The Ford Flex has a long, glorious history in the automobile industry. The line was launched in 2009 after Ford discontinued numerous other models and gathered one or two parts from each to make a new vehicle. Ford wanted to make this car the perfect crossover utility vehicle. Although the lineup has seen significant success, it has had some ups and downs along the way. The Ford Flex problems only make up one aspect of the otherwise dependable cars.
Most of the Ford Flex problems revolve around the electrical unit. Symptoms include:
- Engine failure
- Faulty MyFord Touch Technology
- Bulged Lug Nuts
- Throttle Body Failure
- Door Ajar Light Issue
- Electrical System
- Cooling Fan Module
- Disabled Power-Assist Steering
- Cracked Fuel Delivery Module
Every line of vehicles comes with its set of problems. Anything electrical or mechanical is vulnerable to failure, no matter how high-tech or well-built it is. The Ford Flex is one such vehicle that has struggled with some issues throughout its time but the market still considers it a reliable car.
We have gathered details of each of these problems along with relevant information of recalls and NHTSA complaints so you can make an informed decision.
Ford Flex History
The Ford Flex was what helped the now automobile manufacturing legend make the transition from a minivan producer to a strong competitor in the utility vehicles market. The Flex is a sizeable crossover utility vehicle, otherwise known as CUV. Its unrivaled functionality and distinctive styling have established it apart from its field.
In the summer of 2008, the Ford Flex was launched in the market as the 2009 model. Production started in Oakville, Ontario. According to the Fairlane concept of the brand, the Flex was made to replace the Freestar minivan – also under Ford. The Flex was also the very first CUV to incorporate the characteristics of both an SUV and a minivan.
Through 2014, the Flex lived its first generation, but a revamp in 2013 made sure people were still interested in the styling.
From Ford’s strategy, it is clear that they want to enhance the functionalities of this car without seriously changing its unique styling. Recent additions tried to combine important new technology as well as handy driver experiences. Similar to all vehicles from Ford, the Flex has gotten EcoBoost engines under its hood.
Common Ford Flex Problems
Some of the problems in Ford Flex are more common than others. Keep in mind that the given information has not been categorized based on risks or plausible danger.
The 2009 to 2012 model years Flex had some problems that are typical in brand new designs. The American automaker came forward and issued recalls to address those. Others were reported by users and not directly addresses by the brand. From 2013 to the later model years, issues were there but they were not as severe as the past models.
Ford Flex Problems: Bulged Lug Nuts
The case of swollen lug nuts turned out to be so severe that a lot of the users filed lawsuits. Complaints told about how the lug nuts would bulge and lock. Thanks to that, it was almost impossible to remove them.
It might not be the worst scenario for mechanics to remove them, but imagine the frustration of the person who attempted to do it with some simple tools at home. So, if you got stranded on the side of the interstate, you could not change your tires and would stay in that condition till a knight in shining armor came to rescue you.
Despite all the complications, the lawsuit was dismissed because as it turns out, the problem was not with the lug nuts. Ford included a metal cap with the lug nuts for decorative purposes. It was the caps that would swell up, restricting access to the nuts. It was concluded that the swollen lug nuts cannot be counted as an actual safety issue. Adjustments have been made in recent generations.
Ford Flex Problems: Engine Failure
Failure has been a somewhat prevalent problem with the 2010 Ford Flex engine, the V6 EcoBoost. Multiple issues were recorded with the design of the specific vehicle. Ford issued a recall on this.
The reason behind this issue was the improper placement of battery cables. They were not secured correctly and this created an electrical arc, disabling the vehicle’s electronics entirely. In some cases, power was lost in the whole unit by simply pressing the brake pedal. Fortunately, there were no injuries or deaths, simply frazzled nerves.
Ford Flex Problems: Door Ajar Light Does Not Turn Off
A problem that is more annoying than a safety issue. This is something Flex suffered with for many generations. The sensor on the car doors would fail and the vehicle would continually process that a door is open.
