View Full Version : Question about Engine Light on Ford Focus...

04-15-2003, 03:28 AM
Today I bought a 2000 Ford focus (45k miles)used at a dealership. I was very excited about it, but late this evening while coming home from seeing a movie, the engine light came on.

Now, I'm normally the kind of panicky, worrisome kind of person at heart. I have a hard time putting my fears to rest. Part of the reason is perhaps because I was in a car accident last tuesday (hence the replacement vehicle) and I've been going through a psychological rollercoaster lately.

Having the engine light come on the day I bought the vehicle does not seem good. By CA law, the dealership is required to fix any problems with the brake or electrical system within 30 days of purchase. I made it a point to plan on getting the car checked over as soon as possible to hopefully identify any possible problems when they can still get dealt with.

What are some common things that can cause the engine light to come on? The car unfortunately did not come with an owner's manual. The only irregularity in handling with driving the car is a faint 'k-k-k-k' sound when I turn right. Would low steering fluid be a factor/make the engine light come on? I am very worried about this; I sincerely want to take care of this car so it can last!

04-15-2003, 06:44 AM
I bought a new Focus last April. After three months, the engine light came on. We looked in the owner's manual - it said to check the gas cap. We checked the gas cap. No go.
Ran a tank of expensive stuff through. No go.
Took it into the dealership. Got it back. Light came back on.
Took it back, as now one of the keys had begun to malfunction AND the engine light was still on. Got it back. Light came back on, key was still unreliable (wouldn't start the car, and then the car would lock up the ignition for half an hour), and now the speedometer was dead too.
Took it back AGAIN and they kept it for four days before getting the prolem down: some computer part was malfunctioning.

Did I mention that every time I took it in, they refused to give me a rental car until they were sure that they'd have to keep mine overnight? Despite their beauteous track record? And didn't even call me when it was ready to take home? I had to hunt down a manager to find out that it was done because nobody would call me back the afternoon that it had been promised to me.

For your sake, I hope that your gas cap is loose, or that you have some people at your dealership that aren't total idiots. Best of luck! My little Focus has been great since the dealership quit mucking with it.

04-15-2003, 06:51 AM
I bought a new Ford Focus in 2000. After about a month the engine light came on. I took it in to the dealership and they said "it's probably just a computer part gone wrong, bring it in next week and we'll have a look at it". When I got round the corner from the dealership, the alternator blew.

Like Becky, my Ford Dealer also refused to give me a rental car, but this time it was even when they knew they'd have to keep the car in for three days. I whined and bitched and lied to them, and eventually they gave me one.

And similar to Becky, I haven't had a problem since (apart from the driver's side electric window getting stuck down).

BTW - I used to get the noise from the power steering on full lock, but then it went away.

Frank #2
04-15-2003, 07:19 AM
The check engine light is usually tripped when the computer gets bad data from a sensor. It's either the sensor has gone bad or an actual mechanical problem has occured. Chances are it's just a sensor.

You may be able to take your car to a Pep Boys, Autozone type place and have the error code read for free (the Ford dealership would charge you for this). The error code will then tell you what's gone wrong.

04-15-2003, 08:58 AM
Well, I checked out the CARFAX report, and it says the car is fine. The only issue of interest is a recall done on that particular car-something about a battery cable router. Perhaps thats it...

04-15-2003, 09:06 AM
The check engine light came on on my 2001 Ford Focus at about 30,000 miles. It was a damaged sensor. One trip to a semi-competent dealer, and it's been fine since.


Uncommon Sense
04-15-2003, 09:26 AM
Have Autozone or some similar parts house check it for free, as an above poster recommended. It could be something as simple as a coolant temp. sensor, an oxygen sensor, or any other myriad of emmission control things. The yellow check engine light (which is what I think you are describing) is different than the red engine light. The red engine light means stop now. The yellow check engine light means (usually) that there is a problem with the emmissions control somewhere.

If you see the RED light STOP driving the car.

Uncommon Sense
04-15-2003, 09:29 AM
I re-read the OP, take it back to the dealer. But do not drive it if the RED light is on. Unless you want to ride in the tow-truck.

04-15-2003, 09:46 AM
Originally posted by Incubus
The only irregularity in handling with driving the car is a faint 'k-k-k-k' sound when I turn right.

That does not sound good (see #1 below). There have been a few recalls on your vehicle, I'd make sure that the inspections / repairs have been done. Here is a list from car-accidents.com (http://www.car-accidents.com/pages/Recalls/ford_focus_recall.html) of some of the recalls...

