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I have a 1996 escort and use the recommended sae 5w30 oil. I also suggest using a Ford motorcraft oil filter (Wal mart sells them at some of their stores). As for the oil brand, I like the bigger name oil like Castrol, shell and Quaker state. I don't think you need a synthetic oil.
if you have the owners manual-look in the index for oil capacity, or fluid capacities. that should inform you of the oil type and capacity (if you change the filter as well, it will prob. take another half-quart or so. the manual should inform you. if no manual get on ford website, and search for escort 1.8L diesel van. precede with the year of model.it may inquire whether you have a/c, 4wd, etc. may need more oil, if so. good luck!