For a while, people found that cleaning the sensor helped. However, the actual fix turned out to be changing the whole sensor and door assembly, since the original sensor was bad.
Ford Flex Problems: Faulty MyFord Touch Technology
Several complaints claimed that the automated system controlling the entertainment and several other functions of the cars were unresponsive or slow. This malfunction caused navigational issues, fuel mileage problems, and regular complaints about the Flex’s reliability.
As of now, Ford says that providing software upgrades to the vehicle makes the system better.
Ford Flex Problems: Throttle Body Failure
Failure of the throttle body isn’t one of the commonly reported Ford Flex problems. However, it has persisted over the years. The mechanics in the body tied up and shut down the engine. What’s problematic is that this issue can occur when the vehicle is moving and it will negatively affect its acceleration. Consensus has decided that a few of these components could fail at a time – there is no specific reason or pattern to them.
A few reported cases involved how this problem would cause the whole engine to shut off. Know this before buying a Ford Flex: this issues spans throughout the entire existence of this lineup. In case the full engine shuts down, power to the rest of the car is cut off. That includes acceleration and steering.
Ford Flex Problems: Cooling Fan Module
Numerous instances have been reported where the vehicle would overheat while sitting in traffic. When the car accelerates at normal speeds, it would be operating at regular temperatures. An intermittent problem, the failure of the cooling fan module seems to come and go as the vehicle pleases.
The typical solution is replacing the module. For finding the solution, car mechanics often had to run numerous trial and error operations. Ford did not issue any statements to help with the process either. But, it was largely due to how the problem was a variable with no fixed pattern.
Ford Flex Problems: Electrical System
Almost everything in the Ford Flex is navigated electronically. Naturally, there have been complaints about every other sensor in the cars.
No single reason has been pinpointed but most owners found the problem minimized a bit after installing new sensors. Ford never issued an official recall for this, which is weird given how widespread the issues were.
Ford Flex Problems: Disabled Power-Assist Steering
This could be included under the electrical complications, but the seriousness of the situation warranted a separate mention. In a few of the Flex models, particularly the 2013 model year, reports were made stating the power steering would disable. In that situation, steering the vehicle is extremely challenging, although not impossible.
Some reports mentioned that this issue would spawn other major problems, such as loss of control over vehicles while driving or total engine shutdown. Almost all of these events occurred at slower speeds. While most owners could pull over to the side of the road, some were unfortunate enough to be stuck in the middle of blocked lanes and interstate traffic.
Users have also reported that they faced severe issues of complete shutdown and speed loss while driving in the middle of the road. Most of them faced this issue while they were driving at a slow speed. So, they were able to pull over aside. In some cases, the cars got stuck in the middle of the road blocking the traffic.
The cause has never been discovered explicitly; however, mechanics and professionals found replacing the relay system helped. The American automobile manufacturer did not provide a fixed solution to this.
Ford Flex Problems: Airbags
Between the model years, 2009 to 2011, the airbags in Flex cars would not inflate after being deployed. Ford announced an active recall to solve this problem and will work with distributors and dealerships to change the airbags as needed. The reason behind this complication was never disclosed publicly, but as it has been resolved, that does not matter as much.
All vehicles under the problem were equipped with Takata airbags. Takata airbags had a major dip in quality in the past decade, rendering many vehicles unusable. If you suspect that an issue exists with your vehicle, take it to an authorized Ford repair facility.
Ford Flex Problems: Cracked Fuel Delivery Module
Complaints were made about a crack developing in the fuel delivery module. As a result, the fuel would leak. The most affected model year was 2013. The seeping oil would go to a side with an electrical circuit leading to a fire hazard.
Ford worked with its dealers to resolve the issue. Take your vehicle for an inspection if you bought a model like that.
Ford Flex Problems by Years
2009 Ford Flex Problems
Many user complaints were registered about the 2009 Flex, and this is the first year where there was a combination of NHTSA and user complaints. Primary user issues included engine and brakes failure and the main NHTSA complaints dealt with the same problems.
