Ford Escape SUV 3rd Generation 2013-2019 (C520) Review

Everything You Need To Know Before Buying A Used Escape 3rd Gen

Read in this article:

3rd Gen Ford Escape: What Owners Say

  • The Escape's engine range changed throughout its life, but the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine was available right from the start. It's a gutsy powertrain, borrowed from the 3rd generation Focus ST, which owners generally liked.
  • First and second-generation Escapes shared a platform with various Mazda products, but the third generation Ford Escape is built on one of Ford's first global platforms. In other parts of the world, the Escape is sold as a Kuga. Owners continue to praise the solid, safe, and nimble handling.
  • The Escape has always been a handsome vehicle. Whether you go pre- or post-facelift, you'll be getting a good-looking SUV.
  • From the first model year, high-end models are equipped with modern features like a hands-free entry for the trunk and navigation.
  • The Escape has a 34 cubic foot trunk, which is more than ample for a family of four.
  • Ford's 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine nearly killed the Escape/Kuga. Escapes equipped with this engine were recalled globally, and not just in the USA. Ford eventually dropped the 1.6 EcoBoost from the range, but the 1.5-liter Ecoboost replacement has a bit less torque.
  • Pre-facelift models have a clunky infotainment interface. Post-facelift models boast an improved eight-inch touchscreen interface, but there still isn't useful storage space for a phone. Most owners end up using the cupholder, since buying a vent-mounted phone holder is not possible due to the oddly shaped vents.
  • Interior quality is below par in some places.
  • Owners are not impressed with the fuel consumption, which is way below the claimed figures on certain models.
  • The most common negative feedback is aimed at the 3rd gen Ford Escape's reliability. The 2013 to 2019 Ford Escape is haunted by many flaws, especially pre-facelift models. Owners particularly complain about 2013 Ford Escape 1.6 problems.

Ford Escape Third Generation Facelift

The 2017 facelift is a double-edged sword. Ford dropped the infamous 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine in favor of a newer 1.5-liter EcoBoost. The 1.6 produces 178 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, while the 1.5 makes 179 hp and 177 lb-ft. Ford's 1.5-liter EcoBoost provides decent mid-range punch, but from a standing start, it's not quite as good as the 1.6 EcoBoost. Then again, the 1.5 EcoBoost wasn't a fire hazard.

More importantly, Ford added more technology and safety features as standard on the facelifted 3rd generation Ford Escape. In addition to the more user-friendly touchscreen interface, the post-facelift Escape offered adaptive cruise control, active parking assistance, lane-keep assist, and a driver-alert system as optional extras. The Sync infotainment system has the ability to connect to a smartphone, which gives you helpful information like fuel level, tire pressure, and the location of the car.

2017-2019 Ford Escape 3rd Gen Facelift Front Changes CarBuzz
2017-2019 Ford Escape 3rd Gen Facelift Front Changes

This is one example of an exterior facelift that's not as handsome as the pre-facelift car. The 2017 model has a redesigned bumper1, foglights2, and headlights3. Pre-facelift models are a bit edgier with sharper headlights, and a slim design motif above the large air intakes located lower down. To our eyes, the post-facelift model looks generic.

2017-2019 Ford Escape 3rd Gen Facelift Rear Changes CarBuzz
2017-2019 Ford Escape 3rd Gen Facelift Rear Changes

Ford redesigned the rear taillights1, making the ones mounted to the tailgate smaller and redesigning the body-mounted light lenses while retaining their shape, but most of the design was carried over. That's good news because the dual exhaust pipes help the Escape look sportier than it actually is.

2017-2019 Ford Escape 3rd Gen Facelift Side Changes CarBuzz
2017-2019 Ford Escape 3rd Gen Facelift Side Changes

From the side, the Escape remained much the same, but the changes to the nose and the refreshed rear lights can easily be spotted from the side. New, more grown-up alloy wheel designs were added1, but the Escape was carried over as is, including the faux air outlet on the flanks.

