The Focus had a long-standing reign that lasted from 1999 – 2018 and was discontinued as Ford moved their attention to SUVs.
Robust, affordable and fun to drive, it was once one of the most popular compact cars around.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the most common problems associated with the Ford Focus.
Table of Contents
1. PowerShift Transmission Problems
Without getting overly technical, the 2012-2016 Focus has a dual-clutch automatic transmission that was known to be extremely problematic, it was so bad that it became the subject of a class action lawsuit with over 2 million affected customers who stand to get some form of compensation.
The Ford Focus has amassed almost 5,000 complaints for power train problems alone on the Car Problem Zoo website, a large majority of which are due to the faulty PowerShift transmission.
The worst years for this issue are 2012, 2013 and 2014
The symptoms associated with problematic PowerShift transmissions include:
- Shuddering feeling while accelerating from a standstill
- Followed by a rough upshift that sends vibrations throughout the car that can even be felt through the steering wheel
Here’s what owners typically had to say about it:
“After you come to a full stop and then you let your foot off the brake and press the accelerator to go forward, the car shakes/trembles. It happens very often. Didn’t pay too much mind to it at first, but it keeps happening.”
“Car shudders when accelerating. Loses power on the freeway and then suddenly shifts and takes off. It is not a safe vehicle to drive in its current state.”
“At taking off at a red light my car stutters and shakes and it’s worse when going uphill it feels like it’s going to stall on me in the middle of the road.”
According to the Detroit Free Press, Ford was well aware of the issues before mass production began but went ahead with it anyway instructing dealers “to tell customers that the cars operated normally” despite being well aware of its problems.
Owners have tried replacing the clutch, output shafts, the transmission control module and even the entire transmission as well as having software updates. Despite these efforts, the problems seem to return.
If you’ve been affected by these issues then you could well be entitled to some form of repayment.
Ford had also extended the powertrain warranty on affected models to seven years or 100,000 miles.
2. Ignition Problems
Another problem that has been widely reported on the Ford Focus is related to the ignition.
Thousands of Focus owners have reported the following issues:
- Key will not turn in ignition, thus unable to start car
- Key will not remove from ignition
- Steering wheel is locked
Being unable to turn the key in the ignition has been widely reported on 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 Focus models.
Here’s what the owners have had to say:
“Just like all the other complaints. My key became stuck in the ignition and I was stranded hundreds of miles from home, how thoughtful of Ford to only charge me four hundred dollars!”
“Key won’t turn in ignition. For a couple of weeks, I was able to tap on the end of the key while it was in the ignition lock, and the key would turn. Now, I am unable to get it to turn at all – even after tapping on it with a hammer.”
The most direct solution for this problem is to replace the ignition, our research indicates that despite the huge number of people affected, there wasn’t ever a recall for this.
A number of owners have reported being able to work around the issue by inserting the key and lightly tapping it with a hammer.
Other owners who have been left stranded have been forced to call a locksmith.
3. Power Steering Failure
A widely reported problem with the Ford Focus is power steering failure, this has been known to occur on models from 2012 – 2014 although it has also been reported on 2015 and 2016 models too to a lesser extent.
|No. of Steering Problems|
As you can see from the above table, the worst affected year was 2012, and things quickly improved by 2013.
The problem was simply that when driving the power steering failed making it extremely difficult to turn the wheel, leaving drivers in some rather scary situations.
Here’s what the owners had to say:
“Power steering assist failure warning appeared on dashboard and steering became extremely difficult. Frightened my pregnant daughter to tears.”
“Driving 40 mph around a curvy mountainous road the power steering suddenly stopped working making steering almost impossible thankfully there was a pull-off spot straight ahead or I would have been in a major accident.”
In many cases, owners have had to replace the rack and pinion and/or the power steering, we could not find any recalls for this despite it being so widespread.
Should you lose your power steering whilst driving be prepared to use all of your strength to turn the wheel. Stop as soon as possible. If the power steering has failed because the engine has cut out you may need additional pressure on the brakes to stop the car.
