Ford Confirms Focus RS Engine Woes; Company Working on a Fix

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

It’s not just scorched rubber that’s responsible for the clouds of white smoke surrounding some Ford Focus RS models. The model’s high-output 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder, credited with turning the staid Focus 5-door into a performance hatch worthy of fanboy lust, seems to have a serious flaw.

Numerous complaints of white exhaust smoke seen during cold startups has forced the automaker to admit there’s a problem with the FoRS. The 2.3-liter is not electing a new Pope, as TTAC’s Matthew Guy quipped this morning — it’s burning coolant.

According to Autocar, 2016 and 2017 Focus RS models with as little as 6,000 miles on the odometer are experiencing the issue. Of course, Blue Oval fans who regularly visit the forum already know something’s up, as the site’s dedicated “failed/leaking head gasket resource thread” currently has 247 pages of complaints and discussion.

While there’s no recall for the issue, a Ford spokesman told Autocar that the automaker is “working on a repair for all customers,” implying a solution that spans all owners, not just those with complaints.

“In the meantime, if vehicles show these symptoms, customers should visit their dealer for an inspection and repair under warranty,” the spokesman said.

At least one American 2016 owner has taken their coolant-related complaint to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Georgia driver’s complaint is straightforward:


While the issue sounds like a simple head gasket failure, it seems that’s not necessarily the case. Owners claim block distortion experienced over multiple heat cycles creates an opening between the engine block and cylinder head that the gasket can’t seal, thus allowing coolant to enter the cylinders when cold. The fact that some owners have received new engines built to a different spec adds to the theory.

Owners of other 2.3-liter EcoBoost Ford products shouldn’t worry, as the RS engine uses a different aluminum alloy in its block, cast-iron cylinder liners, and has its own head gasket design.

All Focus RS models were built at the company’s Saarlouis, Germany assembly plant. After entertaining Europeans for years, the model entered the hot hatch Hall of Fame after making a long-awaited trip to North America in late 2015. The current generation dried up after the release of 1,500 Special Edition 2018 models tuned by Ford Performance.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Dec 14, 2017

    Ford has consulted the experts in the field and proposed a solution: "Subaru coolant conditioner; Subaru coolant conditioner for all!"

    • See 2 previous
    • Bullnuke Bullnuke on Dec 25, 2017

      @ToddAtlasF1 Yeah, in-line and V- engines always drain the coolant level below the head-block mating line to prevent 24/7 immersion of the gasket in coolant. Probably why the radiator header tanks and coolant recovery tanks are below that level. OOPS. No they aren't - still about 3" to 4" H20 static head on the gaskets when shutdown helped by vacuum refill from the coolant recovery tank during cooldown contraction of the coolant. This is how I found a couple of Toyota Celica engine head gaskets leaking in the garage a few years back as well as the old '40 9N out in the barn. Oil on the gasket mating joint 24/7? Yep, every Subaru blows blue smoke on startup and when running due to retained oil in the combustion chamber, even when new except that they don't. I also heard another theory about improper ground strap location on Subaru EJ's causing electrolytic decomposition of the gaskets at the head joint. It is well known that Porsche's have similar negative issues with their opposed cylinder engines as do Continental, Rotax and Lycoming - how can they be so short-sighted in using an antiquated powerplant design?

  • Jimmyy Jimmyy on Dec 15, 2017

    You have got to wonder about the quality of Ford engineers. I know a Ford engineer who told me Ford employees engineers who do not hold 4 year engineering degrees. Furthermore, he told me Ford has been known to choose a hire based on gender or skin color even if it meant taking a less qualified individual. I would bet Toyota would never do either of these.