2017-2019 Ford Escape 3rd Gen Facelift Interior Changes CarBuzz
2017-2019 Ford Escape 3rd Gen Facelift Interior Changes

On the facelifted model, a lot of the clutter was removed, especially on the steering wheel1. The pre-facelift model's steering wheel had more buttons than an F1 car. Ford also redesigned the shifter, making space for two cupholders2. The climate control interface was also simplified3, while the addition of Sync and a touchscreen made it much easier to get to the main functions4. The USB media and charging port is more accessible in the post-facelift car, but since there is no storage space, you have to store your phone in one of the front dual cupholders. Thankfully, Ford also dropped MySync - the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Ford Escape had GPS and radio problems.

Engine, Transmission, and Drivetrain

There are four engine options available for the C520 3rd-gen Ford Escape. All engine options are connected to a six-speed automatic transmission, with AWD being an optional extra on all models except for the FWD-only entry-level S trim. The entry-level model is powered by a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine. One step up from that and you're in EcoBoost territory, available in FWD and AWD. We wouldn't bother opting for an AWD model unless you live in a cold-weather state. The automatic AWD system adds nothing to the driving experience, even on the sporty 2.0-liter turbo model.

Pre-facelift mid-spec models are powered by a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine, now notorious for catching fire. Ford fixed the problem, and now these models are available at a much lower price due to the damage done to their reputation. The 1.5-liter EcoBoost is not as pleasing, but it's good enough in this application. Not all engine issues were resolved post-facelift, however. Owners reported engine problems in 2017 and 2018, more specifically the 2017 Ford Escape's overheating problems. If you want the ultimate balance of performance and fuel economy, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is the way to go. It's the same engine used in the 2nd and 3rd generation Focus ST, albeit tuned differently for the SUV's added mass.

2.5-liter Inline-4 Gas Engine
168 hp | 170 lb-ft
Horsepower
168 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque
170 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission
Six-speed automatic

Like with many of its other models, Ford offered the C520 Escape with a traditional naturally aspirated four-pot in addition to the new EcoBoost models. This changed once the 4th generation rolled along, offering only small capacity turbocharged engines. As you can see from the figures above, the 2.5 NA engine has to be worked hard to get any kind of reasonable performance. Because of that, it's the least frugal out of the available engines. The EPA estimates that this model will cost around $750 more per year in fuel compared to the 1.5-liter EcoBoost. The 2.5 comes with a tow rating of 1,500 lbs, which is hardly useful in this segment.

1.6-liter EcoBoost
178 hp | 184 lb-ft
Horsepower
178 hp @ 5,700 rpm
Torque
184 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm
Transmission
Six-speed automatic

The 2.5 NA motor and the 1.6 turbocharged four-pot provide more or less the same amount of power, but thanks to the turbocharger, the torque is available from much lower down in the rev range. With this engine, you have 184 lb-ft available from just 2,500 rpm, compared to 170 lb-ft from 4,000 rpm. In short, the engine doesn't have to be worked as hard in town, resulting in better fuel consumption figures. Thanks to the turbocharger, the 1.6 EcoBoost feels stronger, especially at high altitudes. This particular engine could also tow 3,500 lbs without breaking a sweat, making it more attractive to lifestyle customers. Unfortunately, this particular engine has a bad reputation that essentially killed it off before it could gain traction.

1.5-liter EcoBoost
179 hp | 177 lb-ft
Horsepower
179 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque
177 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm
Transmission
Six-speed automatic

The 1.5 EcoBoost replaced the 1.6 EcoBoost following its PR nightmare. It offers nearly as much power and is a perfectly adequate engine. It even matches the 1.6's impressive 3,500 lbs towing capacity. Even so, there were some 2019 Escape 1.5 problems reported by owners. Nothing as serious as catching fire, mind you. If you never had the opportunity to drive the 1.6 EcoBoost, you wouldn't notice the difference. The 1.5 does not feel as fast from a standing start, but the mid-range punch feels just as strong. All things considered, this engine has the broadest range of talents out of all the engines available in the 3rd generation Escape.

2.0-liter EcoBoost
240/245 hp | 270/275 lb-ft
Horsepower
240/245 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque
270/275 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
Transmission
Six-speed automatic

The 2.0-liter EcoBoost is an interesting model. It uses the same engine as the now-defunct 2018 Ford Focus ST but is tuned to provide more power. Though never been confirmed, it's most likely due to the SUV weighing around 500 lbs more than the hatch. Ford was smart to introduce this model, knowing the Focus would not survive past 2018. Manufacturers will always try to keep customers within the family, so what does a parent do when their Fiesta ST/Focus ST is no longer big enough for all the paraphernalia that comes with a baby? You give them the same punchy engine but in a more family-friendly body. Now let's just be clear and state that the Escape's high center of gravity and boxy design means it will never be as sharp as the hatches, but it is a fun car. The 2017 facelift's outputs are slightly higher than before by 5 hp and 5 lb-ft respectively.

