I was on my way to the dealer in late November when a thought had occurred to me. “There’s no way my car is going to qualify for a clutch replacement.” As if aware of its future examination, my car’s DCT shifted better than it had been in quite some time. Under the extended warranty program owners aren’t asked to pay for a diagnosis. But it’s still a hassle. And I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of having the original clutches past the expiration of the extended warranty, which is February 2020.
Fortunately, my assessment was wrong. The car needed new clutches. But they found another issue once they dropped the transmission. That complicated things.
Here’s the paperwork I received when I picked up the Focus. I forgot to ask why my clutches qualified for replacement, but according to my research, Ford authorizes replacement for two reasons. The first reason involves oil leaking into the clutches. Additionally, Ford has a system that analyzes the shift behavior of the clutches. If the car exhibits a variance of 500 RPMs or more during certain shift parameters, the car automatically qualifies for new clutches. For all I know my car could have qualified for both those reasons.
Unfortunately for my wallet, the plot thickened once they dropped the transmission. Turns out the rear main seal was leaking. Apparently, it was a minor leak. But they strongly advised replacing the seal now because waiting would mean having to drop the transmission all over again, which would increase the cost significantly. I opted for the replacement. Aside from a patched tire, this is the first non-maintenance related expense I’ve incurred since I purchased the car nearly seven years ago.
Ready for a tangent? While waiting for my car, I got the chance to scrutinize a 2020 Ford Explorer ST. Ford all but botched the initial rollout of the Explorer, so I wanted to see one for myself. I also relished the opportunity to compare the Ford with the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride. My assessment is positive. I didn’t find any issues with the interior. And there weren’t any mismatched or extra wide panel gaps on the Explorer’s exterior. I also thought the cabin contained materials on par with the Korean models. That being said, the Koreans nailed the aesthetics. That’s what makes them feel like much more expensive crossovers.
Back to the Focus. The new clutches work great. I don’t think the car ever exhibited such crisp shifts even when it was brand new. The stuttering that would regularly occur below 20 mph is gone. At low speeds it feels like a traditional torque converter automatic transmission. Above 20 mph, the shifts are exactly what you’d expect from a competent dual-clutch. Acceleration is unchanged, although the car seems far more reluctant to downshift. I’m guessing that was intentional.
For a short while, my concerns about owning a Powershift equipped Focus were non-existent. Then two things happened: Consumer Reports released their latest reliability data and the Detroit Free Press published another damning account about the troublesome transmission. The new data supports the claim that Ford still hasn’t developed a permanent fix.
Here’s a screenshot from earlier in the year, before the latest data was made public. When I saw this reliability snapshot I was hopeful that the new clutches would suffice for the rest of my time with the car. The data also suggested that Ford was right when they claimed that 2016 and newer models experienced far less issues with the clutches. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.
None of these latest developments are encouraging. I have flirted with the idea of selling the car and getting something else, but there’s no way I’d get anything remotely comparable to the Focus for the roughly $6000 I could theoretically get from Carvana. And I don’t want to take out a loan for a newer car just yet. Since I work from home, my car doesn’t get driven very often. It only has 27,000 miles on it. That’s an advantage in a situation like this and the primary reason why I’m sticking with the Focus for the foreseeable future. As long as I don’t let the Focus damage another garage door, the car will probably be fine. I just wish I could feel a bit more confident about the car when I’m behind the wheel.
I’m in the early stages of car shopping (planned buying time is either March or April). I’m already noticing that Fiestas and Focuses with manual transmissions are far and few between.
>>I’m already noticing that Fiestas and Focuses with manual transmissions are far and few between.<<
The odd thing I notice about Focuses on Autotrader is that most of the S and SE trim, where the listing says it has a manual, the photos show that it actually has an automatic. Can't understand it. Doesn't matter which dealer, that error is common across the listings.
It’d be easy to say that’s an accident if it defaults to manual when building the listing, but I bet that it defaults to automatic. The dealers certainly know that the buyers are looking for manuals of those models (and really those models only).
I’m very happy with my 6M Elantra. When I was shopping, I looked at the Focus, but determined at that point (2015) that I’d buy only a manual or torque converter planetary automatic. One Focus I looked at was manual, but was a no for the turbo 3, with its oil-bathed timing belt that sounds like a horror to replace.
>> One Focus I looked at was manual, but was a no for the turbo 3, with its oil-bathed timing belt that sounds like a horror to replace.<<
The VW 1.4T used in the Jetta has that oil bathed rubber timing belt too. I talked with a rep at the VW stand at the Detroit show when that engine came out. She said it is a new rubber compound from Continental, and the belt is supposed to last the life of the engine. I'll let other people be the beta testers for that.
