The Ford Escape Hybrid was the first hybrid SUV in history when it debuted for the 2005 model year.
After making a comeback in 2020, Ford also added a plug-in variant to the Escape Hybrid lineup.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the common problems and complaints Escape Hybrid owners have faced.
1. 12-Volt Battery Issues
The current generation Escape Hybrid’s 12-volt battery has a tendency to quickly run out of charge even when they are relatively new.
Low battery issues are more common in the 2020 and 2021 model years of the Escape Hybrid because these were fitted with a smaller 12-volt battery from the factory.
The battery is more likely to go flat if the car is:
- Only used for short trips
- Not driven for several days
- Parked outside in the cold
The Escape Hybrid relies on the 12-volt battery to power all of its electronics and computer modules. If you only drive the car for short distances, it has less time to charge back up.
With the Escape PHEV, the 12-volt battery only charges when the hybrid battery is actively being charged. If the hybrid battery is already full and you leave the car plugged in for several days, the 12-volt can still get drained, so you still have to drive the car or at least turn it on every few days to make sure the 12-volt battery doesn’t die.
Symptoms of a dead 12-volt battery include:
- Car won’t start
- Doors won’t unlock
- ‘Remote Features Disabled’ on FordPass app
- App keeps notifying that the car has entered ‘Deep Sleep’ mode
- “System turned off to save battery” message
- Other random errors on the dash
It’s a good idea to keep a portable jump pack in the car to avoid getting stranded with a dead battery and a car that won’t start.
A lot of owners also swap out the 12-volt battery for a larger AGM battery which not only has a higher capacity but is also less likely to completely fail even if it’s been completely discharged several times.
2. Transmission Rattle
A number of 2020 Escape Hybrid owners have complained about a loud rattling noise coming from the transmission.
It usually only occurs when the weather is cold and goes away when the engine has warmed up, or if the vehicle switches to electric mode. Some owners still hear the noise even if it’s hot outside. A few have also said that they hear the rattling and knocking noises when shifting into neutral.
Here’s how a few owners described their experience:
“I have a new 2020 Escape Hybrid Sport that has the rattle when the engine is running. It is 4 weeks old and has been doing that since we picked it up.”
“Whenever it goes from electric to engine power, occasionally there’s a rattle somewhere under the car.”
“Rattling sound at an idle from the ICE while in Park or even driving. Mine goes away after the vehicle warms up a bit. Now we’re in the 60 – 80 degree temps and the noise is non-existent. Once it drops into the 50’s or lower, the noise will come back.”
Ford issued a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) in February 2022 which recommends updating the SOBDMC (Secondary On Board Diagnostic Module) software and replacing the flywheel damper assembly to get rid of the noise. This latest TSB covers the 2020 to 2022 model years of the Escape Hybrid and Escape PHEV.
It’s worth noting that aside from the annoying noise, there haven’t been any reported transmission failures that can be directly attributed to this issue.
3. AC Noise
The fourth gen Escape Hybrid’s AC system has a tendency to make a loud whirring noise when it’s running in electric mode.
It’s not as noticeable from inside the car, but you can definitely hear it if you open the hood and turn up the AC. It’s also more noticeable if you approach the car after using the remote start with AC on full blast.
It eventually goes away or at least becomes quieter after you drive the car for a bit and the AC lines get fully pressurized.
Similar electric motor noises have been reported in other Ford hybrids like the Fusion and the C-Max, which also use electric AC compressors that are powered by the hybrid battery.
4. Won’t Shift Out of Park
Some fourth gen Escape Hybrid owners have had issues getting the transmission to shift out of Park right after they’ve started the car.
Here’s how a few Escape Hybrid owners described the issue:
“My girlfriend bought a 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid Titanium AWD in January 2021. Car was sitting parked outside and she went to run a quick errand and the car would not shift out of park. Did everything that we would normally do (seat belts on, foot on break, doors close, car is on), but we could not shift it out of park.”
