2009 Ford Flex Long Term Road Test - Maintenance

2009 Ford Flex Long Term Road Test

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2009 Ford Flex: New Battery and Oil Change

November 09, 2010

Flex Service.jpg

After the drained battery that Scott Jacobs experienced this past weekend, I thought that the Flex would need a jump-start. Luckily, the battery had just enough juice left in it to start up one last time. I took the car to Santa Monica Ford for service, and since the "oil change required" warning had been on since last month, I asked them to take care of that as well.

All the Flex needed was a new battery, which cost $130 with labor. The oil change and tire rotation cost $46, and the car was ready a few hours later. The dealer also included a friendly "reminder" on our windshield to come back in 3,000 miles for an oil change. For the record, the Flex's owner's manual says the intervals are actually at 7,500 miles.

Total Cost: $186.93 (Includes tax and waste disposal fees)
Days out of Service: Half Day

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 71,293 miles.

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2009 Ford Flex: DOA

November 08, 2010


I got into the Flex, turned the key and there was a noticeable slow turnover. It gave me pause for thought. Didn't matter, I drove home thinking if the battery was low, I'd be able to charge it with an hour long commute in Friday traffic.

Once I got home, I searched to make sure no lights were switched on in the cargo area I wasn't aware of or some other kind of battery draw was happening. Didn't find a think amiss. Hopefully the long time in traffic was enough to bring the battery to life.

We were headed out to the movies a little later that night, still the same slow turnover, but nowhere near as rough as the first. Maybe the drive home helped? After the movie the same thing. Ok, something is definitely not right, the morning might be interesting.

Saturday morning, I turned the key and nothing. Stone cold battery is stone cold dead. I thought this would happen. We had to run errands so we took her car. When we got back home mid afternoon, I tried again and it almost started. A little sun driven warmth helped, but It was time to hook this sucker up.

We jumped it, ran it at a high idle for some time, then drove to the office to hook up to a charger. Hopefully that'll bring some life to it, but after 71k miles of hard use, it might need a new battery or something wrong with the alternator. We'll let you know happens.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

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2009 Ford Flex Limited: Time For A Change

October 29, 2010

fuel light.JPG

Our longterm 2009 Ford Flex is trying to tell us something... but I'm not sure what.

This alert lit up straight away upon startup. There's no missing it.

Sir, yes, sir! Right away, sir!

Jason Kavanagh Engineering Editor

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2009 Ford Flex: Paint Chips

September 07, 2010


Ignore the reflection of my garage door in the hood of our Ford Flex, and instead concentrate on all the little white spots where the paint has chipped off of our loyal six-seater.

Not terrible, for sure, but noticeable wear.

At nearly 70,000 miles, seems only reasonable that the Flex is starting to show some age spots.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 67,480 miles

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2009 Ford Flex Limited: ABS Pulsing

August 30, 2010


While driving the Flex this weekend, I noticed that even under moderate braking, like at a stop sign, that unmistakable, ABS-fluttery feeling through the brake pedal and the subtle "Bv-v-v-v-vp" sound that it also makes--not a full-blown brake-assist ABS freak out mind you, but just a little buzz as if the front tires were on wet leaves.

It's not That Grinding Feeling Mike Schmidt noticed that Dan resolved with the rear pad replacement. Nor the original cold judder problem that Dan fixed with the front pad/rotor replacement either. No, this is something new.

We'll put Dan on the case again to see what's up and post our findings later.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 66,950 miles

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2009 Ford Flex: DIY Rear Brake Pad and Rotor Change

August 18, 2010


Here's why our 2009 Ford Flex started emitting brake-grindy noises. You're looking at the inside pad from the right-rear disc brake. Sure, there's some material left, but these pads run into the rivets that hold the friction material in place before they go into full metal-to-metal mode.

Thing is, these rivets are the only pad-wear indicator. The Flex's rear brakes don't have the usual scratchy clip that's designed to emit an obvious high-pitched squeal while doing no harm to the rotor. OK, these rivets make a sound, but it's a subtle grinding, and the grinding is the rotor crying out for help as it's being torn to shreds by the rivet heads. By the time you hear it, it's probably going to be too late. Pads that look like this mean bad news for the rotor.

Regular visual inspections can of course avoid this, but you have to remove a wheel because you can't see the inside pad (this one) through the spokes. And on this car the inside rear pads wear much quicker than the outside ones. We've learned that it's something that Ford Freestyle owners often complained about, and since the Flex is more or less riding on the Freestyle's chassis, it shares this quirk. Furthermore, when the rotor gets trashed as ours was, the hidden inner face will be the one that suffers the damage. The visible outer face doesn't show it.