The majority of the user complaints stated that the vehicle would stall or stop for no reason, the oil would leak, the engine would rev while at a stop, fluid would leak, and the vehicle would shake while driving. Typically, the repair cost for this particular problem was high as the engine or mass airflow sensor had to be replaced. These issues would start at about 98,000 miles. Owners also reported issues like:
- Car dying while being driven
- Engine stalling while being in use
- Coolant leaking
- Car temperature light illuminating mid-drive.
On the other hand, the NHTSA complaints were a combination of engine cooling module failure and vehicle speed control malfunctions. One fire was caused by engine problems and they would start displaying symptoms at about 83,000 miles.
Users were quick to point out that the water pump failed, the car would shudder after crossing a certain speed, coolant would enter the engine block, and the vehicle would overheat.
A car with brake problems isn’t worth driving. You should never put your life on the line, regardless of how much you like the vehicle or how much money you spent on it. Primary areas of concern included:
- Soft brake pedal
- Brakes emitting a loud groaning noise
- Anti-skid system turning on during turns
- Brakes grinding
The pedal tended to directly press to the floor if constant pressure was applied, increasing the risk of accidents.
Issues registered at the NHTSA revolved around the service brakes, electronic stability control system, hydraulic brakes, parking brakes, traction control system, antilock system, and electric service brakes. About the service brakes (or if you’re seeing a “service brake assist” light), these problems resulted in two injuries and three crashes. Signs would pop up at around 65,000 miles.
Additional complaints include:
- ABS light and traction control could turn on if the accelerator was pressed
- Vehicles failed to accelerate
- Grinding noise coming from under the driver’s side of the vehicle
- Car accelerating automatically
The solution was to replace the braking system as well as the adjuster spring, anti-rotation pin, piston seat, spring seat, slider frame, slider pins, and anti-rattle clips. What was frustrating was that everything had to be changed after minimal use.
2011 Ford Flex Problems
In comparison to the disastrous 2009 Ford Flex, the 2011 model year Flex performed much better. Not as many NHTSA complaints or user concerns were noted. Thanks to the success of the 2010 and 2011 models, the general public had almost forgotten about the slew of problems that the 2009 model year offered.
Regarding this particular model, concerns focused on the steering system and the engine system. Complaints stated that the car would lose power mid-drive, or the driver would have no control of the steering while driving.
2013 Ford Flex Problems
The 2013 Ford Flex made a solid attempt at destroying the hard-earned reputation of the 2010 and 2011 model year Flexes. User issues were alarmingly prevalent, and the severity of the replacements and repairs had kept owners on the edge of their seats.
NHTSA complaints address the steering issues, electrical problems, and the fuel system. In contrast, the user complaints revolved around interior accessories problems alongside electrical complications.
The door ajar light tended to stay on even when all the doors were closed shut. Although it is not the most expensive repair in the Ford Flex, it is an irritating issue. The typical repair cost is around $440 and owners could be expected to shed the money after the car got 65,000 miles on it. About 30 complaints were lodged regarding this issue with the 2013 Flex. To solve this issue, owners would replace the door latch.
Users said that the sensor got damaged, causing the lights to remain on alongside the interior lights. Excessive lighting can be distracting on the road. Not to mention how the drive couldn’t lock the car in that position.
Similar complaints arose from NHTSA, and users claimed that the door lock sensor could not be operated at all, dome lights remained on, door ajar warning sensor not working on the passenger side door, and power steering vanishing while driving. These problems culminated to create a precarious situation on the road.
User Interior Accessories Problems
Another category of concern amongst Ford Flex owners became the poor interior accessories. Main complaints focused on:
- Door ajar alert going off despite the door being closed
- Faulty rear camera view
- Bluetooth will not connect with mobile devices
- Sound system disconnecting
- Touch screen going black
- Liftgate does not stay up.
Fixing the door ajar alert costs approximately $740 and starts at around 53,000 miles.
NHTSA Ford Flex Problems: Steering
76 complaints were lodged by the NHTSA about the steering system, with most of them mentioning the steering directly. The electric power-assist was faulty in some cases too.
