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LAST UPDATED:  April 12, 2021

Common Ford Focus Transmission Issues To Look Out For

For those considering 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 April 12, 2021

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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.

[This article was updated 4/2/2021 with additional information]

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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 reportedly known to have issues due to their transmissions. 

We cannot definitely say whether a Ford Focus is or is not reliable because it is a case-by-case basis.

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 Complaints

“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.” - 2012 Focus, Oregon

“I was driving on the freeway at the posted speed of 65 mph when the car engine rpm dropped to 2000 and then back up to 4000 the car immediately slowed to 50 mph causing traffic behind me to slam in their brakes. The car wouldn’t shift to speed up causing me to pull over and creep to a gas station.” - 2013 Focus, Arizona

“The contact owns a 2013 ford focus. the contact stated while driving 30 mph, the vehicle stalled. The contact stated that there was an abnormal sound coming from the transmission while driving. The contact also stated that on several occasions while driving, the vehicle ran out of fuel due to a fuel gauge failure. the contact stated that the vehicle was serviced under nhtsa campaign number: 19v515000 (fuel system, gasoline) in november 2020 at tuttle-click's capistrano ford (33301 camino capistrano, san juan capistrano, ca 92675) however, the failure occurred. The contact stated that the check engine warning light was illuminated. The vehicle was taken back to the dealer where it was diagnosed with the clutch and the shifting unit needing to be replaced. the vehicle had not been repaired yet. the manufacturer had not been informed of the failure. The failure mileage was approximately 134,000.” - 2013, California

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 Complaints

“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.”  - 2012 Focus, Michigan

“Transmission clutch fails and car jerks and becomes unresponsive.” - 2012 Focus, Florida

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 Complaints

“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.” - 2012 Focus, Kansas

“The 6 speed power assist transmission hesitates. Shifts roughly, and shutters when shifting. The hesitation is sometimes from a dead stop and that's a hazard when entering traffic. Mostly highway driving. This has been ongoing. It was repaired by the dealer once but is happening again.” - 2012 Focus, New Jersey

“The transmission in this vehicle shutters, slips, loses power or loses acceleration when accelerating from a dead stop, or accelerating in speed when shifting gears. This happens from a dead stop, when accelerating in traffic to merge, change lanes or pass a car; pretty much anytime the gas pedal is pressed the car will lurch and/or shudder and/or lose power, resulting in many near misses and almost accidents in the time that we have owned the car.

“This car was purchased used mid-2015. By november 2015 the first replacement of the clutches was done. In march of 2018, just a few months out of the two-year warranty, the clutches needed replacing again. It was too expensive for us, so we opted to have the software flashed instead. under the extended parts coverage offered by ford, the clutches were replaced for a second time in december of 2019. By january 2021 the car needed new clutches for the third time. The dealership contacted ford to see if they could do anything about it, and ford refuses because the car and the clutches are slightly out of warranty, the clutches only out by a month, even though this six-year-old car is on its third set of clutches.” - 2014, Florida

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. However, if you are in the market for a Ford Focus and want peace of mind after buying your new vehicle consider the carshield warranty which has plans that got you covered also on the transmission of your Ford Focus. 

Ford Focus under the hood
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Ford Focus under the hood

EXTENDED WARRANTY COVERAGE MORE … FOR LESS

Endurance

Save $350 on an Endurance warranty plan with coupon code: DRIVE350

Going with a factory extended warranty is a good option for basic protection, but you can get more and save more with Endurance, ranked the top extended warranty provider by Consumer Advocates, Consumer Affairs, and Retirement Living.

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>

Carchex

Nationwide coverage for cars new and old

CARCHEX has something for everyone. Have an old car? No problem. Live in California? Not an issue. CARCHEX 's plethora of warranty plans includes options for cars up to twenty years old with up to 250,000 miles, regardless of any existing or expired warranties. Click below or call 1-877-207-3304 for a free quote.

Get a Free Quote

FAQs

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

What year Ford Focus reportedly 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. Not all Ford Focus transmissions are guaranteed to be bad, though.

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. Shop around for similar vehicles if you are considering a 2012-2016 Ford Focus.