“Started the car, put seatbelts on, released the parking brake and went to turn the gear shift selector knob and it wouldn’t move at all, it’s like the shifter knob was stuck.”
“My car is currently stuck at work because the gear selector knob is stuck in park. I’ve had the car since January and this has happened 4 different occasions.”
People who have had this issue report that it usually only happens if the car is parked outside when it’s hot. Parking on an incline also increases the chances that the shifter knob will get stuck.
Here are a few solutions that have worked for other fourth gen Escape owners:
- Waiting 30 minutes to an hour
- Turning the car on and off repeatedly
- Pressing on the brake several times
- Engaging/re-engaging the parking brake
- Rolling down the windows
- Turning the AC on
- Locking the car and walking away with the key fob
You can also try disconnecting the negative terminal of the 12-volt battery in the back to see if power cycling the vehicle’s electronics can help.
Ford has not released any TSBs or recalls yet to address the issue since it’s quite difficult to replicate. However, Ford did update the shifter knob in newer model years of the fourth gen Escape so that it doesn’t have pre-defined stops at each gear and can be turned freely.
In older generation Ford Escapes, the shifter can get stuck in Park if the shift lock solenoid or the brake pedal switch is broken.
To get these older vehicles out of Park, remove the small plastic cap on the upper right of the shifter cover and press down the button underneath using a screwdriver to disengage the shift lock solenoid.
5. Charge Door Won’t Open
Several owners of the Ford Escape PHEV have complained that the charge port door can easily get stuck closed during the winter. Some have also said that they’ve had trouble keeping the charge port door closed when it’s cold.
This has been a persistent issue with other Ford plug-in hybrids like the Ford Fusion Energi and the C-Max Energi.
Here is how some owners described their troubles:
“I’ve had my Escape PHEV for 3 months and this is my first cold spell. Below freezing and, I could not get my charging door to close. I de-iced everything and after 30 minutes, it clicked shut. This morning, I unplugged it and… it wouldn’t close.”
“I’m having the same problem, but my charge port door won’t open. The hair dryer trick seemed to work for awhile, but even now that doesn’t seem to work. Accordingly, I can’t charge the car.”
The charge port door is only covered by the standard 3-year warranty and is not considered part of the hybrid powertrain warranty. Applying too much force can break the door mechanism and you’ll have to pay to get it replaced.
If you’re at home, you can loosen the charge port door using a hair dryer or some other type of heater. To reduce the chances of it getting stuck, you can apply some WD-40 or a silicone lubricant on the insides of the charge port door.
This problem can also happen in other PHEVs and BEVs, so it’s not exclusive to the Escape Hybrid.
6. Transfer Case Noises
First and second generation Ford Escape Hybrids have a tendency to develop transfer case noises over time.
The transfer case or PTU (Power Transfer Unit) acts as the differential that distributes power across all four wheels.
These can wear out over time and start to emit rattles and clunks. Once it starts to fail, it will sound like there are rocks or marbles rattling around in the drivetrain.
To fix this problem, you’ll have to replace the entire PTU which will typically cost around $2,000 to $3,000. Considering the age of these vehicles, you can probably find a used one for a much lower price.
7. Power Steering Issues
On Car Complaints, a website that keeps track of complaints from actual owners, power steering issues are the most commonly reported problem for the first and second generation Ford Escape Hybrid.
In a lot of cases, the electric power steering will just suddenly give out making the car very hard to steer — especially when driving at low speeds.
Sometimes, the steering will start vibrating or make clunking noises, which is indicative of a faulty power steering unit.
Here’s how one owner described their experience:
“While driving home suddenly and without warning, the power steering went out. I have had no warnings leading up to this event. The wrench icon came on and an error message came on in the dash stating to have the power steering serviced.”
The only way to fix this is to replace the rack and pinion which can easily cost around $2,000.
8. Engine Stall Issues
Early model years of the Escape Hybrid can suddenly shut off while driving accompanied by a ‘Stop Safely Now’ warning on the dash.
