Ford Contour Wire Harness Problems

by Jeb Hoge

Wiring harnesses installed in 1995 to 1997 Ford Contour/Mercury Mystique sedans were made with insufficiently durable insulation, leading to severe cracking and peeling insulation that exposed bare wires and caused significant electrical issues.

Cause

The insulation used for the engine bay wiring was not resistant to high heat conditions. Since the engine bay is a high-temperature environment, the wiring insulation became brittle, which led to cracking and peeling insulation that exposed bare copper wire. This would be exacerbated by any maintenance in which wiring was manipulated.

Problems

Because of the complexity of the Contour/Mystique electrical system, exposed wiring could lead to blown fuses, erratic functioning of vehicle accessories, battery and alternator issues and could cause complete engine failure. The harnesses were complicated and difficult to repair.

Owner Notification Program 99M03

Ford issued an Owner Notification Program (ONP) 99M03 that provided owners with no-cost repair/replacement of all wiring harnesses if the harnesses exhibited insulation problems. The 99M03 program covered both four- and six-cylinder engines with different options (transmission type, ABS, traction control) for 10 years or 100,000 miles. The 99M03 program is now expired.

Cost for Repair

The cost for parts (if replacing all harnesses at once) ran from approximately $1200 to approximately $1800 through Ford. Labor was estimated at up to 7.7 hours. This was likely greatly underestimated, since the replacement process required partial disassembly of both the engine and accessories.

Controversy

Some dealers were accused of refusing to follow Ford's specified repair procedure or charging for repairs that would normally have been covered under the 99M03 ONP. Cars that remain unrepaired are at much greater risk for electrical issues. Issues from the wiring harness failures contributed to the Contour/Mystique record of poor reliability.

About the Author

Jeb Hoge has a degree in English and more than 10 years of experience as a technical/business writer supporting federal defense contractors and government agencies. He is a member of the Society of Technical Communicators and Toastmasters.