| 2002 2003 | 2004 Ford Thunderbird | 2005 |
| CARE  | Concept | Memorabilia | Photos | Facts |
| Links | Events  | GuestbookHomepage | Site Map |

Get Creative
Hardtop Facts
How to's...
Installing the Boot
Softtop Facts
The New Thunderbird
Care of your car
There's more to just driving around in your t-bird with the top down.  You want to keep this car in tip top shape for years to come so please remember to put some extra effort into keeping it clean.  I'm just trying to hit the general points

#1 Read your 2002, 2003, 2004 or 2005 Thunderbird owner's manual - keep your warranty in force by following it's guidelines on care of your car.

Don't have the the owner's manual?  It's available for free on the net. Download from MotorCraftservice.com  Sources for the printed manuals are your Ford dealer's parts department and auction sites such as eBay.com  Sources for Technical Service manuals for 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 are again on eBay.com and MotorCraft and at Helms Manuals (the publisher of the Ford OEM manuals).
#2 - Learn about your car -
Here's a transmission tip - Your Transmission is a "Sealed" unit.  It is NOT a transaxle.  There is No dip stick.  Maintenence guide does NOT suggest changing the transmission fluid at 30,000 miles (48,000K) unless under severe useage.  In fact it does not suggest changing the fluid until 150,000 miles HOWEVER the Service Manuals the Ford Techs use to help them fix your car, say the transmission is a sealed unit and the fluid is good for the LIFE of the car unless used under severe conditions - That translates to there is NO NEED to change the transmission fluid unless you drive in very slow or dusty condtions!  Here's a couple of copies to read from the Service Manual for the 2002 and the 2005.
Just my observations on care if you plan to keep this car forever or just a little while - the next owner will appreciate it.
1 - Take care when using this car for shopping or for work - parking lots are the most likely spots to get door dings, dents & scrapes.  You will find that some people will deliberately abuse your car if it's sitting in a parking lot unattended.. 

2 - SAVE  ALL PAPERWORK associated with your car.  Get a binder just for this purpose (2 or 3 inch).  Paperwork includes that "window sticker" and service work sheets.  Don't toss that owners manual after you know how things operate.  Put it in that binder.  Keep a sheet to record dates of oil changes, tire rotations, etc.  Get one of the sales brochures for your year model that covers the options & color of your car and place it in that binder.  Find one of the magazines that has a road test of your model & place that in the binder.  Take photos of your car yearly and place them in the binder.

3 - Remember where you stored that binder!

4 - I've added a maintenance chart to the "get creative" page.  Be sure to add that to your binder or make a separate binder for maintenance.

5 - Helpful Hint  - Cleaning supplies - I keep a good supply of microfiber towels (they ARE machine washable) and Swiffers on hand for doing the following.

Engine Exterior Interior SoftTop
Engine: Keep this area clean - your mechanic will appreciate it, your engine parts will appreciate it; your pocketbook will appreciate it & you'll be proud to show off the engine (men love to look under the hood).  You'll also notice sooner when a belt or hose needs replacing.  Personal experience - found a leaking power brake booster  within miles before our basic warranty expired - because I keep the engine compartment clean.  Look at it this way - The engine is like your kitchen - the heart of  your car like your kitchen is to your home.

This is going to sound like a commercial but.... A good product to use frequently on the engine to keep it clean is a recent introduction on the market - the Swiffer Duster.  It's a small microfiber brush/duster that is excellent for getting into the little corners and cracks of your engine compartment and it picks up the dirt without having to take a hose to the compartment  It even works on the hood liner.  I also keep one in the car for cleaning the interior while riding or driving - use it when you stop at lights.

About washing the engine compartment with water - do not do -  there are numerous electronic parts under the hood.  Most are sealed but don't count on the seals to work as they should. Our engine compartments are always "dry" cleaned, ie, wiped down with towels and brushes and the Swiffer Duster.  If you keep "on top" of the cleaning, it'll never get to the point where you need drastic measures to get it clean. 

Oil Filters - Your owners manual is what you go by.  Here's the filter part #s from Ford  that the different years use:
2002 P# FOFL-2008 (Long) 2002 may use this one or the one below:

2003-2005 P# FOFL-218 (Short) "DO NOT" use 2008 above

Hand Washing:

