Category: Ford Contour

Power Steering Cooling Lines

A power steering cooling line from a 1998 Contour that fits my 1997 Contour.

If you have a pre 1998 Ford Contour and you haven’t had the cooling line for the power steering replaced, now might be a good time to check it and make sure that it isn’t leaking.

The power steering cooling line for the 1995-1997 model years rust very easily, not creating a major leak, but in fact, tiny holes the size of a pin head develop causing the cooling line and the bottom of the wind deflector to become soaked in power steering fluid. The cooling lines from 1998-2000 model years have some revisions, including cooling fins and a coat of primer.

The point I’m trying to make here is that the cooling line from the 1998-2000 model years will work with the 1995-1997 model years. I picked mine up at Pull-A-Part for just over $3.00 and it fits in my 1997 Contour. Most pre 1998 Contours at Pull-A-Part had rusted out cooling lines while many post 1997 Contours were in good shape.

Replacing the entire cooling line is quite easy to do. First you have to remove the wind deflector on the bottom of the car. Remove the two 8mm bolts that hold the cooling line with a socket wrench and a (I used two) socket extension. Remove the hose clamps and slowly wiggle the hoses from the cooler. Installing is the reverse of removing.


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! 


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.

On the opposite side of the mirrors, there is a small triangular panel with a vent pointing towards the window. In the middle of the panel is a small cap about half an inch long. This panel must be removed if you plan to remove the door panel or the mirror. However, the moldings for these panels is missing a notch to pry off the cap in order access the screw for removal, making it difficult to remove the cap without damage. Even the Chilton’s repair manual mentioned about this problem.

On the internet, someone explained how to remove the caps without damaging the panel, although it involves making a modification to the cap. Using a small drill bit, drill a hole though the center of the cap. Straighten out a paper clip and bend a small portion at the end of one side. Use the bent end of the paperclip and insert it into the hole and use it pull the cap straight out of the panel.

Disclaimer: Use the following information at your own risk! Always disconnect your battery when working on electrical components or anywhere near the airbag system!

Alright, at one point I almost called my Contour a Creak-tour because I would be going down a perfectly flat and paved road and all I would hear is squeak, creak, creak, squeak, and maybe some rattles coming from the dash. This drove me crazy at times and varied depending on the temperature inside the car. (Because the plastic and vinyl parts expand when they get hot). I have found some fixes that will help clear up some of those noises.

First is the plastic trim on the dash that goes around the windshield. Ford got rid of it starting with the 1999 model. I’m not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing because these models experienced warping of the dash. Anyway, the same effect with that plastic piece is probably what causes the creaking noises when it warps and rubs up against the vinyl dash. Take a piece of paper or felt and fold it several times to create a shim. Then wedge it in-between the plastic and the windshield where you think the creaks are coming from. It may look terrible, but at least it will help diminish the creaks.

There should be a noticeable gap between the air bag cover and the vent to prevent squeaking.

Another source of squeaking can come from the passenger side air vent in model years 1995-1998. This is caused when the vent assembly is too close to the passenger side air bag cover, causing the air bag cover to rub up against the vent assembly. First, examine the vent assembly where it meets the passenger side air bag cover and look for a noticeable spacing or gap of about 1/16 of an inch. If there is a little or no gap anywhere where the vent assembly meets, you should move the vent assembly over. Remember to disconnect your battery and wait several minutes before working around the air bag! Once you have disarmed the airbag system, you can continue by dropping the glove box down to the floor. I did not detach mine but you might want to if you need more room. Remove the four screws that secure the liner in place. Remove the liner carefully by pulling it straight out. If the liner has a glove box light attached, remove the socket by twisting the base. When underneath the dash, look towards the passenger side window into the corner of the dash. You will see the vent assembly being held on by two bolts. Using an 8mm ratchet socket and an extension, loosen the bolt closest to you. Do not completely remove the bolt. The second bolt is hard to get to as the dash prevents you from using a ratchet extension. Use a small ratchet (if possible) and feel your socket to the bolt. The angle and lack of room will also make it difficult to loosen the bolt. Again, don’t completely remove the bolt. Once the two bolts are loosened, from the top of the dash, slide the vent assembly towards the passenger side door. Fold a couple pieces of paper and wedge them between the vent assembly and the passenger side air bag cover, making sure they don’t fit too tight and not too loose. Double check the gap between the vent assembly and passenger side air bag cover and make sure the gap is about 1/16 of an inch wide and is even from top to bottom. From underneath the dash, tighten the two bolts for the vent assembly. Insert the glove box light socket into the liner and snap the liner into place. Insert the screws for the liner, attach the glove box door and pop it back in place. Remove the folded pieces of paper from the vent assembly and passenger side air bag. The creaking noises should stop.

