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How reliable is the Ford Focus? Compare common faults, running costs and maintenance costs

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 1 year ago

4 min read

  • Advice
  • reliability
Ford Focus (3)

WhoCanFixMyCar discusses the reliability of Ford Focus models from 1998-2022, including common faults and the cost of ownership

The Ford Focus has been a huge hit ever since it first came out in 1998. Despite the fact that there have been many updates to the Focus over the years, its outstanding practicality and handling have both remained constant.

What are the main problems of a Ford Focus?

There’s no doubt that Ford deserves a pat on the back for creating one of the UK’s most enduringly popular cars, but just how reliable is it? Here are a few common Ford Focus problems reported by owners:

  • Alternator issues

  • Water leaks

  • Steering issues

  • Brake issues

  • Engine cutting out

  • Bonnet won't open

Usually, common Ford Focus problems can be attributed to a particular year of manufacture:





1998 to 2004 Ford Focus common faults and running costs


The first-generation Ford Focus was first released in Europe in 1998. It is a compact car that follows Ford’s New Edge styling philosophy of the early 2000s, which at the time was deemed polarising. 

Estimated Running Costs

  • The first-gen Focus has an estimated fuel economy of 26mpg. By comparison, the 2021 Focus can achieve a fuel economy of up to 42.8mpg during touring tests

  • Models with the popular Zetec trim level range from band E (around £165 annually) to band K (£360 annually)

  • Models with the CL trim level are in insurance group 9 for petrol engines and 11 for diesel engines, while models with the Zetec trim level range from group 9 (for the 1.4 litre petrol engine) to group 17 (for the 2.0 litre petrol engine)

Based on WhoCanFixMyCar data, the five most common jobs carried out on first-generation Ford Focus cars are MOT, clutch replacement, aircon regas, full service, and cambelt and water pump change.

Clutch Replacement£522.93
Aircon Regas£67.06
Full Service£176.17
Cambelt and Water Pump£397.09

Alternator fault

The alternator could develop a short circuit, overheat and start a fire. If you’re thinking about purchasing a Focus that was manufactured between these years, make sure you have the alternator checked first and make sure that if the model was recalled, it has had the necessary work done.

What car repair is needed? 

The alternator would need to be repaired or replaced.

Ford Focus alternator repairs cost £282.82 on average when booked through WhoCanFixMyCar.

Loss of engine power

A malfunction in the powertrain control module software could occur, causing the engine to cut out. 

What car repair is needed?

The electrical fault would need to be diagnosed before a repair could be carried out. 

Diagnosing an electrical fault like this costs £53.42 on average for a Ford Focus when booked through WhoCanFixMyCar.

Faulty door latch

Some 1998 models were built with door latches that didn’t meet the required specification, with a small plastic component often becoming faulty. 

What car repair is needed?

The best option for a repair would be taking the car to a Ford specialist or dealer.

Oil filler cap

This fault is prevalent in models built from 1998. The filler cap can become loose, allowing oil to drip on the exhaust heat shield. 

What car repair is needed?

The filler cap would need to be replaced or tightened. It’s best to get this done by a Ford specialist or dealership.

Automatic gearbox 

Models built between August ‘99 and February ‘00 are at risk of developing a damaged crankshaft position sensor which can lead, in turn, to the engine cutting out. 

What car repair is needed?

Repairing a crankshaft sensor on a Ford Focus costs £63.26 on average when booked through WhoCanFixMyCar.

Alternator terminal

This fault relates to models built in March 2002 (with the exception of the ST170). The B+ terminal could break, leaving the cable loose.

What car repair is needed?

The alternator would need replacing. On average, this costs £329.10 for a Ford Focus when booked through WhoCanFixMyCar.

Brake hoses

RS models built during December 2002 are at risk of developing brake hose issues. They may chafe against the rear wheel arch liners, causing them to fail.

What car repair is needed?

 Ford should have repaired all affected vehicles, so always check the work has been carried out before buying a Focus from this period. 

2004 to 2011 Ford Focus common faults and running costs


The second-generation Ford Focus premiered at the Paris Motor Show in late 2004. It was launched as a three- and five-door hatchback and an estate car.

Estimated running costs

  • The second-generation Focus has an estimated fuel economy of 44.2mpg

  • Zetec models have tax bands ranging from C to J, with 1.6 litre diesels costing around £30 a year and 2.0 litre automatic models costing as much as £330

  • The insurance group for second-gen models with a studio trim is 6 for petrol engines and 10 for diesel engines

According to our data, the five most common job categories for this generation of Focus are clutch replacement, cambelt and water pump, MOT, full service and aircon regas. 

