8 Common Ford Focus Problems (+ Recalls Data)

You’re at a red light, bopping to your favorite song. Then, it’s time to move, and your engine gets knocked out cold. Nothing is working, including the electrical system. Then, after a few cranks, the car just comes back on like nothing happened.

Well, the Ford Focus is notoriously known to shut down the engine unexpectedly. Don’t worry; you are not alone, and it’s just one of the myriad of problems you may encounter with the Ford Focus. 

The common problems you might experience with a Ford Focus are powershift transmission problems, fluctuating engine RPM, ignition problems, exhaust, and fuel system issues, steering problems, catastrophic engine failure, low-speed pre-ignition problems, and premature tire wear. 

Keep reading as we go through all the common problems that plague the Ford Focus and the possible solutions to each. Also, we’ll estimate how deep you need to dig into your pockets to fix any of these problems.

Most Common Ford Focus Issues Explained

1. Fluctuating Engine RPM

Although this problem seems prevalent in recent models, particularly the 2018 model, the issue is not new.

With the recent models, the problem occurs when the driver shifts the gear into park after a long drive. Oftentimes, the engine RPM goes all bonkers. For noobs, this means your engine starts to rev uncontrollably. It only stops when you turn off the engine and start it up again. 

Earlier generations also experienced uncontrollable engine revs without using the accelerator

Some owners of the 2000 models even reported driving for a few miles without using the accelerator pedal due to heightened engine revolutions. 


Well, for every problem, there is always a solution. The possible cause of the issue includes a clogged mass air flow sensor, a defective oxygen sensor, a sticking throttle body, or a vacuum leak. The solution that proved to be most effective was checking for vacuum leaks. 

Replacing the idle control valve in the older models seems to rectify the problem.

The cost of rectifying the problem may vary depending on the cause. Cleaning the mass airflow sensor only costs about $50 for labor. However, changing it will cost around $130 for the replacement sensor and $95 for the labor, adding to a total of $225. 

A check for the oxygen sensor would also cost you about $50. The average replacement cost of the idle control valve is around $308. 

Fixing a vacuum leak is the most expensive of all three, costing $391 in total ($95 for the labor and $296 for the parts). Ultimately, these prices may vary depending on your location.

2. Ignition Problems

Ignition problem is another common issue with the Ford Focus. Imagine closing from a hectic day at work, and your key won’t turn in the ignition.

This problem is prevalent with the models manufactured between 2000 to 2005, with the 2003 model having the most complaint. 

There are always some telltales that get worse with time. It usually starts with having to turn the key several times or in a particular way before the engine starts. 

At first, the symptom is intermittent but gradually worsens. When it gets worse, the steering wheel may lock up, the key won’t turn in the ignition, or it gets trapped in the ignition. 


Oftentimes, a faulty lock module is responsible for the issue. But it is not unusual for the ignition switch to cause the problem. 

Replacing the defective part would solve the problem. According to RepairPal, the average cost of ignition switch replacement is between $125 and $174. The estimated labor cost was between $58 and $74, while the part was between $67 to $100. 

For the ignition system, RepairPal estimated that $180 should be sufficient to carry out the replacement.

The spare parts prices range from $67 to $100, while labor would cost around $58 and $74. However, one owner claimed Ford charged him $400 to fix this issue. So, it is worth noting that this price could vary depending on your car model, the repairer, and the location.

3. Exhaust and Fuel System Issue 

The chances of experiencing this issue increase when you fill up your gas tank. Ford developed the Evaporative Emission Control (EVAP) System to reduce exhaust emissions and improve fuel efficiency. The system uses an evaporative canister to trap fuel vapors that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere.

The EVAP system is known to pack up, often resulting from the failure of the purge valve. The valve was designed to allow the trapped fuel vapor to enter the engine for combustion. When it fails, it gets stuck in either an open or closed position, causing it to malfunction.

However, the system’s failure could also result from a loose, damaged, or missing fuel cap, defective hose, or leaking fuel tank. 

