COAL: 1989 Mercury Tracer Wagon — Warranty Pains

I like Ford. They were decent cars, for the most part, until the 1980s set in.

After the 1986 Mustang went back from lease, we thought that we’d try Mercury. The then-somewhat new Tracer appealed to Cindy and me in 1989, especially finding out our first child, Jacob, would arrive in May of 1990.

The Tracer was not a new car to us. We had rented two before and felt they were well screwed together, seemed peppy and got good fuel mileage.

So we looked past the hatchback to the Tracer wagon. A loaded car with the exception of the tilt wheel which was available on the Mazda version. Ours added the only stand-alone options; automatic and cassette. It was silver over grey and they were again running decent leases.

The first year and a half, it proved itself to be a really great car! I was a fan of the clear coat silver paint (after the Mustang paint faded into obscurity), it was reasonably quiet and rode well.

Then, like someone had replaced it, that car started having transmission issues. And I found out how Ford really didn’t care about things like warranty.

We were driving on the Florida turnpike when I heard a bang. I pulled over, couldn’t find anything obvious and started back on my way. The tachometer started reading higher than normal. It was as if the transmission was slipping?

Anyway, at 55mph ran the engine at 3800, about 600-800 rpm’s higher!

I took it in for service. Ford added “anti-friction” compound. That uh, didn’t help. Now 55mph registered 4000rpm!!

After three more trips, I requested a field rep. After he left me to sit for an hour after our appointment time, he immediately told me: “Sorry but we won’t put anything into this car. It needs a transaxle and they are built in Mexico. And we aren’t making this model anymore, so very sorry.”


My father in law Paul jumped in. We were two years into a lease and he was three years into a four year lease on an 88 Sable wagon. So we leased a new 1991 Mazda 626 and received a $1500 cash rebate.

He told me to call the leasing company (an in-house dealer business) and lay it out. So I called my salesman –who was also a neighbor and who’d driven our Tracer.

I told him –on a recorded call– that they had an option; I could give them the car back with $1000 for their penalties or I’d run the lease out and give it to them in a bucket! Then I asked him: “If we went to court, me with my 60 pages of repair orders and them with their records of perfect on-time payments, who’d win?”

They took it back, we came out $500 ahead, and had the Sable for one year. Then we moved upward… my next COAL!

(All images from the web)


Related CC reading:

Curbside Classic: Mercury Tracer – The Almost Forgotten One