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Ford Focus hit with drive shaft failures

Broken: Ford’s Focus has been beset with dual-clutch transmission troubles, but now the drive shafts need to be replaced too.

Now drive shaft breakages force Ford to call Focus back to dealers for repairs

Ford logo24 Jul 2015

By RON HAMMERTON

FORD’S current-model Focus small car has hit more turbulence in Australia, this time with more than 10,000 cars being ordered back to dealership service workshops to have substandard drive shafts replaced.

According to a Ford Australia letter sent to owners early this month and seen by GoAuto, Ford has discovered that drive shafts not up to specification could have been fitted to cars built between May 2013 and January 2014.

Potentially, the shafts can break under aggressive acceleration on take-off.

Although Ford Australia service engineering manager Mark Cruse says in the letter that the fault could render vehicles immobile, the company has chosen to remedy the issue through a so-called service program, rather than a public safety recall involving the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Ford Australia has confirmed to GoAuto that it has reports of vehicles suffering this drive shaft condition, and has written to the 10,600 owners asking them make an appointment with their Ford dealership to have it fixed free of charge.

The drive shaft problem follows accusations from LW-model Focus owners of widespread problems with Powershift dual-clutch automatic transmissions that variously shudder, leak oil, fail to select first gear when coming to a stop and make noises.

Ford Australian communications and public affairs director Wes Sherwood told GoAuto last month that Ford had released a software update to reprogram the “adaptive learning strategy for the transmission” on 45,000 Focuses in August 2014.

This refers to the transmission electronics that theoretically “learn” the way a driver typically drives, and sets the transmission control module settings accordingly.

However, Ford dealers and car owners have reported to GoAuto that the problems persist with dual-clutch transmissions on petrol Focuses that are fitted with so-called “dry” clutches as opposed to the oil-bathed “wet” units on diesel Focuses, and that full clutch replacements are not uncommon.

More than 200 Ford small-car owners have formed a Facebook page to call for more support from Ford on the problems with both Focus and Fiesta.

Some owners say that despite the software reprogramming and even full transmission replacement, the problems have returned, sometimes repeatedly.

One owner wrote on an internet forum that their car had been through three clutches and numerous computer resets.

Another told GoAuto that their 2014 Focus had just been returned from having its transmission changed when the letter regarding the front drive shaft replacement arrived, increasing their frustration.

The letter says in part: “It is possible that the front drive shafts fitted to your vehicle were not manufactured according to our stringent quality standards.

“Shafts that do not meet specification could fail during aggressive acceleration on take-off and you would lose the ability to accelerate from a standing start. This would render your vehicle immobile and require towing.

“We want to ensure that you continue to experience trouble-free motoring, so wish to replace your shafts free of charge.” The LW Focus was introduced in 2011, but production of most variants was switched from Europe to Thailand in mid-2012.

Ford is preparing to ditch the troublesome Powershift transmission in its mid-model facelift Focus LZ due in Australian showrooms in October when it will revert to a conventional six-speed torque converter-type automatic transmission.

This year, Ford Focus sales are down by more than half, and is now ranked 10th in the small-car sales rankings.

The company is hoping the mid-life facelift will rekindle buyer interest in Focus in the fourth quarter.

Further excitement will be generated by the arrival of the hot 257kW Focus RS hatch from Europe in the first half of 2016.

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