Unlike many other Ford Cars, Ford Escapes are slightly more prone to problems (most notably, transmission problems) than similar models of similar years. They are reportedly not as reliable as you’d expect from a Ford car. In this article, we’ll discuss the transmissions used in various generations of the Ford Explorer and discuss them in further detail.
The first generation of the Ford Escape has a 5-speed G5M manual transmission and two 4-speed CD4E and GF4A-EL automatic transmissions. The second generation was equipped with a 5-speed manual, 4-speed CD4E, 6-speed 6F35 automatic transmission, and a CVT. The third generation used a 6-speed and DF35 automatic and a DCT450 PowerShift. The fourth generation has an 8-speed Ford 8F24/8F35 automatic and the Ford PowerSplit electronic CVT.
Below, we have elaborated everything for you to properly understand transmissions for different models, classifications, problems, and the most viable fluids. Transmission prices have also been mentioned in this article to help you estimate how much you will be spending.
- 5-speed G5M manual
- 4-speed CD4E automatic
- 4-speed GF4A-EL automatic
- 5-speed manual
- 4-speed CD4E automatic
- 6-speed 6F35 automatic
- 6-speed manual
- 6-speed 6F35 automatic
- 6-speed DCT450 PowerShift
- Ford 8FM 8-speed automatic (not on models with Hybrid or PHEV)
- Ford PowerSplit electronic CVT (SE Sport, Hybrid, PHEV)
The reliability of the Ford Escape and its transmissions varies enormously depending on the generation and the transmission unit used. Below we’ve given our best overview of the lifespan of all the different transmissions.
The first generation G5M manual, second-generation CVT, third-generation 6-speed manual, and fourth-generation 8FM and PowerSplit CVT should last between 180.000 – 250.000 miles before wearing out. Most CD4E, DCT450, GF4A-EL, and 6F35 transmissions that are still in use will last 150.000 miles. However, some will fail before reaching 100.000 miles.
Everyone would want to be familiar with the prices when one needs to change the transmission of one’s car. Prices vary according to your vehicle type and model. Most commonly, prices range from $2500- $3000. Here we have mentioned estimated costs for your Ford Explorer transmissions:
- 5-speed G5M manual will cost $2500-$3000.
- 4-speed CD4E automatic will cost $2500-$3000.
- 4-speed GF4A-EL automatic will cost $2500-$3000
- 6-speed 6F35 automatic will cost $3000-3500.
- DCT450 Powershift will cost will cost $2600 – $2900
- Ford 8FM 8-speed automatic will cost $2500-$3500
Common Ford Escape Transmission Problems
The G5M manual is not known for having many problems. Users refer to this transmission as very reliable. When taken proper care of, this transmission should last you as long as the lifetime of the car.
4-speed CD4E automatic
Ford used this 4-speed automatic transmission between 1994 and 2007. Quickly it became clear that the CD4E wasn’t a reliable transmission from the start.
Problems with the CD4E transmission include:
- Delayed engagement
- Transmission is stuck in gear
- 2-3 shift flare
- Two gears engaging at the same time (bind-ups)
- Transmission starts in wrong gear
- Harsh shifts
- Bushing failures
- Unexpected TCC codes
Most of these problems are caused by having too much wear and tear in the valve body. This is especially common for the earlier models since Ford fixed this problem later on. However, some issues have their causes and fixes. From top to bottom, we made an overview of the causes and fixes:
- Delayed engagement is most likely caused by worn pump or filter problems if there’s low line pressure. If there’s high line pressure a worn P.R. bore or failsafe high line cutting off the converter charge is most likely the issue.
- Transmission being stuck in gear is also causd by pump or filter problems. Other causes can be a P.R. valve problems if there’s no change in line pressure when the engine load does vary. Blocked oil flow may also cause this problem.
- 2-3 shift flare is caused a worn P.R. valve, bore wear or seals that have become to hard.
- Bind up is caused by a worn or stuck P.R. vavle or EPC soilenoid failsafe if there’s highline pressure. If there’s nog highline pressure issue the drums of the transmission may have cracks.
- Transmissions that start in wrong gear have to be tested with a controller. If the transmission starts correctly with a controller than the issue lays with the wiring/connection or the ECU is mismatched to the unit. If the problems remain than the valve body is most likely worn out.
- Harsh shifts are cause by a worn P.R. valve or EPC soilenoid failsafe if there’s highline pressure. If there’s good line pressure than the accumulator pistons may have seizures.
- Bushing failures can be found by checking the cooler flow. If this is low than the problem is most likely lube failure. There’s multiple steps that need to be taking after this to check how to fix the problem which is best left to an expert.
