January 13, 2004

Ah, the joys of Mustang ownership. Sometimes, the Mustang is a ride we love to hate. We fuss about the things that bug us. And we look at these American icons with the kind of rush of emotion associated with a best friend we're having a spat with. Yet, year after year, show after show, we continue to drive them, show them, and pamper them. Call it a prestigious form of insanity. It's hard to believe we could limit this topic to just 25 vintage-Mustang problems, but we're going to show you some of the more common Mustang ailments and how to fix them.

1 Broken Seatbacks

If you own a '65-'69 Mustang with low-back bucket seats, you've probably dealt with this one. The problem of broken seatbacks applies mostly to '68-'69 Mustangs, where the pivot pin fails and you wind up in the back seat. Not only is it embarrassing, it's unsafe. More common with '68-'69 Mustangs, it also happens with '65-'67 models, and with the same result. We just have to address the fix differently. The '65-'67 seatback tends to fail two ways. One is pivot-pin failure. Another is failure of the adjustable seatback stop in the seatback, causing it to fall back into the rear seat. In 1980, Ford issued a recall on '68-'69 Mustang and Cougar seatback failure. Ford dealers were issued two seatback repair kits, D7ZZ-69618C46-A and D7ZZ-69618C47-A for left and right bucket seats. These repair kits are a simple bolt-on fix for '68-'69 Mustang bucket seats. They are available from Mustangs Etc., Dept. MM, 14843 Bessemer St., Van Nuys, CA 91411, 818/787-7634, www.mustangsetc.com. Kit availability is subject to change because they are N.O.S. (new old stock).

2 Leaking Cowl Vents

One of the Mustang's greatest shortcomings from '65-'70 is leaking cowl vents. Because the cowl-vent assemblies (called the balloon assembly) were never protected from corrosion, they started leaking almost immediately. In fact, there was a factory Technical Service Bulletin issued in 1965 for this problem. The factory fix was little more than liberal doses of body sealer around the cowl-vent dam on both sides--merely a bandage on an infection. If your Mustang's cowl vent is leaking water into the interior, you have a few solutions. One involves splitting the cowl and repairing the leak, which means drilling out a couple hundred spot welds. Not an easy task, but necessary. Another solution, depending on the condition of your cowl, is to install cowl-vent repair "hats" to keep the rain and wash water at bay. These kits are available from California Mustang, Dept. MM, 19400 San Jose Ave., City of Industry, CA 91748, 800/775-0101, www.cal-mustang.com. For a more detailed look at cowl-vent repairs, see the Sept. '03 issue of Mustang Monthly.

3 Sticking Seat Tracks

These days, Vintage Mustang seats suffer from old age. When it's time to adjust them, they stick, hang up, and provide us with a lot of frustration. But it doesn't have to be this way. Crawl underneath the car and remove the seat bolts. Yank out the seats and carefully remove the seat return springs, protecting your eyes and face. Take a large No. 3 Phillips screwdriver and remove the seat tracks from the seats. Clean the seat tracks in diesel fuel or a suitable solvent with a stiff-bristle brush. Then wash them thoroughly with soap and water. Spray the tracks with WD-40 lubricant and give them a gentle dose of white lithium grease on their contact surfaces. When you reinstall the seat tracks, move both sides to the same position--either all the way forward or all the way back. Lock both tracks, then reinstall the return springs before reinstalling the seats.

4 Slow Window Regulators

Mustang window regulators weren't superior quality to begin with. In fact, the Mustang's windows are as legendary as the nameplate because everyone remembers trying to roll them up quickly--unsuccessfully--in sudden rainstorms. Mustang windows don't roll up or down for the same reasons seats don't slide forward or backward. Dirty tracks and rollers slow them down. Binding window glass slows them down. Stripped-out window regulators slow them down and stop them from working entirely. When cleaning doesn't work, order a new set of window regulators from Year One, Dept. MM, P.O. Box 521, Braselton, GA 30517, 800/932-7663, www.yearone.com.

5 Stubborn Door Locks

Door locks quit for the same reasons seats don't slide and windows don't roll up or down. They get dirty and wear out. We forget these cars were designed to live happily for five to seven years at best. The darned thing is worn out ... or is it? Despite the short expected lifespan of our Mustangs 40 years ago, they've held up decidedly well, including stubborn door locks. Disassemble your door-latch mechanisms and wash them thoroughly in solvent. Then treat them to liberal doses of white grease and WD-40 around the moving parts. When they're reinstalled and working, you will be amazed at the result. While you're at it, install new door-lock buttons and grommets for smooth operation.