4. RPMs Jump in Park
This problem essentially means that the engine started revving when it shouldn’t have done. This problem was mostly linked to the 2018 Focus.
RPMs are revolutions per minute often just referred to as revs.
Owners describe how after long drives, they put their Focus in Park only for the engine to start revving uncontrollably.
Here’s how one owner explained the dilemma:
When I put this car in park the RPMs race up to 2000 and beyond! The only way to stop it is to shut the car off with the key. Then when I restart the car, the RPM’s go to 1500 then gradually back down to normal around 900. This just started about 2 months or so ago. No engine codes show up, so when I brought back to dealership they said they could not duplicate the problem.”
There are a number of reasons why a car might rev in park including a dirty mass air flow sensor, a sticking throttle body, a bad O2 sensor and even a vacuum leak. On online forums such as FocusFanatics.com most owners suggest a vacuum leak is at the heart of the problem.
Despite the revving in park problems, the 2018 model is actually recognized as one of the most reliable Focus models, and in defense of the Ford Focus, this problem was nowhere near as widespread as the previously mentioned issues.
5. Idles Rough or Stalls Periodically at Stops
According to data from Car Complaints, a very common issue with the 2010 Focus was rough idling and period stalling (usually when stopping at a red light).
- Idling is leaving the engine running while the car is not in motion.
- Rough idling means the RPMs will jump up and down and it won’t feel smooth.
These issues have left mechanics and Ford dealerships scratching their heads however some owners have reported having success by replacing the throttle body.
The throttle body is a vital part of your air intake system that controls the air flowing into your engine.
6. Engine Dies When Driving
The most commonly reported problem with the 2005 Focus was that the engine stalls / dies whilst driving.
Here’s a typical example:
“Car simply dies while driving. No warning. All electric dead then restarts after a few minutes like nothing ever happened. it may run fine for a week then bang it dies.”
In most instances, owners replaced the fuel pump although this appears to only be a temporary fix. Some owners have had long term success by changing the air sensor.
7. Suspension Problems / Premature Tire Wear
The 2008 Focus was the first model year of a major redesign (typically these should be avoided) and despite being relatively promlem free it did amass a large number of suspension complaints. The same problems were also prevalent on the 2009 models.
Owners typically complained of strange noises coming from the rear end and this was accompanied by abnormal wear on the tires.
Here’s one disgruntled owners account:
“Same as everyone else with this car, save on gas but pay for it double in tires. I can only get 15000-19000 miles per tire no mater what kind of tire, no matter how many rotates and alignments – no more Fords for me!”
The suspension is the root cause of these issues however, most owners have been unable to find a solution to this problem other than replace their tires more regularly than they should have to.
Ford Focus Model Years With the Most Problems
To get a better idea of which Ford Focus has the most problems the fairest way is to compare models based on the number of vehicles sold in relation to the number of reported problems.
We’re using the Car Problem Zoo PPMY index which means problems reported per thousand vehicles per Year.
For example, newer cars will have fewer complaints simply because they’ve been around for less time.
Based on this index, the most problematic years are:
- 2012 – 1.42 PPMY
- 2013 – 1.24 PPMY
- 2014 – 1.13 PPMY
And the least problematic years are:
- 2006 – 0.11 PPMY
- 2005, 2008 – 0.12 PPMY
- 2007, 2011 – 0.14 PPMY
|Ford Focus |
|Problems||Sales||Vehicle Age||PPMY Index|
Source: Car Problem Zoo
Ford Focus Pros and Cons
If you’re considering a Ford Focus as your next car you might be wondering what its strengths and weaknesses are…
- Fuel efficient
- Attractive looks.