2013-2019 Ford Escape Real MPG

All four available engines underperformed in the real world. This goes against the grain as real-world fuel consumption figures are generally better than the original EPA-estimated figures. This is not the case with the Escape, as you can see below. Oddly, it's the now infamous 1.6 EcoBoost Ford Escape with the least mpg problems in real-world tests.

EPA MPGReal-World MPG *
2.5 NA four-cylinder FWD21/29/24 mpg22.5-25.1 mpg
1.6 EcoBoost FWD23/31/26 mpg25.2-28.4 mpg
1.6 EcoBoost AWD22/29/25 mpg21.1-24.4 mpg
1.5 EcoBoost FWD23/30/26 mpg22.3-25.1 mpg
1.5 EcoBoost AWD22/28/24 mpg23.3-29.9 mpg
2.0 EcoBoost FWD22/29/25 mpg19.4-27.3 mpg
2.0 EcoBoost AWD21/27/23 mpg20-24.3 mpg

* Real-world mpg and MPGe figures are provided by the EPA. Once a car has been on sale for a significant period of time, the EPA gets real-world figures directly from the customer base. These figures are then provided on the EPA website. Real-world figures are not available for certain models due to a lack of sales, or not enough people partaking in this after-sales survey.

Safety

From the beginning of production, all Escape models were equipped with dual front, dual rear, and side-mounted airbags, as well as a driver's knee airbag. Other standard features include stability and traction control, tire-pressure monitoring, and basic emergency braking assist. From SE, you get automatic headlights and a keyless entry pad. Pre-facelift top-spec models also include a post-collision safety system - and optional xenon headlights. The post-facelift Escape offers adaptive cruise control, active parking assistance, lane-keep assist, and a driver alert system as part of an optional safety package. It's worth shopping around for a used example with these additional features, especially if your Escape is going to be used to ferry the family around.

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

2013 to 2016

Overall Rating::
(4/5)
Frontal Barrier Crash Rating::
(4/5)
Side Crash Rating::
(5/5)
Rollover Rating::
(4/5)

2017 to 2019

Overall Rating:
(5/5)
Frontal Barrier Crash Rating:
(5/5)
Side Crash Rating:
(5/5)
Rollover Rating:
(4/5)

3rd Generation Ford Escape Trims

The Escape is available in four trim levels, three of which were available throughout the vehicle's lifespan. The SEL trim was available in 2013 but dropped away in 2014. It only reappeared in 2018, one year after the facelift. One thing to keep in mind is the standard equipment included on all post-facelift models. Along with the new touchscreen interface, Ford also included smartphone integration and Bluetooth as standard.

S
2013-2019
Engine
2.5-liter four-cylinder
Transmission
Six-speed automatic transmission
Drivetrain
FWD

The S is the most basic trim, offering the bare necessities, such as 17-inch steel wheels with plastic covers. It was never available with AWD, so don't even bother searching for one. The S does have a few things that make life more comfortable, like cruise control, a manual air-conditioner, a manually tilting/telescoping steering column, steering wheel audio controls, and keyless entry. On the downside, it only has a basic MP3 player with an aux input and six speakers. Bluetooth connectivity and an iPod interface were optional extras. We can't imagine living with a car without at least Bluetooth connectivity.

SE
2013-2019
Engine
2.5-liter naturally aspirated or 1.6-/1.5-/2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Transmission
Six-speed automatic transmission
Drivetrain
FWD or AWD

The SE came with an additional Medium Light Stone cloth trim, which is worth keeping an eye open for if you prefer a less somber interior. On this model, 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, automatic headlights, rear privacy glass, and power mirrors are also standard. The most important thing to remember about the SE trim is that Ford made more optional packages available at this trim level. So you're likely to find a few examples with navigation, a power liftgate, multi-zone climate control, and leather seats. The SE's default engine is the 1.6-liter EcoBoost, but it is also available with the 2.0-liter turbocharged petrol engine, which was offered for an additional cost. Essentially, it's the more powerful engine in a more affordable trim. It's odd that Ford kept on offering this as an option, considering the vast majority of buyers chose the standard 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine. For 2015, the base 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine was available as a cost-reduced option and from 2017, the 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine replaced the 1.6-liter unit.

