Comparing 2002-2006 Ford Windstar & Freestar Wheelchair Vans

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The Ford Windstar and Freestar as Wheelchair Vans

If Ford makes it, someone will buy it. Ford has a reputation and a history that drives sales for anything they produce. Early editions of the Windstar had been relatively successful in their own right. That led many to assume that they would enjoy a Windstar or Freestar minivan. It also led conversion manufacturers to work on creating credible wheelchair van versions of the vans.

The Ford was amenable to conversion and many people have used them as wheelchair vans. The most common conversion involves the use of a ramp on one side of the vehicle along with a lowered floor, an auto kneel system, power sliding doors and appropriate interior adjustments with respect to seating and wheelchair securement.

Some Windstars and Freestars were modified for use as rear-entry wheelchair vans, but these were less popular than the side-entry approach.

The conversions were completely successful. At face value, these vehicles look like credible wheelchair vans. The problems arise once one begins to understand the vehicles underlying flaws and limitations. The reliability and build quality issues that brought the Windstar/Freestar to its demise are reason enough to reject Ford minivans as a wheelchair van option.

The Ford Minivans through the Years

Ford Windstar wheelchair vans have managed to post relatively decent sales for a number of years, primarily due to the fact it was carrying the ever-popular Ford name. It certainly was not due to performance. The Windstar was not very popular with critics and drivers did not give it the best reviews, either.

In 2004, Ford decided to do away with the Windstar name after another unimpressive year. The primary motivation was not really about disassociating itself from the product, though. It was more a matter of a strange branding decision, as Ford embarked on a mission to give virtually every vehicle it made a name starting with the letter F.

Thus, the Freestar was born. Anyone hoping for a significant change in Ford’s approach to the minivan was quickly disappointed. The Freestar continued in the Windstar tradition and Ford soon left the wheelchair minivan market altogether.

2002

The 2002 Windstar was the vehicle’s eighth model year. At that point, it was still a relatively competitive vehicle, but was beginning to slip as competitors improved their products.

Ford offered the 2002 Windstar in four different trim packages (plus a commercial version), all of which used the same 3.8-liter V6 and four-speed automatic transmission.

It soon became obvious that the vehicle was suffering from a number of reliability issues. The overall quality of the minivan was suspect, but that did not stop Ford from creating a virtual mechanical twin of the 2002 vehicle in the 2003 model year.

2003

The 2003 Windstar handicap van had slightly different side mirrors and offered stability control as a standard feature. In most other respects, it was a repeat of the 2002 debacle. The last Windstar certainly was not the best.

2004

In 2004, Ford started making the Windstar’s successor, the Freestar. The new vehicle was actually little more than a renamed version of its predecessor. The Freestar was available in three trim levels and Ford did upgrade the engine by offering a new 3.9-liter V6 or a stronger optional 4.2-liter V6. Although Ford was making some effort, it was not enough to stand up against increasingly strong offerings from other manufacturers.

2005 & 2006

The 2005 and 2006 editions of the Freestar wheelchair van were virtually clones of the unimpressive 2004 entry. It was clear that Ford’s real interests were not in winning awards for its minivans. Shortly thereafter, Ford gave up on minivans, deciding to focus on its crossover SUV products.

An Overall Assessment of the Ford Windstar and Freestar

A number of manufacturers have made a number of minivans since Dodge invented the class in 1984. Some have been great, some have been good, many have been average and a few have been clear-cut losers.

While Ford may have had a competitive minivan in the 1990s, it was hopelessly behind the competition by 2002. The Ford Windstar and Freestar wheelchair van clearly fall into the loser category.

They lacked style. They lacked reliability. They lacked performance. We cannot recommend the purchase of a late model Ford minivan unless the price is extremely low.

Is a Ford Wheelchair Minivan Right for You?

Very few disabled drivers will recommend a late model Ford wheelchair minivan. The vehicles were known for an overall lack of quality and reliability. They failed to measure up to their competitors in terms of performance, power or design. It was as if Ford was standing in place while the rest of the minivan field sprinted forward.

As a handicapped driver you should consider virtually any other minivan option before purchasing a Freestar or Windstar. Unless the price of a used Ford wheelchair minivan is exceptionally low, it probably is not a good investment.

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