Well, Ford likes to simplify instrument clusters and cut back on printing to maintain costs. On a Ford Taurus instrument cluster for example, I have seen it change several times, removing additional markers and colors from the cluster. Here are some changes I’ve found with the Contour cluster. I didn’t go into the tachometer because it really stays the same with the exception of the V6 and SVT labeling.

Early 1995 Models – The temperature gauge shows a white marker block, then the word “normal” and then a red marker block. Gas gauge shows a red/white marker for the empty indicator. A picture of a gas pump is shown with an arrow facing right to indicate the side where the filler nozzle is located. Below the needle the text “unleaded fuel only” is listed. The trip odometer reset button is left of the steering wheel, and the tenth mile wheel is black with yellowish text.

Late 1995 Models and 1996 Models – The Contour was modified and the speedometer cable was removed to be electronically controlled. With that change, the trip odometer reset button was moved to the right of the steering wheel. The tenth mile wheel was changed to white with black text. On the speedometer, the numbers are now facing outward with the markers facing inward, although this changed never affected the cluster with the tachometer. The red/white empty marker on the gas gauge is now red. The font style on the odometer and trip odometer now has a bolder look.

1997 Models – On the gas gauge, the arrow pointing right by the gas pump is removed. The text “unleaded fuel only” is removed.

1998 Models – On the gas gauge, the red marker for the empty indicator is now white and the ½ text for the half-a-tank marker has been removed. Some warning indicators got moved around and a few were added. (Low fuel warning and fog light indicator). “Premium fuel only” was added to the gas gauge but only for the SVT models.

1998.5 Models – The word “normal” is removed from the temperature gauge, leaving only a band. C for cool and H for hot are now added to the markers. The markers become slightly thinner.

Disclaimer: Use the following information at your own risk! Always disconnect your battery when working on electrical components or anywhere near the airbag system!

I was cleaning out my glove box one day when I noticed a light socket underneath the dash. I installed a light bulb and it didn’t light up. I looked all around the glove box, but didn’t find any switches. To my understanding, Ford must have dropped the glove box light starting with the 1997 model to cut costs. They probably didn’t want to modify the wire harness so they left the light socket in and the light switch out. At my next visit to Pull-A-Part, I found the switch (actually a push button) behind the glove box of a 1995 Contour. It was located down by the passenger’s foot well.

Before the switch can be installed, the wires for the switch have to be cut in order to feed the wires though the little mounting hole since the plug on the switch doesn’t fit. Push the switch into the mounting hole until it snaps into place. Don’t connect the wires back together yet. You might run into a problem during the install process later on.

The other end of the plug is located underneath the dash on the passenger’s side. To get to it, you must drop the glove box down to the floor. I did not detach mine but you might want to if you need more room. Remove the four screws that secure the liner in place. Remove the liner carefully by pulling it straight out. Remove the light socket from the liner by twisting the base. From underneath the dash, move the vent duct that goes to the passenger side vent. You should see a plug with two wires cable tied to the frame underneath the passenger side air bag. Disconnect your battery and wait several minutes before working around the air bag! Cut the cable tie with wire cutters. The plug will be lowered. Put the vent duct back in place.

If the plug does not reach the switch, you may have to extend the wiring on the switch. Use a pair of wires long enough to reach between the switch and the plug under the dash. Crimp one end to the switch and the other to the plug that was originally on the switch. Make sure no bare wires are showing.

Run the switch plug up the right side of the glove box following a nearby wire harness. Connect the switch plug to the plug under the dash. Install a type 194 light bulb and reconnect your battery. The light should now light. Make sure your light goes off by pressing the switch. Using cable ties, tie the wire that goes to the switch to the nearby wire harness located on the right side of the glove box. Make sure the wires for the switch that you just installed are tidy and will not get in the way of moving parts. Insert the glove box light socket into the liner and snap the liner into place. Insert the screws for the liner, attach the glove box door and pop it back in place. Close the glove box door, making sure the light goes out before it latches.

Disclaimer: Use the following information at your own risk! Always disconnect your battery when working on electrical components or anywhere near the airbag system!