- Sporty driving dynamics
- Fun to drive
- Good handling
- Responsive steering
- Intuitive touchscreen
- Cramped interior
- Not a huge amount of safety tech
- Uninspired engine choices
Ford Focus Reliability Compared to Similar Cars
Consumer Reports rankings detailed below is based on the model’s last three years, the Ford Focus sits right at the bottom, with a poor score of 12/100.
|Make & Model||Consumer Reports|
Source: Consumer Reports
According to Repair Pal, the Ford Focus is ranked in 26th place out of 33 compact cars in terms of reliability.
|1||Toyota Corolla||4.5 / 5.0|
|2||Kia Forte||4.5 / 5.0|
|3||Honda Civic||4.5 / 5.0|
|4||Toyota Matrix||4.5 / 5.0|
|5||Chevrolet Cobalt||4.5 / 5.0|
|6||Hyundai Elantra GT||4.5 / 5.0|
|7||Hyundai Elantra||4.5 / 5.0|
|8||Mazda3||4.0 / 5.0|
|9||Ford C-Max||4.0 / 5.0|
|10||Kia Forte Koup||4.0 / 5.0|
|11||Hyundai Elantra Coupe||4.0 / 5.0|
|12||Chevrolet HHR||4.0 / 5.0|
|13||Nissan Sentra||4.0 / 5.0|
|14||Buick Verano||4.0 / 5.0|
|15||Dodge Caliber||4.0 / 5.0|
|16||Dodge Avenger||4.0 / 5.0|
|17||Chevrolet Cruze Limited||4.0 / 5.0|
|18||Hyundai Veloster||4.0 / 5.0|
|19||Mitsubishi Eclipse||4.0 / 5.0|
|20||Volkswagen Jetta||4.0 / 5.0|
|21||Mazda5||4.0 / 5.0|
|22||Nissan 370Z||4.0 / 5.0|
|23||Volkswagen Beetle||4.0 / 5.0|
|24||Volkswagen Golf||4.0 / 5.0|
|25||Chevrolet Cruze||4.0 / 5.0|
|26||Ford Focus||4.0 / 5.0|
|27||Dodge Dart||4.0 / 5.0|
|28||Mitsubishi Lancer||3.5 / 5.0|
|29||Chrysler PT Cruiser||3.5 / 5.0|
|30||Volkswagen Golf SportWagen||3.5 / 5.0|
|31||Subaru WRX||3.5 / 5.0|
|32||Subaru Impreza||3.5 / 5.0|
|33||Volkswagen GTI||3.0 / 5.0|
|34||Volkswagen Eos||3.0 / 5.0|
|35||Subaru WRX STI||2.5 / 5.0|
|Avg. Compact Car||4.0|
Ford Focus Used Value
We’ve taken a look on Car Gurus to gauge the resale value of a Ford Focus, below are typical asking prices for each model year.
According to Auto Padre, a Ford Focus will depreciate 33% after 5 years and have a 5 year resale value of $10,536.
Note: Used model prices will vary depending on trim level.
|Model Year||Mileage (miles)||Resale Price|
Source: Car Gurus
What Do Owners Like and Dislike About the Ford Focus?
Based on owner feedback from the Kelley Blue Book site here are what real-life owners love and hate about the Ford Focus.
- Fun to drive
- Generic styling
- Transmission problems
- Jittery acceleration
“I have never owned a compact car before but wanted something that is good on fuel but also fun to drive. So, I bought a 2014 Ford Focus St. So far this car has not let me down. It is really fun to drive and gives me great gas mileage. I get an average of 25 mpg and that’s with hard driving. This car just loves the curves. I really can’t find anything wrong with this car at all.”
Source: Kelley Blue Book
“… This vehicle hits three areas that were important to me – efficiency, sporty, and some luxury (leather seats and touch screen)…”
Source: Kelley Blue Book
“Just got my 2018 Ford Focus SE. It’s awesome. The handling and the comfort are just amazing. I have owned other Ford Focuses and will be staying with them…”
How Reliable Are Ford Cars?
According to a recent report from Consumer Reports, Ford are ranked the 18th most reliable car manufacturer out of 28 brands, with a score of 44/100.
Source: Consumer Reports