SEL
2013, 2018-2019
Engine
1.6-/1.5-/2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Transmission
Six-speed automatic transmission
Drivetrain
FWD or AWD

The SEL was only available for 2013 with either a 1.6-liter or 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine before Ford discontinued it for four years. This model comes with leather seats, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with a memory function, one-touch up-and-down windows, a universal garage-door opener, the MyFord Touch electronics interface, and a nine-speaker audio system. Since this model sold slowly, you might be able to pick it up for much cheaper. Be on the lookout for an SEL equipped with the 302A package, which includes a remote engine start, a Sony sound system, a cargo management system, and a hands-free liftgate.

The SEL returned for two years only at the end of the 3rd-generation Escape's lifecycle. The 2018 and 2019 models are only available with the 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine, but Ford added more features as standard. You can expect leather seats, a power liftgate, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, and a power-adjustable driver's seat. As before, Ford offered a package for this model but it's aimed more at style. Find a 2018 SEL with the SEL Sport Appearance Package and you'll also get a black front fender, black headlamp bezels, satin chrome trim accents, gloss black-painted exterior mirror caps, front and rear gloss black skid plates, a gloss black upper grille, 19-inch Premium Ebony black-painted wheels, paddle shifters, and LED taillamps.

Titanium
2013-2019
Engine
1.6-/1.5-/2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Transmission
Six-speed automatic transmission
Drivetrain
FWD or AWD

The 2013 Titanium is the top-spec, only available with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine. In addition to everything the other trims come with as standard, the Titanium gains 19-inch alloys, HD Radio, remote start, keyless ignition, upgraded leather upholstery, ambient lighting, and a premium ten-speaker Sony sound system. The 2014 Titanium runs on 18-inch alloys instead and the standard engine is the 1.6-liter EcoBoost, with the 2.0-liter optional. On post-facelift 2017 models, the base engine is the 1.5-liter EcoBoost instead, and it comes as standard with smartphone integration, power adjustment for the driver and passenger seats, and a foot-gesture-activated power tailgate. We'd keep an eye out for a Titanium equipped with the 301A Equipment Package. It adds all of the driver assistance features available at the time, which means you'll get a car with park assist, rain-sensing wipers, lane-keep assist, lane-keeping aid, and Bi-Xenon HID lights. The 2018 Titanium has the 2.0-liter engine again by default and for 2019, the 19-inch alloys return as well.

Third Generation Ford Escape Features

SSESELSEL 2018Titanium
Back-Up CameraSSSSS
Bluetooth ConnectionN/ASSSS
Leather SeatsaN/AN/AN/AN/AS
Apple CarPlayOOOOO
Keyless EntrySSSSS
Keyless StartN/AN/AN/AN/AS
HD RadioN/AN/AN/ASS
Alloy WheelsSSSSS
SunroofN/AN/AN/AN/AS

Interior, Trim And Practicality

Ford Escape SUV 3rd Gen Interior Overview Ford
Ford Escape SUV 3rd Gen Interior Overview

More than anything else, the 3rd gen Escape interior is durable. The center console may be an ergonomic mess, but the inside is spacious and feels like it will last a few decades. From SEL upwards, a leather steering wheel and shift knob come as standard. The base S model is only available with Charcoal cloth, but the SE trim gives you the option of going for a more upmarket Medium Light Stone color. The same is true of the original pre-facelift SEL. The later SEL came standard with ActiveX upholstery in Chromite Grey mixed with Charcoal or Medium Light Stone. The Titanium is the only model adorned with real leather, available in Charcoal or Medium Light Stone.