JobAverage Cost
Clutch Replacement£522.93
Cambelt and Water Pump£397.09
Full Service£176.17
Aircon Regas£67.06

Fuel return pipes

The fuel return pipes on Ford Focus models built between July ‘04 and February ‘05 have been known to leak due to the material they are made from degrading faster than expected.

What car repair is needed?

The pipes would need to be replaced. The average cost for a Ford Focus when booked through WhoCanFixMyCar is £144.16.

Wiper motor

This issue affects second-generation models built between April ‘03 and March ‘05. Water may leak into the motor and, if it contains salt, can cause it to short-circuit and overheat. Trim around the motor is also at risk of melting.

What car repair is needed?

Ford recalled all affected models and should already have made the necessary repairs.

Engine failure

1.6 TDCi models from February and June 2004 can suffer from the engine cutting out due to misaligned oil feeds between the cylinder heads and camshaft bearings. This can cause the camshaft bearings to wear down prematurely, resulting in the engine seizing up.

What car repair is needed?

The camshaft bearings would need to be replaced, and any subsequent engine damage would need repairing.

Brake pedal

Models that were manufactured between November ‘05 and December ‘06 sometimes develop problems with their brake pedals when they become stiff due to the non-return valve sticking in the cold. 

What car repair is needed?

Affected models were recalled by Ford and should have undergone the necessary repairs.

Roll-over protection

Some Ford Focus CC models were found to suffer from a faulty roll-over protection system. This was due to securing bolts being loose. 

What car repair is needed?

Ford should have fixed this issue by replacing the bolts so make sure you check the work has been done. 

Rear hub bolt

The rear hub bolt can sometimes become loose in 2007 models because it wasn’t built to the correct specifications. 

What car repair is needed?

Ford recalled affected models so a repair should have been carried out by replacing the bolt.

Power steering

Some Ford Focus models from between April and May 2008 were built with power steering hoses that did not meet specifications, resulting in hydraulic fluid leaks. The power steering would then fail and, if the fluid became too hot, it could cause a fire.

What car repair is needed?

Ford recalled and repaired affected models. Power steering repairs on a Ford Focus cost £97.44 on average when booked through WhoCanFixMyCar. 

Water leaks

Second-generation Ford Focus cars have been known to develop water leaks in the cabin. It’s a good idea to check all window seals before purchasing a second-gen Focus.

What car repair is needed?

Leaks should be sealed.

2012 to 2018 Ford Focus common faults and running costs

The third-generation of the Ford Focus became widely available in 2012. With a range of high-quality models on offer, this was when Ford really hit their stride. There’s a version of this hatchback that’s suitable for almost everyone, from the 2.3 litre RS to the more modest 1.0 litre Ecoboost. 


Estimated running costs

  • The estimated fuel economy of this generation of Focus is 45.5mpg

  • Annual road tax is £165/year for standard trim 2017-18 EcoBoost petrol models and £265/year for standard trim 2016-17 EcoBoost petrol models

  • The insurance group for the standard trim RS EcoBoost is 40 while the two standard trim electric models are in group 20

According to WhoCanFixMyCar data, the five most common jobs posted for the third-generation Ford Focus are full service, aircon regas, cambelt and water pump, MOT, and full service and MOT.

JobAverage Cost
Full Service£176.17
Aircon Regas£67.06
Cambelt and Water Pump£397.09
Full Service and MOT£204.62


Transmission problems are known to affect 2012 and 2015 models in particular, with owners reporting a wide array of symptoms from shuddering to shifting issues and even complete engine failure.

What car repair is needed?

Unfortunately, transmission repairs are notoriously expensive. The average cost for a Ford Focus when booked through WhoCanFixMyCar is £416.33.


Premature clutch wear is common in models of this generation, particularly those built in 2015 and 2018.

What car repair is needed?

If the issue is caused by a known fault that has been recalled by Ford then a repair should already have been carried out. Otherwise, your clutch will need replacing.

On average, clutch replacement for a Focus costs £483.92 when booked through WhoCanFixMyCar.

2018 to present Ford Focus common faults and running costs

The fourth-generation Ford Focus debuted in 2018 and is the first car to utilise Ford’s new C2 platform, giving it improved aerodynamics and crash performance. As with its predecessor, the fourth-gen Focus is available with saloon, hatchback and estate body styles.