The issue is quite common among the 2012 to 2018 models and usually causes the engine to stall. Other possible symptoms include a check engine light, rough running engine, sudden loss of power, or shuddering engine.

Typically, when you scan the system, you’ll get a P1450 code — suggesting an issue with the fuel tank purge valve. You may also get a P0441, P0442, P0456, or P0455 code, which are all indicators of an issue with the EVAP System. 


There has been a recall for about 1.5 million units of Ford Focus manufactured between 2012 to 2018 that are susceptible to purge valve failure. 

So, you should check with your dealer to see if your vehicle qualifies for the recall. If not, you’ll have to shell out around $175 to repair the purge valve. The parts usually cost around $94 to $118, while labor costs range from $44 to $56.

4. Steering Problems

The Electronic Power Assisted System is also another cause for concern. The system helps reduce the driver’s steering effort during driving. An issue with one of the sensors could trigger the system’s sudden failure and consequently increases the driver’s steering effort. 

Besides increased steering effort, the issue could also cause the steering wheel to lock up, trigger the check engine light, and a B2278 error code — indicating an issue with the steering torque sensor. 

The issue was most common among 2012 to 2014 Ford Focus models but was reported in some 2015 and 2016 models. And despite the common occurrence of this issue, Ford never issued a recall for it. 


Fixing this issue may involve replacing the faulty component, which doesn’t come cheap. Replacing a faulty sensor may cost an average of $500 because the sensor could cost anywhere from $50 to $400, while labor will run between $70-$150. 

Replacing the power steering costs around $400, with the parts costing between $179 to $213. The labor would cost around $122 – $154. The rack and pinion cost much more, with the repair costing in the ballpark of $1,500. The parts cost around $996 to $1,081, while the labor costs around $355 and $448.

5. Engine Stalling and Catastrophic Engine Failures

Another issue common with the Ford Focus is engine stalling. This problem goes as far back as the first-generation Focus and was more common with the 2000 models. The engine would unexpectedly shut down during operation. All the electrical components will also cease to function. The car usually comes back up on its own after a bit. 

There have also been reports of catastrophic engine failures in recent models, particularly those fitted with Ford’s one-liter EcoBoost engines. 

Their cylinder heads were susceptible to cracks, resulting in coolant leaks and, ultimately, catastrophic failures. It could even worsen as some owners reported that their engines went up in flames following the failure


In March 2015, Ford issued a recall for the one-liter EcoBoost engines manufactured between October 2011 and October 2013. The recall stated there was a risk of the coolant hose failing at high temperatures, which could lead to a fire in the engine. 

It also stated that Ford would shoulder the total cost of engine overheating-related concerns and install a sensor to identify when the coolant level was getting low. 

For the earlier models, there are two solutions to fix the engine dying out. Either change the fuel pump (a temporary fix) or the powertrain control module. However, if the engine gets blown, we all know there’s only one way to fix that. 

For the fuel pump, you’ll have to fork up around $900 ($555 – $609 for parts and $216 – $272 for labor). 

The powertrain control module costs upward of $1,000 ($707 – $1,032 for parts and $71 and $90 for labor). Replacing the engine will cost from $2,500 to $4,000.

6. PowerShift Transmission Problems

Ford is not new to the transmission problem game in models like the Focus (and even the EcoSport). According to Car Problem Zoo and CarComplaints.com, the vehicle’s powertrain was the most common problem with the third-generation Ford Focus. It was so bad that a couple of class action lawsuits have been filed because of this problem. 

Ford introduced the PowerShift dual-clutch automatic transmission in 2011, which was used in their Focus from 2012 to 2016. 

This new transmission was outrightly problematic. It used dual clutches, which tend to slip the clutch like a manual transmission and shift rougher than conventional torque converters. 

Drivers have complained of shuddering acceleration, gear slipping, rough shifting, and sometimes, certain gears won’t engage. The issue has plagued the 2012 and 2014 models, earning both models a spot on CarComplaints’ list of worst vehicles.


There is no definite fix for the PowerShift transmission problems. Owners have tried changing the clutch, replacing the Transmission Control Module, changing the transmission, and installing system updates, but nothing seems to work.  