November 2002
Ford Motor Co. recalled an estimated 572,795 2000 and 2001 model Focus cars because of safety problems including engine fires.

Ford said the recalls related to two separate issues and could have safety consequences.

1) The first issue involves a bolt in the front suspension assembly that can become loose leading to separation of the ball joint, consumers may be alerted by noise and vibration.

2) The second issue is Focus vehicles with Zetec engines which have defective and poorly placed battery cables can lead to engine fires and wire melting.

Two accidents are alleged to have been caused by loose or missing front suspension bolts.

Ford announced in September that it would offer a "powertrain coverage plan" for the 2003 model Focus good for five years or 100,000 miles, which can be transferred between owners.

If you have a 2000 or 2001 Ford Focus you should see your dealer about the needed repairs

The engine light as mentioned is usually a bad reading from a sensor.

Gary T
04-15-2003, 10:26 AM
There are certain situations where details are important, and this is one of them. There are some cars that have a warning light labeled "engine" that indicates low oil pressure and/or overheating. This would be a red light, and if it comes on it's time to stop the engine NOW and have it towed.

Then there are lights labeled "check engine" or "service engine soon" which are related to the electronic control system ("computer"). These lights are yellow (or orangish), and there are dozens, sometimes hundreds, of different conditions (some serious, some not) that can cause them to come on. Usually, if the car still runs OK it's not an urgent situation, but it certainly makes sense to have it investigated fairly soon to find out what's going on.

So the question raised here is, what exactly does the light say?

If you have an owner's manual, there will be a description of the various warning lights with general advice of what to do.

In either case, neither the power steering fluid nor the battery cables are going to cause the light to come on.

04-15-2003, 11:23 AM
The dealer probably just reset it without checking the cause, Since you just bought it today , take it back and tell the dealer you want to cancel the sale, I bet he fixes it right if you make that threat.

04-15-2003, 11:39 AM
What is really annoying about your story is the fact that the check engine light came on the same day you bought the car. This indicates that they knew about the problem and reset the OBDC. It generally takes about 20-30 miles for the light to come on again. The fact that they reset the computer implies something more serious than the gas cap or the O2 sensor. I would take it back to them, tell them you know they reset the computer, and insist that unless they fix it NOW you will complaining about FRAUD to whoever you're supposed to, and think about getting a lawyer.

04-15-2003, 03:23 PM
Well, I gave them a call and the dealer said I'm welcome to bring it over so they can take a look. I'll get it to them as soon as I can (probably tomorrow) then go to a Ford Dealer about the recall thing.

04-15-2003, 06:37 PM
I'll second, third, or whatever the recommendation to take the car back to the dealer.

As for the k-k-k-k noise, that's possibly a failing CV joint. If you wind up keeping the car, plan on needing a new CV joint or two (more likely, a new "half-shaft") by the time if starts going clack-clack-clack-clack when you turn. After clack-clack-clack, comes WHUMP when the axle breaks and the wheel falls off, taking the brakes and steering gear along for the ride. 45k miles is young for a CV joint to fail, unless the protective rubber boot was damaged, allowing water and grit (mud, sand, stones) to get into the joint. HAve the joints checked, and if the boot(s) are torn, have the joints re-packed with grease and the boots replaced to buy some time. Most transmission and clutch shops are very familiar with these things.

04-16-2003, 12:18 AM
cool, thank you very much! I really like the car, and would like to keep it in good shape for as long as possible. Ideally I can get this checked/resolved now, when it (hopefully!) won't be as costly to fix.

Gary T
04-16-2003, 08:10 AM
Originally posted by gotpasswords
After clack-clack-clack, comes WHUMP when the axle breaks and the wheel falls off, taking the brakes and steering gear along for the ride

That's not what happens. When the CV joint breaks (or if the axle broke, same difference), the vehicle won't pull itself--it acts like it's stuck in neutral. The wheel doesn't fall off, and the brakes and steering gear are not affected.

04-16-2003, 11:01 AM
It's still a rather dramatic failure.

A co-worker had a CV failure about a year ago - the shaft flailed around and did a good amount of general "clobbering" while the car kept moving as the other drive wheel was still turning.

The sad thing was the car had been doing the clack-clack-clack bit for quite a while, and co-worker was unworried "Ah, it's been doing that forever" was their attitude until it became evident that "doing it forever" did not equal "WILL do it forever." :smack:

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