The Ford Bronco Sport is one of Ford’s many recent success stories. It has a strong fanbase, and the only thing preventing more “sales” is Ford’s ability to build more of them. Now entering its fourth model year for 2024, the Bronco Sport is no longer a new vehicle, and it now has a reliability record that can best be described as “spotty.”
Visit any Ford Bronco Sport fan club online, and you will first notice that much of the discussion is around problems. By our estimation, there are five main problems that the Ford Bronco Sport owners have been struggling with. We will list them in what we consider to be the most serious to the least. They are:
-Water Pump Failures
-Rear Drive Unit Failures
-Brake Trouble Related To Noise
-Windshield damage at an unusually high rate of incidence
Ford Bronco Sport Water Pump Failures
By far, the most discussed failure issue is the 1.5-liter engine’s water pump problem. The water pumps leak, the engine loses coolant, and the driver is unaware of the issue until it results in a breakdown. As bad as this sounds, it is not really the actual failure that is most concerning. There are two related problems. First, many owners report weeks-long delays in local dealerships being able to obtain replacement parts. Second, many owners have reported a second or subsequent water pump failure after the original failure.
Ford Bronco Sport Rear Drive Unit Failures
The rear drive unit failure issue is less common but equally concerning since any powertrain failure can leave one stranded. These failures appear to be primarily the 1.5-liter engine-equipped Bronco Sports as well.
Ford Bronco Sport Battery Failures
While a 12-volt battery is relatively inexpensive, and in the Bronco Sport, also easy to access and replace, the battery failures that the Bronco Sport owner community has struggled with often manifest in odd ways. Unexplainable engine-related issues are often resolved only after the battery is replaced. So often so, that many Bronco Sport owners now simply replace the battery as soon as anything seems off. In Ford’s defense, Other brands have had battery struggles as well.
Ford Bronco Sport Brake Trouble
Many Bronco Sport owners have had to deal with a “whale noise” from the rear brakes when they operate the vehicle in reverse, such as leaving a garage. The brakes still stop the car, but should a vehicle that has a price tag approaching $50K be making noise when backing up? Brakes are old technology, and Ford doesn't use any novel brake technology in this model. There is a technical service bulletin related to the noise, but owners who have had the TSB’s recommended work completed have reported the noise returning. The apparent fix, which dealers will not perform, is to change the brake pad compound. Changing pads means changing rotors, which means a full brake job. Hundreds in cost to the owner not covered under warranty.
Ford Bronco Sport Windshield Damage
The Bronco Sport is a boxy vehicle. Like its fraternal twin, the Maverick pickup, the Bronco Sport seems susceptible to windshield impact damage. You don't need a master's degree in engineering to see the cause of this issue. The windshield on the Bronco Sport is more vertical than most SUVs’. It’s at a more extreme angle to rocks and other debris kicked up by vehicles ahead on the highway. We will not call this a quality issue, but it is an issue nonetheless that has frustrated owners.
Polls Suggest the 1.5-Liter Bronco Sports Are More Commonly Problematic, But…
There are so many reports of these five problems that fan club administrators and top contributors have tried to find more facts. Ryan Burkholder is one such Bronco Owner/Fan. He conducted a poll in one large Bronco Sport fan club and learned some things by doing so. His conclusions include the following:
13.7% of Bronco Sport owners with 1.5-liter engines have had quality problems.
4.3% of Bronco Sport owners with the 2.0-liter engine report problems.
Mr. Burkholder’s polling seems to prove what most owners and club members thought was the case. The 1.5-liter-equipped Bronco Sports seem to have a much higher rate of issues. However, the poll requested that owners only report problems that took the vehicle off the road. Brake noise and windshield damage may not qualify. Also, the 2.0-liter Bronco Sports are less common. So the poll is imperfect, but certainly did help to validate the theory many owners had related to which group of Bronco Sports is more likely to suffer from quality-related problems.
What Does Consumer Reports Say?
Consumer Reports serves its readers in many ways. One way we think CR excels is in its reliability reporting. In its reliability reporting, CR uses owner-reported survey data to form its rankings. In other words, it is not the opinion of its (talented and sincere) testing staff, but actual Bronco Sport owners who “create” the reliability data.
Consumer Reports gives the 2022 model year the lowest possible score of one out of five. Denoted by red downward arrows. The 2023 model-year vehicles have not been in service long enough for the surveys to be completed. 2021 was the launch year, and inventory was limited.
Conveniently, Consumer Reports breaks down the reported trouble areas. The three main areas of reported trouble are: Engine Major, Brakes, and Leaks. Drive System also has a lower-than-perfect score. As you can see, the categories that CR has flagged from owner surveys line up neatly with our list above of the four major quality areas (leaving out windshield damage since it is not directly related to reliability).
The Bronco Sport originally earned a “Recommended” stamp from Consumer Reports but lost it. The group now summarizes the model by saying, “We expect the 2023 Bronco Sport will be less reliable than the average new car. This prediction is based on data from 2021 and 2022 models.”
What Does J.D Power Say About Ford's Brand Dependability
The Bronco Sport was just entering service three years ago, so the 2023 Dependability study done by J.D. Power & Associates is not a direct indicator of the Bronco Sport’s dependability. However, it is a good indicator of Ford’s history of dependability overall. In this owner-survey-driven study, Ford ranks near the bottom of brands.
What Does J.D Power Say About Bronco Sport’s Model Dependability
There is one bright spot in the evidence related to the Bronco Sport’s quality and reliability. J.D. Power’s score for this Bronco Sport for 2022 and 2023 is both rated “Great.” The model earns an 87/100. The group says of this ranking, “Measures the level of defects, malfunctions, and design flaws experienced by vehicle owners. Covers the entire vehicle from engine to infotainment system. A higher rating means fewer problems.”
Anecdotal Evidence Points To Ford Reliability Concerns
Anecdotal evidence about Ford's quality should be taken very lightly, but it is telling. When your author called to book a service appointment to have a minor issue addressed (High beam calibration), the wait for an appointment was five weeks at the closest dealership. The service advisor mentioned “A lot of recent tow-ins” for the delay in getting an appointment.
Owner Satisfaction Does Not Equal Reported Relaibility
One thing that is true of the most enjoyable vehicles is that owners are able to separate their feelings related to quality from their feelings about overall satisfaction. Tesla has been the ideal example of this, scoring lowest on many quality-related studies while at the same time topping the charts for owner satisfaction. The Bronco Sport is not such an extreme case, but close.
One owner/fan of the Bronco Sport we will call KWL made the perfect post on this subject, saying, “Got my 2021 back today. Let’s see…all within a year:
-New water pump
-New rear shocks
If I didn’t love the damn thing so much, I would’ve traded her!"
Ford has a big hit on its hands with the Bronco Sport. Owners love the vehicle, and it fetches a pretty penny in its top trims. It is hard to name a close competitor with a top trim that fans will happily pay nearly $50,000 for. However, Ford needs to quickly address both the “perceived quality” and the actual reliability of its Bronco Sport if this vehicle is to earn a reputation among the best compact SUVs in the marketplace.
Top of page image by John Goreham. Chart of Bronco Sport reliability courtesy of Ryan Burkholder.
John Goreham is an experienced New England Motor Press Association member and expert vehicle tester. John completed an engineering program with a focus on electric vehicles, followed by two decades of work in high-tech, biopharma, and the automotive supply chain before becoming a news contributor. In addition to his eleven years of work at Torque News, John has published thousands of articles and reviews at American news outlets. He is known for offering unfiltered opinions on vehicle topics. You can follow John on Twitter, and connect with him at Linkedin.