I just wanted to warn as many people as possible about a safety issue in the 2001-2004 Escape. There is a problem with excess rusting of the front sub-frame that results in it separation and breaking of the tie rods. This results in mild to severe steering failure that depends on the speed of the vehicle.
Ford issued a recall 14S02 to help brace the tie rod connection but IT DOES NOT do anything about the weakness of the frame. People who have had the recall repair work done are still having the frame fail with subsequent steering problems. One car crossed the highway median and rolled into oncoming traffic, one had an unanticipated left turn across 2 lanes of traffic, and several have left the road running into fences and buildings.
Part of the problem is that people may think their vehicles are now safe because of the recall work when in fact their frames can still fail.
This has happened to me.
The Ford dealership told me that the intent of the recall repair was to help limit the severity of the steering problem if and when the frame did separate but it was not intended to repair the frame. If you look at the technical instructions to the dealership for doing this inspection, there are guidelines for HOW BIG HOLES IN THE FRAME CAN STILL BE without having to replace the sub-frame as part of the recall.
If you know anybody with an Escape in this age group please let them know 1) they are not necessarily safe and 2) they should file a complaint with the National Highway Transportation Safety Board expecting Ford to issue a new recall to replace the sub-frame on all these vehicles.