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The New Thunderbird


Some problem areas found in the 2002  2003  2004 2005  Ford Thunderbird.
Have you said this?
Help! My car started doing this.....
What's going on?
02 Boot too Unweildy
ABS Light
Air Conditioning Problems
Battery Dead
Buzzing at  High Speed
CD Changer
Controls on Steering Wheel
Cracked Thermostat Housing
Ford Dealer
Hardtop Scratches Paint
Hardtop Rattles
Select Shift Transmission
Shaky car
Softtop Wear
Softtop Window Separation
Spare Tire Replacement
Traction Control Light
Trunk Latch
Windshield Replacement
Customer Satisfaction programs
2004 Transmission Fluid
2002 Seatbelt
2002 Emission
2004 Driver's side seat
2008: At this point in time, all the above Recalls should have been taken care of by now if you're buying a used car, but you can still check with your local Ford dealer to see if the recalls were done to your car if they were built in the affected time period.
Softtop window separating from Canvas?  Review this thread on TBN.  You will need to register at the site if you haven't done it already.  This can be a do-it-yourself repair.
Coil-On-Plug, C.O.P.s, ignition coils.  Engine running rough? "check engine light" blinking? You may be having a coil-on-plug problem.  Good news for 2003 owners as Ford has extended the warranty for this problem to 10 years or 100,000 miles. Update: June 2008:  Parts of this warranty have been extended to the 2004 and 2005 Thunderbird as of May 20, 2008:  Have your dealer check the OASIS report for your tbird..  This STILL does NOT cover the 2002.  Take part in www.thunderbirdnest c.o.p. discussions in the tech forum there.

There have been a few reports that what had felt like a transmission problem cleared up when the C.O.P.s were fixed.  May just have been the engine "hitches" from 1 or 2 c.o.p.s not firing correctly, that they were feeling.

This is NOT a Recall.  A point to make as I've read in several different sources where people are equating the c.o.p problem with a "recall". It is not considered a recall by Federal gov't standards or we would all be getting notices to bring our cars in to have the cops replaced whether they needed it or not. It's an extension of the warranty on that particular area of the engine and includes a TSB or Technical Service Bulliten for the mechanics on how to take care of the problem when it occurs.


Traction Control & ABS LIGHT stays on - 1st suspect is the sensor itself - checkkk TBN thread - Traction control light will blink when in "use"
Controls on Steering Wheel out of control? - horn intermittant or not working, airbag light on, radio controls screwy?  The clock spring in the steering column may need replacing.  Again - see TBN discussions  How to replace clock spring discussion on TBN.
Trunk Latch not working?  check this TBN thread for some solutions
Dead Battery?  happening Frequently? Battery Issues Hopefully, you've seen your dealer by now.  If you have recently used the rear window defroster, that may be the reason - see your dealer!!.  This most likely will occur during the cold winter months when you're using the lights and electronics more frequently.  Be sure to give your car some good long drives to keep the battery charged up and check your battery monthly.  I've also had our battery in our 02 go dead after leaving the high intensity interior light in the upmost "on" position even though the battery minder timer is designed to turn off lights after a certain length of time has passed.  You may want to invest in a battery tender for the winter months if you store your T-bird for long periods of time.
  Be sure to replace Battery with a vented battery - as issued with the car when new.  An unvented battery can create a dangerous situation because the battery is in an enclosed compartment (the trunk well), unlike a battery under the hood. 
To open trunk to access battery when the battery is dead: use the auxiliary key hole located behind the driver's seat on the lower part of the shelf area. 
If that key hole does not open your trunk then someone has cut the cable to the trunk lock and you have a problem on your hand (yes, that has happened to an owner).  It can be done though; 2 ways to get to that lock open - check TBN's technical forums for more help.