Why does the inside wear out quicker? Probably has something to do with the self-adjusting parking brake that's built into the rear calipers. It's designed to keep the piston face close so the foot-operated parking brake pedal always grabs early, within a few clicks. But this may keep the inner pad too close, where it can rub ever so slightly all the time. On top of this, the caliper has a bulky and semi-rigid parking brake cable attached to it, which may impede the free sliding action of the caliper. That's my theory, anyway.

But enough of that. Let's see how I got this pad out and restored the rear brakes to fighting shape.

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2009 Ford Flex: That Grinding Feeling

August 17, 2010


Mike Schmidt brought our 2009 Ford Flex back from Napa yesterday morning (the wine-growing region, not the auto parts store), looked me straight in the eye and said "your new brakes are grinding."

To be honest, he said "the brakes" but I knew I was the last one to tear them apart, so I self-supplied the "your" part.

Yes, I recently put new front brakes on our 2009 Ford Flex, but two long road trips in rapid succession means they already have over 4,000 miles on them. I finished the job one day before Josh left on his road trip to Wyoming. As soon as he returned, Mike headed north on another long drive. Our Flex is in high demand.

I am happy to report that I didn't screw up. Those new front brakes are working great and keeping quiet.

However, Mike was right, too. This morning I confirmed the deep grinding noise he heard when slowing at parking lot speeds, and it is brakes. Happily, for me, the noise is coming from the rear of the car.

In the above photo, you're seeing the following in thin geologic slices, left to right: rubber piston boot, piston face (notched), inner pad backing plate, rotor (rust-colored), outer pad friction material, outer pad backing plate, caliper fingers. What's missing? The inner pad friction material, that's what. From another angle I can see that there is some, so I don't think we're quite at the metal-to-metal stage, but what's visible amounts to far less than 1 millimeter.

So if I'm guilty of anything it's failing to check the rear brakes while I was working on the front ones. They don't often wear out at the same time, like smoke detector batteries can, but a quick look at the other end is always a good idea.

You know what this means, don't you? That's right, a rear brake pad and rotor replacement DIY post is around the corner.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing at 66,169 miles

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2009 Ford Flex: DIY Brake Pad and Rotor Change

August 13, 2010


By now you've heard all about the front brakes on our 2009 Ford Flex Limited. Amazingly, the front brake pads have lasted over 60,000 miles, and there's still a bit more meat left. But the rotors have developed too much "disc thickness variation" or DTV. It's not warping from overheating -- we wouldn't have surpassed 60k with such hard use. No, this moderately-driven family-mobile has a classic case of cold judder, high spots on the rotor built ever-higher by gradual pad material transfers.

One way this can happen begins with rotors that start off with imperceptible high spots, and then spend their lives in a driving pattern that's dominated by long freeway drives with infrequent brake use. You know -- road trips. Our Flex is the go-to road trip vehicle around here, so it's been on more than its fair share of them.

Anyway, over time the retracted pads can start to lightly brush the tops of those high spots, and a minute amount of pad material transfers to the disc. The high spots get a little higher and the deposition cycle repeats. Then, at some point, the driver lightly applies the brakes on a freeway off-ramp and gets a handful of steering wheel shake for his trouble. Some of the deposits wear off, so the shaking doesn't persist around town. But the high spots got a little higher in the process, so the same thing happens again -- easier this time -- over the next long-haul open-road stretch. The subsequent shaking while braking gets more noticeable over time. We've been living with this on-and-off for the last 10,000 miles or so.

But we've had enough. It's time for new pads and rotors. Yeah, rotors can be machine-turned on a lathe, but when you're done they're thinner and have less remaining thermal mass. If the price is right, I'd much rather install new ones. Doing it myself allows me to divert the labor savings into the cost of new parts. And I can't turn a rotor myself, but I can bolt-on a new one. Besides, 60,000 miles is a good run for a rotor.

On top of all that, changing front pads and rotors is deceptively easy on most mainstream cars -- easy enough to be enjoyable. Our Flex is no exception. Jump to the next page to see my Ford Flex brake pad and rotor change walkaround.

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2009 Ford Flex: Broken Windshield

July 12, 2010


Yep, that's a poorly photographed star in our 2009 Ford Flex's windshield. Right up alongside the driver's A-pillar.

It was there when I got in the Flex on Thursday night, and hasn't spread.

Maybe the Flex is old enough now to get a decent deal on new glass?

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 59,734 miles

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2009 Ford Flex Limited: West Coast Run -- Cargo & Oil

June 28, 2010

flex cargo.jpg

As I was preparing our Long-Term 2009 Ford Flex for a family trip up the West Coast I realized the third-row seat wasn't in the "stored" position. I'd used the Flex to move floor-standing speakers and Ford GT parts in the past, but this was my first time using it for a family vacation and I wasn't sure it would have enough space.

But after pulling the necessary levers and dropping the rear seats down I was more optimistic. Twenty mintues later the Flex was loaded for a 10-day road trip, for a family of four, and there was still nothing stacked higher than the lower window edge, meaning no hit to visibility. Sweet!

