Our Cars

Rob Hawkins’ Ford Fo­cus 1.8 TDCI and Mar­tyn Knowles’ Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle Cabri­o­let.

Car Mechanics (UK) - - Contents - Rob Hawkins Spe­cial Con­trib­u­tor

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.

Ex­tend­able ra­chet

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.

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