Safety of Ford Windstar and Freestar Wheelchair Vans


The Ford Windstar started as a legitimate contender in its class, but was reduced to being the butt of jokes by the 2002 model year. Its revival under the Freestar name a few years later could not save it.

Ford soon decided to focus its attention on other vehicles, giving up on the minivan sector altogether.

The Windstar and Freestar were not highly regarded vehicles. They offered lackluster styling, limited performance and a great deal of quality and reliability problems.

The engine was problematic. The transmission became infamous for its shortcomings. The overall quality of construction, the cheap interior plastic, the outmoded instrument panel and the dull exterior design left more people shaking their head in pity than turning their head in interest. Problems were numerous and far-reaching.

ford_freestar_2005-a0387fdbd64b533cf7f108c5d468ec5bThey did do well in one regard, however. The Windstar and its successor were both extremely safe vehicles.

If you are considering the purchase of a late model Windstar or Freestar and are wondering about the vehicle’s overall safety in light of its poor reputation, you can relax. These Fords have more than their fair share of problems, but none of them is safety-related.

In fact, Ford was actually ahead of the curve in some respects with the Windstar. Ford was offering a better and more complete airbag system earlier than its competitors were and was installing stability control units ahead of many other manufacturers.

The Windstar and Freestar are not great minivans, but they are safe.

A Year-by-Year Evaluation

ford_freestar_2005One might get a better sense of the Ford Windstar’s and Freestar’s safety by considering the vehicles on a year-by-year basis. Let us trace them from 2002.

Ford was behind the times in many ways, but it knew what it was doing in terms of safety. The 2002 Windstar offered both front and side airbags as standard equipment on many models, something the competition was not doing. Antilock brakes were on every Windstar and Ford offered traction control options, as well. The NHTSA and the IIHS both gave the vehicle strong scores in crash testing.

The 2003 edition of the Windstar also performed well in crash tests and carried the same safety equipment. There was a problem with some 2003 Windstars and the construction of the seatbelt latches on third row passenger seating. Ford issued a recall to rectify the situation.

ford_freestar_20052004 marked the first year of the Freestar. The minivan now had a different name, but it was really a continuation of the Windstar series. Design elements were changed slightly and some mechanical upgrades were made, but it was a Windstar at heart. So, it is not surprising that it continued the Windstar tradition of safety and the same standard options. The 2004 and 2005 Freestars continued to score well in collision tests and demonstrated a high degree of rollover resistance.

The 2006 Freestar’s stability system, antilock brakes, airbags and an array of optional safety upgrades including rear sensors made it one of the safest minivans on the road. Ford soon gave up on making the vehicles, but the last Freestars to roll off the assembly line were some of the safest options in the minivan class.

Causes for Concern?

ford_freestar_2005Purchasing a Windstar or Freestar comes with many causes for concern. Reliability is an issue. Quality is an issue. Performance is an issue. Safety, however, is not an issue. These were safe minivans and you can feel secure while driving one.

The 2003 recall was one of the few meaningful safety problems for the vehicle and that was quite limited in both impact and scope. The reputation of the Windstar and Freestar have been sullied over time due to a number of weaknesses inherent to the vehicle, but Ford does deserve kudos for producing a very safe minivan and making use of some important safety features before the competition did.

Performance and safety are linked to one another, however. In that respect, these Fords do have some weaknesses. The substandard handling and non-responsive steering in Windstars and Freestar do make drivers more likely to experience accidents than someone driving a true road-hugger that can turn on a dime.


ford_freestar_2005Your investment in a Windstar or Freestar may not be wise, but it will be safe. Of all the problems that plagued the vehicles during the 2000s, none was safety-related.

The Windstar and the Freestar both consistently garnered four- and five-star ratings from the NHTSA in crash testing. The insurance industry testers never found fault with the minivans, either. Ford’s innovative airbag system and stability control unit further improved overall safety. If Ford had done half as well in other areas as it had in safety, the Windstar and Freestar might be two of the most popular minivans in history.



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