Read­ers’ Mo­tors

Gary Con­way sorts a re­li­able runaround for a friend.

Car Mechanics (UK) - - Contents -

Search­ing for a cheap but re­li­able runaround as a sur­prise gift for a friend, I spot­ted this 2004 Ford Fo­cus Mk1 1.4 for a very rea­son­able price on Au­to­trader. With just one owner in the past eight years, 63,000 miles on the clock, MOT for nine months and no ad­vi­sories, a full ser­vice his­tory and a recent cam­belt change, it sounded well looked af­ter.

I phoned the seller first thing Mon­day morn­ing and ar­ranged to view it on Fri­day. I’m glad I did as the car was so rea­son­ably priced that, by Wed­nes­day, the seller had been forced to re­move the ad­vert af­ter re­ceiv­ing 72 phone calls!

Need­less to say, I didn’t hag­gle on the price and came away with the car and a re­as­sur­ingly thick wedge of re­ceipts and old MOTS, in­clud­ing a ser­vice just a few hun­dred miles ago.

Sure enough, on check­ing the oil it was still nice and clean, and the air fil­ter looked brand-new. The power steer­ing fluid, how­ever, looked like it had done 13 years’ ser­vice, so was quickly re­plen­ished. The pollen fil­ter had also seen bet­ter days, so it was re­newed – it’s amaz­ing how many cars with ‘full ser­vice his­tory’ still have the orig­i­nal pollen fil­ter in place.

When chang­ing it, I would rec­om­mend fit­ting a new seal­ing strip at the top of the scut­tle panel as the old one may have lost its stick­i­ness or be dam­aged, which will re­sult in a wet pas­sen­ger-side car­pet the next time it rains.

There was a slight is­sue with chang­ing gears, where the Fo­cus seemed to hold the revs for too long af­ter lift­ing off the ac­cel­er­a­tor, and the revs would drop too low when pulling up at junc­tions. Some WD-40 on the joint of the throt­tle pedal and a quick clean of the in­let air con­trol valve (held on by two bolts and an elec­tri­cal con­nec­tor at the front of the en­gine) with throt­tle body cleaner seem to have done the trick.

The en­gine and an­cil­lar­ies seemed sound and the brakes and tyres were good, but you can al­ways find jobs to do on a sec­ond­hand car. For­tu­nately, most of these were cos­metic. Small dings and scratches on prac­ti­cally ev­ery panel had been ‘fixed’ with a lib­eral spray from a rat­tle-can – so lib­eral, in fact, that the paint had vis­i­bly run and there was over­spray ev­ery­where. Af­ter some el­bow grease and G3 com­pound, the paint­work looks much more pre­sentable.

The big­gest eye­sore was the bot­tom of the near­side rear door, which had rusted through, pos­si­bly as a re­sult of a blocked drain or un­treated stone dam­age. By far the eas­i­est and cheapest op­tion would have been to swap the door for a used one, but it took two weeks of scour­ing the in­ter­net and en­quiries at break­ers be­fore I found one in good con­di­tion, in the right colour (Ford seem to have var­i­ous shades of light blue) and with a match­ing door­card and trim. I paid £35 and fit­ted it within half-an-hour.

Re­plac­ing the door was sur­pris­ingly easy. Undo one Torx bolt at the B-pil­lar to re­move the re­tain­ing strap, un­plug the electrics, then loosen, but don’t re­move, the two grub bolts that hold the hinges to the door. The en­tire door can then be lifted up and off, and the new one dropped in its place. By leav­ing the hinges in place on the body­work, there’s no need to spend ages ad­just­ing them, and sure enough the new door fit­ted per­fectly.

I would strongly rec­om­mend any Fo­cus owner to whip off their whee­larch lin­ers from time to time. I re­moved half an

al­lot­ment’s worth of mud that had built up un­der­neath and would even­tu­ally have caused the wings and sills to rot out. The car had suf­fered from water ingress into the boot at some point, which was now fixed, but it had left the wheel well with some sur­face rust. This was re­moved with a wire brush and a coat of red ox­ide and then Ham­merite, which should stop any tin­worm get­ting es­tab­lished. Rusty jack The jack lives un­der the spare wheel and had rusted solid. Not some­thing you want to find out on a dark, rainy night in a lay-by with a flat tyre! More work with the wire brush and some lu­bri­cant got the jack mov­ing, but with an almighty squeak, so again I turned to the trusty break­ers for a jack in mint con­di­tion.

The in­te­rior was tidy, ex­cept for the steer­ing wheel, which looked and felt as though some­one had been chew­ing the rim – per­haps in frus­tra­tion at be­ing stuck in traf­fic! As they’re made from some sort of rub­ber com­pound, I can only as­sume these wheels tend to soften in direct sun­light and are then prone to pre­ma­ture wear. The same break­ers that sup­plied the door had sev­eral wheels to choose from, so I picked the best and fit­ted it. I’ve never changed a steer­ing wheel be­fore and was slightly ner­vous about trig­ger­ing the airbag, but af­ter dis­con­nect­ing the bat­tery for 10 min­utes and un­do­ing a cou­ple of bolts at the back of the airbag, it was re­moved with no prob­lems. It took no longer than half-an-hour all-in to have a nice, smooth wheel – which with the re­place­ment jack cost £30!

Be­ing a base-spec model, the Fo­cus came with a cas­sette player, which I swapped for the 6000 model CD player, bought on­line for £25. The seats also lacked Isofix fit­tings in the back for a child seat, but some pok­ing around re­vealed that the holes for the fit­tings are pre-drilled and that an Isofix kit sold for a Fo­cus MKII might fit – at £16 for the kit, it seemed worth a gam­ble and it was fit­ted with no is­sues within 20 min­utes. Un­do­ing the four Torx bolts to re­move the up­right por­tion of the rear seat helps with ac­cess, then sim­ply de­tach the plas­tic cov­ers on the predrilled holes, line up the Isofix bracket and tighten the sup­plied Torx bolts.

Hav­ing a child in the back of a basespec car pre­sented an­other prob­lem: how to stop lit­tle hands fid­dling with the man­ual win­dow winder at in­op­por­tune mo­ments? Re­mov­ing the winder han­dle solved the prob­lem, but left the splined metal shaft ex­posed. As I had a spare han­dle on the old, rusty door, I cut it down with a Drem­mel to leave just the cir­cu­lar hub of the han­dle as a neat cover.

All in, in­clud­ing six months’ road tax, the car owes me £675, which I’m very happy with. I’ve al­ready cov­ered 1000 miles in it and will soon hand the keys over to a young lady in sore need of a run­about, who I hope will en­joy many more trou­ble-free miles.

Want to show off your lat­est model? Just email around 1000 words with a hand­ful of dig­i­tal pic­tures to the Edi­tor at mar­tyn.knowles@ bauer­me­dia.co.uk or send it to the postal ad­dress on page 4.

Body pan­els had been rat­tle-can sprayed at some point. Rub­bing them down with com­pound, they looked a lot bet­ter.

The pollen fil­ter hadn’t been re­newed for some time.

A sec­ond­hand door was sourced to re­place the orig­i­nal rusty item.

A used steer­ing wheel was found – and fit­ted in half-an-hour.

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