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I have a 2005 Ford Focus ZX3 which I purchased in 2010. It had 18,000 miles on it when I first purchased it and it now has about 47,000 miles on it now. It's run fairly fine over the years with the usual oil chances and new tires. However, over the past 4 months, the car has taken a turn for the worst. Here's a timeline:

Early June: The last the car ran fine. However, I was about to enter chemotherapy and I filled up my car with gasoline. Over the next 7 weeks I would only drive it a handful of times.

Early July: Driving to chemo one day and my car is a little slow to start up. My dad and I check the battery later and find out the battery is a little depleted. We charge it and a few days later buy a new battery for the car. Car runs fine for awhile and chemo ends mid-July.

Early August: driving back from the cinema and my check-engine light comes on. The next day I drive to Auto-Zone and they do a diagnostic and they tell me my fuel-cap is a little stripped and encourage me to buy a new gas cap and put in a fuel additive that will help clean out my engine. I do so and I presume the problem is fixed.

August 22: driving around and I go over a speed bump. Suddenly, my accelerator doesn't work. The car is still on but when I push on accelerator there is no engine rev or anything. I slow the car down and pull to the side of the road and turn off the car and turn it back on again. Car works fine. I drive back to my house (an hour drive) and I notice my engine seems to be sputtering. I make appointment for a mechanic.

Next week: I see a mechanic and he says I have a dirty fuel filter and he replaces it. Later that day my check-engine light comes on. I call the mechanic again and make an appointment for a few days later.

A few days: I see the mechanic and he looks at the engine. He finds a tear in the PCV tube in the engine and he replaces it (costs $360). Check engine light is off and after doing some driving around, the problem seems to be gone.

Second week of September (this week): I notice my fuel economy has decreased dramatically. After filling up my car with gas, I can usually drive about 100 miles before I notice the needle isn't on the full position. (ex: http://i.imgur.com/OQwyKm6.png ). However, once I hit 60 miles the needle is now off the full position and now at about 70 miles and the needle is significantly off even with gentle driving. Tonight (9/9), I notice my interior lights are now flickering and my car takes a little longer to start up (almost as if the battery is depleted). I am also noticing new rattling and squeaking noises coming from the back of the car and the front of the car.





What the hell is going on? It seems everything in my car is breaking at once and I'm a safe driver and I don't abuse my car.
 

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I am super jealous you found that car with such low mileage.

I've done the repairs you've mentioned and more and are still suffering from poor fuel economy. First thing id do about your battery is test it and the alternator. Can be done with a volt/amp meter or just the voltage by using the test mode, read here: http://www.focushacks.com/mod/Instrument_Cluster_Test_and_Diagnostic_Mode and locate the voltage reading.

Should stick around 13.9 even when driving. If drops low, alternator is bad. (how low? Idk)

Its early in mileage but it could need to have a basic tune up replacing the 2005 stuff. Plugs, etc.
pvc breaking is normal according to what I learned when i first came here. Replaced it myself for 40ish dollars.

Ive been suffering poor fuel economy for a while now but it for real drastically dropped a week or so back. It was cause my valve cover gasket was leaking oil into my spark plug tubs. Gently remove your coil packs and take a look at the spark plugs to see if yours is doing the same.

I use to get around 320 to a tank, no its around 290-300 depending on how I drive which usually its fast and aggressive.
 

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I might chalk it up to age in years, even though the miles are low. The heat shields underneath could have rusted around the bolts that fasten them to the frame, and now they're loose. Also, the rubber in the engine mounts will dry out and crack over time, and you'll get vibrations through the car. That's not really a big issue, my 2005 has 190,000 miles and vibrates like hell. Your Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF) could probably use a cleaning, your throttle body probably has black gunk in it that could be cleaned out. They make special sprays for both those items, not expensive and available at any auto parts store. The fuel filter was a good idea. Certain 2005 models were known to have the starting issue. What I do is turn the key to what I call the "run" position, and let it beep and let all the lights flash. During that time the fuel pump will run and build pressure in the fuel lines. After the beeps I crank the engine and it fires up. Humphrey mentioned the valve cover leaking oil into the spark plug wells. I had that problem too but it never caused a performance issue. One thing people here like to do is gap the spark plugs a little wider than specification: .055 instead of the recommended .050. I did that and it actually made a slight improvement in fuel economy.

Do you have an automatic transmission or manual?

Toby
 

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In my case the plugs and coil boots were swimming and I assume interrupting the fire.
 

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'I might chalk it up to age in years, even though the miles are low.'