TrimSSESELSEL 2018Titanium
Charcoal clothSN/AN/AN/AN/A
Charcoal or Medium Light Stone ClothN/ASSN/AN/A
Active X leatheretteN/AN/AN/ASN/A
Full leather in Charcoal or Medium Light StoneN/AN/AN/AN/AS

3rd Gen Escape Maintenance and Cost

There are more than 3,000 Ford and Lincoln dealers across the USA. You could stand in the middle of Nowheresville, throw a stone, and hit three. There are also thousands of third-party Ford specialists equipped with the correct diagnostics equipment. Ford recommends a tire rotation and inspection every 10,000 miles, and a full service every 20,000 miles.

The cost of a full annual service at Ford is roughly $600, and around half that if you go to an independent Ford expert. Since all of the engines used in the Ford Escape C520 are still widely in use, finding parts should not be a problem. Higher mileage examples will require more than the average full service. At 90,000, 100,000, 120,000, and 150,000 miles, it's going to need additional replacement parts. In that case, you can expect to pay $1,100 to $1,800 per service.

3rd Gen Escape C520 Basic Service

Engine Oil Change Including Filter

Gas engines: 4.1L (4.3 quarts) for 1.5 and 1.6 EcoBoost, 5.4L (5.7 quarts) for 2.0 EcoBoost, and 2.5 NA.

Recommended oil viscosity: 5W-20 fully synthetic oil for 1.5-, 1.6-, and 2.5-liter engines and 5W-30 for 2.0-liter engine

How often to change: 10,000 miles/12 months

Average price: $58-$67 depending on engine

Sparkplugs

1.6-liter EcoBoost engine

Part code: CYFS-13Y-RC

Average price: $43 for four

1.5-liter EcoBoost engine

Part code: HYFS-094-YEC

Average price: $60 for four

2.0-liter EcoBoost engine

Part code: CYFS-12Y-2

Average price: $33 for four

2.5 NA engine

Part code: AYFS-32Y-R

Average price: $49 for four

Air Filter

OEM part number:

2.5: CJ5Z9601A

Average price: $17 from Ford's OEM catalog.

OEM part number:

EcoBoost engines: CV6Z9601A

Average price: $22 from Ford's OEM catalog.

Battery

Ford does not recommend a specific battery, but it's worth keeping in mind that you need a deep-cycle battery for the Stop/Start system on certain models. If your car does not have a Stop/Start system you can fit a normal 12V battery for around $140 from a reputable manufacturer. The CCA rating you see below is the amount of repeated cold starts a battery can handle.

Models with Stop/Start

Type: Deep-cycle 600 CCA to 800 CCA

Replacement: Every 3 years

Average Price: $275 for a 600 CCA; $310 for an 800 CCA battery.

2013-2019 Ford Escape Tires

There are three tires sizes for the 3rd generation Escape.

2013-2018 S FWD, 2013-2019 SE FWD & AWD, 2018-2019 SEL FWD & AWD
Tire Size:
235/55-17
All-season:
$580-$788 per set
2013 SEL FWD & AWD, 2014-2018 Titanium FWD & AWD
Tire Size:
235/50-18
All-season:
$676-$970 per set
2013, 2019 Titanium FWD & AWD
Tire Size:
235/45-19
All-season:
$776-$948 per set

Check Before You Buy

Technical Service Bulletins according to the NHTSA. Check service book for:

There were several recalls issued for the Ford Escape, with the most problematic model years being 2013, 2014, and 2017. These are the first two years it was on sale and the year of the significant facelift. Not all problems were serious, however. 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 Ford Escapes had A/C problems. There was a 2014 air-conditioning recall to rectify the problem, which is related to areas with high humidity. A 2016/2017 Ford Escape liftgate problem was also recorded, but no recall was issued. The sensors start acting up, and the tailgate does not close properly. Other minor niggles include moonroof, noise, battery, and cv joint problems. These were mostly isolated incidents, not large enough to register a recall. The same goes for 2013, 2017, and 2018 flywheel problems.

There were several notable recalls, starting with the brake recall, or shifter cable recall which had nothing to do with the actual brakes. The bushing that attaches the shifter cable to the transmission could degrade and detach, allowing the car to move if the parking brake wasn't engaged. Following the discovery of the fire hazard problem, Ford issued several engine-related recalls in 2014. The 2014 Ford Escape had coolant leak, purge valve, fuel pump, and water pump recalls. The internal code for this issue was recall 13s12.

