If you’re one of the thousands of 2002-2005 Thunderbird owners, the news isn’t good. Ford won’t be re-manufacturing more OEM replacement parts for your car.
Chances are you’ve already experienced the difficulty in finding original replacement parts for your Retro, and learned the hard way that most OEM parts for the 2002-2005 Thunderbird have been discontinued, are out of production, and no longer available for purchase. Some Thunderbird owners have waited weeks or even months while their car sat at a Ford dealership, waiting for a part on ‘back order.’ Sadly, those back ordered parts never arrive. Rather than just tell Thunderbird owners the part won’t be produced, the Ford parts computer system shows them as ‘back ordered,’ with no release date.
What does ‘back ordered’ with ‘no release date’ mean?
Basically, it means that the part hasn’t been officially declared ‘obsolete,’ but that there’s no guarantee if or when it will ever become available.
Why would Ford list a part as ‘back ordered’ if they have no plans to make it?
Good question. Difficult to answer. When inventory of a particular part is depleted, Ford can contact the original supplier or outsource vendor to see if they will do another production run. Ford owns all tooling, but licenses outsource companies to manufacture component parts.
If that’s the case, why don’t the outsource companies just make more parts as they’re needed?
It’s not that simple. In some cases the original tooling no longer exists. Since Ford owns all tooling, it can recall that tooling after contracted production runs have been completed. In some cases, outsource vendors and suppliers may choose to produce additional parts, but due to the high cost of set-up, production, and minimum quantity requirements, it may not be economically feasible for the supplier to produce more parts. Keep in mind that while the 2002-2005 Thunderbird was still in production, Ford ordered thousands or tens of thousands of parts at a time. Those large orders and production volumes were profitable for suppliers, but after production of the 2005 Thunderbird ended, and the 2006 Thunderbird was cancelled, Ford stopped ordering parts.
Aren’t auto makers required to have replacement parts available for a certain length of time even after production of a vehicle ends?
Yes and no. U.S. laws do have some guidelines requiring new car manufacturers to maintain sufficient inventories of spare parts, however, enforcement of those policies are difficult to enforce. As a general rule of thumb, new car makers will continue to ‘service’ parts for roughly ten years after production of a specific vehicle ends. But that doesn’t mean that all parts for a given car or truck will always be available for a full ten years. Inventories of some parts last longer, others are depleted sooner.
Who decides whether or not more replacement parts will be made?
That decision is up to Ford. They can contract with existing suppliers or new ones for additional parts if they choose to, however, for vehicles ten years or more old, it’s very unlikely that new production will be ordered.
What about 2002-2005 Thunderbirds still covered by Ford ESPs (Extended Service Plans)? Isn’t Ford required to make sure parts are available for warranty repairs?
You would think so. But even though Ford is still selling ESPs for the 2005 Thunderbird as of the writing of this article in June 2016, Ford doesn’t seem too concerned about the lack of availability of replacement parts. One Ford executive I spoke to said, and I paraphrase, “It’s a ten-year-old car. There are are lot of Ford cars you can’t find parts for any more.” That’s not much comfort for 2002-2005 Thunderbird owners.
What alternatives do Thunderbird owners have?
Unfortunately, not many. Some auto parts specialists still have some new ‘new old stock’ Thunderbird parts. Those parts are typically not listed in Ford’s computerized dealer locator system, but they can be very hard to find. There’s no centralized database that lists available parts outside of Ford’s inventory. It helps if you know the part number of the part you’re looking for. If you have the correct part number you can search online sellers through sites like Ebay and Amazon. But even with the correct part number the search can still be difficult. Many older Thunderbird part numbers were superseded with different part numbers. And interior trim components like metal trim, door panels, and seat leather, have many different variations. ‘Feature cars,’ like the ‘Neiman-Marcus,’ ‘007 James Bond,’ ‘Pacific Coast Roadster,’ and ’50th Anniversary Cashmere,’ have unique trim packages and colors specific to those special models. And since production of those feature cars was limited to between 200 and 1,500 each, finding a specific interior trim part for one of them is especially difficult. To further complicate matters, many parts for the 2002 Thunderbird are not interchangeable with the 2003-2005 Thunderbird due to production changes over the four model years.
What about used parts from junk yards and auto dismantlers?
For many out of production Thunderbird parts, auto salvage yards may be the only remaining option. But used parts present their own problems and challenges. First, due to the low production of the 2002-2005 Thunderbird, 68,098 total, there aren’t that many wrecked cars to begin with. Finding those damaged Thunderbirds can be a daunting task. There are a number of nationwide auto salvage companies, but there’s no single nationwide database that lists all available cars or parts. Even if you manage to locate a damaged 2002-2005 Thunderbird, the part you need may already be gone. As an individual owner, you’re competing with body shops all over the country who know where to look and how to navigate the salvage part business. Auto dismantlers are used to working with experienced body and repair shops who know exactly what they’re looking for. Even if you manage to find a salvage yard that has the part you need, there’s no guarantee it’s in good condition, and if it’s an electrical or mechanical part, it may not be in working condition. Salvage yards don’t test electrical parts, and if they offer any guarantee at all, it may be for only 30 days. Used parts from 2002-2005 Thunderbird are in high demand and sell fast. If you do find what you need, you’d better be prepared to make a quick buying decision. Hard to find parts don’t last long. And you’ll need a lot of patience. Searching for used parts from auto dismantlers is time-consuming and often frustrating. Be prepared to spend a lot of time on the phone.
Isn’t there a better way to find replacement parts for my Thunderbird?
Yes! Call us! Powersport/Thunderbird Specialties handles OEM replacement parts and accessories for the 2002-2005 Thunderbird exclusively! It’s our only product line. Powersport/Thunderbird Specialties is the oldest and largest source for parts, accessories, performance upgrades and collectibles for the 2002-2005 Thunderbird. We can help you find almost any part for your T-Bird, even hard-to-find, discontinued and out-of-production parts. We also offer a comprehensive repair and rebuilding service for electronic modules like FEMs, REMs, PCMs, and ECMs and radio/CD players, climate control units and instrument clusters.
Let us do the searching for you. Chances are we already have the part you need, and if we don’t have it, we can probably find it. We can save you time and money, and a lot of frustration. If your Ford dealer doesn’t have what you need, and you’re not interested in searching the internet or scouring junk yards, call us first. We can answer your questions and find the part you’re looking for, today!
Call us at: 310-589-1000 or browse our online store at: www.mytbird.com
We offer the largest selection of OEM replacement parts, aftermarket accessories, performance upgrades and rare collectibles with over 320 unique items to choose from!