TOP FIVE 02-05 T-Bird Problems

Check out everything electrical. The electronic modules are big ticket items. Unfortunately, it would take a crystal ball to predict how long they will last. They can be good today and bad tomorrow. Having said that, I’ve only had one go bad under the initial warranty. They are fun cars. Hope that things work out well.
 

doug7740

Well-Known Member
where did the car reside for 16 years?
According to the CARFAX, the car resided in Michigan. It is a three owner car.

The first owner had it for 3 months and put 1,978 miles on the car.
The second owner had it for 12 years and 9 months and put 15,906 miles on the car
The third owner had the car for 3 years and 7 months and put 17,322 miles on the car.

doug7740
1955 Thunderbird Blue
 

biddle

Forum Moderator
Staff member
I found a 2004 Thunderbird with 35,000 miles that I will be looking at on Thursday. The CARFAX shows that in 2015 the extended warranty coverage on the ignition coil covers and the wiper motor bracket seal was performed. The dealer said that they will perform a safety inspection and email the technician's findings. At my request the dealer said that I will be able to look at the car on a lift. Before I purchase this car is what should I look for?

doug7740
1955 Thunderbird Blue
Make sure the dash lights and shift indicator light work. If they don't the FEM is probably bad. Also, start reading at post one- https://forums.fordthunderbirdforum.com/threads/top-five-02-05-t-bird-problems.6925/

Warranty repairs on the COPS are often only for the exact one that is fowled out, so it's possible some other COPS need to be replaced as well. Also do not rely on CARFAX for anything. Click Carfax to watch the video for details.
 
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doug7740

Well-Known Member
I found a 2004 Thunderbird with 35,000 miles that I will be looking at on Thursday. The CARFAX shows that in 2015 the extended warranty coverage on the ignition coil covers and the wiper motor bracket seal was performed. The dealer said that they will perform a safety inspection and email the technician's findings. At my request the dealer said that I will be able to look at the car on a lift. Before I purchase this car is what should I look for?

doug7740
1955 Thunderbird Blue

I want to thank everyone for their opinions on what I should look for before purchasing a 2004 Thunderbird. My wife and I went to the dealership this morning and we are now proud owners of a 2004 Merlot Thunderbird. Her 2004 Thunderbird sure looks nice in the garage next to my 1955 Thunderbird.

Using the suggestions that everyone gave, I asked the dealer to put the car on a lift so I could check the brakes, tires, suspension, and the underside for any leaks or damage. I had the dealer remove the hard top so I could see the operation and condition of the soft top.

(See the attached pictures of the car at the dealership)

During the road test I drove the car aggressively to see how the transmission operated and it seemed to shift normally. We also checked the operation of the air conditioner and every electrical component on the car. The dealer also let me connect my scanner to the car's Data Link Connector so I could check to see if there were any fault codes in any of the control modules.

The performance and handling during the 200 mile drive home from the dealership was fantastic.