This problem is often caused by a faulty MECP (Motor Electronics Coolant Pump). The MECP is essential to cooling the hybrid electronics, specifically the DC-DC converter. When the hybrid system detects that the electronics are overheating, it will shut down the car as a safety precaution.
Ford announced a recall in 2014 for the 2005 to 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid and 2006 to 2008 Mercury Mariner Hybrid to correct this problem. The recall recommends replacing the original electric coolant pump with a longer lasting brushless pump.
If the recall has already been performed and the cooling pump goes out again, you can get the part for around $100.
9. Subwoofer Rattle
A lot of fourth gen Escape Hybrid owners have complained about a constant rattle coming from the Bang & Olufsen subwoofer when playing certain types of music.
The upgraded speaker system is only available in the higher trim levels like the Titanium and Platinum.
Many have taken their cars back to the dealer to get the subwoofer replaced only to find the same rattle in the new units.
Several owners on the FordEscape.org forum were able to eliminate or at least minimize the rattle by disassembling the subwoofer assembly on the right side of the rear cargo area and applying some foam or sound deadening material on the inside of the plastic trim pieces.
One foolproof solution you can consider is to simply upgrade the subwoofer with an aftermarket unit. This should effectively eliminate the rattle and also produce much better sound quality.
10. Uncomfortable Heated Seats
Some early fourth gen Escapes fitted with heated front seats have a bulge on the seat bottom that causes a lot of discomfort and numbness for many owners.
The bump or protrusion can often be felt near the back of the seat bottom where your back pant pocket usually rests. Not all seats have this problem though, so you might feel the bump in the driver seat and not on the passenger seat, and vice versa.
Ford issued a TSB in mid 2020 that recommends replacing the seat heating element to get rid of the bulge. However, this TSB only applies to 2020 Ford Escapes built on or before February 2020 despite many owners with newer build dates complaining of the same issue.
If you can’t get the dealer to fix the issue under warranty, you can use an aftermarket seat cushion as a workaround.
Related: How Long Do Ford Escape Hybrids Last? (12 Important Facts)
Ford Escape Hybrid Pros and Cons
- Reliable hybrid powertrain
- Competitive price
- Gets up to 40 mpg
- Good ride quality
- Available as plug-in hybrid
- Lots of standard tech and safety features
- Early builds can have minor issues
- Sync 4 infotainment system only available in 2023 update
- Weaker resale value compared to rivals
What Do The Reviews Say?
“Picking the Escape Hybrid allows you to get increased fuel economy while still enjoying the model’s roomy seating and comfortable ride. The EPA estimates that the hybrid will get around 40 mpg in combined driving, which is a 10-14 mpg boost over the non-hybrid engines on offer in the Escape.”
“Acceleration, or lack thereof, can be an issue with eco-minded hybrids. But the Escape Hybrid doesn’t feel sluggish. Around town the Escape Hybrid feels peppy. Ford did a good job tuning the brakes, and there’s no noticeable switch from regenerative braking to the friction brakes.”
“The ride quality is relaxed and never feels floaty or harsh, though midcorner bumps produce noticeably sharp impacts.”
“Ford’s infotainment system is a highlight. The navigation setup is easy to use, quick to act, and shows you directional info when a point-of-interest search returns multiple locations.”
“The Escape’s interior is a big step up from the previous generation. Up front, soft-touch plastics are used liberally, while hard plastics are generally silver, gloss black or otherwise textured in a way that shows effort. The panel gaps are a little inconsistent, and the interior door handles feel inexcusably cheap.”
2022 Ford Escape Hybrid | Edmunds
What’s the Resale Value of a Ford Explorer Hybrid?
Here’s a quick look at used car pricing on CarGurus at the time of writing. Prices quoted have been limited to the top of the line Titanium Hybrid trim level for the fourth gen models, and the Limited trim for the second gen.
Related: 13 Hybrid SUVs With Panoramic Sunroof (With Pictures)