The Brief History Of Ford Focus Transmission Problems

The Ford Focus transmission problems hit the vehicles marketed between 2010 and 2016. All the affected cars belonged to Focus, Fiesta, and EcoSport models equipped with a Powershift automatic transmission.

The issue became so serious that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) took the Ford Australia to the federal court in 2017. Legal actions were also taken in the United States and Canada. Also, the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) protected the owners of these models purchased after 1st January 2011, with an extended manufacturer warranty. Ford is bound to repair or replace their car has any transmission issue surfaced after the expiration of the warranty.

How Many Vehicles Faced The Ford Focus Transmission Problems?

The problems specifically occurred in the Powershift transmission of Ford Fiesta (from 2011-2016) and Ford Focus (from 2012- 2016).

The number of vehicles in Australia suffered the problems was around 68,000. Ford Australia claimed to address the concerns of the majority of the customers that had faced issues with the Powershift transmission of 2010-16 petrol Focus, Fiesta, and EcoSport.

Ford Focus transmission issues
Fiesta, Focus, and EcoSport – All models had these issues. (Photo Source: jalopnik)

The company acknowledged that the customers had a poor experience when the problems first occurred and they failed to anticipate the scale it could escalate. They revealed that the issues started to escalate in 2015 but the cars with diesel engines and manual transmission were not affected.

What Is A Powershift Transmission?

The Ford Motor Company started using the Powershift transmission in 2010. It is a six-speed dual clutch semi-automatic transmission that acts like a manual but operated by the car’s computer.

The ‘dual clutch’ transmission works similarly to two conventional manual gearboxes. Ford’s Powershift has two clutches that can function in parallel and alternating shifts. As it has a six-speed shifting mechanism, one clutch engages the first, third, and fifth gear while the other acts on the second, fourth, and sixth gear.

These transmissions use a ‘dry clutch’ instead of a ‘wet clutch’, which means that oil does not flow into the shifting mechanism. Wet clutch transmissions also use hydraulic actuation but the dry clutch units rely on electric motor/solenoid actuation.

From the very start, Ford’s Powershift transmission experienced rough starts and bumpy shifting. Without making public announcements, Ford continuously released software and firmware upgrades to solve these issues. However, these were just temporary fixes that ultimately led to bigger problems.

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Ford Focus Transmission Problems

The main issue with these Ford vehicles was the shuddering of the clutch during light acceleration. Why does this happen?

The company’s mechanics diagnosed it to be the result of the clutch contamination with the fluid leaking through the transmission input shaft seals. Continuous oil leaking degrades the shift quality over time.

The fixes for the leaky seals and sometimes replacing the gearbox did not work in some cases. The problems came back within a short period of time and some customers even complained about dry shudder. The vibration, which occurs during acceleration when the car shifts to the second from the first gear, was unrelated to the Powershift transmission, according to Ford.

The company’s technicians linked it to the extreme heat buildup in the clutch friction material. It offered a new clutch material to reduce the friction and improve the shift quality. The jerky shifting can also be the result of a cracked chip in the transmission control module (TCM).

The Ford Focus transmission problems are dangerous because they are not just related to driving convenience. These issues affect a vehicle’s acceleration and deceleration abilities, which could lead to road accidents.

Think of a situation when you need to speed up into an intersection, how lethal a delay in the gear-shifting can be. Also, a glitch with the downshifting can make a car lunge forward, creating a safety hassle.

What Were Ford’s Responses To the Transmission Troubles?

The company tried to solve the Ford Focus transmission problems by offering repairs and fixes. They requested the customers to bring their affected cars to their near authorized dealership for a diagnosis. Depending on the assessments, the solutions could be the replacement of TCM, recalibration of the TCM, changing the input shaft seals, or replacing the entire transmission.

Ford Focus transmission problems
Ford settled for extending the warranty and buyback in some cases. (Photo Source: autoyas)

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The Australian Federal Court slapped Ford Australia with an AUD$10,000,000 fine. The reasons were ignoring the problems for too long and poorly handling the complaints of the customers. The company extended the warranty on the transmission software calibration, clutch, and the input shaft seals of the transmission. Under the Australian Consumer Law, the company is also obliged to respond to and assess all the replacement and refund requests.

The Ford USA agreed to a conditional settlement on April 25, 2017, following a lawsuit. The company extended the warranty to 100,000 miles or 7 years depending on the car’s model year to solve the Ford Focus transmission issues.

The Ford Brazil also extended the warranty to 240,000km or 10 years. The Ford Thailand took a step further and agreed to purchase back approximately 200 cars with faulty Powershift transmission.