Piston Slap: Feeling Bushed, Losing [Ford] Focus?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Frequent Piston Slapper and TTAC Commentator HEATHROI writes:

A while back I wrote-in with a question about the back end of the Ford Focus wandering about at higher speed. Well, it turned out the bushings through the rear suspension were all worn out. Managed to fix that, but do you suggest replacing the fronts? Not because there is anything wrong, but fixing the rear was fun. Anything I should look out for?

Sajeev answers:

If that’s your idea of fun, I have a few beaters that need a little refreshing in the rubber bushing department. I suggest you take up another hobby, as you currently have an overabundance of free time.

Just kidding: checking the front suspension for wear is a good idea. So let’s do this thing: bushings should be examined for cracks and play (i.e., flex from cracks that grow larger as you cycle the part; or softness from oil contamination) and anything else (like leaky shocks) that looks questionable should be replaced. Lift the front and check for play in your ball joints and hub bearings.

CV joints and their torn boots are a common wear item, that’s probably the only thing you’ll need to replace. If the shocks are original (and if I remember your vintage correctly) they are probably close to dead: maybe you should consider upgrading your dampers too.

Best and Brightest, what else am I missing?

[Send your technical questions to mehta@ttac.com]

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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4 of 7 comments
  • Krazykarguy Krazykarguy on Aug 03, 2009

    In the salt belt, it is quite common for everything getting the salt spray from the front wheels (read: everything aft of the front tires) will get chewed up something fierce. Rear brake calipers and bushings are the first two that spring to mind. I wouldn't be surprised to find that the front bushings are in significantly better shape than the rear ones if this car inhabits this part of the country.

  • Jstutler Jstutler on Aug 03, 2009

    The rear end "looseness" in the focus is NOT a bushing issue 99.5 times out of 100. It will always do it even after everything has been replaced. The rear suspension has a control blade control arm that is designed to flex under load which causes the loaded wheel to toe out. This is great for handling as it helps rotate the car but it is unsettling when you are not used to it and it happens over un even pavement going straight. When it happens on the high way it is merely one wheel hitting a bump and getting a bit of toe out causing the rear to move a bit. Its nothing to worry about. Read more about it here http://forums.focaljet.com/suspension/374127-passive-rear-steer-question.html

  • HEATHROI HEATHROI on Aug 03, 2009
    The rear end “looseness” in the focus is NOT a bushing issue 99.5 times out of 100. It will always do it even after everything has been replaced. This must be one of those 0.5 times - the bushing were stuffed. The Focus is a 02 done 130k miles. SVT shocks, springs & sway bar have been added. Have given up on spending anymore on the damn thing saving for next one now back up to regular hours again.
  • The Axel The Axel on Aug 04, 2009

    Speaking from my own experience with a 2001 ZX3. I notice the same in the back. Haven't done anything about it. If you go after the front, though, check the springs. One of my front springs broke due to corrosion at the lower end, where the spring sits inside a plastic sleeve. I'm guessing that this sleeve was implemented late due to noise issues and nobody thought about corrosion. Anyway, the sleeve traps the moisture there and eventually the springs break. Both springs had to be replaced (at 40k miles). I didn't request to have the upper strut mounts / upper strut bearings replaced ($30 each parts only). So these went maybe 15k miles later (you will notice when looking from top inside the engine box that the shock touches the shock tower sheet metal causing clunking noise while steering and going over bumps). Should have done those right away together with the strut and coils. Hope that helps. Good luck! I'm at 120k miles with mine now, electrical problems start...