The original visors in my 97 Contour did not have lights beside the mirrors. I wanted to replace my driver side visor because whoever had the car before burnt a hole into it with their cigarette, so I went down to Pull-A-Part looking for a replacement. All the cars there with a tan interior had lights in the visors. So I decided to buy a pair of visors with lights.

Removing the caps off the screws for the visor mounts is a little tricky. I took a small flat blade screwdriver and bent the tip about 40 degrees. This serves as a pry tool to remove the caps. Some scuffing around the visor mounts may occur. I also came across another problem; there was no wire harness for the visor lights, at least in my car. After another stop at Pull-A-Part, I found out that the wire harness for the visor lights went to the dome light wire harness, spliced into the dome light connectors. I couldn’t remove the wire harness because it was attached to a support underneath the liner. Sure, it’s a junked car and I could rip the liner apart to get to it, but then I would have to do the same to my car.

This is what I did… I took some wire I had lying around in my garage and fished it though the holes where the visors attach to, over to the dome light. On the visor end of the wire, I crimped a male and a female connector to correspond to the connectors on the visors. Where the visor wires come out by the dome light, I twisted each side of the visor wires together, making sure the polarity matched, and crimped a male connector on one and a female connector on the other. I also created two homemade “Y” adapters and crimped on connectors so that they would plug into the dome light wire harness. One wire will go to the dome light, the other going to the visors. I also took a short piece of wire and crimped a male connector on one end and a female on the other. This will serve as an extension for the 12 second delay connector. I did all of this so I wouldn’t have to cut the old connectors off of the dome light wire harness.

Connecting and wiring will be hard, lengthy, and probably confusing in my own words if I wrote it out. I have drawn a diagram below to help simplify installation of the visor lights as well as creating “Y” adapters if you wish to install lighted visors in your Contour. After connecting the wire connectors together, remember to apply electrical tape around each wire connector so the connector doesn’t short to the frame of the car. An alternate is to use wire connectors that have a plastic boot molded around the connector. Make sure you DO NOT reverse wires 3 and 4 or otherwise the 12 second delay will always be on and the map lights/visors lights will relay on the 12 second delay circuit!

I was at Pull-A-Part one day, removing and installing the instrument clusters in some Contours for some practice. I took an instrument cluster and removed all the lights from the back. I held it up towards the sun. I discovered three indicators that were not used and were not listed in the Ford manual.

 All three unused indicators are located on the bottom right strip below the gas gauge. The only indicator on that strip that is used is the “overdrive off”, unless you have a manual transmission.

            1               2              3               4

1.)    Safety Belt Reminder – This indicator is already used at the top of the cluster. This light should have been a door ajar light since the Contour doesn’t have one.

2.)    Strut – ???

3.)    Sport – ???

4.)    Overdrive Off – Overdrive turned off for the automatic transmission.

If anybody can provide me some information about these unused indicators, please leave a comment.

First, make sure your water pump is functional. There are many customer complaints on the original OEM water pump having plastic fins. These fins tend to break around 70,000 miles. If you’re around or past 70,000 miles, it’s recommended that you have the water pump replaced with one that has aluminum fins. If you think the water pump is not at fault, you should check the thermostat and make sure it isn’t defective. Note: If the needle in the temperature gauge instantly makes its way into hot (red) area right after starting a cold engine, it’s most likely a defective sending unit.

If you have double-checked or replaced the water pump, thermostat, radiator, sending units, and coolant and your Contour’s temperature reaches as high as the “L” in the NORMAL band, you probably shouldn’t worry, just as long as it doesn’t go past the “L”. A Ford service bulletin claims that the temperature gauge in the Contour reports high in the normal band. Typically, normal operating temperature would have the needle constantly centered in the normal band.

The temperature gauge in my Contour reports high in the normal band as well. During the summer months, the needle will quickly make its way to the “AL” area in NORMAL within 10-15 minutes. While idling in traffic, the fan will start to come on once the needle reaches the “L”. That is, if the air conditioner is off. As long as I keep the car moving, the pointer will slowly move back down. If there is little stop and go traffic and level terrain, the needle will usually stay at the “M” in NORMAL.

Starting a cold engine during 60-70 degree weather, the needle will typically stay in the middle of the NORMAL band after it warms up and the thermostat has opened. After several minutes, the needle will start moving closer to the high-end of the normal band.

During the cold winter months, the needle usually won’t go past the middle of the NORMAL band. Once I got it down from the “R” almost to the “N”. Wind chills were very low and I did a lot of coasting.

Note: Model years 1998.5, 1999, and 2000 do not have the word NORMAL written in the normal band.