Sort of a Recall or Customer Satisfaction Program,  issued January 2005. This is a transmission fluid problem affecting the 2004 and many 2005 T-birds.    This Customer Satisfaction Program was extended thru December 2005.
Does your car feel rather shaky?  Have you checked the tire pressure?  recommended psi from Ford is 30 psi though up to 35 psi is ok. Remember to check pressure when tires are cold.  A problem occurring with a few early 02 cars: severe cowl shake.  This has been discussed on the TBN with pros and cons. Some have found loose cross member bolts and tightening to specs solved the problem.
[ed. note - I'm hearing more and more complaints about cowl shake from 04 owners.  I'll go back to the old note I had here that says: tighten up those cross members. The torque specs is 46 ft lbs.  The bolts supposedly are loc tite bolts but with the number of owners & would be owners complaining about shakes, that's the place to start looking at after the tires have been checked for proper inflation or damage. The t-bird should not shake.
Recall issued on certain 2004 models. [link off site] This Recall was released June 29, 2004.  This is a driver's seat issue that affects those built from December 15, 2003 thru January 20, 2004.  See your dealer if your 2004 T-bird was built within this short time period.  This is a safety recall so must be fixed. It also affects some Taurus and Sables built during this same time frame.    If your car was affected you should have gotten a letter from your dealer.  If you feel your T-bird was involved in this recall but you haven't heard from your dealer yet, contact your dealer's service manager and have them check  to see if your t-bird was really involved.  If so, then they'll schedule an appointment for you.
Is your Hardtop scratching the paint on your T-bird's rear deck? Keep area clean, both body panel and rubber seal.  You'll still get some rub marks from the rubber. Ford's solution:  Many 2002s, all 2003s and all 2004s and all 05s, with hardtops,  were shipped with mylar tape sets in the trunk for your placement on the rear deck area.1W6Z76202W30-AA but this has been updated with a new kit:

Ford is going with an improved version of the tape which is packed in the later edition 2004 trunks.  Part number is   4W63-76202W30-AA   Read more about it on the TBN .   The new strips became available sometime January 2004.  The Stainless Steel solution from Ford has apparently been nixed due to problems keeping it on and more scratching.  Meanwhile there are aftermarket solutions including a vendor  making SS strips.
update: Feb 3, 2004   It has arrived at some dealerships and is being placed in the latest 2004s in  a kit in a black pouch with a T-bird emblem.  See the New Car? page for photos
Kit Contents:
1 Bottle Gliding Solution
4 application sets of fitted film protection strips
1 protective (logo) storage case
Ford part # 4W6Z-76202W30-AA

There are aftermarket solutions that owners have been more satisfied with.  Check the Aftermarket Accessories page or TBN to find out more about them - you do have choices in this area.
Hardtop Rattling? 
Here's a TSB out on the subject:
Here's one of the culprits, there are several.
16155: 2002 Thunderbird built before 08/02/2002    Rattle from Removable Roof Latches
Some 2002 Thunderbird built before 08/02/2002 may exhibit a rattle noise near the removable roof (hardtop) retaining latches. Verify the T40 screws at the A-Pillars are torqued to a 9 NM (80 lb-in) and that both latch levers are positioned fully forward. If rattle noise is still present, replace both latches with revised parts, 1W6Z-76506A20-AB right, and 1W6Z76506A21-AB left. Install the new latches with the roof removed, securing the latch fasteners only finger tight. Clean any dirt and debris from the roof seals and seal contact area on the vehicle. Carefully set roof on vehicle and engage the latches (levers postioned fully forward). Lift the latches upward to the limit of the adjustment slots and torque fasteners to 12NM (9 lb-ft). Refer to workshop manual, section 501-14 for additonal details.

  The above fix (June 03) did not fix our rattles though ours can be attributed to the handles.  UPDATE February2004:  Let our top sit off the car for several months and put it back on.  It doesn't rattle anymore, so the seals may have needed to rest?  Update 2: March 2004: There is another solution that is being tested by owners. Update 3:  After about a month on the car, the rattles started coming back this spring.  Hardtop came off anyway for the spring weather.

Some have reported rattle caused by rear shelf of hardtop vibrating against body or stored softtop.

