By on December 12, 2017

2017 Ford Focus RS - Image: Ford

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 FocusRS.org 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:

AT 26000 MILES MY HEAD GASKET HAD TO BE REPLACED. STARTED WITH ROUGH MORNING START WHITE SMOKE AND LOSS OF COOLANT. LEAK WAS CONFIRMED IN CYLINDER 3. THE CAR IS STOCK WITH NO MODIFICATIONS.

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]

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47 Comments on “Ford Confirms Focus RS Engine Woes; Company Working on a Fix...”


  • avatar
    deanst

    Ford has proven they can’t build reliable, efficient small engines. Just start buying them from Honda and be done with it.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      What on Google Earth are you babbling about? This is the first Ecoboost engine with any kind of widespread failures.

      • 0 avatar
        Middle-Aged Miata Man

        Do you not… um, recall… the umpteen service issues concerning fires with the 1.6L EcoBoost?

      • 0 avatar
        deanst

        The (lack of ) efficiency for small Ford motors – boosted or not – is perhaps the worst in the industry. With respect to reliability, I guess they are better than the horrendous transmissions….

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          deanst,
          You are correct about Ford built transmissions.

          My pickup uses the Getral MT82, the same one used in the Mustangs. Ford manufactured these and they were a headache for years.

          Mine was replaced in 2015 and it seems okay now, but it took Ford years to get the gearbox right.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          deanst,
          You are correct about Ford built transmissions.

          My pickup uses the Getral MT82, the same one used in the Mustangs. Ford manufactured these and they were a headache for years.

          Mine was replaced in 2015 and it seems okay now, but it took Ford years to get the gearbox right.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          deanst,
          You are correct about Ford built transmissions.

          My pickup uses the Getral MT82, the same one used in the Mustangs. Ford manufactured these and they were a headache for years.

          Mine was replaced in 2015 and it seems okay now, but it took Ford years to get the gearbox right.

        • 0 avatar
          dima

          Agree. They could not make their Hybrid transmission without messing up gasket sealant and main bearing

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      I guess deanst missed the Type-R broken wiring harness from a couple of weeks ago?

      Supposedly it was a couple of month window of engine builds and only 10% go bad, according to Matt Farah’s podcast.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Well, there go the profits for this special edition. Morons.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Should have kept the 5-cylinder so it wouldn’t sound like agricultural equipment but would have some of that durability.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Looks like Ford managed to lower their durability for this engine below their usual 80k mile limit. I’ve owned four Fords over the last 20 years and they all started to experience premature component failures just after 80k miles or 8 years of service. I’ve never had a post 2000 GM or Japanese car show this pattern. This time they seem to have outdone themselves

      • 0 avatar
        Add Lightness

        The accountants/engineers at Ford have lifecycle figured out very accurately.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          I guess they were asleep when they designed my Sable, which turns 26 in January…

        • 0 avatar
          SPPPP

          That’s similar to my conclusion after owning many Fords. The parts wear out pretty soon, but they don’t fail haphazardly. (As an aside, this seems to contrast with GM’s practice, which incorporates a lot of innovative ideas that are either half-baked and rushed through engineering or cost-cut to the point of failure.)

          This head gasket problem hearkens back to the early 3.8L gasket issues. That was an epidemic, resulting in many warranty replacements. Silver lining – At least the RS didn’t sell that well? *shrug*

      • 0 avatar
        Bazza

        That’s BMW-level lifecycle management. Ford should be shouting from the rooftops that they build cars “like the Germans”.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        John1992Taurus guarantees that Ford makes the most reliable, durable, efficient, comfortable, efficient, attractive, best-engineered, most refined, fastest, best-handling vehicles of any automaker in history.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Some failure modes are eternal.
    I remember buying a 100 dollar Vega with a failed head gasket, throwing on a new one, and running it as a winter beater.
    Not for long though, I was pretending I was Steve Kinser at Eldora and ran into a ditch and tore off the right front suspension on a drainage culvert.

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    In the meantime my Golf R with 55K kms (35K miles) runs as good as ever and has had exactly 1 minor problem so far.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Unreal….is this as bad as it sounds?

    It seems that Ford continually fails to produce, by all measures, mildly innovative equipment without facing massive class action litigation from its customers who borrow thousands of dollars to buy their product just to find out that it is broken, flawed and doomed to hyper-depreciation.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    This must be some of that so-called “Fake News”. Everybody here a TTAC knows that only, and I mean ONLY, Subarus have head gasket failures on their agricultural-sounding engines.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      There are currently four Subaru engines in varying states of disassembly in my shop, and I don’t advertise Subaru as a specialty. None of the cars are particularly old or have the sort of mileage where you would change the spark plugs on a Honda, three of them have turbochargers, and at least one of them has been rebuilt before. Subaru: We make the best selling head-gaskets in the world.

  • avatar
    raph

    I’ve seen pictures of the engine with the head off. It’s an open deck design with siamesed cylinders.

    Not exactly the best setup for a boosted engine. An MLS gasket helps but IMO your asking for trouble down the road.

    Glad the V8 engines have a full deck to keep those head gaskets supported along with the siamesed bores.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Like the Vega, except even the Vega didn’t use siamesed cylinders. But they did use a cast iron head on an aluminum block, which was another issue for them.

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      Siamesed block _and_ cast iron liners ? That’s a recipe for disaster.

      The Vega Duratech engine was all alloy, it didn’t have a cast iron block. The problems (some of them anyway) were with poor electroplating of the cylinder bores with a harder material.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged Miata Man

    “AT 26000 MILES…”

    Well golly, there’s your problem! Do these fools not realize they shouldn’t actually DRIVE their vehicles?

  • avatar
    AK

    Good job Ford

    And all the people with 2015,16 and 17 Focus STs that have the cold start misfire issue continue to be told “engineering is working on it”.

    Engineering has been working on it for two years. Still, nothing.

    Ford can ram it.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      Engineering has probably known what the problem was before any customers experienced it. The tricky part is figuring out how to fix it without spending any of Ford’s money. :)

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      On Friday a customer said to me, “This is my sixth F250, and the brake lines rusted through on all of them.” In Virginia. Ford will make better vehicles when they run out of people who watch CNN.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Somebody submitting a complaint to the NHTSA about a busted head gasket apparently doesn’t know how to decode that acronym.

    It’s annoying, sure. But it’s not a subject for safety.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I think the 2.3 EcoThirsts are manufacturerd alongside their 2 litre sisters in Valencia Spain.

    The Focus is manufactured in Germany.

    So, how are the 2.3 EBs performing in the Mustangs?

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    Ok, thex f—ked it up. I would consider: true the head up (_very_ light skim) a set of studs + a new gasket and keep on hooning. The history of Ford trying to fix failing Powerstroke head gaskets would prevent me trusting the car to a dealer. What, will they keep replacing head gaskets?

  • avatar
    Bazza

    Ford really, really touted the testing that went into this thing, yet here we are with overheating RDU’s and engine coolant leaks. It’s almost as if the the car was overhyped and underbuilt from the beginning.

    …nah that can’t be it.

  • avatar
    rpn453

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

    • 0 avatar
      JaredN

      Meh, say what you want but the STI’s 2.5L doesn’t have head gasket issues, and people are always criticizing Subaru for still using that motor

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        Plenty of STI 2.5s have head gasket issues. Plenty. People think there is something wrong with Subaru’s head gasket designs, and Subaru has been happy to let them believe that. The real problem is that the oil and coolant are working on the head gaskets 24/7. The only way to fix it for good is to stop building horizontally opposed engines.

        • 0 avatar
          bullnuke

          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?

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    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.

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