the dealership was unable to resolve the problem, I grew frustrated knowing that the vehicle was unsafe but was morally withheld from selling the vehicle to an unsuspecting customer. I began to investigate the issue and the circumstances which caused it. This was when I discovered the PCV issue. I created a fix for the system and saw all throttle sticking/freezing issues go away. After driving the vehicle for two years with no issues, I felt comfortable selling the vehicle to my mother-in-law. However, when she took the vehicle to the dealership this summer for the cruise control recall, the dealership removed the PCV fix I had in place. I was unaware of this until tonight when I received her frantic call that the throttle was stuck (it is 15 deg F here). Upon inspecting the vehicle, I saw that the PCV system had been restored to the original faulty configuration by the dealership which created the freezing conditions again. Disaster was avoided tonight, but I don't want it to happen again.

- Madison Heights, MI, USA

problem #2

Aug 052012

Escape 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,200 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Escape. The contact stated that while driving 55 mph, he heard a noise coming from under the hood. He pulled over and opened the hood when the smell of fuel and smoke emitted from under the hood near the spark plugs. The vehicle was towed to the dealer for diagnosis. The dealer stated that they needed to replace the head of the engine. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was contacted and stated that there were no recalls for the failure. The failure and the current mileage was 100,200. Updated 09/11/12 the consumer stated the spark plugs blew out of the engine head and stripped the treads in the heads. Updated 09/13/12

- Levittown , NY, USA

problem #1

Aug 052012


  • miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Escape. The contact stated there was a recall associated with NHTSA campaign id number 12V353000 (engine and engine cooling). The authorized dealer and manufacturer were notified and they both informed the contact that the part was unavailable. The dealer stated until the part became available a temporary repair would be performed which consisted of disconnecting the cruise control cable. The contact had concern of the safety issue regarding the recall temporary repair. The contact had not experienced a failure.

- Darien, IL, USA

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