doug7740
1955 Thunderbird Blue

Audrey's T-Bird - 1.jpg Audrey's T-Bird - 2.jpg
 
  • Air Condition: Several visits to Ford Dealer with major work and new parts costing in excess of $1200. Problem never corrected by Dealer and finally corrected by independent mechanic who repaired/replaced switches and valves in Duct System. Doubtful that the parts replaced by Dealer were ever the problem.
  • Radio and CD Player: Ford Dealer wanted over $500 to replace Radio system. Car Tunes removed Radio from Dash, removed stuck Discs, re soldered several joints re installed for $75. Problem solved.
  • Replace Mufflers: After 50,000 miles, both Mufflers installed by Independent Muffler Shop for $680.
  • Air Bag warning light: Due to the level of concern with safety issues, I returned to a Ford Dealer for repairs. After $200 to diagnose the problem as a faulty Drivers Side Air Bag, the Dealer sadly reported that replacement Air Bags were not available and he could do nothing except be paid for the diagnostic work. I contacted Ford Motor Company and they ignored me. I contacted the National Highway Safety Commission and they said there were not enough complaints and they would not take action. In other words, “Screw You”, your safety and survival in the event of a crash does not matter to Ford or the Government who has pushed restraining system down our throats for 40 years. I stopped driving the car and started to look for help and a solution. Service replacement Air Bags were definitely not available and a critical national recall was underway for faulty Air Bags by all car manufactures and only salvaged Air Bags could be purchased from auto salvage yards. Not a good situation and the opportunities to sell or trade-in a vehicle without mandatory air bags were not good. Thank God, information on the Internet and from my independent Mechanic revealed that the Clock Spring; locate in the Steering wheel, often caused incorrect warning signals. Again, service parts where hard to find but at a premium price, I acquired the part and my mechanic installed it. Problem solved and more testimony to the corrupt practices of new car dealers. They seem to think T-Bird owners have deep, pockets and are very naïve to have been suckered into buying the over priced car in the first place.
  • Hard steering & Exhaust leak: During the same service visit about the Air Bag the steering system was looked at due to very hard steering and my friendly Ford Dealer replaced the steering gear and related parts and fluids for over $700. At the same service visit he was asked to see what was causing heavy exhaust odors and fumes from under the hood on Drivers side. No exhaust leak found, but $ 200 for 2 hours labor to find that out. Back to steering problem. I tested the steering system before leaving the Dealership and found no improvement. I told the Service manager my concern and asked if he checked out the electrical assist controlled by one of the Control Modules and he knew nothing about the system. I am currently gathering information on how the system works and will confront him with the information and demand a refund. I returned to my God sent Mechanic to check out the exhaust leak because the car was not drivable with the leak coming into the car. He quickly found a missing bolt intended to attach the manifold to the exhaust system. A $4 Bolt and $40 labor solved the problem.
  • Rear Window becoming loose from soft convertible top: I see this problem a lot on Posts shown in T-Bird Web Sites. Most owners are asking for DIY advice or reporting on their own fix. The correct way to re attach the Glass to the soft Top is to use Urethane. This is the material used to attach Windshields and is expensive if you want to do the work yourself. For your DIY. Make sure all surfaces are clean and dry before applying the Urethane. Any other glues may do more harm than good due to durability and stiffness issues. I strongly recommend a professional at a convertible shop do the repair. They have the correct glue and cleaning agents that will cost you around $50 to purchase and most important, they know how to position the top to assure proper positioning and contact pressure during the curing process. The price will range from $50 to $100 depending on the area of repair.


I hope my words provided some valuable and useful information and I would be pleased to answer any questions or receive any comments, advice or criticism.



Respectively submitted.



Bill s
 

biddle

Forum Moderator
Staff member
the Dealer sadly reported that replacement Air Bags were not available and he could do nothing except be paid for the diagnostic work. I contacted Ford Motor Company and they ignored me. I contacted the National Highway Safety Commission and they said there were not enough complaints and they would not take action. In other words, “Screw You”, your safety and survival in the event of a crash does not matter to Ford or the Government who has pushed restraining system down our throats for 40 years. I stopped driving the car and started to look for help and a solution. Service replacement Air Bags were definitely not available and a critical national recall was underway for faulty Air Bags by all car manufactures and only salvaged Air Bags could be purchased from auto salvage yards. Not a good situation and the opportunities to sell or trade-in a vehicle without mandatory air bags were not good. Thank God, information on the Internet and from my independent Mechanic revealed that the Clock Spring; locate in the Steering wheel, often caused incorrect warning signals. Again, service parts where hard to find but at a premium price, I acquired the part and my mechanic installed it. Problem solved and more testimony to the corrupt practices of new car dealers.

If you are worried about "your safety and survival" why are you driving a car that was likely built 14 years ago? Many advancements have been made in auto safety and performance since 2000's. Do you also expect Ford to produce and sell new OEM parts for a 1962 Ford Thunderbird? You need to realize that you are driving a VERY OLD used car. Also, It did not sell well when new, so there are few third-party parts vendors that make parts for the car.
 