I so second that, having been there a couple times myself. Cars with low mileage may not be the deal you think they are, when they sit long periods things go bad simply because car not run regularly. Have had two cars bought like that that showed multiple issues due to that and that alone. Anything rubber will take a set and then not work nearly as well as new live rubber, that includes mounts, belts, seals and other things.
 

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I think it's how these cars were deigned, to last ten years. our 02 was great for ten years with less than 100k but has had everything go wrong since 2012. A guy I know has a 2004 with almost 200k miles and same thing. little problems with normal Maintance then at the 10 year mark the bottom falls out.
 

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I was JUST talking about this yesterday. My friend (who owns a 2002 Accord with like 300k or 400k miles) asked why my I'm always at my parents' house fixing cars. While I'll admit I enjoy tinkering, I never really wondered whether the issues I run into are normal or not.

My parents have a 2002 Ford Escape (+180k miles) and a 2003 Focus ZX5 (+210k miles) and as soon as they hit the 10 year mark, it's like everything started failing at the same time. Motor mounts, brake issues - not helped by leaking brake reservoir caps, bearings, LCAs, sway bar links, wires breaking in the hatch and driver's door, steering pump, coils, catalytic converters, A/C, etc. I chalk it up to old age and high mileage, but when I think about it, my friend doesn't do NEARLY as many repairs as I do.

He does keep up with maintenance (oil changes, coolant, timing belt, etc.) - which is more than I can say for some of my other friends... but is the reliability of Honda/Toyota really THAT much better than Ford? I've never owned a foreign car, so I don't really have anything to compare it to.
 

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Look at the sale price of the Ford vs the Honda. The Focus is aimed at the cheap crowd - there's the cheap people like me who drive for business and rack the mileage up like crazy that we burn through cars like nobody's business and so it makes no economic sense to buy an expensive car, and there's the cheap 20 something crowd that wants something that looks cool and goes vroom vroom, and is cheap because they are all working as Barristas at Starbucks.

Cheap means you cut a lot of corners. I don't like replacing the goddam plastic coolant outlet which should have been made out of cast aluminum not crappy plastic that disintegrates, but it saved Ford a buck or two on the assembly line.

The Hondas and Toyotas have their cheap-o problems too, just talk to anyone in farming or construction who bought a Toyota Tacoma and tried using it to do any real work - those vehicles were made for soccer mom's who want to pretend they are 'workin' and 'drive a big truck' and the weekend crowd that has a little rowboat on a trailer or a canoe and wants to go to the lake.

Your parents are old enough with you and your siblings out of the house that according to the car industry they are supposed to be buying and driving a old-person's Buick that cost them $10K more than a young-person's Focus, if they were they won't have these problems. They are also supposed to be spending lots of $$ at the dealership service department.

If you do an apples-to-apples comparison to foreign vs domestic you won't find any differences. The problem is the people comparing expensive foreign cars against cheap American models then sneering down at the American models. The game works the other way though, you compare a Tacoma against a Ford F150 and see what happens.
 

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Your parents are old enough with you and your siblings out of the house[. . . ]
My parents wish all of my siblings were out of the house! haha

[. . . ]according to the car industry they are supposed to be buying and driving a old-person's Buick that cost them $10K more than a young-person's Focus, if they were they won't have these problems. They are also supposed to be spending lots of $$ at the dealership service department.
Well, thanks to the recession my parents will never have to worry about buying a [new] car ever again. haha

The game works the other way though, you compare a Tacoma against a Ford F150 and see what happens.
True - I shouldn't generalize companies across different vehicle classes and price points.
 

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Rattling: most likely sway bar end links. Expect to spend $40-60 for parts.
Squeaking: usually it's the contact points on the drum brakes in the rear. You must purchase some brake parts grease. It only takes a dab. To pull off the drums easily, remove the 4 bolts that hold the hub on from the back of the drum instead of pulling the drum. We have How-To's on that.
Power problems: check your battery connections. Most electrical problems with this model (not to be confused with the earlier Focis that have alternator pigtail issues) are due to loose battery connections. My alternator lasted 140k miles or so. It is much more economical to get it rebuilt locally than to purchase one from a parts store.
The fuel filter: will need to be changed every 20-30k miles or yearly, whichever comes first. This will ensure that your fuel pump lasts as long as possible. Some 05-07 Focis have had fuel pumps last over 200k. Mine is currently at 170k.
The battery: might be bad. Mine lasted 8 years which is really good, and might've been able to take a charge still, but the alternator died and I needed a hot battery to drive home on. If yours is a Motorcraft, it should have a green indicator light. If it is bright, then the battery is good. You can also check voltage using the electronic odometer trick. This will also allow you to monitor alternator voltage when you drive. Just enter test mode by following this procedure: key off, press and hold the trip odometer reset button, turn key on, continue to hold button until the odometer reads [test]. Release, now each time you press and release the odo reset button you'll scroll through 1-30ish test functions until you turn the key off. Look for the one that reads [bat 12.1] or whatever your battery voltage might be. If you start the car and drive, you'll see the alternator voltage.
 

