Ford Contour Engine Problems

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The Ford Contour/Mercury Mystique family of vehicles offered a choice of 2.0L Zetec four-cylinder engine or 2.5L Duratec six-cylinder engine. The Duratec V6 was a new design with 24 valves, dual overhead cams and other performance features. However, the Duratec engine was known to have a series of issues that compromised reliability, especially in the 1995-1997 model years.

Wiring Harnesses

  • The wiring harnesses in 1995-1997 Contours and Mystiques (4- or 6-cylinder engines) were not able to withstand normal underhood temperatures. The heat from the engine led to cracking and peeling of wiring insulation, especially when handled during routine maintenance. This exposed the actual wiring. Engines with wiring harness issues were susceptible to electrical problems, including complete failure to run.

Water Pump Failure

  • The water pump for the Duratec used an impeller that was made of a plastic that tended to fail around the 60,000-mile mark. Sometimes the impeller would shatter and fragments would block the coolant passages, while in other instances the impeller would crack so that the shaft could spin freely without driving the impeller. In either case, coolant flow would slow or stop completely. The only indication of water pump failure was a rapidly rising engine temperature gauge until the engine overheated and seized.

Intake Manifold Runner Control Failure

  • In 1995, the engine's secondary throttles were actuated by engine vacuum pressure. Starting in 1996, the secondary throttles were actuated by an electric motor controlled by the engine computer; the assembly was called the Intake Manifold Runner Control (IMRC). However, the IMRC module was located right next to an exhaust manifold and the heat could cause the module to fail. The secondary throttles could be stuck closed, greatly restricting engine response and power, or open, which affected torque and fuel consumption.

Catalytic converters

  • In addition to the main catalytic converter located underneath the car, the Duratec had smaller catalytic converters located in the exhaust manifolds. These catalytic converters contained materials that could break apart and cause blockages in the exhaust system, impairing engine performance. Replacing the catalytic converters required replacing the entire exhaust manifold assemblies.

Oil Starvation

  • In some cases, hard cornering caused oil in the oil pan to flow away from the oil pickup. This could lead to a drop in oil pressure. In addition, the cylinder heads had insufficient drainback channels, which exacerbated the problem of oil starvation under hard cornering as oil could pool in the cylinder heads and not circulate through the engine.

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