3rd Gen Escape Common Problems

Transmission Problems

Ford Escape transmission problems were reported in 2013, 2015, and 2017. After Ford solved the fire problem, the Ford 6F35 transmission problems haunted the car through almost its entire lifespan. Some owners complained about juddering in slow traffic, while others noted a transmission error on the dash while on the freeway. Other cars were stuck in first gear or refused to engage reverse. A transmission recall was issued in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. The 2013 and 2014 Escape also suffered from transmission oil leaks via the driver's side axle seal, which might necessitate the replacement of the seal and, in some cases, the entire half shaft. Take the vehicle for a test drive and make sure the transmission makes no harsh shifts and is well behaved, with no odd sounds coming from the driveline. Try to find a low-mileage example and start replacing the transmission fluid at least every 60,000 miles to ensure the maximum possible service life.

Mileage: From as little as 58,000 miles, but usually around 75,000 miles.

Cost: Up to $4,500 to repair parts of the transmission or $6,000 for a replacement. Replacing the driver's side axle seal can cost $250-$370 out of warranty, so check whether this has been done. If the half shaft is worn too, its replacement will cost between $1,700 and $2,500.

How to spot: Most reports mention a juddering at slow speed. If you note even the slightest odd shake, stay away. For the leaks, there should be evidence on the floor and an axle seal wet with oil, as well as a low transmission oil level, which might be accompanied by poor shift quality.

Erratic Engine Light

A few owners reported the check engine light coming on, related to an error code. These codes were P26B7, P1299, P0234, P1450, P2560, and P0456 for the 2013 Ford Escape. P26B7 also appeared for the 2014 and 2015 Ford Escape. These engine codes are all related to the 1.6 Ecoboost's fire problems. Code P26B7 is related to the 2013 Ford Escape coolant bypass valve, while P1299 is the error code for the engine overheating.

Mileage: N/A

Cost: N/A

How to spot: There's no way of knowing whether the engine light is illuminated for a good reason, or simply because it likes to shine. You can take it to a shop with diagnostics equipment, but we'd advise you to walk away.

Power Steering Failure

The electric power steering on first-year models is prone to failure at around 60,000 miles. Some owners say that the problem can be solved by simply restarting the car, but in most cases, the power steering rack had to be replaced entirely. Ford offered a 2013/2014 power steering recall, so you should have no problems if the car was fixed.

Mileage: Around 62,000 miles

Cost: $1,500 to replace the rack.

How to spot: The Escape's steering is fairly light, making it easy to maneuver around town. If the steering feels surprisingly heavy, the power steering is not functioning properly. A worn steering rack may also exhibit play, clunks, and rattles when turning, especially on uneven surfaces.

Engine Stalling

Yet another 1.6 EcoBoost problem. The engine wiring splices to the Manifold Absolute Pressure (MAP) sensor and can provide incorrect signals to the powertrain control unit. This usually results in the car stalling. The 2013 and 2014 2.0-liter could also suffer stalling problems due to a faulty wiring harness.

Mileage: N/A, but only applicable to 2013 models

Cost: Ford recalled the Escape and replaced the wiring harness.

How to spot: There's no way to know whether the sensor and wiring problems have been fixed apart from checking the service history, because the engine might not stall on your test drive.

Head Gasket Failure

Multiple owners reported white smoke from the exhaust, which is one of the sure signs of a head gasket failure. To be on the safe side, Ford issued a 2013 and 2014 head gasket recall. Keep in mind that a blown head gasket is due to overheating and because there were so many engine problems with the Escape, any overheating event could lead to a blown head gasket. A car with any symptoms of head gasket failure should be avoided because the ensuing problems can cost you dearly down the line.

Mileage: Reports range from as little as 60,000 miles to 140,000 miles.

Cost: The head gasket will have to be replaced. Though a head gasket is cheap, changing it is extremely labor-intensive. If you come across a car with this problem, it's best to walk away.

How to spot: Head-gasket failure can manifest in various ways due to the different failure modes. This includes low coolant level, low oil level, overheating, milky oil due to coolant getting into the lubrication system, oil-contaminated coolant, smoke and/or steam from the exhaust, and/or visible coolant or oil leaks from the head gasket into the engine compartment.