  • Use an automotive soap - no detergents
  • Remember to get those door jambs and the lip around the inside of the  trunk,  Also under the hood(careful with any water here) and in the wheel wells - & under the gas flap.  If you are able to get under the car, do it.
  • Get some Micro-fiber towels!! - these really soak up the water and they pick up dust.  I've found them cheaply at Costco.  You'll also find them at Parts houses and other stores that sell car care products.
  • DRY your car afterwards even to the point of getting an air hose into those crevices you can not reach with a towel.  Most of the water available around the states will leave a residue that will spot & slowly eat into the paint if not dried off immediately.
  • Keep a good coat of non-cleaner wax on your car. This will help make insect removal easier and helps keep your car looking cleaner.  Car should be waxed about every 3rd or 4th time you wash your car as washing eventually strips the wax off.
  • IF your car rarely needs washing, make sure it's at least washed several times a year and followed by a wax job.
  • Wash and wax it before you put it into storage.
  • Make sure it's clean any time you put a car cover on it.  A car cover will rub against your car & if there is dirt there, will rub that dirt around on the car
  • Note on waxing - Ford recommends avoiding any wax that beads excessively. If you  dry your car, quickly & in the shade, you can avoid any water spotting 
  • Ford also recommends applying a paint protectant on a regular basis.
High Pressure Washing - Be aware that the high pressured water will find it's way into the car where you don't want it.  Some owners are reporting that their automatic window drop is losing it's programming right after running thru car washes and then has to be reprogrammed (read your owners manual on how to do that).   There have also been reports of wet soft tops  - stored ones that is! :-)   Read my thoughts below on automatic car washes.

My thoughts on automatic car washes - avoid! take the time to do the job yourself or have a professional do the job but stay away from the automatic car washes - they're meant for speed and not for keeping your car in showroom shape. 

Hood liner:

"make sure you don't damage the hoodliner.  It has a type of silver foil lining on the surface to aid in  insulation and radio reception. The bird doesn't have an antenna on the fender, it has one incorporated into the windshield.  -- words from supercrew from the Ford Wixom assembly plant.
Polish - only as necessary

Waxing & polishing -There are products on the market to help make your car shine even more.  Here's an interesting article about the comparison between 2 products:
http://www.nsxsc.com/nsexcitement/waxtest.html  People have been satisfied with both Meguiars and Zaino products so it's your choice.

Hardtop - Some have already noticed marks in the paint where the top meets the rear deck.  It's important to keep this area clean as dirt is the major culprit. Also clean the rubber seal on the hardtop.   A good coat of wax will slow down any sanding occurring from the top rubbing on the body.  It may be wise to cut a piece of clear vinyl to place under the top when the top is in place.  When storing car for any length of time with hardtop in place, it may be wise to release the latches and clean the area.  If using the vinyl, make sure it is dry underneath after washing.  Clear vinyl may be found at most fabric stores such as JoAnn Fabrics & Crafts and Hancocks.  Ford supplied all 2003 - 2005s with a mylar tape kit - see below:

Starting around March 2002, Ford started supplying the new t-birds with a mylar tape kit for the rear deck area where the hardtop sits.  You may order this part from your dealer: 

Mylar Tape Kit" "to protect the paint when the hardtop is installed" P/N   1W6276202W30-AA (issued with 2002-2004 T-birds)
New Ford part # 4W6Z-76202W30-AA (comes in mid year 2004 T-birds)  see "New Car?" page for photos

Sources for Cleaning/polishing, etc... supplies:   http://www.zainobros.com/    also http://www.meguiars.com/  and retail outlets such as auto parts stores, Walmart, Target, etc...

More information on your Hard Top is on the Hardtop Facts page

Soft Top:
If you haven't taken your hardtop off your car, it is a MUST that this be done IF you bought the car brand new. (I started this page in 2001 so some hints were for "NEW" cars.)  If you are unable to do this, take it in to your dealer to have them do it.  Reason - some car owners have reported water on the soft top & wet soft tops when taking their hard tops off the cars for the first time when new. Soft Tops must be dry when stored.

Fabric soft tops are easy care

  • Sunlight is fabric's worst enemy - garage car whenever possible.
  • Never store top  when it's wet - hastens the chance of mildew forming
  • When top is dry, it may be vacuumed
  • Use a lint brush to pick up any lint that appears on the surface.  I have found that the microfiber towels work great for picking up lint and dirt on the top.  Micro fiber towels also work well as a wash cloth on the top when washing the car.
  • Any dirt spots that appear may be vacuumed first - when top is dry, then brush with a soft brush if it's a more persistent spot.
  • Masking tape may also be used to pick up lint on the surface.
  • IF you have a light colored soft top, do not store it dirty.  It's also a good idea even for the black tops to be clean when stored.  Light colored tops require a lot more extra care to keep it looking clean - Do use a protectant on it, following instructions. Check thunderbirdnest.com for owners'  experiences & hints on care of light colored softtops. 
I have never tried any of the soft top dressing & protectant products on the market. Have not felt there is a need for it but it is reccomended to use by Ford and the maker of the softtop fabric.   We have had a car for 12 years that has a fabric soft top that still looks new.  Car is garaged but soft top is always up unless we're taking it out for a drive on a sunny day.  Update: A word of caution about protectants and light colored tops such as the "04 light sand" softtop - test any product you want to use on an inconspicuous area to see if any color change occurs.

