2021 Ford Escape Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Structure, brake, engine, and fuel system issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

The 2021 Ford Escape is meant to offer a fun ride for the family, with the automaker claiming it will help owners “stand out in the crowd.” However, there’s only one reason this SUV stands out, and it’s due to its defects. The new 2021 Escape has an awful lot wrong with it including defective engines and fuel tanks that catch on fire, faulty brakes, and doors with serious weld fractures that put occupants of the SUV at risk.

Click on other model year to view more problems:  2019  2020  2022

Most Common Issues

There are a large number of complaints about the 2021 Ford Escape to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and other reliable sources including Lemberg Law. In terms of numbers, complaints about structure, specifically faulty welds that lead to fractures in driver’s side doors, brakes, and engines top the list. Other components and systems that have attracted multiple complaints include the fuel and electrical systems, and the powertrain.

Additionally, airbags (some of which don’t activate), backover prevention, exterior lighting, forward collision avoidance, the hybrid propulsion system, lane departure, seats and seat belts, steering, suspension, visibility, and wheels are problematic.

There are eight recalls that affect the 2021 Escape. We have highlighted five of these below. Others involve the electrical system and hybrid propulsion system, specifically leading to battery failure.

There are also two open investigations, both of which we have mentioned in the text below.

2021 Ford Escape Complaint Summary

Complaint Category Number of Complaints
Structure:body
62
62
Engine
46
46
Service Brakes
35
35
Unknown Or Other
33
33
Electrical System
16
16
Fuel/propulsion System
12
12
Structure:body:door
12
12
Fuel System, Gasoline
11
11
Power Train
9
9
Service Brakes, Hydraulic
7
7

Structure

There are major problems with the driver’s side door in the 2021 Escape, with nearly a third (32.74%) of complaints to the NHTSA highlighting this issue. Reports record that the front driver’s side door weld fractures causing loud noises that sound like metal grinding. Owners are being charged to fix the problem.

An owner from Miami states, “The door check in the driver’s door snapped after two years. Ford is not willing to take care of the situation but this is a known issue. Since this item has to do with the door and door latching, I do not feel comfortable driving my vehicle.”

Another owner states, “The driver door check arm welds have failed causing a crunching noise when opening and closing. (The) Ford dealership says it’s not a warranty repair and refuses to fix the problem.”

Others describe it as “an abnormally loud popping sound while opening and closing,” and a creaking noise.

Some owners complain that the issue affects the driver-side window, making it “inoperable. Ford service indicated the only recourse is a replacement of the full door assembly.”

An owner from North Carolina was also told that the door must be replaced. While the vehicle was parked, he opened the front driver’s side door, and the door flew open as if there was an internal fracture. He stated that he had to slam the door to close the door securely, and there were holes near the door latching point.

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Investigation

Unsurprisingly, there is an open NHTSA Office of Defects investigation (ODI) into the failure of spot welds in the check arm bracket for the front doors in 2020-2021 Ford Escape vehicles. This confirms that popping noises owners hear when the door check bracket starts to separate from the door. The investigation was set up to determine whether this alleged defect creates an unreasonable risk to highway safety.

Brakes

About 20% of complaints lodged with the NHTSA point to brake problems. Strangely, like the driver’s door, abnormal noises (mostly grinding sounds) are a recurring symptom.

An owner from Alabama experienced hearing an abnormal sound after depressing the brake pedal while reversing. The SUV had only 100 miles on the clock, but the dealership said the brake pads needed to be replaced. They did the repair, but the failure persisted. They replaced the brake pads a second time, but it made no difference.

The noise an Illinois owner describes is very different. “I started to hear a really loud screeching sound, very similar to a train coming to a screeching halt, whenever I reversed my car.” This dealer said there was nothing wrong with the Escape. A short while later, “I received a notice in the mail about a warranty for the back brakes. Thinking that I solved my issue, I brought my car into a different dealership in Michigan and had them fix the brake pads. To my dismay and frustration, the brakes still made a terrible sound. I asked the folks why it was still making that sound and they said it was normal. A car backing up should never make that sound. Not only is it terrible sounding but it seems like a major safety concern.”