Misaligned Doors

2013 to 2014 models were recalled for an assembly misalignment between the outside door handle and the outer door panel. This made the doors difficult to close, and in some cases, the doors opened while driving. To rectify this problem, Ford issued a 2013 and 2014 door latch recall, known internally as recall 16s30.

Mileage: N/A

Cost: Ford recalled the specific models and replaced the correct mountings free of charge.

How to spot: Open and close the car's doors a few times to see if they're difficult to open or close. The display in the center console should tell you whether a door is properly closed or not.

In addition to that, check the service history to ensure the recall work was done.

MyFord Touch Problems

The 2013-2019 Ford Escape suffered many MyFord Touch problems but no infotainment or radio recall was ever issued for it. Units equipped with navigation systems still use the old SD-card system, and the information on there would get outdated over time, but that's common in older cars and not the main issue with the Escape. The MyFord Touch infotainment system in the Escape is difficult to use and prone to crashing and freezing, making driving hazardous while trying to operate the system. In fact, Ford's decline in customer satisfaction surveys from 2010 onward is often ascribed to their many infotainment issues, with MyFord Touch being one of the biggest culprits. MyFord Touch freezes and crashes a lot and the only way to get a software update is by visiting a dealership or obtaining a USB drive with the update on it from them and installing it yourself. The outdated navigation system used on this Escape is SD-card based and its maps may be in need of an update if you buy a used one.

Mileage: N/A

Cost: N/A

How to spot: Crashing, freezing, the screen going blank, swopping audio sources uncommanded, the backup camera being unavailable while the system backs up, and not recognizing phones it previously had been paired to. Sometimes the system freezes and remains in this state, even after the vehicle has been switched off, necessitating disconnecting the battery to reset it.

Lug Nuts

Several owners reported 2016 Ford Escape lug nut problems. In short, the lug nuts would swell over time, which means owners can't use the tools provided to change a tire. Some owners dragged Ford to court, but an official recall was never issued.

Mileage: N/A

Cost: Around $30 to replace all the lug nuts

How to spot: Take the tire iron out of the trunk and see if it fits over the lug nuts.

Barely Audible Horn

Few owners complained about this, but we can see it being a problem in a noisy city. Apparently, the Escape has a barely audible horn.

Mileage: N/A

Cost: You can order an easy-to-install aftermarket 12V truck air horn from Amazon for $34.

How to spot: Press the horn and determine if it's loud enough for you. This seems to be an extremely personal problem.

Rodents Love To Chew On The Escape’s Wiring

In an attempt to go green, Ford changed over to soy-based electrical wire coating. This problem is not just related to Ford, but Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota as well. Thankfully, there haven't been many reports of rats feasting on a car's wiring, but it's something to keep an eye out for. Wrapping accessible wiring with capsaicin tape or treating it with rodent repellent are also feasible options, but you cannot reach all the wiring, so these are not guaranteed fixes. It seems the best way to avoid this problem is simply to keep an eye out for rat droppings and other signs of rodent activity and put measures in place to control the rodents before they get to your car.

Mileage: N/A

Cost: $650

How to spot: The most obvious sign of rat infestation is a nest. According to forums, you should open the hood regularly to check for rat droppings. Some rats even build a nest under the hood, in which case you should check for pieces of the nest when you move the car. Check for random, unrelated electrical problems that come and go, which can often be a sign of damaged wiring. Vehicles exhibiting mysterious and unexplained electrical problems should be avoided.

Paint

Owners reported 2017 and 2018 Ford Escape paint problems, specifically with white. The paint reportedly flakes away in certain areas, including the hood, roof, and around the windshield.

While there have been several reports on forums, there has been no lawsuit filed against Ford.

Mileage: N/A

Cost: Between $300 to $1,000 depending on the size of the surface that needs to be repainted.

How to spot: Luckily, this problem is easy enough to spot. Keep a close eye on the areas mentioned above and move on to another car if you see any flaking.

