Insulation flaking off the positive battery cable, revealing bare wires.

Back in 1999, Ford issued a recall on some Ford Contours and Mercury Mystiques for their under-hood wire harness. The insulation on the wires can dry out over time and flake off, revealing bare wires. It appears that there was one wire that Ford didn’t pay much attention to- the main positive battery cable!

I accidently found this problem on my Contour while looking for an engine component. The affected wires (4) go from the positive battery terminal to the under-hood fuse box. The affected wires are wrapped inside a plastic casing and are taped with electrical tape as it runs underneath the battery. (A gray wire with a black stripe is also wrapped with the battery cables. This wire is not part of the battery cable and appears to be ok). The flaking insulation is most noticeable by the battery clamp, but it is hard to determine if the insulation is flaking by the fuse box, which runs very close to the frame of the car. 

Recently replaced battery cable I found at Pull-A-Part.

I took a trip down to Pull-A-Part to look for a replacement. Every positive battery cable there was the same way, some had absolutely no insulation. After a long search, I eventually found a cable that looked like it was recently replaced. It also appears that the Contours/Mystiques with the affected positive battery cables ranged from model years 1995 – 1998. Model years 1999 & 2000 appear to have a different setup. 

The positive battery cable is kind of tricky to remove from the fuse box as it has to be disassembled in order to gain access. Two of the positive wires are plugged into one-half of the fuse box. The other two wires are clamped on to a clip, which is held on with three bolts. These wires go to the second half of the fuse box. (See 3rd picture for a close-up of the connectors).

Close-up of the connectors that attach to the fuse box.

You can probably replace the cables yourself if you have good repair skills. You will need to use the same gauge wire and it might be helpful if you have some soldering experience.
Repair at your own risk! 

Or, 

Complain to Ford about how they overlooked this common and dangerous problem and why it wasn’t replaced when you had the wire harness recalled. 

More info about this recall along with fuse box disassembly instructions can be found here.

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