The dealership explained that “brakes can make a squealing noise anytime there is condensation on the brake pads, mainly due to the fact that the brakes/brake pads have some sort of metal material in them.” The owner was not impressed.

Another owner who had the same problem was told it was the rear and front brake caliper bushings. Replacing these parts didn’t help either.

Recall

NHTSA Campaign Number 21V922000 addresses reduced braking performance with as many as 114,666 2021-2022 Ford Escape and Bronco Sport vehicles. The problem, they state, is that the rear brake linings may have been manufactured incorrectly, which can affect braking performance. Drivers are warned that they may need to apply more brake pedal force to stop their vehicles. This can extend the stopping distance and increase the risk of a crash. Dealers will replace the front brake pads of affected vehicles.

There is no mention of abnormal noises.

Engine

The Ford Escape has been plagued with engine problems and the 2021 model is no exception. One of the major issues is that engine failure or oil leaks may cause fire.

Not that long ago, the Ford Motor Company was hit with class-action lawsuits because of the same problem with the 2013-2019 Escape engines. In those models, coolant leaked into the engine cylinders, causing a fire.

A great concern is that the automaker is clearly aware of fire risks. In May, 2023, Ford issued a recall for 125,322 vehicles, including certain 2020-2023 Escape models with 2.5L HEV or PHEV engines. NHTSA Campaign Number 22V484000 warns that if there is an engine failure, engine oil and fuel vapor may be released into the engine compartment. Then, if the vapor accumulates near ignition sources such as hot engine or exhaust components, this could cause an engine compartment fire. As recently as mid-November 2023, consumers were complaining that the parts needed to do the recall repair weren’t available.

A second engine recall, NHTSA Campaign Number 22V191000 identifies 345,451 2020-2022 Escape and 2021-2022 Bronco Sport vehicles with 1.5L being at risk of oil leaks. The recall warns that the engine oil separator housing may crack, and if it leaks near an ignition source it can increase the risk of fire.

Fire Incidents Related to Engine

An owner from Arizona noticed white smoke in the rear mirror when the car started to stall. A warning message said there was zero oil pressure and the engine had shut down. By the time they got out of the vehicle, there was a fire in the engine compartment — a lucky escape! They were “in the middle of nowhere,” and it took the fire department 25 minutes to respond. By then the Escape was a total loss.

Similarly, an owner from Michigan states that while driving on the interstate, “a fire started under the hood and shortly after smoke entered the driver cabin.” The fire damage was so bad, the insurance company couldn’t identify the cause. However, the “first warning message was engine coolant over temperature.”

Another owner from Michigan reports that a four-month-old Escape caught on fire after the engine coolant light came on. “I traveled an additional 1/4 of a mile and another driver pulled up next to me and said that my car was on fire.” The driver pulled off to the side of the road, “and within about a minute, the entire car was engulfed in flames. I was fortunate to get out of the vehicle uninjured.”

A complaint from Ohio tells how the owner’s daughter began to lose control of the Escape as a black smoke started coming from the engine. She got out before the vehicle caught on fire and was destroyed. This was another lucky escape.

Fuel System

There appear to be multiple reasons for car fires in the 2021 Escape. Another issue acknowledged by the automaker is a faulty fuel system that may leak and either cause engines to stall or catch on fire.

There are two recalls that draw attention to fuel system problems. NHTSA Campaign Number 21V625000 warns that the fuel delivery module may leak, causing low fuel pressure that could cause an engine stall. NHTSA Campaign Number 22V859000 warns that a fuel leak near an ignition source can increase the risk of fire. More than half a million (521,746) 2020-2023 Escape and 2021-2023 Bronco Sport vehicles are at risk of catching fire. As recently as August 2023 the parts needed for the fire-related recall repair weren’t available.