Life of engine…means new engine for a new belt….
Someone else can finance the real world validation of that part. I intend to drive this car to at least 150k miles, and made my selections based on minimizing exposure to further cost. Hyundai warranty+timing chain+manual>Ford warranty+oil bathed belt risk+manual. Small cars with base engine should be prime examples of covering miles with low cost and risk. I bet someone will be driving this Elantra in 2030 with over 250k miles on it.
We’re now using Hyundai as a benchmark for automotive interiors? My how things have changed.
Every time I start feeling a little guilty about never having bought a new U.S. brand car, I read something like this. I don’t so much mean the clutches in the transmission, but a leaking rear main seal? On a car from the 2010s with 27k miles on it?
Yes, I guess one could be happy that this is the first significant repair in seven years of ownership, but it is not 1972 any more.
I know, there is no law of nature that says buying a Japanese or Korean brand will insulate me from expensive repairs but my anecdotal experience tells me that the odds are a lot more in my favor. So far I have been right.
Oh, Amen brother (even from the lapsed). A rear main seal! With modern rubber tech and manufacturing tolerances for hard castings etc allowing for virtual blueprint standards, such a failure is just depressing. This is decidedly NOT a novel engineering concept.
By this standard, they’ll be telling him to bring it at 30K miles for a valve grind and decoke.
Glad Ford replaced the clutches for you. I would have wanted to see that leaking seal though. That’s so few miles for a seal failure. But its good your car is shifting well and you’re enjoying it.
A side note regarding the new ads…
I’m more than happy to have the ads. The site’s content makes it more than worth it. Whatever helps out. But they are popping up over the comment that I am typing over and over, which is a little annoying.
If the trans was coming out anyway and there was any possibility of a leak, then it was good sense to do the seal.
But the cynic in me is whispering that the dealer found a slippery way of putting some of the cost on the owners bill.
That’s good. Too bad there’s no program where they can take out the DCT and replace it with a manual 5-speed. We quite like our manual 2013 Focus.
I wish I could have a 5-speed in our Grand Caravan, warranty runs out in a few months and I’ll be sad if I have to buy the next transmission myself 🙁
I just don’t trust the newer designed automatic transmissions with 6-9 speeds. Call me old fashion but a 3 speed C4 is perfectly fine and I can rebuild them myself. Ok, too old for some here so how about an automatic Accord from the late 80s to early 90s? I’ll stick with manuals, thank you.
As for that interior shot you’ll have to excuse me but it seems many cars have the same looking interior with only minor variations just like exterior designs now. It also seems to me that we have pretty much come full circle with cars. Henry Ford said you could have any color you wanted as long as it was black. Today it is any color as long as it is black or white on the outside and the interior black. Ugh!
It sounds a bit Luddite, but as soon as manufacturers went beyond three speeds, the troubles began. That’s obviously an exaggeration, but after at least 40 years of multi-speed boxes, they seem to be far too prone to failure for what is long-established tech.
Perhaps my thinking is coloured by the fact that the old boxes could be rebuilt cheaply, and as soon as the 4+ jobs started, the prices were triple and more. That is, maybe the older ones did fail as often but were within reason to get fixed, whereas the rest required either the disposal of the car or selling of a child if repairing it.
I’m not convinced that transmissions have gotten worse, I think everything else has simply improved more. We expect the body and engine to last 200 or 300k now instead of everything wearing out together at 100k.
I have a 2015 Mercedes-Benz B250 with a 7 speed DCT. I purchased it with 39,000 kilometres on it. The car performs very well, but the transmission life is always in the back of my mind. I will probably get rid of it before the end of the extended warranty just in case.
I would not sweat the rear main seal cost. Even if it was not leaking, you should have it replaced since you have the transmission out.
When I worked as a car repair tech, the rear main seal replacement was part of the cost if the transmission had to be removed. This was smart thinking because a rear main seal leak is the most expensive leak to repair due to all the things that have to be removed.
Yes your car might not have had a lot of miles but this seal gets subjected to heat and vibrations so it is wise to replace it when a trans is out.
I found it interesting that the paperwork says YOU were the one that noticed the car was leaking oil, prompting a look at the RMS. Your text doesn’t indicate anything of the sort. I wonder if every Focus owner gets invited to pay for a new seal, the techs probably have the transmission drop procedure down pat by now and likely beat the warranty rate handily.
Look on the bright side, the car has lasted six years and 27k miles for you so far and was shifting acceptably well the whole time. Now it’s working better than before so should in theory last you at least another six years and another 27k miles or more. At that point a 12y.o. Focus isn’t going to be worth very much whether it did or did not ever have this issue. It’d probably be more concerning if you’d had repeated problems or drove a lot more.