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LAST UPDATED: August 28, 2020

Common Ford Focus Transmission Issues To Look Out For

For those looking at a used Ford Focus, The Drive’s informational team put together a reliability guide for the problems you need to watch out for.

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PUBLISHED ON August 28, 2020

Before Ford eliminated all sedans from its lineup, the Ford Focus had long established itself as one of the go-to small American four-doors. Today, the only way to buy one is from a used car lot. But buyer beware!

Prior to considering a purchase, you should know the Focus has encountered numerous issues, none of which have been as major as the lawsuit-inducing automatic transmission saga that lasted years and found corporate malfeasance that beggars belief.

Intrigued and looking to sidestep any potential issues? We got you. The Drive’s guide to Ford Focus transmission issues can help you determine if you are one of the nearly two million people, including Fiesta owners, who were possibly affected by the settlement. Let’s figure this out.

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The Ford Focus Transmission Saga: A Brief Retelling

* deep breath

Ford launched the DPS6 dual-clutch transmission, widely known as the PowerShift transmission, on 2011 Fiesta and 2012 Focus models. Since then, Ford and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have fielded thousands of complaints about shuddering, hesitation, and stalling on 2012-2016 Focus models. Rather than open a recall, Ford extended warranty coverage through more than 20 Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs). 

Ford claimed the low-speed shuddering and vibration was a known tradeoff for the dry dual-clutch transmission’s fuel efficiency. It also acknowledged that “potential for the transmission to default to neutral – while still maintaining full power steering and braking – developed only after several years of real-world use, and “in 2014, the source was traced to a faulty control module.” Thus, the extended warranties covered both the faulty control modules, as well as a potentially leaky seal around the input shaft that could contaminate the clutch. The transmissions were covered for seven years/100,000 miles for clutches and related hardware, and 10 years/150,000 miles for the transmission control module.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. Owners further complained that dealership fixes and replacements were not resolving the problems, and a report accused Ford of knowing about the issues while the cars were for sale. This culminated in a class-action lawsuit that resulted in payouts for previous repairs and the option to sell the cars back to Ford for approximately $15,000-22,000.

Manual transmission unassembled Ford Focus
DepositPhotos

Manual transmission unassembled Ford Focus

How Reliable are Ford Focus Transmissions? 

In the grand scheme of things, there are Focus transmissions that will last the life of the vehicle, and there are Focus transmissions that will have issues within the first year of ownership. However, 2012-2016 Focus vehicles are known to have severe reliability issues due to their transmissions. 

If a Focus is your purchase target, you might also want to consider the Mazda Mazda3 or the Honda Civic.

Common Ford Focus Transmission Problems to Look Out For

If your Focus exhibits one or more of these symptoms, it could be a sign the transmission is malfunctioning.

Stalling and/or Inability To Accelerate

Ford stated that these transmissions, “may exhibit intermittent concerns of loss of transmission engagement while driving, intermittent no start, or a loss of power.” This is due to improper transmission control module calibration.

Customer Complaint

An Oregon owner of a 2012 Focus sedan complained to the NHTSA, “I was driving about 25 mph on a narrow winding mountain road when the car shifted out of gear into neutral and displayed the “transmission problem service” message. I coasted to a stop in the middle of the road, as there was no shoulder. Moving the shifter did not get back in gear. I shut the car off and restarted. I then had control of the car, but it would not shift into high gear. It would go neutral to first with a jerk, then shift smoothly into second but not shift into high gear at all.”

Shaking and Shuddering

Ford admitted these transmissions exhibit, “a degree of vibration, or shudder, when the all-new automatic transmission operated at low speed,” and said it was, “similar to what is experienced with a manual transmission.”

Customer Complaint

A Michigan owner of a 2012 Focus stated, “The transmission shudders and shakes very frequently. Vehicle also periodically will almost stall while driving. Overall the vehicle just feels incredibly unsafe and unreliable while operating.” 

Hesitation

If the clutch feels as though it might be slipping or hesitating when switching gears, it could have fluid contamination, or the module calibration could be off.

Customer Complaint

A Kansas owner of a 2012 Focus stated, “Extreme transmission shudder to the point of tires losing traction while trying to take off from a standstill. Included shuddering at random from standstill and when shifting. Lack of consistency in acceleration during some shifts. It continues to do this, as we’ve owned the car approximately two years. Has already had the module reflashed.” 

Common Repair Costs: 

Customer complaints showed that dealerships have charged between $1,500-2,500 for a clutch replacement, depending on the location and condition of the vehicle. A full transmission replacement will cost roughly $3,500-5,000.

Ford Focus under the hood
DepositPhotos

Ford Focus under the hood

EXTENDED WARRANTY COVERAGE MORE … FOR LESS

Endurance

Special Limited Time Relief Program (Expires April 16)

Get $300 off any Endurance vehicle protection plan and $250 in immediate reward vouchers to spend at national grocery, restaurant, and online stores, along with another $250 of reward vouchers after your third monthly payment. Enjoy all this along with other perks like reduced upfront costs, the chance to qualify for up to 30 days of payment deferment, a 30-day money back guarantee, and a free Endurance Elite Membership.

Get a Free Quote

Save $350 with coupon code: DRIVE350

<br>

CarShield

CarShield — USA’s #1 Auto Protection Provider

CarShield pays claims directly to a US or Canadian ASE-Certified® repair facility of your choice. Our contracts have low or no deductibles to prevent stress to your wallet at a critical time. Never worry about being stranded somewhere after a breakdown. All of our vehicle repair contracts include towing services to transport you and your vehicle to a safe repair facility.

Get a Free Quote

<br>

autopom!

Live in California? autopom! warranties specifically made to save you more.

autopom! is the warranty provider of choice for many California (only) residences struggling to find quality options in the state. The company’s line of insurance plans is great for saving money on services and repairs that come up unexpectedly.

Get a Free Quote

Ford Focus RS model
DepositPhotos

Ford Focus RS model

FAQs

You have the questions, The Drive’s info team has the answers. 

What Year Ford Focus Has Problems?

In relation to the faulty DPS6 Powershift dual-clutch automatic transmission, 2012-2016 Focus sedans and hatchbacks were affected.

Is There a Recall on Ford Focus Transmissions?

No, but they were included in a court settlement.

What Is Wrong With Ford Focus Transmission?

Specifically, on 2012-2016 Focus vehicles, several owners complained about shuddering, hesitation while downshifting, hesitation while accelerating, stalling, slipping, bucking, jerking, and premature internal wear. These symptoms were the result of faulty clutch and transmission software calibration, as well as bad input shaft seals.

Ford Focus Manual Gear Box
DepositPhotos

Ford Focus Manual Gear Box

Is a 10-Speed Transmission Better Than a 6-Speed?

Ford released a 10-speed automatic transmission with claims of better fuel efficiency and smoother shifts, but it is only available on certain vehicles such as the Ford F-150.

Should I Buy, Rent, or Lease a Ford Focus?

The Ford Focus, in and of itself, is not a bad car, but there are several options that are equally as capable that do not have a known history of transmission issues. It’s best to shop elsewhere, in the case of 2012-2016 Focus vehicles.