Ford Focus used car buying guide

If you're looking to buy a Ford Focus, it's worth getting familiar with its common problems, so you can avoid being caught out by them. Read on to get the full expert view on these reliable, dependable and popular hatchbacks in Mk2 and Mk3 forms.

Ford Focus Mk3 known faults and common problems

Introduced in the UK in 2011, the third-generation Ford Focus saw Ford really make the grade in terms of quality and dependability for the people. Extremely well made with an expansive model range, the Mk3 Focus continued the reputation of being respected and highly regarded for both fleet and retail owners. Also, like all Focuses before it, the Mk3 was – and is – a great steer, making it a real driver’s car.

Despite being priced a notch higher than the Ford norm when launched, residuals have now weakened following the recent new model launched last year. Now affordable and with colossal forecourt choice, the Focus Mk3 is a superb used buy – and that makes it far too good to be considered ‘just’ the default-choice family car.

Top 10 problems

Buying guide – common issues, and what to look for if you're looking at getting one.

1 – Creaking windscreens

A whisper filtering through the trade regards the bonding of the front screens failing. Listen out for faint crunching or graunching sounds under spirited cornering. Keep your eyes and nostrils open for damp carpets and stale smells. This seems to be affecting cars that have recently had their screen replaced.

2 – Powershift and automatic gearboxes

Early cars featured a dry clutch transmission that was superseded by a more robust and reliable wet clutch type. It’s critical to ensure its three-year fluid and filter change to aid longevity and reliability. Powershift is troublesome and best avoided.

3 – Suspension

Some cars can demonstrate a creaking front suspension when traversing speed humps or undulating roads. This tends to be nothing more sinister than dry bushes that a keen DIY owner can cure in minutes. A good bargaining point when closing a deal.

4 – Steering checks

When stationary, twirl the steering wheel from one full lock to another a few times and listen for a clonk or twang noise. You may be looking at a broken front coil spring. Not overly expensive to fix but it’s imperative that they are changed as a matching pair.

Ford Focus 2015 interior view

5 – Bodywork

The Focus features some intricate styling cues that make poor quality repair work really noticeable. Look around all the lamp unit edges and in particular around and inside the filler flap for signs of repair and overspray. Panel and paint quality from new was very good so reject or question anything that doesn’t look right.

6 – Brakes

Generally the Focus braking system is well up to the job in hand, but there are some really poor quality aftermarket parts out there. Look out for juddering front discs and grumbling rear pads. Make sure the road test features some high speed driving to induce the aforementioned problems – and haggle.

7 – Electricial

Some models can show signs of a charging issue. Sit in the car with the interior light on and engine idling. If the interior light seems to pulsate or flicker when you turn on the headlamps or other high current demand items like the heated screen, it’s showing an early sign of the alternator giving up.

8 – Wheels and tyres

The Focus can often be misdiagnosed for having a wheel bearing issue. It’s often caused by low quality tyres. If you notice any humming noises below 70mph coming from the back, check the tyre brand or for the inside edge of the rear tyres feeling lumpy or edged.

9 – Clutch and gearbox

Walk away from vehicles with a stiff gearchange, high biting clutch and/or spongy feeling clutch pedal. Earlier 1.0 cars had quality problems with components causing failure in some cases below 10,000 miles. Also, listen for a rattling noise when switching off indicating a failing dual mass flywheel.

10 – Ecoboost cooling system problems

EcoBoost 1.0 models (2011–2013) had a quality issue with a small but important plastic coolant pipe known as the Degas hose that became subject to a dealer service recall. Check it’s been modified because if it splits, especially at speed, it can leak and potentially destroy the engine.

Ford Focus 2015 rear view

Engine options

Petrol versions

•   Ecoboost 1.0: 100 or 125hp
•   Ecoboost 1.5: 180hp
•   Ecoboost 1.6T: 180hp
•   Duratec 1.6:  85 or 120hp
•   Ecoboost 2.0: 250bhp
•   Ecoboost 2.3: 350bhp

Diesel versions

•   Duratorq 1.6: 95, 105 or 120hp
•   Duratorq 2.0: 150 or 185hp

Transmission options

•   Front- or four-wheel drive (RS)
•   Five- or six-speed manual
•   Six-speed automatic
•   Six-speed powershift (semi-automatic)

Model timeline

2011: All new Focus goes on sale
2012: New 1.0 EcoBoost and 250hp ST models launched
2013: Revisions and additions to trim levels and equipment
2014: Mid-life facelift
2015: 350hp 4wd RS and 1.5 Ecoboost launched
2017: Infotainment system updated

Ford Focus Mk2 known faults and common problems

Ford Focus 2005 front view


The Ford Focus went on sale all the way back in 2005, but it's a car that's popular and very much remains a good used buy choice on a tight budget. The styling was diluted somewhat compared to the edgy original 1998 version. On the up-side however the whole package gained a notable uplift in terms of the three F’s – fit, finish and feel.

