Ford Windstar
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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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2014-09-03 13:47:37

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...


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


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


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.

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