I had an '88 tempo, and I HATED that car with a burning passion. However,
much of the reason I hated it was because I'm 6'6 and it's not a good car
for big people.
Mine was reliable - you could always rely on little things to break on a
regular basis. The engine was great though, always a good starter, but very
crappy heater, blows cold air below -20. Stuff I replaced on it in one year:
clutch (I wasn't nice to it)
alternator plug shorted
tie rod ends
CV joints repacked and replaced
tons of minor things like door handles, seat belts (the buckles are crap),
mirror, trunk lock, etc, etc, etc....
Parts are plentiful, many dead tempo/topaz's in auto yards, and usually
parts are cheap. $40 for the starter, $200 for clutch (new), $10 tps sensor,
etc. I did all the work myself, and they are relatively easy cars to work
on, although pulling the tranny without the engine will make you curse the
idiot engineer that put the left frame rail so close to the tranny.
I had to replace most of the front suspension TWICE (although I bought used
parts each time), I think the macpherson strut ford suspension is garbage,
although this is my only experience with it, it rides like shit and breaks
easily. If you dont put the sway bar back on in a particular order its a
REAL pain, I tried 2, both needed a lot of pressure.
Rear tranny mount likes to die, causing clunks when engaging/disengaging
Gas mileage was pretty good. Its FWD and understeers, another reason I hated
it. I had the 2.3, and it was gutless (surprise surprise). AFAIK all years
of topaz/tempo are similar. They dont seem very prone to rust, but when they
do its over the rear wheel long before anywhere else, check that spot with a
magnet before you buy, mine was stuffed full of bondo. If its not rusted
through drill a hole for drainage as soon as you get it.
Its a good "point A to point B" car, some people trick them out and think
they're cool (http://www.tempotopaz.com ), but this is just stupid, even a
rustang beats the hell out of a tempo.
I would personally avoid anything with a AXOD(-E?) transmission. My
89 Taurus transmission failed at 58k and I knew MANY others who got
even less.. Lots of TSBs (technical service bulletins) on the
subject. However, they are available cheap. I don't know how Ford
changed them in later models.. So they might be ok.
The Tempo might work for basic transportation, but there are better
May I suggest a Toyota Camry or Corolla, Honda Civic or Accord, or
even the Chevrolet Malibu instead?
Note: To reply, replace the word 'spam' embedded in return address with 'mail'.
A tempo is basic transportation. A toastermobile if there ever was
one. (a taurus is nicer toaster imo) Tempos seem to have come out
of the factory one of two ways: falling apart or indestructable.
Since the newest tempos are now 10 years old, the former should
be off the road by now leaving only the ones that were put together
properly. Find one that has been cared for and you'll probably be
fine if all you want is basic a-to-b and not to spend much.
Somewhere I read that the Tempo (one of the good ones, presumably) has
been one of the cheapest of all cars in life-cycle ownership cost,
when you integrate purchase price, maintenance, insurance, fuel, etc.
I have the impression that they tend to be a good value from the
buyer's perspective on the used market as well.
I drove them often as rental cars and found them perfectly adequate to
the task, though the marginal power (never drove the V6 version that
came out late in the game) and the feeling that the steering wheel was
connected to the road via rubber bands kept me from desiring one of my
By now, the maintenance and driving habits of the owners probably
dominate other factors in the quality of the surviving examples. Any
particular one could be anywhere from treasure to trash by now. As
always, I highly recommend a pre-purchase inspection by your favorite
mechanic -- you're paying not just for expertise but also for
objectivity, since by the time you've gotten that far you want the
The contemporary Taurus, the original jellybean-shaped one, was a bit
bigger and nicer and better handling car, though not terribly powerful
(the 3.8 liter V6 was decent, the 3.0 adequate) nor all *that* great
in gas mileage. An "LX" badge designates the nice one with more
options. Gotchas to watch for: they tend to warp their brake rotors
easily and there was some problem with motor mounts on some early
3.8's. I have little firsthand experience with the second-generation
Best of luck,
If the Taurus uses the same 3.8 as the Cougar/TBird of the mid 90's (I
believe shared by Windstar, base Mustang, CrVic/TwCar although I'm not
sure of the latter) I would stay away from it. My 95 Cougar gave me
problems the whole year I owned it, culminating in what I believed was a
head gasket failure (not worth the time and $$$ to do anything but donate
the kicker). That engine has a history of head gasket problems - any
search on the web will reveal the whole convoluted history and Ford's
reluctant quasi-recall. My friend's 97 Tbird hasn't exactly soared with
the eagle either in terms of it's reliability, although by that year Ford
had altered the head gasket. I believe her problems were radiator related,
but I wouldn't be suprised if that part was shared as well with the
Taurus. I haven't heard good things about the base Mustang's engine
Of course YMMV but at the very least the 3.8 certainly doesn't have a
great track record.
With the 3.0L V6 (in either), decent if dull transportation. I never
liked the Four that most Tempos came with, and the 3.8L V6 has a bad
reputation for blowing head gaskets, breaking motor mounts, and
ruining transmissions. Decent ones earlier than the jellybean look
(starting in '96) should be pretty cheap. I wouldn't bother with any
older than '93, myself, and I can't stand the jellybean look.
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