Estimated running costs

  • The fuel economy of the 2018-2022 Focus is estimated at around 42.8mpg

  • Annual road tax is £165 for petrol vehicles

  • For standard trim models, the insurance group ranges from 16 to 21

The five most common jobs for this generation of Focus, according to WhoCanFixMyCar data, are full service, oil change, MOT, full service and MOT, and windscreen replacement. 

JobAverage Cost
Full Service£176.17
Oil Change£82.39
Full Service and MOT£204.62
Windscreen Replacement£272.11

Telematic control unit

This issue applies to Focus models from between July 2019 and February 2021. The Telematic Control Unit (TCU) software sometimes develops a problem which affects the functionality of the eCall system. As a result, emergency services might not be contacted in case of need.

What car repair is needed?

Ford has recalled affected models. 


Models of this generation sometimes suffer from a sudden loss of brake performance. 

What car repair is needed?

Ford has recalled affected cars so repairs should already have been carried out.

Ford Focus Estate problems

A notable problem identified in the Ford Focus Estate, particularly the 1.6 TDCi from July ‘04 to December ‘06, is related to the car’s cooling fans which can become corroded when the roads are particularly salty, sometimes spreading all the way to the control unit.

Ford Focus recalls 1998-2022

Recall DateReason
22.09.21The screw securing the ground cable may not be properly secured
21.05.21Software issue affecting functionality of eCall system
05.03.21Transmission stud damage to wiring loom
25.01.21Nut securing the MHEV battery may not be torqued to specification
19.08.20Engine wiring loom may touch a bolt on transmission housing
16.04.20Engine wiring loom may touch a bolt on transmission housing
21.02.20Sudden loss of brake performance
24.01.20Defect on power distribution box pins may cause poor connection on a number of terminals
05.11.19Seat belt anchorage bolt partially engaged
06.03.19Bolts fixing front suspension to vehicle may not be tightened to the correct torque
22.02.19Vehicle may suffer clutch pressure plate fracture
12.02.19Rear doors may open when rear windows are opened
22.12.18Brake pedal hinge bolt does not meet specification
30.11.18Vehicles may have incorrectly assembled rear door latch spring causing child lock to not function properly
16.07.18Clutch pressure plate may fracture
19.03.18Casting defect may cause alloy wheels to crack
04.09.17Side and/or knee airbag may fail to deploy
09.07.14Fire may occur
06.11.12Risk of fire
13.07.11Risk of fire
14.12.10Risk of fire
05.08.10Risk of fire
28.04.10Possibility of fire
21.09.09Risk of fire
21.05.09Hard brake pedal may occur during warm up
08.04.09Risk of fire
29.07.08Failure of power steering hose could result in fire
15.04.08Rear hub bolt may become loose
21.02.08Electronic cooling fan control module may overheat
07.12.07Roll-over protection may fail
05.12.07Hard brake pedal may occur in low ambient temperature
18.08.05Wiper motor may fail and overheat
11.04.05Fuel return pipe leak
26.01.04Rear brake hoses may chafe
21.05.02Alternator terminal concern
30.05.00Engine may cut out
20.03.00Engine may lose power
20.03.00Oil filler cap may become loose
07.10.99Door latch concern

How much does a Ford Focus cost to repair and maintain?

In the table below you can see the ten most popular jobs posted on WhoCanFixMyCar for Ford Focus cars after five years of ownership and how much those jobs cost.

JobAverage Cost
Full Service£172.36
Full Service and MOT£203.33
Oil Change£79.55
Aircon Regas£65.98
Clutch Replacement£483.92
Front Pads and Discs£187.65
Front Pads£85.48
Parking Sensors£136.56
Windscreen Replacement£269.21

Are Ford Focus cars reliable?

Ford Focus (3)
  • For 2011-2018 models, WhatCar's reliability survey placed the Focus 11th out of 31 cars

  • In WhatCar?'s 2021 survey, the Ford Focus came in the bottom third of the family car category and Ford came joint 27th with Nissan out of 30 manufacturers

CarBuyer's annual survey shows a similar drop in reliability, with the Focus coming 33rd out of the top 75 models on sale in 2018, only for it to drop to 79th out of 100 in 2019. In the 2021 survey, the Focus came 72nd out of 75.

Overall, the Focus has never been known for having outstanding reliability; the model's popularity comes from its practical but stylish design, relatively affordable price tag, and good handling.

If you're having problems with your Ford Focus, WhoCanFixMyCar can help you find the right garage at the right price.

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