I bought a beautiful, show-room clean 2003 Thunderbird Deluxe Hardtop/Convertible with the 3.9 liter Jaguar engine in August of 2019. Only 56,000 miles on her. Purchased from a Ford dealership - the previous owner collected cars and traded her and a Corvette in to purchase an SUV. She was on the market less than 48 hrs., and 5 people were trying to buy her, but I called and put a deposit down. No time to do research on her - just had to hope and pray she was a good car. After putting 350 miles on her, that darn engine light and wrench lit-up on the dash, and she went into "limp home" mode. ONLY 25 mph. Good thing I was near home. Took her to my ace mechanics here at a classic car dealership. The original owner never did the recommended "recalls" on the COPS. All 8 were original from 2003. 2 had gone bad. I spent close to $1,000.00 and replaced all 8 of them. After another 200 miles - same darn thing - "limp home" mode and that damned wrench symbol. (I've learned to HATE that darn wrench!!!). The codes were indicating COPS again. Couldn't be - just replaced them all. They called Ford and were told to check the ECM - the main computer. It had malfuctioned, (due to the COPS?). Ford no longer makes the ECM's for the 2002-2005 T-Birds. I didn't want a re-built one. We sent the old one off for repair. They called and said it was completely "fried" and couldn't be re-built. We finally found a brand new one, after weeks of searching, (She's been in the shop since April 14th), we found a brand new ECM out west somewhere with a lifetime warranty. They "flashed" it, and are sending it here to be programmed and installed. Then the car has to finish the programming itself. This will cost $1,655.00. After that, she has to be driven and tested to make sure the Throttle Module wasn't damaged. If it was, that's another $850.00 that I don't have. (I pray THAT isn't damaged.) When everything is said and done - I hope the problems are cured. She is a beautiful car - but I don't trust her, right now. I will rent a car for out-of-town trips until she gains my trust for anything but short, close-to-home driving. I love the T-Bird and want to keep her, but darn she's costing me a LOT of money! I am NOT a rich person. I retire in 2 years. She's supposed to be my retirement car. I've done a lot of reading about the "Little 'Birds, and IF I HAD KNOWN about the problems they had - I would NOT have bought her. Expensive lesson learned. I hope she can be repaired - and run like she is supposed to - RELIABLY! I have never had the kind of problem with any of my T-Birds that I've had with this one. Thank goodness I didn't trade my 1995 T-Bird LX!!!! She's 25 years old, but running great! Never had any problems with her, besides routine maintenance. I drive her to my second job and back. 20 miles per week. At that rate, she'll theoretically last the rest my lifetime....... But, that 2003 has been a NIGHTMARE!!!!!
I could have written your post about my '03! Bought her from a used car dealer with 61,000 miles, and the owner had a pile of repair documents and receipts which I had no idea about when I purchased it.

An absolutely beautiful black bird, in very clean showroom condition. She ran great when I test drove her in city and freeway conditions for 30 minutes. No issues, so I made an offer the dealer accepted and took her home.

No problems for the first 7 000 miles
Then at 68,000, the dreaded wrench light took her into limp mode. Spent about $2,000 to replace various sensors and connectors related to an intermittent PCM. Ran great for a few hundred miles, then the PCM connector failed.

Ford dealer let it set for three months and couldn't find a PCM or connector. They jury-rigged it and got it running again, but said the PCM would probably fail, which it did within a month. More $$$ doen the drain!

So I took it to a top-notch transmission shop. The owner, a master mechanic, was able to locate a remanufactured PCM and reprogrammed it to the bird's VIN.

It's been running great since that time, and now has 74,000 miles. But like you. I'm very squeamish about going on long trips! So she stays close to home, driven once or twice a week, to local car shows and events, and stays garaged otherwise.

Whenever I'm in the garage, I can't help but marvel at her sexy, gleaming black figure, just a drop-dead gorgeous Bird! But in ths back of my mind, I wonder...will she leave ME "drop-dead" on the side of the road next time we go for a ride?!?
 

Frankie the Fink

Well-Known Member
My 19000 mile '02 ran great when I bought it two years ago, but the previous owner had "hot-wired" the instrument cluster to make the dash lights work ALL the time as the FEM was bad. I corrected the instrument cluster wiring and replaced the dash bulbs with LEDs and replaced the FEM. The only other issue (31,000 miles now) was a $29 A/C sensor in the driver's footwell that the Ford dealer mis-diagnosed and told me it would be $1500 to repair the A/C. The paint on the trunk is a bit faded but the car is garaged when not in use so I'm leaving that alone. Other than that its a sexy, fun driver. In retrospect I prob would have bought an '03-'05 and avoided some of the pitfalls of the '02 unique parts.
 
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