1.6-liter EcoBoost Engine Problems

There were numerous 2013-2019 Ford Escape problems, but the 1.6-liter engine catching fire is the most serious. Several Escapes/Kugas across the globe caught fire. It's important to note that this issue is only applicable to the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine. This particular problem is known as the 2013/2014 overheating recall. Several known causes for the engine fire include a fuel leak, oil leak, and a coolant leak via the bypass valve. The 2013 Ford Escape overheating problem and recall was an absolute PR nightmare and eventually killed this specific engine entirely. To fix the problem, the Ford Escape was subject to a coolant leak, purge valve, water pump, coolant, head gasket, heat shield, and fuel pump recall. Besides the fire hazard, this engine is also prone to failure of the charge-air cooler's vacuum lines and tubes, as well as the wastegate-regulating valve's solenoid. Keep in mind that this engine has a timing belt, not a chain, but the replacement interval is an uncommonly long 150,000 miles. For safety's sake, we'd replace it every 100,000 miles at least, especially if the vehicle is used in sub-zero temperatures. A snapped timing belt can cause a lot of engine damage. This also applies to the 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine.

Mileage: N/A

Cost: Ford reprogrammed the Escape's powertrain control module and updated the calibration for the cooling strategy free of charge. For out-of-warranty vehicles with a faulty wastegate valve solenoid, replacement cost is around $350. If the turbocharger is faulty, the bill will exceed $3,000 and an engine replacement can be double that amount.

How to spot: There's no way to tell during a test drive, but check the service booklet or the vehicle's history to see whether the cooling-system updates were done. Problems with the charge-air cooler tubes, wastegate solenoid, and vacuum lines should trigger the Check Engine light and might show the P0234, P0245, P0246, and P0299 error codes.

Carbon Buildup On The Intake Valves

All Escape engines, except the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter, feature direct injection (DI) and as such, they are prone to carbon buildup on the intake valves at higher mileages. This is typically not a problem before 50,000 miles. There is no way to fix it without stripping the cylinder head and cleaning the intake valves by way of walnut blasting.

Mileage: Usually from around 50,000 miles.

Cost: Several hundred dollars for a full cylinder-head service and valve cleaning.

How to spot: Performance and economy will be negatively affected by bad carbon deposits and the car won't idle smoothly.

Less Serious Problems

Some other problems are not quite as commonplace or serious but are still worth a mention. These include issues with rear shock absorbers failing prematurely, announced by rattles coming from the rear when they do; they cost between $170 and $280 to replace. Some 2013-2018 Escapes also suffered from failure of the rear drive unit (RDU) coupler clutch, which typically manifests in clunking, shuddering, and chattering from the rear axle when driving around tight corners at low speeds - it feels a lot like a rear axle binding. The RDU service kit costs around $300. Owners also frequently complain about cheap interior plastics. In light of all the bad press about engine fires and other engine problems, keep an eye on the cooling system especially, since coolants leaks and failing water pumps also occur too frequently, adding to the existing engine woes. It might be a good idea to frequently have the cooling system inspected, flushed, and refilled. Quite a few rust problems were reported but the Escape should hold up well in general; just avoid cars registered in rust-belt states.

Which One To Avoid

Given the multiple problems related to the 1.6-liter EcoBoost, we'd avoid it completely. You might be tempted by the much lower retail price as a result of the bad publicity, but if budget is a concern, the base 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated S is a better choice. It won't be as luxurious, but the old-school engine comes with the least amount of problems. We'd also avoid pre-facelift models. The number of complaints from customers took a dramatic dip following the facelift.

Which One To Buy

The most readily available model is the Escape SE with the 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine and FWD. The SE trim comes with all the interior niceties that make short or long trips a joy. Prices for the SE are keeping steady at roughly $20,000 (at the time of writing in 2022), but it is worth doing a deep dive to see what optional packages are equipped to the car you're interested in. Standard Escapes and models equipped with the Technology Package retail for the same price, so keep an eye open for a model with some additional features. For around $4,000 extra, you can upgrade to the 2.0-liter EcoBoost. Unless you're upgrading from a hot hatch, or you prefer more power, we don't really see the need to go for the Platinum.

Verdict

The 3rd generation Escape doesn't have the best reputation, thanks to that colossal fire problem right at the beginning of its lifespan. In addition to that, it suffered gearbox problems, erratic engine lights, stalling engines, and head gasket failure. To be blunt, there are far more reliable crossovers out there. The Honda CR-V is a prime example. Still, the post-facelift models are more reliable and the Escape is good fun to drive. At the end of the day, you need to decide whether fun or reliability are more important.

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