While the recalls highlight different issues, there is a possibility that the root cause is the same as the issues raised in fire-related engine recalls.

Fire Incidents due to Fuel System

Complaints that describe fires caused by the fuel system are filed under Fuel/Propulsion System, or Fuel System, Gasoline.

An owner from Michigan states that the check engine light came on while driving and the SUV stopped. The driver “attempted to restart (the) vehicle but it stalled again. Smelled fuel. Heard a boom then fire ignited. Fire came from the underside of (the) vehicle and flames were rising on (the) driver side of (the) vehicle with black smoke.” Like several other vehicles, the insurance company inspected the vehicle but was unable to determine the root cause of the fire.

Fuel System Investigation

Disturbingly, this investigation relates to an audit query that a New York Ford dealer may not have complied with the law. The suggestion is that they sold a new vehicle without performing necessary recall repairs.

Lemon Law Rights Next Steps

If you think your 2021 Ford Escape might be a lemon, call the Lemberg Law Helpline or fill out a contact form. We will assess your problems at no cost to you. The law makes Ford pay legal fees, and you may be able to get your lemon out of your life. Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners. You might be the next one..

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones
6 COMMENTS
  • rR

    2021 Ford Escape. Dangerous Lemon.. oil guzzler due to engine problems. Almost caught fire. Turbo is bad and expect to put oil in every few days (very costly) Very dangerous when stalls on busy roads. I WILL NEVER BUY A FORD EVER AGAIN. I can’t even get the bank to repossess it. Been waiting about 45 days now. The vehicle is cursed with problems. Currently does not run due to engine issues and alternator problems. Stalled on a hill in traffic went over the embankment without engine running which lead to the cheap charcoal vapor apparatus to come off making it even more dangerous. The worst car I have ever owned.

  • Diane M

    I just traded in my 2018 Ford Escape SEL because Anti-freeze was leaking through a valve seal #3 cylinder was showing bad. I traded for a 2021 Ford Escape SE to drive it home fine. The next morning as I am backing out my brakes make a horrific screeching noise every time I apply the brakes. I sold one escape to find out I may have the same problems. Dealership said they tested the brakes it was normal due to high humidity. I took it back down to the dealership said they put some bearings in the brakes. I still have the horrific screeching noise when backing up applying my brakes. Do I have another LEMON and has Ford just gone bad?

  • Rich

    I leased a 2021 Ford Escape SE I took the vehicle in for two recalls, the brakes and the oil separator. The vehicle was also in twice for air seal leaks. They repaired the leaks but caused an interior rattle by performing the work. The brakes now coat the rims with thick black brake dust and make loud creaking noises. They would not fix the issue so I had to buy myself out of the lease.

  • Rod T

    I just traded my 2019 F150 for a ’21 Escape. The F150 4-wheel drive system has gone out twice in a year and a half! Same thing both times! No more F150’s in my life! Now I read about these Escape problems and I was just bent over the table for one!!! THAT’S JUST GREAT!

  • Lee G

    I am so happy to read this article. My name is Lee I purchased my 2013 Ford Escape May 2019. From the moment I drove it off the lot the truck started jerking. I had to return the vehicle over 20 times since then. The existing problem is while I’m driving the gauge goes to H…high a message pops up saying Engine to hot slowing down for safety. Then stalls. I’ve been stuck in remote places up to 8 hours one time. After getting towed Consistently to the funding company I was told my warranty is expired because I had to many miles. I’ve been paying for repairs and making difficult car note payments. Please help me. I recently just paid 500 yesterday and 300 last week to the funding company. I alerted them of a recall. I need legal help as I have 5 grandbabies who rides in this vehicle and I’m scared to death they wi get stuck with me someday.

  • Nancy R

    I own a 2018 Escape, 34,500 miles on it. As I write this, my car is in the shop at the Ford Dealership getting it’s THIRD engine!! Not a happy camper!!

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