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2009 Ford Flex Limited: DIY Oil Change

May 25, 2010

With over 55,000 miles on the clock, our 2009 Ford Flex has had its oil changed many times. But we've never done the job ourselves ... until now. The above video says it all, but here's a summary of the lessons learned.

1) Don't be tempted by the discounted price of those 5-liter (5.28 quart) jugs of oil. The tallness of the jug makes them very hard to pour without spillage. Same goes for the sheer weight of the thing and the way the oil glugs out of the spout. Also, if your car takes, say, 4 quarts of oil, it'd be very easy to overfill. Save yourself the trouble and stick with 1-quart bottles.

2) The genuine Ford Motorcraft oil filter I bought has a weird fluted end that isn't compatible with the socket-style oil filter wrenches I have in my tool box -- they don't slip on. So I was forced to use one of those hateful band-type wrenches. As you'll see above, it was a royal pain in the butt, made worse because the last oil-change mechanic really king-konged the old filter on there. Even though I'm sure Ford (or Snap-On) sells a special service tool that fits, I won't be buying another filter with a fluted end like that again.

3) The oil drain plug is nearly horizontal, so the escaping oil really jets out of there. You'll need to brush up on ballistics theory to place the drain pan in the right spot to avoid a driveway tragedy. But even after the oil slows to a dribble, the pan is still too far away from the filter drip zone to collect both streams at once. I had to re-install the drain plug before I could attack that filter.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 55,568 miles or thereabouts

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2009 Ford Flex Limited: Pad and Rotor Change Interrupted

May 19, 2010


With 55,660 miles on the clock, our 2009 Ford Flex still wears its original front brakes pads and rotors. And there's enough meat left for another 10,000 miles, at least.

But a brake pulsation has been dogging us for the last 5,000 miles or so. The rotors haven't been warped by excessive heat, it's more of a cold judder issue.

Either way, the brake pads need replacement and new or turned rotors must be installed. New Motorcraft rotors cost only $48 apiece at my local dealer, and a full pad set is $111. I can do the whole job myself with genuine parts for around $200 and less than an hour of my time.

Sounds good, right? Three bolts and 5 minutes are all it takes to remove the pads and have the caliper hanging from the spring with a zip-tie. One more bolt to go and the suspect rotor will be history. This is easy.

*record scratch*

But then I get well and truly stuck.

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2009 Ford Flex: Front Brakes are Warped

April 20, 2010


It's slight warpage, but the front brake rotors on our long-term 2009 Ford Flex are warped. Lay into them and the steering wheel does the shimmy. We'll keep you posted.

Scott Oldham, Edmunds.com Editor in Chief

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2009 Ford Flex Limited: Out of Lock

April 14, 2010


Oh noes, with over 50,000 miles on the odo, the white lock/unlock images are starting to wear off of our Flex's key fob.

In this close-up shot, it's still easy to see which is which. But in low light, it's getting difficult to tell the difference. Not a biggie, just thought I'd point it out.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2009 Ford Flex: It Costs How Much?

February 23, 2010


Our 2009 Ford Flex went to Santa Monica Ford for scheduled maintenance today. Attached to our invoice was this list of recommended services. So what do you think these wipers are made of?

Even though we are in the dreaded Southern California rainy season, we declined the wiper replacement. Maybe next time. We did have the oil and filter changed. And all work was completed to our satisfaction within a couple of hours. Perfectly acceptable.

Total Cost: $47.59

Days Out of Service: None

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 50,627 miles

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2009 Ford Flex: Rear Tire Wear

October 27, 2009


Back in July, we wrote on how we needed to get two new front tires for our 2009 Ford Flex due to uneven wear that resulted from a lack of proper tire rotation. That was at 28,316 miles. Now, almost 9,000 miles later, the rear tires are looking like they'll need to be replaced soon as the tread has been worn down very close to the molded wear bars. Even so, getting 38,000 miles or so out of a tire seems pretty reasonable to me.

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2009 Ford Flex Limited: The Missing Piece

October 05, 2009

2009 ford flex driver door handle

The trim piece behind the driver side door handle is gone. It's been gone for a while now and I've searched through all the cubbies and under the seats to see if it's just hiding, but to no avail. If you see it out there on the mean streets of Santa Monica, can you tell it to come home?

At least the passenger side is still intact. Here's what it's supposed to look like.

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2009 Ford Flex Limited: Taking One For the Team

September 18, 2009


The Flex managed to shrug off most of a semi-truck tire carcass last night, but it did sustain some damage to the rear bumper. The worst of it was reserved for the portion of the bumper cover that wraps under the car - that part got peeled back like a banana. After closer inspection this morning, the damage looks be only cosmetic; a slightly disjointed bumper cover, tire smears on the side of said bumper cover, and the peeled back lower portion of the rear bumper.

