John Evans is a long-time motoring journalist and editor from titles such as What Car?, AutoCar and Practical Caravan.
The Ford Focus under discussion here is the second generation model available as a three and five-door hatch, and five-door estate. A saloon model followed in 2005. There were TDCi diesel versions but here, we cover the petrol-powered cars only, including the sporty 2.5-litre ST and RS models.
How reliable is a Ford Focus?
Given the sheer number that Ford built and the wide variety of users, many of them company fleets racking up huge mileages, it’s no surprise the Focus has a middling reliability record.
In fact, many of the reported problems concern the TDCi diesel, specifically the diesel particulate filter (DPF) and the turbo. However, the petrol models covered here are not immune to problems, either, as we’ll see.
The Focus has had more of its fair share of safety recalls. Generally speaking, recalls are prompted by a few examples giving cause for concern and are intended to nip the problem in the bud before it can become more widespread.
Still, that these problems existed shows a worrying lack of attention at the Focus’s design and construction stages.
Common problems with the Ford Focus
Fortunately, many recalls fall within a narrow production window and should have been rectified by now, but it’s worth checking with a Ford dealer if your vehicle was affected and has been attended to. For information on official safety recalls, check the DVSA recall website here.
Focus recalls include:
- Wiper motor may fail and overheat (build dates: 02/04/03-03/03/05)
- In low ambient temperature hard brake pedal may occur (01/08/05-28/12/06)
- Rear hub bolt may become loose (21/02/07-15/04/07)
- Failure of power steering hose may cause engine bay fire (02/04/08-15/05/08)
- Risk of fire caused by road salt corrosion of cooling fan module electrics (01/06/06-25/01/07)
The 1.4 16v can suffer a jerky engine movement caused by a faulty ignition coil. The engine turning but not starting along with the immobiliser light coming on is caused by faulty electrical connections in the instrument panel control unit.
The starter motor refusing to turn could mean the passive anti-theft system (PATS) needs to be initialised, using a diagnostic tool.
The 1.6 16v petrols suffer the same issues plus a noisy ancillary belt on cold start. This is caused by abnormal power consumption causing a high electrical load on the alternator, together with an incorrectly programmed engine control unit. To fix, disable the feature that automatically turns on the heated rear window and heated windscreen.
A high idle speed with no change when the accelerator pedal is pressed is leakage in the air inlet system. Power loss could be corrosion in the electrical connector of the throttle position sensor.
Poor engine performance followed by stalling could be a faulty throttle body and engine control unit software. Renew the throttle body and air inlet hose, and update the software.
In addition to many of the symptoms described above, the 1.8 16v engine can suffer engine surge at idle caused by a faulty throttle position sensor. Likewise, the 2.5 ST and RS models can suffer some or all of the above.
A grinding noise from the front of the vehicle in first or reverse gears is caused by insufficient grease on the driveshaft. A strip down, clean and degrease of the splines, followed by regreasing is the fix.
An oil leak from the transmission is caused by an incorrectly fitted right-hand intermediate drive shaft and damaged gearbox seal. These problems are common to all models.
In addition, the ST and RS can suffer non-engagement of the gears caused by a disengaged gear selector cable.
Steering and suspension
No issues reported
All versions can experience the brake warning light coming on, caused by insufficient protrusion of the wheel bearing into the front stub axle.
The ‘engine malfunction’ light accompanied by failure of the brake lights could be a short circuit in the tail light bulb carrier plate. Check all fuses and then renew or repair the tail light bulb carrier plate as necessary.
Exterior and interior
No issues reported
Failure of the remote keys is a discharged button cell. Renew button cell CR 2032 with the positive side facing upwards. An incorrect ambient temperature reading is a failure of the ambient air temperature sensor.
A speedo malfunction with the ABS warning light is caused by corrosion of the electrical connector in the ABS control unit.