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Paw Paw, MI
If he didn't do the gold standard cylinder leak down test you're wasting your time and money + your mechanic shouldn't be guessing like that. Leak down test is the only sure way to verify need for a valve job and a better solution if indeed that's the case- go purchase a used/ or rebuilt cylinder head and skip the valve job. Then all you need is a head gasket. A used head's about $100 or less, gasket = $35. Labor maybe $75-$125/hr but at least you know that's a set price via book time. book time may say 6 hours so do the math and yeah....lot's less than $2500. First thing I'd do is take it elsewhere.
I'll bet you would tell me that if you never had to stop- you'd never know there was an issue with this car... check the coil packs and check if there are little cracks in them just be safe and then buy a $3 bottle of brake clean and spray it over the vacuum lines- when the car sounds like it surges in power, you've found your air leak. If you do this and find nothing, you're probably needing to check out the ignition switch itself and or the various grounds on your car. the stock ground wire on an escape is a joke- like a single 12ga wire off the battery and only to the chassis. invest in a 4 or even a 2ga and get 2 of them- one to the chassis and another to the motor or tranny. may not fix it but it's a good place to start
shift cable or range sensor or range sensor connection. tranny's probably fine.
did you have to tow it in? Are there multiple squares around multiple gears? does it drive at all or idk not leave 1st gear? if any of those things apply you may simply have a bad trans range sensor. $1400- $2900 is absurd btw, I'd go on ebay or go to a junkyard keeping in mind you can source a transmission for your car from a mazda tribute or mercury mariner as well for probably about $100-$150. Then you've got to find a mechanic who isn't a dickhead and will actually install it for you since there are lots of places that will tell you they won't because it's from a junkyard or ebay and they didn't get to charge you extra $ on top of their parts cost. Secret truth in auto mechanics- they don't make their money on labor, they make their profit by charging 2X to 3x and beyond on parts.
speed sensor and probably the trans range sensor are fragged or if you check the connectors- they are most likely corroded.
yes the cats are NOW plugged but because your engine has been running 240 degrees out of time. Go look at the coil packs on the front cylinder head- I'll bet you that your 4 and 6 plug wires are switched. They are labled COP 4 and COP 6. it's and easy mistake to make if you take all three of the wires off because it looks correctly connected either way and actually unless you read the little label it looks more correct the wrong way. Check the DPFE sensor to as it's likely to have melted down along with the to tubes off the EGR valve. and on a side note, unless you're really attached to the car I'd run it off a cliff as the three cats combined total cost and labor will total you a whopping $2000. a 12 year old car is unlikely to be worth that much, even in scrap weight