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Where is the Vehicle Speed Sensor - VSS - and how do you replace it on a Ford Windstar?

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βˆ™ 2014-09-03 13:47:37

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Another approach:

There is a way to do this from inside the engine compartment on 1999+ 3.8l Windstars. Tedious & possibly gonna scratch your arm up, but easier than pulling motor mounts and exhaust pipes.

Location: Directly underneath the middle spark plug on the back of the engine - about 3" down, and inserted into the top of the transmission. There is a metal shield that is held in place with the same hold-down bolt that secures the sensor.


  • Clear the right side of the engine compartment - the rubber piece & left side of the air cleaner housing. Couple of 5/16 hose clamps, couple of sensor plugs & 1 vacuum line to the back of the rubber connector.
  • Throttle cables & mount - release the 2 cables & 2 10mm bolts for the mount.
  • I would strongly suggest pulling the cowling! As every Windstar owner knows, this cowling is the biggest impediment to getting access to almost everything at the backside of the engine. Removing it isn't a big deal (especially after you've done a few times ;)), and is detailed in various postings here on
  • Optional: release the coilpack from its 3 mounting bolts (weird size, something like 7mm)

    NOTE: don't rush and forget to secure the radio noise capacitor thingy under the leftside hold down bolt.

Getting at the bolt:

  • Socket extension combination to clear the angles - 8mm socket + universal + 6-8" extension + 8-10" WOBBLE extension.

    TIP: tape the joints together so your extension assembly doesn't come apart as you're pushing & pulling it up and down

  • The opening you're aiming for is to go down alongside the middle sparkplug. There's plenty of interference what with wires & exhaust manifolds, but this is the opening that aligns with the top of the bolt.
  • Your arm, if it's long enough (thank goodness I have monkey-arms!), can go down to the right of the braided covered heater hose and turn left to the backside of the engine.

    Once your hand is down there and has figured out where things are, you're ready to use it to guide the socket into place & onto the bolt

  • Use your left hand to find the correct opening and lower the extension assembly.

    This is a totally blind operation! You will never see the pieces you're working with.

  • Have a 2nd pair of hands to help! They come in really handy when it comes time to operate the wrench.
  • NOTE: because of the angles, the top of the socket extension assembly is going to end up real close to the firewall - thus the universal + the wobble to accommodate the angles from above.

Assuming you don't dislocate your shoulder or bleed-out from scratching your arm to shreds, you should be able to get the 25mm long bolt out!

Lift and remove the cover, and the sensor should rotate in the open pretty easily.

Removing the sensor: This is the hard part because you can't easily get upward pull as you twist the sensor in its opening! Just keep twisting and lifting - it'll come out... eventually!

This is one of the most painful, awkward & frustrating things I have done on a vehicle!

But in my circumstance, well worth the effort.

Btw, don't do this unless you know for 100% sure your sensor has failed - you're not going to enjoy the experience.

Best of luck! :)


Forget what the manual says! It will have you remove the exhaust pipe which is hell if its old and rust; and after that you will have to feel your way around the sensor as the angle is bad. Also, it puts you hand in a cramped position to try and ratchet the mounting bolt on the sensor which is on top and away from you.

I had to change mine and this most direct approach that is least problematic. The sensor is located on top of the transmission right behind the passenger side rear engine mount. Jack up the car and support it safely on a jack stand. Then remove the passenger side front wheel and fender guard to get access to the engine and mount. You got to remove the mount and mount supporting bracket on the engine to get enough clearance to the sensor (which requires lifting the engine some. Last resort you can use your floor jack and a block of 2x4 wood to do it only don't lift on the oil pan or crank shaft pulley. I tend to use the area where the oil pan bolts to the block. Make sure to unbolt the bottom of both the front and rear engine mount first and then lift slowly and carefully so not to cause damage anywhere). As soon as I remove the mount, I usually lower the engine back down to be safe as floor jacks can be unstable.

This part is difficult to describe as I can't accurately remember, but, the transmission has a hump or cap on top of it. You'll see the sensor plugged into it from the opposite side that faces away from you. You'll spot the sensor after removing the mount and you'll see what I am trying to describe. Its common sense. There is only one bolt and you have to feel around the sensor for it where it plugs into the hump/cap. I don't remember the size of the socket but you can research that. Because of the confine space, use a small socket wrench.

Make sure you clean and wipe the area before removing the sensor. Otherwise, debris can fall inside the hole where the sensor goes and re-installing the sensor can be sticky. So a mild lube on the sensor housing (not the gear!) helps to slide it into the hump.

If your car is really old, it might be wise to purchase an extra pigtail connector that plugs the car computer into the sensor. Because the sensor is so close to bank 1 of the engine, the heat and weather overtime can make the pigtail brittle and it can break during unhooking. That happened to me.

2014-09-03 13:47:37
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