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I'm hoping this will help someone else in the future who may experience this problem. I found a couple videos on door dis-assembly and replacing the handle, but not very much on how the components worked. There's plenty of text-book style guides, but I learn visually. [8D] It also took some of my own determination to figure out why it still wasn't working after brand new parts.

I had a problem for the past 8 months where my Driver's side exterior door handle wasn't engaging the latch on the frame of the vehicle.

What I ended up having to do was either leave the window rolled down (manual crank) or climb through the passenger side to open (how embarrassing and unsafe [hihi]).

Here's a fact: The exterior handle itself is just two hunks of plastic. Very fail-safe. There's also two gaskets (one for the lock, the other toward the front of the vehicle where it swivels).

Here's another fact: The DRIVER'S SIDE HANDLE REINFORCEMENT (Part here) has a lot of pain-in-the-neck components that could decay or prove faulty over time.

Neither of these were actually my problem at all. I ended up wasting $70. [rofl]

The problem was the metal-connection-bar (excuse my technical term) being bent. See the video to learn about my problem and how some simple elbow grease re-engaged the latch-hook and how the components work.

Youtube Video here

P.S.,

In my case, I found a lot of rust on the inside. I assume that the elements of my lovely Pennsylvania region found their way in there.. moisture, freezing cold air, etc. could have caused all kinds of havoc on that metal bar.

Excellent video-guide on Focus door dis-assembly.
 

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The metal connection bar bends because the latch assembly eventually dries up of all lube inside it, that pushes the operating force requirement way up to bend the bar gradually over time. The same fault is what causes the upper door reinforcements to break the tab off as well.
 
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