There are also suggestions that the transmission fails because of a poor ground connection. Here is a video with a step-by-step guide on how to make a good ground connection

Finally, Ford has agreed to a $30 million cash settlement to reimburse owners of Focus and Fiesta who experienced repeated part failure. It has also extended the powertrain warranty on affected models to seven years or 100,000 miles. 

However, if you are out of luck, you may have to spend around $730 to $849 to change the clutch. Replacing the transmission would cost around $1,100, while the TCM should cost between $400 to $700. 

7. Low-Speed Pre-Ignition Problems

Low-speed pre-ignition is another popular issue with the Ford Focus. However, the problem is not limited to only Ford engines but is common with most turbocharged engines.

The turbocharged and downsized Ford Focus engines experienced low-speed pre-ignition causing the air/fuel mixture in the combustion chamber to ignite prematurely before the spark plug ignites.

Research had showed that at low-speed pre-ignition can damage engine components and ultimately lead to catastrophic engine failure.


For one, the problem could be prevented through good driving habits. You should always avoid driving in high gear at low RPM. If not, you risk breaking a piston. And replacing a broken piston doesn’t come cheap. You should budget between $1,000 to $5,000 for the repairs.

8. Premature Tire Wear

The ford focus is also notoriously known for premature tire wear. The issue started with the 2008 model following the design refresh of the second-generation Focus. Despite the complaints, the problems still remained in the 2009 model. 

Owners experienced premature and uneven tire wear, which led to replacing all four tires as early as one year after owning the vehicle. 

Owners also complained of a bad suspension system, especially hearing rear-end noise. 


There is no permanent solution to this problem. You’ll just have to budget for tire changes. Many users claim the tires wear out after every 15,000 – 19,000 miles.

Which Ford Focus was the most Problematic?

The Ford Focus received serious backlash from consumers in the last decade due to the vehicle’s faulty transmission. Throughout the twenty years of production run (discontinued in 2018), the owners reported a total of 23,287 problems (Credit: Car Problem Zoo).

Model YearNumber of Problems

Credit: Car Problem Zoo

From the above chart, the model year that received the most complaint was 2012 with a total of 4,566 complaints. At the second spot was the 2000 model year, with 3,712 problems, followed by the 2014 model year, with 3,003 problems

A model receiving more complaints than others doesn’t necessarily mean it is problematic. It could also be an indicator that such a model was more popular and sold more units. Interestingly, the model received the award for the world’s best-selling vehicle in 2012

However, the 2014 and 2012 models currently sit on the 11th and 15th spots on CarComplaints’ list of top twenty worst vehicles. 

And going by Car Problem Zoo reliability index measured using the number of problems reported during the model’s first year in service, the 2012, 2013, and 2014 models were the least reliable. 

Certainly, there is no gain in saying that you should stay away from the 2012, 2013, and 2014 model years

If you are in the market for a Ford Focus, you should consider models that have proven dependable over the years, particularly the 2018 or 2017 model years. Because besides receiving fewer complaints, the issues that plagued the earlier models have all been addressed in these models. 

Recent Ford Focus Recalls

The Ford Focus has been the subject of several recalls, from defective purge valves to the powertrain, engine, electrical system, steering, door latch, etc. So far, the fourth-generation Focus, particularly the models manufactured between 2012 to 2016, has been the subject of the largest transmission recall in history.

In 2020, a recall was announced for defective door latches in some 2012 to 2015 model years. The latches may break, making the doors difficult to latch and/or leading the driver or a passenger to believe a door is securely closed when, in fact, it is not.

The company also recalled certain 2012 to 2018 Ford Focus vehicles with a 2.0L GDI or 2.0L GTDI engine due to possible Canister Purge Valve (CPV) malfunction. The failure could lead to an excessive vacuum in the fuel vapor management system.

How to Check if Your Ford Focus Has An Open Recall

If you’re having problems with your Ford Focus, taking it to the mechanic shouldn’t be your first line of action (especially if the model is relatively recent).