Hardtop rattle behind the Driver?  Check to see if the "link" that covers the hole for the pin in the hardtop has not "disappeared"

Select Shift transmission: affects some 03s built from Nov 18, 2002 thru March 2003.  Error code appears, shifting does not "feel" right.  See your dealer.  Symptoms usually occur at around 3000 miles but can show up anytime.  Sometimes a reflash of the computer by your dealer will correct the problem.
Wear on unusual spot on softtop of early 2004s: Some owners have noticed a wear spot on their softtop even though softtop has been stored. See your dealer. There is a fix.

6CD changer:  Some CDs may get stuck.  A solution that works sometimes: Turn it off and let the system cool down before trying to eject CDs (usually means shutting off the car). If that fails then see your dealer.    Do not use CDs with paper labels, odd shapes or with a scratch protection film.  Mark your homemade CDs with a permanent marker.  Some have found that Sony CDs are the best for homemade CDs in these units.
02 boot too unwieldy?  Try the much softer 03/04/05  boot which folds in 4ths and stores in the rear cubby hole of your trunk or get the aftermarket solution listed on the accessories page
Air Conditioning blowing hot air from one side or the other
  • One side blowing hot air -FIRST item to check is the heater control valve
    • Here's one budding mechanics discovery ( though this may not fix the control valve if it's bad) - "Ah, the dual coolant control valve problem... What do you want to bet it was just the electrical wire to it that failed and not the valve itself? I had the same problem as you, took it to a Ford dealer after I could not see and test anything bad with my A/C compressor. The dealer (After a long, long while) found out it was the dual coolant control valve (It kept blowing my A/C fuse, the A/C compressor and the valve are on the same fuse). I told the tech NOT to fix it, looked at it myself when I went and picked up the car and discovered the wire going to the control valve was corroded and had all sorts of grease and road grime on the connector end. The connector end to this is toward the bottom of our cars, and gets road grime in there easily. A simple $38ish new Y electrical wire replacement was all that was needed. The tech wanted to replace the whole unit with part+labor at about $600ish!! Took me 15minutes with a $38ish wire... - Jason R"

Buzzing sound when you are traveling at speed?  Sound will occur around 65 to 75 mph.  Have you recently had your cabin air filter changed?  If so, then the cause is the plastic trim at the base of your windshield not setting flush with the windshield.  You will notice a slight gap occuring in one portion of that trim.  To fix, the trim will need to be re-installed making sure that all clips that hold the trim to the body are clipped to the correct spots.  You can do this yourself or return the car to whomever installed the cabin air filter last and have them reinstall the trim.  (editor's note:  It's been so long ago that this happened to me and well before this page was started that I forgot to mention it.  It has happened to others, too.)
Cracked Thermostat Housing:  Read this TBN thread on replacement parts
Ford Dealer Service taking too long or claiming they can't fix, parts not available?:  Read this thread on TBN to the end, then find a good Independent Service Repair facility or another more reputable Ford or Lincoln Service Department to get your car repaired if you can not do the work yourself.  I add this in as our T-birds age and many are now out of Ford warranties or service contracts.
My opinion - a dealership may be trying to get you to sell your car and buy a new one.  They win if you buy from them and trade in your old car needing a disabling but common & easy fix.  They make money on both. 1 - you buy new car and they make their profit on that. 2 - They fix the old car that they wouldn't fix for you, turn around and resell that car at a large profit since the market is still up on these cars even for one with high mileage.

Something to remember about problems that have been reported: they are few and far between. 

Recalls on the 2002:
1- Seatbelt recall:  affects cars built from April 2001 to late April, 2002.
2- Emissions recall:  2002 T-birds affected built between February 13, 2002 & April 19, 2002:  see your dealer. Must be fixed in order to sell car in some states
Recall on the 2004: Driver side Seat recall: 2004 T-birds built between Dec. 15, 2003 and Jan 20, 2004
Trivia on one other 2004 recall - There was a fuel tank recall on a few  tbirds built during one week in early 2004.  Most were caught at the factory, the rest before customer delivery

Information on recalls & TSBs - NHTSA
Note that TSB (Technical Service Bullitens) are NOT recalls.  They are service supplements for the mechanic to help diagnose and repair problems that may have occurred.  TSBs may become incorporated in later repair manuals if there are any more printings of particular manuals.
Listing of TSBs

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