For more information, check out these websites:
http://www.haartz.com/ - maker of your OEM softtop fabric

Top may stretch when out on the freeways due to difference in air pressure inside and outside of cockpit but it relaxes to it's normal shape after sitting for awhile so don't worry if you see that happen to your top. Update: so far no one has complained of this phenomena. It appears to not happen with the fabric used in the softtops. Update 2016:  I have to take that back, with age and use, it is happening to the softtops now, but it does still go back to normal after sitting for awhile.

More information about your Soft Top & it's care is on the Soft Top Facts page

Wheels - Painted wheels are clear coat finished - harsh detergents may destroy the finish so be careful with them.  Chromed wheels should be kept waxed - probably every time you wash them.  Scrub those tires too.
Changing or rotating tires?       Tighten lug nuts to 100ft/lbs torque.
Cover the lug wrench with a rubber tube or towel to help prevent scratching of the wheels when removing the hubcaps.
"Wheel Wax" is a very good product to use to reduce the amount of brake dust that adheres to your wheels.

Tires:  Ford recommended tire inflation  is 30 psi  (pounds per square inch)and they seem to insist on this.  Note that as delivered from the factory, your tires may be over-inflated so be sure to have your dealership check all 4 tires.  You might even want to be there when they do.  Many owners have reported tires set at between 40 and 45 psi, clearly indicating that their tires hadn't been checked at the dealership before owners took possession. There is NO correct tire inflation imprinted on the stock tires - all it has is the Maximum the tire will hold - it is not the recommended psi for use. read this page

  • Spare Tire: - Be sure it's inflated correctly - use the tire pressure inflation directions imprinted on the spare tire itself - Stock spare tire is 60 psi.
Comment - a couple of years ago, during the height of the Firestone recall episode, I had to have my LeBaron's tires (Michelin) pressure checked and so called a Michelin dealership - they recommended 35psi for the particular tires I had on yet Chrysler's recommendation was much less.  I compromised and had them set at 32psi.

Carpets Glass Leather Vinyl & Plastic
Vacuum your car's carpets as often as your family home carpeting is done - if not more.  Dirt that sifts down to the base of your carpets acts as an abrasive on the fibers and wears out your  car's carpet.

Follow the owner's manual for care of glass. 

I do not recommend  Rainex on a "new" windshield but after car has been used awhile & windshield has weathered some,  Rainex is a great product for use when you'll be anywhere near rain.

Seats are Nudo Leather (real leather) on the 2002 - a product of Eagle Ottawa Leather Company
Seats are Imola Leather (real leather) on the 2003/04/05
Follow instructions in your owners manual or  check out Eagle's "care" page.
There are a number of companies that offer leather care products.    Read the labels. Make sure it is for car leather.    Friends have been using some of these products for years and swear by them so it's up to you in the long run.
Other companies with reliable leather care products.

  1. Color Plus,- they also have a free leather care booklet available; Surflex product line
  2. Leatherique
  3. Lexol Leather Care
  4. Meguiars (http://www.meguiars.com)
  5. Zymol (http://www.zymol.com/)
  6. Griots Garage (http://www.griotsgarage.com)
  7. AutoFanatics.com (http://www.autofanatics.com/)
  8. http://www.leatherz.com/
Caution:  Several owners with light colored seats have noted staining of the leather after wearing new blue jeans in their cars.  My advice:  Wash your new jeans several times before sitting in your T-bird.  Put a towel on the seat if you're unsure of the stability of the dye in any clothing you're wearing.  Also be careful with belt buckles, or belts with metal studding.
update:  Ford now has a leather care kit: 
F8AZ-19G253-AA -  Deluxe Leather Care Kit

The light color seats and soft tops require more care to remove stains than the black tops.  If in doubt, use the Ford products unless you feel comfortable with another brand.  Be sure to test any new product you plan to use on a hidden area before using.

Preferred Suede seat inserts on the 2004 special edition only - see PCR page - require special care and no protectantts..

Vinyl surfaces:
Keep clean, use an UV protectant especially if you drive with the top down frequently.  Sunlight is the worst enemy of vinyl and plastic components.  Though I usually don't like to recommend a specific product, there has been enough said about 303 protectant for vinyl protection that it should be mentioned here. Garage your car when ever possible.
Read labels carefully.  Early reports(2007) on these cars are showing some signs of rubber or vinyl deterioration on "protected" parts while unprotected parts still look good.
The finish on the dash and doors is a mat finish, not shiney.  Do yourself a favor and keep it that way.  It reduces windshield glare.

A Line of Dot's
© 2001-09 Dot Lang
Webpage Design/Photos/graphics by Dot
unless otherwise noted
NOT affiliated with FoMoCo
A Line of Dot's