COAL: 2013 Ford Focus – Oil Change, Recall, And State Inspection Debacle Plus A Brief Observation About Modern Vehicle Infotainment

Car maintenance is generally a pretty straightforward thing. And oil changes are perhaps the most predictable upkeep expenses of an internal combustion vehicle. Pulling the oil dipstick out of the engine and seeing a light brown trail stopping at the “full” line is always welcome. Doing the same thing and getting a reading of half empty less than one thousand miles into a new oil change is not. Having to deal with the fallout of a recall and a New York State inspection that didn’t go as planned only added to the aggravation I experienced earlier this month.

I first realized there might be a problem with the Focus when I checked the fluids after I returned from an out of state trip between Christmas and New Years. Simply put, the oil looked a bit dark and the dipstick was apparently showing that the engine only had half the amount of oil it should. It had only been 1,000 miles since new oil had been put in the car, so naturally I thought something wasn’t right with the car. But there were no spots on the garage floor or on the engine itself. What gives?

I decided to call the dealer that performed the oil change to schedule an appointment so they could determine if there was a problem with the Focus. On the drive over to drop the car off, I realized that giving them the go ahead to look over an engine with less than 30,000 miles on it might result in an inconclusive and expensive visit that would leave me none the wiser. Then it dawned on me that a second oil change would be the best idea, because it doesn’t cost much and does nothing to harm the car while also providing a clean slate to continue monitoring the car for future oil consumption issues.

I also had the dealer perform the recall for the canister purge valve issue. Personally, I experienced none of the symptoms outlined in the notice, so when they said there were no issues, and that the car only needed a software update, I was satisfied.

Between my visit to the dealer, and my trip to the local Valvoline to get my car inspected, I decided to check the oil level to make sure everything was copacetic. At first, it was not, as the level read half full. But when I put the dipstick back in I felt it click into place. Another check and…presto! I was getting false readings because I never put the dipstick back in fully during my previous attempts to get a reading on the oil level. In my defense, my older cars never required this; the dipstick just slid right into the hole. Oh well. I learned a lesson for the inexpensive price of $38 dollars. Could have been worse.

But the drama didn’t end there. February 1st, 2019 was an extraordinarily cold day in New York. I didn’t have a lot going on that Friday and knew I needed an inspection. I correctly surmised that the cold would dissuade people from going to the local Valvoline, which resulted in my car getting inspected in under fifteen minutes. With nothing else to do I watched as one technician hooked the car up to a computer and do other checks. He motioned to his colleagues that they should come over and they walked around the car while looking a bit puzzled, but I didn’t think anything of it at the time.

Turns out they were probably wondering why a car with less than 30,000 miles wasn’t ready for the emissions portion of the inspection. I was also baffled as to how that could happen until the technician asked if I had been to the dealer recently. Duh! I reluctantly paid $21 for the failed test and headed straight up to the dealer to let them know I wasn’t happy with the way things turned out. Fortunately they were understanding and admitted they made a mistake, which resulted in the dealership not only inspecting my car the following week, but covering the cost of the re-inspection, which would have been $10. Humans will make mistakes and adulthood has taught me that there is nothing to be upset about if an issue has been corrected. I left satisfied.

I’m now going to pivot a bit to discuss modern vehicle infotainment. In articles about newer cars I’ve noticed a number of commenters explain their reluctance to purchase a late model vehicle due to the idea that any audio or entertainment interface in said car would inevitably become outdated over time. My response to that is…so what? In the six years I’ve owned my Focus I’ve been through three phones and all of them worked with Ford’s SYNC system just fine. I suspect my eventual Galaxy S7 replacement will also have no problem with the car either.

The same can be said for my 4th generation iPod Touch. I’ve only encountered two problems with the Apple and both of those issues had nothing to do with the car. First was a wire that decided to suddenly stop working and the second was an odd software hiccup that forced me to restart the iPod. That’s it.

Is the car’s user interface outdated? Sure. You’ll get no arguments from me on that point. But it all works just as well as it did on day one. And the Bluetooth is just as fine as ever, along with the voice recognition for my phone and the iPod. There is no general slow down with the system as it has aged.

There are times when I wish I had a more modern 8 inch touchscreen that could handle Android Auto. Having Waze on a nice big screen would be very advantageous. But I got by just fine using my phone as a GPS when I drove down to Maryland last summer and the same setup worked just as effectively when I visited a friend in Salem, MA during the holidays. Any technological device you own will become outdated eventually. And every car gets supplanted by a newer one every couple of years. If the setup in my 2013 Focus didn’t work with newer devices or experienced some type of performance degradation over time I’d be peeved at the state of modern vehicle infotainment. That has not happened yet and I don’t think it ever will.

Related Reading:

COAL: 2013 Ford Focus – Software Update