- Unexpected TCC codes are caused by a convertor with internal leakage, a cracked piston or by having later design white TSS sensors installed on models that originally had the black sensors. This may also very well cause these problems.
4-speed GF4A-EL automatic
Luckily, the GF4A-EL isn’t as big a problem for Ford Escape owners as the CD4-E automatic transmission. However, there are still a few problems you need to look out for:
- 2-3 shift flare
- Slipping gears
- Loss of forward gears
- Loss of 4th gear or reverse
Below we’ve also created a list (from top to bottom) about the leading causes of this problem so you get a feel of how big the problem can be.
- Slipping gears in this transmission can have multiple causes. Check the trasnsmission fluid and look and smell if you find anything that seems off. The best thing to do is to do a fluid drain of the transmission and start using friction modifiers that should make it easier for the transmission to go into gear. Also, don’t forget to change the filter.
- Lose of forward gear can be cause by a range of things. Most likely it’s a failed GF4A-EL solenoid or a GF4A-EL torque convertor issue.
- Loss of 4th gear or reverse is caused by design flaws of the GF4A-EL transmission related to the reverse boost valve, channel plate, and stripped splines on the 4th gear clutch hub shaft.
6-speed 6F35 automatic
The 6-speed 6F35 is one of the most challenging transmissions on this list. Ford has been using this model transmission routinely in its cars while, since 2009, they have been aware that the transmission is causing problems. Symptoms include:
- Sudden and unexpected shaking
- Violent jerking, bucking and kicking on acceleration
- Delayed acceleration
- Gears slipping
- Difficulty stopping the vehicle
- Lack or loss of motive power
- Delayed downshifts
- Hard decelerations or clunks when slowing down or accelerating at low speeds
, If you’re experiencing issues with your 6F35, it’s best to have your dealer look at it. In the case of the 6F35, there’s a list of possible causes for these problems. Causes include:
- Failing fluid seal integrity
- Throttle body deficiencies
- Failed torque converter welds
- Driveshaft failure
- Failed transmission control module updates
- Failed powertrain control module
The second generation of the Escape also had a CVT transmission. This transmission doesn’t seem to have caused many problems and can therefore be considered very reliable.
This unit is used in many variations of different Ford cars. Two central problems can be identified with this unit:
- Clutch wear/failure
- Mechatronic unit failure
The following causes mainly cause these problems:
- Clutch wear is caused by general wear and tear but can also be cause by contamination of the oil or faulry mechatronic operation. This requires a complete replacement of the clutch.
- Mechatronic unit failure is most likely caused by clutch pack failure which releases metal debris in the unit. Both the unit as well as the clutch pack need to be replaced.
Ford 8F24 / 8F35 8-speed automatic
the 8F2 and 8F35 4 are fairly reliable automatic transmissions used by Ford and GMC in 2019 and 2020. The transmissions haven’t been on the market for very long, which means few problems have occurred. However, fuel economy and performance aren’t considered to be the best- however, that can vary by year as some Escape years use premium compared to regular and even some Flex Fuel for some years.
Don’t get us wrong. This doesn’t mean the transmission is bad. It’s just that it isn’t perfect. Most owners would most likely tell you they’re pleased with the transmission.
However, it is good to know that vehicles that have one of these transmissions and have been built between 2018 – 2020 may have some transmission fluid in the main control electrical connector. The cause of this is that the connector is submerged in transmission fluid during the main control manufacturing process. However, this is no reason for concern and shouldn’t cause problems. However, if a lot of transmission fluid is found it is wise to contact a dealer or mechanic.
At this point, the eCVT Powersplit transmission used in Escape from 2020 onwards doesn’t seem to have any significant problems. The transmission hasn’t been thoroughly tested, though, since most of these units have less than 40.000 miles on them.
Transmission fluid is the lubricant for all the moving parts that make up your vehicle’s transmission. Due to the heat generated in the transmission, the fluid can break down over time. What type of transmission fluid you need depends on your vehicle? Your car’s manual provides transmission fluid service requirements. Regular transmission service is necessary to keep your vehicle on the road. The Ford Escape needs to have the transmission fluid and filter changed every 30,000 to 40,000 miles or every two years.
- The best fluid for the 5-speed G5M manual, 4-speed CD4E automatic, and 4-speed GF4X-EL automatic is Mercon V.
- The best fluid for the 6-speed 6F35, 8FM 8-speed automatic automatic Mercon VI.
- The best fluid for the 8-speed 8F24 and 8F35 automatic is Mercon ULV.
Hi! My name is Stefan; I’m the owner and lead writer at TheDriverAdviser.com.
I’m an active writer on this blog myself, as well as a novice car mechanic. For the really technical stuff, I find writers with experience as a mechanic or who have studied mechanical engineering.
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