Steering concerns like that led to one injury, and five crashes. Occurring at 76,000 miles on average, the steering system would fail and cause the power assist steering to not respond mid-drive, the power steering light to go out suddenly, and many more minor issues.
2013 Ford Flex Recalls
A total of six recalls were issued for the 2013 Ford Flex. 2013 marks the year of the first recall that addressed the fuel delivery module leaking and cracking. The American brand recalled multiple makes that year, including the Taurus, Explorer, Fusion, Police Interceptor Sedan, and the Flex. In the affected vehicles, cracks would develop on the fuel delivery module over time and result in fuel leakage.
The 2nd recall came a year later and affected more than 80,000 vehicles. The core complaints deal with a loss of drive and half shaft disengagement. If the link shaft and half shaft became disengaged mid-drive, the power to the wheels would be cut off, sharply increasing the risks of a crash. In addition, if the parking brake does not engage before the driver leaves the car, the vehicle can roll away.
In 2015, the third recall was announced to deal with the loss of electric power steering assist. This issue affected almost 400,000 cars and was rampant amongst cars containing the 3.5-liter GTDI engine. When the steering motor sensor would fail, the cars would shut down.
The fourth recall tried to fix the fuel delivery module problems once more. The fuel leak increased the chances of fire.
The fifth recall which was made in August 2015, affected about 80,000 vehicles. This time, it was announced to deal with the fuel pump malfunction making the engine stall while driving.
Ford Motors recalled the Taurus, Flex, Lincoln MKT, and Lincoln MKS manufactured from 2013 to 2015. As it turned out, the 3.5-liter GTDI EcoBoost engine would cut off power to the engine when the fuel pump electric module would overheat.
Last but not the least, the sixth recall tried to address the fracture being caused by the rear suspension toe links. A problem like that would take away control over the vehicle’s handling. The recall was announced in February of last year and affected more than 200,000 vehicles.
Despite the numerous Ford Flex problems, the 2018 model year earned an impressive 4.6 out of 5 stars in consumer reviews. It acquired 5 out of 5 in comfort, 4.5 out of 5 in value for money, 4.5 for interior design, 4.5 for performance, 4.5 for reliability, and another 4.5 out of 5 for the exterior styling. Users praise the car for its smooth rides, adequate interior space, and great fuel economy.
Owners were impressed with the distinctive exterior styling, cargo capacity that made it a family-friendly vehicle, and flexible seating. The Flex offers easy entrance and exit to the car, comfortably holds a family of five, and looks stylish at first glance. The panoramic vista roof as well as the 12 speakers are the cherries on top.
Ford Flex Years to Avoid: Facts and Insights
- The Ford Flex is a full-size crossover car manufactured by Ford from 2008 to 2019.
- Not all Ford Flex years are equally reliable, and some should be avoided to prevent expensive repairs.
- The worst years for Ford Flex, based on customer complaints, are 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, and 2015.
- The 2013 model stands out as the worst year for the Ford Flex due to electrical issues, engine troubles, and interior/exterior accessory issues.
- The primary electrical issues with the Ford Flex include the door light staying on when the car is shut, loss of power while driving, and starting problems.
- The 2010 model is most prone to engine troubles, including blown engine, engine failure, and check engine light on.
- The later models of Ford Flex, including the 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 models, have been the best to date and are considered safe to buy used.
- Interior and exterior accessory issues, such as air conditioning and heater problems and stuck seat latches, are less expensive to repair but can still be inconvenient for drivers.
- To avoid wasting money on a used Ford Flex, it is essential to research the best years and the worst years and weigh the pros and cons of each before making a decision.
Several improvements were made to the cars as the years progressed. Material changed, plans were altered, and the market is an ever-changing entity. However, for the most part, the Flex has stayed the same. That being said, new trim packages have been included, along with unique motor configurations and electronics.
We think that this is a good vehicle to own and drive. If room and towing capacity are top concerns for you, this vehicle is a strong contender. Safety should always be the priority – keep that in mind.
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