Rob Hawkins’ Ford Focus 1.8 TDCI and Martyn Knowles’ Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet.
The Ford Focus 1.8 TDCI that appeared in CM as a project car back in January to June 2014 seemed hard to beat as the Hawkins family transport. It handled well, was cheap to run and there was acres of space inside for luggage.
In May 2015, I reported on how it needed the offside sill repairing for its MOT. Unfortunately, the rot continued to plague the sill over the following year, so more repairs were needed, which were completed by a friend, Andy Speck. Confident that no more of the sill could be replaced, I continued with regular maintenance, servicing the oil and filters, draining water out of the boot and renewing the rear discs and pads.
The rear discs had been noted as an advisory at the MOT. My local garage, MJ Motors, had tested the car and tester Mike Smith explained he could see that the rear brake discs were corroded, but could not fail them as they were not fractured. When I later renewed the rear brake discs and pads, I discovered that the outer face of each rear disc was moderately corroded, but was still showing a sufficient amount of clean metal to suggest the brake pads were working. However, the backs of the brake discs were much worse, with a thin line where the brake pad had kept the metal looking clean.
I had fitted new rear brake pads in 2014 (see the March 2014 issue), cleaning the outer edge of the brake discs, the caliper and carrier, and the sliders, so I was keen to see how my maintenance had survived. All the brake components were reasonably clean. The pistons were still in good condition and straightforward to retract with a windback tool. The sliders were free, but a little gunged-up with copper grease. I should have used brake grease or a similar grease with a high melting point, so I did this time.
I also had the opportunity to try some new tools, including a new ratchet from Rally Design. The handle of the ratchet extends, allowing for a greater amount of leverage for undoing fittings or tightening them. It also has an angled head, which proved useful where access was obstructed.
With less than 120,000 miles on the clock, the Focus seemed set to provide another year of trouble-free motoring. Then, disaster struck.
It was a few days before Christmas 2016, as my family and I were heading down the M1 with the boot packed full of luggage and presents. We were on a smart motorway and lost power, then the engine died. I managed to coast the Focus onto the start of an exit slip road, but couldn’t get off the tarmac as there was no hard shoulder. The diesel engine turned over, but refused to fire even though we had fuel in the tank and a strong battery.
Fearful we could be hit by another vehicle, we scrambled out of the car and up an embankment, leaving the Focus behind. We crossed our fingers, hoping the traffic safety cameras had spotted us and would close the lane. In the meantime, I called the RAC and explained the problem. I also called my local garage, MJ Motors, who were 10
miles away and asked for the Focus to be brought to them.
After 20 minutes, the RAC arrived at the same time as a traffic officer and the lane was closed. The first priority was to tow the Focus off the motorway, so the RAC hooked up a towbar and pulled it further up the slip road. Diagnostic equipment indicated a code suggesting a faulty fuel pressure regulator. The Focus was towed to MJ Motors, which offered the use of its Volvo XC90 for the Christmas period. We breathed a sigh of relief and continued with our trip.
Afterwards, I looked into fixing the problem. A new fuel pressure regulator appeared to be the answer, but the only way to buy one was as a complete fuel rail assembly for a whopping £400-600. I scoured some scrapyards for secondhand assemblies, but was either given the wrong parts or found the wrong engines. Several mechanics advised me to give up, as they had experienced similar problems with a Focus and had wasted lots of money trying to fix them. Given the value of the car at around £300-£400, it wasn’t worth spending too much money on it.
The ex-cm Audi A3 was a tempting alternative, so I bought that and realised it’s a far better car, as long as I can live with the smaller boot space. I asked MJ Motors to call their local scrapyard about taking the Focus and walked away with £80. I’ve rarely given up on a car, but it seemed to me that I would have continued spending money to fix more and more problems, so it was better to cut my losses.
Rob retrieved the fuel pressure regulator and pipework, which were suspected to be the cause of the engine trouble.
Extendable ½in ratchet from Rally Design came in useful for undoing the rear caliper carrier bolts when renewing the brake discs.
Scouring the scrapyards for an identical TDCI engine and the correct fuel pressure regulator and pipework proved fruitless.
Andy Speck volunteered to repair the Focus’s offside sill to get it through the MOT.
Before the engine died, Rob had renewed the rear discs and pads, and serviced the engine.
Rear discs required a light tap with a lump hammer to release them. Note that the outer face of the disc doesn’t look too bad…
…however, the inner faces of both of the rear discs were heavily corroded.