There could be an open recall case on the same issue, which could help you get the car fixed for free. So, if you want to check for a recall case, the NHTSA site is the most trusted.

This information will be easily obtained by entering your vehicle’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) into the manufacturer’s database. 

Here are the steps involved in using this site:

  • Check for the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on your car. You can find it on the windshield or the sticker pasted on the driver’s door side. You can also check your insurance card or the vehicle’s registration card. 
  • After getting the number, input it into the VIN search box on the website.
  • The website will display any recall on your car model in the past 15 years. You should go through the recent ones to find any which affect your car.
  • However, the website will not display any results if the car is an international vehicle or if the VIN of your car is not yet identified.

Why did Ford Stop Making the Ford Focus?

In 2018, Ford Motor Company announced that they’d no longer be making any passenger cars in the United States, including the Focus. This was due to the substantial decline in yearly sedan sales. The company shifted their attention to SUVs and Pickup trucks that were performing well. 

While the Ford Focus was discontinued in the United States, they were still available in other markets. However, the company plans to stop the production of all Focus models by 2025.

Ford Focus and Other Vehicles in the Compact Car Segment

Despite its flaws, the Ford Focus was quite popular before it was discontinued in the U.S market and is still popular in other regions. But how does the vehicle stand up against the competition in the compact car segment? Below is a quick comparison between the 2022 Ford focus and other worthy vehicles in the compact car segment:  

Ford Focus vs. Toyota Corolla

While the Ford Focus outshined the Toyota Corolla in performance due to its turbo-boosted engines; the latter took the lead in reliability, fuel efficiency, and safety. However, the Corolla has standard driver assistance technologies and pretty decent annual maintenance costs. 

Ford Focus vs. Mazda 3

When it comes to mid-sized hatchbacks, Mazda 3 is one of the best, renowned for its all-around excellence. While the Mazda 3 is dynamic and has an efficient engine, the Ford has an even more impressive engine output, great fuel economy and a wider selection to pick from. 

Ford Focus vs. Honda Civic

If you prefer a comfortable ride, the latest safety technologies with the option of a two-door coupe, the Civic is definitely a better choice. However, if you are looking for a high-performance vehicle with a sporty feel, you should consider the Ford Focus.

The Good and The Bad of the Ford Focus

Although the car has had its fair share of reliability issues, it has also won the world’s top-selling car. And despite the model’s bad reputation, there are still some models that have proven reliable. So, If you are planning to buy the Ford Focus, below are the good, the bad, and the ugly side of the vehicle:


  • The vehicle has decent fuel economy
  • It offers great handling and is fun to drive
  • If you want a budget-friendly compact car, the Ford Focus is a good choice (just avoid the problematic model years).


  • The car is renowned for its dual-clutch problems
  • The 2012 – 2014 models give the owners quite a nightmarish experience

What is the Life Expectancy of the Ford Focus?

According to owner reports, if you drive around 15,000 miles a year, you should be able to get 13 to 16 years of use. This will translate to a total of about 200,000 to 250,000 miles. Of course, this statistic will largely depend on the car’s maintenance.

What do Owners Say About the Car?

While a few owners claimed that the cars functioned well after their purchase. Several other owners have complained that they were extremely disappointed

They reported that the vehicle performed great after buying it brand new, but things began falling apart as the vehicle age. There are also complaints about the poor resale value and the infamous PowerShift transmission issues. 

Here’s what one user had to say: 

My car is 9 years old, just under 65,000 miles on it, purchased new in 2013. I thought it was a decent car until now and apparently I’m one of the lucky ones for how many miles I got before the problem came up. It is no longer drivable due to Ford’s well-known problem with bad Transmission Control Modules (TCM).’

Generally, the owner’s consensus about the Ford Focus cars isn’t so good. However, it could be a good buy if you get your hand on one of the models with few problems, including the 2018 or 2017 model years.

Final Thoughts

The Ford Focus is a budget-friendly sport hatchback. However, the issues that plague the vehicle make it a bad choice for many.

While there are some models that have proven dependable over the years, it has the tendency to come with a lot of baggage and has since been discontinued in the United States.