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Old 01-18-2013, 09:16 PM   #1
Kapazza
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New Focus owner...

Hey guys. A couple of weeks ago I needed to quickly buy a used car because my employer was going to force me to rent a car to drive to a job site (over $40 a day, plus gas) and my wife also needed a car for work. I found a nice 2002 Focus SE with 140k miles on it and a clean Carfax report. The last guy to have the car was a retired mechanic for a Dodge dealership and had just put over $1,200 worth of parts/work in the car (thermometer, timing belt, 2 rear window regulators, 2 new tires for the rear, a reservoir, fresh transmission fluid, and some other miscellaneous stuff). He did some of the work himself.

Well, I was in such a rush to buy a car, I drove it and didn't hear or see any issues, checked the Carfax, then bought it for $2,300 cash. The next day I'm driving on a bumpy road and the rear end feels like its hitting patches of ice. There is no rear sway bar on the car. I do a bit of research and end up here. Then I read the worst news: SPI engines are junk. I remember looking at the engine before purchasing the car (which ran very quiet and smooth)...it's an SPI. A few days later, my wife and I start to notice vibrations when the car hasn't been running for awhile. I have a feeling the motor is on its last leg.

Here's my dilemma: do I take it to a mechanic and pay for the cylinder head swap before it blows, and also get the rear swaying problem fixed? Or do I just attempt to sell it and look for another car? Basically, if I get the work done and pay $1,000-1,500, and the car lasts me another 100,000 miles, I'll be happy. But I'm not positive that the cylinder head swap will provide that kind of security. I may even ask the guy who sold it to me to do the work (for a reasonable fee) for me since he clearly knew this was not the reliable car he made it out to be. It is my fault for rushing into it and not doing the research though. Thanks in advance for your thoughts...I'm just stressed out over the whole thing.


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Old 01-20-2013, 11:32 AM   #2
Kapazza
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Looks like I'm dropping off the car at a mechanic tonight to get a quote on all the work tomorrow. Hoping everything will be under $1,500!
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Old 01-21-2013, 10:17 AM   #3
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sorry about the bad luck.

I wouldnt bother with the seller, in most states private party used car sales are understood to be as-is sales, unless there is writing otherwise, so it is the buyers responsibility to check the car out. And if he was less than honest about the condition of the car, I would not trust him to work on it. its on of those fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me situations.

personally, i wouldn't drop 1500 on a 2300 car. I would see what I could sell it for (maybe put a new sway bar on it, that shouldnt cost much....) and find a new ride. Good luck.
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Old 01-21-2013, 03:30 PM   #4
Kapazza
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The mechanic said that the valve seat problem has a low chance of happening if I make sure the engine temperature is being regulated. He said he's seen SPI's with 200k+ miles. Depends on how you drive it. I know there's some truth to that, but I also know tomorrow could still be the last time it runs. He talked me out of doing the cylinder head replacement, which he said would have been upwards of $2,000 alone (seems a bit high?). He said the rear shimmy was happening because of a bad wheel bearing and a bad arm. He is going to replace those and do a 4-wheel alignment for about $400. He said the engine rattle was from 3 bad engine mounts, which he is going to give me a quote for, but said wasn't necessary right now.

This guy only had 5 reviews (all 5-star) on cartalk.com, but everyone else in my area had just 1 or 2 reviews.

My plan (assuming the rear shimmy issue is actually fixed when I get it back) is to just drive it and keep my fingers crossed. If the valve seat drops, then I'll consider a Zetec swap or just junking it and looking for something else.
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Old 01-22-2013, 10:27 AM   #5
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I am not sure about the low chance of happening. There have been members on here who said they babied their cars and still dropped the valve seat. plus, you never know how it was handled by the previous owner(s).

People have said they have found remanufactured heads for around $500, then installed themselves. you should be able to do the full swap for $2000 or so, if you do the labor.

Hope all goes well for you.

I made the decision not to replace my head. I don't want to drop 25% of the value of a car that I don't know how much longer I will keep anyway. of course, I have been saying for the last 6 years I was going to replace the old turd, and never have....
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Old 01-23-2013, 04:46 PM   #6
Kapazza
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A new passenger side lower control arm, wheel bearing, 4-wheel alignment, frame alignment, and $440 later, and the shimmy problem still exists at 30-40 mph. It's better, but not resolved. I'm going to try it out at highway speeds, but most likely this car is going back on the market.
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Old 01-23-2013, 06:41 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kapazza View Post
A new passenger side lower control arm, wheel bearing, 4-wheel alignment, frame alignment, and $440 later, and the shimmy problem still exists at 30-40 mph. It's better, but not resolved. I'm going to try it out at highway speeds, but most likely this car is going back on the market.
Have a focus that seemed like it was swaying in snow,turned out it just needed shocks.
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Old 01-23-2013, 06:49 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kapazza View Post
A new passenger side lower control arm, wheel bearing, 4-wheel alignment, frame alignment, and $440 later, and the shimmy problem still exists at 30-40 mph. It's better, but not resolved. I'm going to try it out at highway speeds, but most likely this car is going back on the market.
could still be a bad bushing somewhere in the rear or it could be too much toe in.

What were the alignment specs that the car actually is. The Ford "spec" are very broad, and would allow situations where swaying could happen. These cars really prefer to have zero (or very very close to) rear toe in the rear.
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Old 01-25-2013, 08:30 AM   #9
Kapazza
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He said the toe was set to +0.1. I had him drive the car with me and he admitted the problem wasn't fixed. He offered to look more into it or refund me. I took the refund and offered to pay for the parts. Hoping to get back what I paid for it on Craigslist.
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