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PratoN - Might also consider that some don't fix anything that doesn't keep it from rolling, except for basic oil change type maint..
 

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the designers can take a great design and make it real, but the corporate side will say "now that we have a great car lets make it as cheap as possible to produce and use insufficient parts",
 

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They don't do that for all models, just for the models that are aimed at the cheap crowd. And sometimes only for certain segments of the better crowd. Ford is notorious for all kinds of hidden recalls and customer satisfaction fixes for it's Crown Vics that were not available to the general public. (like the disintegrating plastic intake manifold fix, the fracturing weld on steel wheel fix, etc.) The police depts. got the fix for free, the general public paid.

In all fairness, though, the real problem is new car buyers who don't make purchasing decisions on quality of the engine and powertrain, but only on what they can see and touch - the dashboard, seats, etc.

We have the same problem with new home sales. When was the last time you saw a builder of a new home use copper pipe? It's all plastic now, both PVC and PEX. And the problems with poor grades of ABS drain line are well known.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Well, it turns out it is the Alternator and I'm hopefully getting it replaced tomorrow. My brakes are squeaking so I need to replace those relatively soon.
 

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Luck!

P.S. - you didn't see my early skydiving adventures....
 

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Squeaking brakes is not always a sign of a "problem" or bad pad. There are 2 types of brake squeaks.

1) the brakes squeak when you apply them
2) The brakes squeak, or squeal until you apply them.

Condition 1= normalish. Buy better pads next time, or use a different anti-squeal application. If it's the rear brakes only, then there is a place where brake parts grease (yes it's special) can be applied to limit the squeal. By better pads I don't mean ceramic or carbon metallic. Those are for race cars. A better manufacturer, like Motorcraft or Wagner would be best. High performance, or racing brakes are not good for daily drivers because those pads are hard and designed to take a long time to heat up, and less brake fade when hot. In a daily driver you spend much more time with cold brakes- which greatly increases braking distance.

Condition 2= that's what it sounds like when you need new pads, and you probably have less than a couple of weeks before you'll go into grinding and possibly even shatter a rotor. It all depends on how far you drive and how much you use your brakes. The rear shoes are supposed to do the same thing, but it seems to me like most "squealers" on drum shoes tend to break off or not do the job. Those will grind into the drum without much warning, unfortunately. The good thing is that drum shoes tend to last about 2x as long as disc pads up front- mainly because the front brakes do most of the stopping.
 

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Heh, Reminds me of an old Datsun I had. We have a major thoroughfare near here - 2 lane both directions - that the city has "hipsterized" ya might call it -put all these trendy boutiques and pubs and such along it. So there is a lot of problem with idiots who just walk out into the street and figure the traffic going to come to an abrupt stop.

I have to drive that sucker every day. I first tried the trick of getting big-ass speakers in the back and when going through that thoroughfare, turning up the volume on the nastiest F-word rap I could find, to make the stupid pedestrians actually look at me. That didn't work so well especially in the winter.

So I finally hit on the idea of brake squeak, I got the hardest brake pads I could find, cleaned the backs off of every scrap of sound deadener, and put them on the car. Those brakes squealed so loud they would shatter eardrums and glass, with the nastiest impure harmonic-filled screeching noise you could imagine. It was awful, I was glad I was -inside- the car with the windows up tight.

So then when I drove through that thoroughfare, I'd just ride the brakes just a touch and they would scream like amplified fingernails on a chalkboard. THAT got the attention of the mutton-heads, even the ones with headphones on, or yaking in their cell phone. I never had a problem with people jaywalking out into the street in front of me.

Sadly, that car finally wore out and I've never been able to get brakes to squeal or screech like that on the Focuses, no matter what I've tried.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Okay, it turns out the alternator was about to go so I got that replaced. Car seems to be running much better now.
 

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Everything works better when it gets good power, tx for reporting the fix.

Get a chance to look at those brakes yet?
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Everything works better when it gets good power, tx for reporting the fix.

Get a chance to look at those brakes yet?
Not yet. I plan to get that done in the coming weeks.

Anyone have an estimate on how much it would cost to replace the brakes?
 
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