We'll get it looked at.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 33,671 miles

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2009 Ford Flex: Maintenance Required

September 17, 2009


When I started up the Ford Flex yesterday today to leave the office, the IP display announced, "Oil Life 1 %."

This morning, it promptly switched over to "Maintenance Required."

We'll head to our local Ford dealer this week and let you know the final cost.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 33,550 miles

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2009 Ford Flex Road Trip, Stage 7: Mammoth Lakes to Home

August 22, 2009


After nearly two weeks on the road in our 2009 Ford Flex, we decided to splurge and spend the last two nights in one of Mammoth's swankiest hotels -- the Westin Monache.

Great minds think alike, apparently, and we were joined by another Flex (an SEL) in the check-out queue.

The run from Mammoth to our home in Orange County is mostly downhill through the desert, so we expected this run to produce the best MPG yet.

But we haven't been seeing the same 25 and 26 mpg figures that we saw last winter. Why?

Well, unlike our winter trip, we've made fewer long uninterrupted runs -- none, actually. Every tank of gas has included side trips to places like Virginia City and the Bodie ghost town. There have also been significant doses of city driving, like in Reno and Bend.

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2009 Ford Flex Limited: Tires

July 24, 2009

Flex stokes.jpg

Another day, another trip to Stokes here in Santa Monica. This time around, it was our 2009 Ford Flex Limited in need of some new rubber. While the G8's uneven tire wear can be attributed almost solely to hyperactive throttle application, the Flex's requirement of only two tires can be blamed on us. While the dealer may have said the tires were being rotated, we should have been more diligent in checking their work.

2 Hankook Optimo H725 tires, 235/55R19, including installation, ran $376.28.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 28,316 miles

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2009 Ford Flex Limited: Dealer FAIL

June 09, 2009

555 Flex sus rr brk 1.jpg

As I hinted at in my last post, the 2009 Ford Flex spent the better part of the afternoon in my driveway during a suspension walkaround photo session.

The tires have to come off for this treatment, of course, and it was during this procedure that I discovered that our dealer screwed-up royally when they replaced our Flex's rear brake pads. How so?

The rear lug nuts on both sides were no more than snug, and that's being generous. They came off without any effort at all. It was as if my 10-year old daughter Sarah had tightened them. Kudos for not using an air wrench, but a big fat FAIL for forgetting to apply the torque wrench after putting the Flex back on the ground. One of these wheels could have easily loosened and fallen off between now and the next dealer visit if I hadn't checked.

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2009 Ford Flex: Oil Change Required

February 23, 2009


With just over 17,000 miles on the odometer, our 2009 Ford Flex Limited is requesting an oil change.

Edmunds' Maintenance Guide estimates we should pay $28.74 in parts (oil and filter) and $63.00 labor for the LOF and tire rotation in our Santa Monica zip code.

We'll see what our local dealer has to say.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 17,255 miles

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2009 Ford Flex Limited: Last Minute Panic

December 25, 2008

555 Oregon Day 0 oil label.jpg

I was struck by a sinking feeling on the day before liftoff to Oregon in our 2009 Ford Flex. Just as the odometer turned over the 13,000 mile mark I noticed that the mileage on the dealer-installed oil change label was identical.

Great. I'm about to embark on a 2,000 mile trip and it looks like the Flex needs an oil change. But didn't it just have one? And how am I going to pull this off on Christmas day?

Out comes the owner's manual to look at the maintenance schedules. The first oil change comes at 7,500 miles; the second at 15,000 miles. This 7,500 mile interval carries through the life of this Ford. Severe service intervals are 5,000 miles, but Ford's definition of "severe" is quite specific and, well, severe. We don't tow, we don't make deliveries or use it as a taxi. Our driving pattern doesn't come close to meeting any of the threshholds.

So the manual is quite clear that 7,500 miles is the proper oil change interval for the way we drive our Flex.

Vehicle Testing Assistant Mike Magrath texts me to say that the last oil change came a couple of hundred miles after the service reminder light came on. He's home for the holidays and away from the receipts, but we figure it at about 7,800 to 8,000 miles. The next change is therefore due at 15,500 miles or so, not 13,000 miles. Indeed the service reminder light has not yet re-illuminated to indicate that oil change #2 is looming.

So the sticker mileage is either an example of a dealer who doesn't read the manual himself or good old upselling. And check out the "Motorcraft Full Synthetic" label. More upselling. The Flex neither requires synthetic nor did we spring for it on the last change. By its presence, the label implies that pricier synthetic is required here. But it's just an ad. The Flex needs nothing more than regular 5W-20.

Nice try, guys. Better luck next time. I'll have ithe oil changed when I get back, and I'm not going with synthetic, either.

This is one of several reasons why I usually change my own oil.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 13,042 miles

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