Its massive appeal brings with it a double edged sword. Meaning for every good one that’s tempting to steal your heart, another one lies around the corner threatening to break it. So take advantage of the huge number out there, be patient and thorough – it’ll be worth it.

Top 10 problems

Buying guide – common issues, and what to look for if you're looking at getting one.

1 – Zetec engine misfire

Some 1.6-litre petrol models can suffer from a slight misfire and juddering sensation when driving around town. Can be sourced to a defective Mass Air Flow (MAF) or Manifold Absolute Pressure (MAP) sensor, and aren't always accompanied by an engine light on the dashboard. Failure of either doesn’t always log a fault code on the ECU, so if it doesn't 'feel' right, that's probably the problem. Most garages can fix this reasonably cheaply.

2 - Water leakage

Heater bulkhead drains can block up causing water to run down to the passenger carpet. Rear lamp units, tailgate seals and tailgate hinges are known to cause water ingress in the back too. A stale-smelling interior is a big giveaway.

3 – Noisy rear suspension

Rear wishbone bushes fail on hard-driven cars. Listen out for chattering noises from the rear and observe for uneven rear tyre wear. Aftermarket exhaust systems can also bring rattling sounds into the cabin – especially the cat heat shield.

4 – Electrical problems

Ford Focus 2005 interior view

Make sure everything works. Fragile wiring to the heated screen can cause its total or part failure. A non-working rear wash wiper may point to crushed wiring in the tailgate loom sleeve near the roof hinge.

5 – Road or wheel noise

Rear wheel bearings were improved on the Ford Focus Mk2 but can often be misdiagnosed as faulty. Cheap or part-worn tyres can cause cabin noise that sounds like a wheelbearing issue. Aforementioned suspension problems may also cause a similar noise owing odd tyre wear patterns.

5 – Patchy service history

Ease of servicing means that competent DIY repair is simple. Remain vigilant for lack of paperwork with regards to service history if the owner claims to have undertaken their own routine maintenance.

6 – Bodywork and rust

Pay close inspection to front and rear parts of the sils. Stonechips and road salt are starting to eat away at the edges of the bodywork. Poor-quality body repairs and paintwork stick out like a sore thumb.

7 – Ford Focus cambelt advice

The 1.6 Ti-VCT petrol unit uses a rubber cambelt (all other Mk2 Focus models have a camchain). Replacement is scheduled for every 36,000 miles otherwise a quick and noisy death will occur. Replacement must include the tensioner so ensure this to be the case if it’s advertised as recently changed.

8 – Diesel down on power

All diesel models should feel nippy around town – if they don't, something in wrong. Power losses have been reported to be as simple as being a damaged or restricted turbo intercooler pipe, which is an inexpensive fix by any local garage. Less-than honest traders have been known to diagnose a faulty fuel pump or turbo instead.

9 – Avoid used and abused models

High-mileage and hard-driven cars will often suffer from knocks and bangs from the suspension. This can sound catastrophic, but more often than not, worn suspension bushes are at fault here. Cheaply fixed by your local garage. Check also for uneven wear on the tyres and heavily kerbed wheels – tracking is easily sorted but will cost a lot in replacement tyres if left.

10 – Engine ECU lamps

A glowing ECU lamp may not mean the end of the world. Invest in a sensibly priced OBD code reader. A decent one will cost around £45. Common causes for the engine light being on are faulty oxygen sensors, failing ignition coil packs and crank sensors – all relatively easy if not necessarily cheap to fix, as sensors can be costly.

Engine options

>> Click here for full Ford Focus Mk2 specs

Petrol Units

•    1.4 Duratec 80hp
•    1.6 Duratec 100hp
•    1.6 Duratec Ti-VCT (Variable Camshaft Timing) 115hp
•    1.8 Duratec HE 125hp
•    2.0 Duratec HE 145hp
•    2.5 Duratec ST turbo I5 225hp
•    2.5 Duratec RS turbo I5 305hp
•    2.5 Duratec RS 500 turbo I5 350hp

Diesel engines

•   1.6 Duratorq TDCi 90, 100 and 110hp
•   1.8 Duratorq TDCi 115hp
•   2.0 Duratorq TDCi 110 or 136hp

Transmission options

•  Four-speed Auto
•  Five- or six-speed manual
•  Six-speed Getrag Powershift Semi-automatic dual clutch was available from 2008 model-year facelift.

Ford Focus owners' reviews

The Ford Focus gets a 3.8-star rating, and is generally seen as reliable and good value. Click below to visit the owner reviews section.

Ford Focus owners' reviews

Ford Focus 2005 rear view