They may be built "Ford tough" but some Ford Escape owners in Winnipeg say the paint on the vehicle doesn't live up to the slogan.

Sharon Mohammed had owned her 2012 SUV for just over three years when she first spotted the problem in the rear wheel wells while giving the car a wand wash.

"I noticed just little bits of flaking paint and then when I looked a bit closer I could see little bits of exposed metal where the rust was starting to form," she said. "You could also see little divots where stones had hit and and caused little dents where the water was getting into and rusting it and pushing the paint off."

Mohammed said she was shocked and angered by the discovery because she bought the car brand new, hoping it would last.

"I paid a lot of money for it," she said, adding her dealer told her it was a common problem. 

"The dealer had actually said to me that they see these problems all the time. They're fixing them all the time,"

No recall for paint

Mohammed said her dealer told her "there's actually something called a TSB that they had put out on the vehicles Technician's Service Bulletin that shows that this is a problem that they are going to see coming in but it wasn't enough of a problem in their eyes to be a recall."

Megan Pugh

Megan Pugh examines flaking paint on the trunk of her Ford Escape. (Katie Nicholson/CBC)

However, in an email to CBC, Ford Canada said there are no technical service bulletins for 2008-2012 model year Escapes regarding paint flaking or bubbling.

Mohammed said her vehicle was no longer under warranty and the dealer refused to fix it.  She said she noticed other Escapes around the city seemed to have the same problem.

Mohammed printed leaflets with information about the issue and left them on windshields of affected vehicles. She said she also left her contact information.  

"If their vehicle was under warranty... that they could take it into the dealer and hopefully get it fixed," she said.

One of those leaflets was left on Megan Pugh's 2008 Escape.  She said she noticed paint flaking around the rear wheel wells roughly 18 months ago.  The seal along her trunk lining is rusted and the paint on the front of the vehicle is flaking.

Sharon Mohammed

Sharon Mohammed put leaflets on Ford Escapes she saw in public parking lots to let owners know about the flaking paint issues. (Katie Nicholson/CBC)

"I like my car to look really pretty but it's rusting and I know that that can probably affect the integrity of the body of the car."  Pugh who said she's worried it is too late for a quick fix. "There's nothing really you can do now because it's rusted. replace the quarter panel and I don't have the money to do that. I'm a student."

Jerry Pugh, Megan's dad. owns a 2012 Escape.  Paint is flaking off the rear wheel wells, the trunk lining and the front of the vehicle.  The Ford dealership told him it was caused by the driving conditions in Manitoba.

"That it's the product they put on the roads," Pugh said. "And I told them I wash these cars I wash my car every week or every two weeks at the most and I went well it can't be that.  And they said well that's what it is."

Pugh said he's frustrated with the response. "I bought two cars from these people," he said. " You think that they would at the very least want to help me somehow?  Nothing. And I love these vehicles. Love them."

Pugh's love affair with the Ford Escape is over.  He said he will never buy another Ford again.

'Step up,' says former Ford adviser 

Chemical engineer Stephen Gaiski used to advise Ford on its paint technology.  He said he discovered vehicles were leaving the plant with insufficient paint. When he alerted the company, He says Ford cancelled his contract and sent him a cease and desist letter in 2010, asking him to stop contacting the company.

Damage on Ford

A close-up of the paint flaking off of Pugh's vehicle. (Jerry Pugh )

Gaiski's Zestar Corporation has since helped dozens of US consumers recoup the costs of repainting their Ford vehicles through small claims courts.

The CBC I-Team showed him pictures of the Escapes owned by Sharon Mohammed and the Pugh family.  

"It's nothing new. It's too thin prime and it's classic," Gaiski said.

"The thin paint has nothing to do with the environment. This is a factory paint defect originating at the factory.Anytime you see grey pilling, the grey coat, it's not an environment issue it's a factory paint defect," according to Gaiski.

Gaiski believes Ford should "step up" and "take care of the consumer."

Stephen Gaiski

Stephen Gaiski's company Zestar has helped dozens of US consumers get money back for flaking paint problems. (Ioana Draghici/CBC)

In a statement emailed to CBC, Ford Canada said: "We take all feedback from our customers very seriously and are looking into their concerns."

"Honestly, I have no idea what they can do at this point," Pugh said, adding for his family it's too late.

"I mean, to do a recall on all these vehicles to have them repainted and rust proofed properly would be a huge cost to the Ford company and you just know it's not going to happen."

Sharon Mohammed said she believes Ford should fix the vehicles.

"Not just for me but for the owners that are having this problem or reimbursing people that have paid already to get it fixed."


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