One Funky Ford Focus

kirk

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Allen, Texas
So, there I was, at work, drinking coffee and crusing the classified ads, looking for something to appease my rampant and well documented need for a new project, pretty much constantly.

Literally me:
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This time, my ADD had me looking for something fun to tinker on and a cheap daily beater to get better mileage than the 15 ish the Xterra gets. Historically, I always bought shiatty commuters, fixed them while i commuted, and once they were solid, I sold it, made a profit and started over. But I haven't done that in a long long time, so I thought it would be time to revisit a favorite pasttime of mine.

Bored with the classifieds, and with a pocket o cash (well, like $650) from selling the wrecked Xterra, I cruised over to the municipal auction site, and sifted through a bunch of wrecks, junk, seizure SUVs and big body cars with 24" rims and dubious criminal pasts plus the normal derlicts and detritus before I stumbled onto what appeared to be a pretty clean little Focus hatch. I used to daily a 5spd, 01 Focus Sedan which i liked, and which got 30mpg+ so, with that, and a deep unrealized love of manual transmission hatches, I decide to bid.

Now. Like any salvage auction, its a crapshoot. Will i luck out? Will i crap out? Will the motor be locked up and will it smell like something crawled up something else's ass and died inside?

I dont know. But, I was willing to bid up to $500 to have the luxury of finding out. The auction was kind enough to provide three pictures.

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What I was able to determine from those pictures was very limited. I did however observe that at some point, my little hatch to be, had been bizarrely involved in the losing end of a gun battle; RIP to the back window. So, while in my coffee fueled mania, I submitted a bid of $300.

And I waited the 10 days the auction ran, with no one bidding. I thought, the only thing better than a shot up $500 sh*t box beater, is a $300 sh*t box beater. But at the last hour, someone started bidding against me. By that point, the compass of my automotive ADD had swung in a (several) different directions so I really wasnt upset. I still wanted it, but when the description says "does not run, does not have keys, history unknown" you dont gamble much. With five minutes left, I was the high bidder at $500. Trust me when I tell you if the mystery bidder had bid even one dollar more, I would have walked away.

But, lucky(?) for me, mystery bidder 12469 didnt.

So now that I was contractually obligated to purchase lot C401261, I decided to run the vin. Interestingly enough, Carfax says it had two owners, both in Sparks, Nevada, both who had it maintained at Jones West Ford in Reno, NV. Through some other deep vin number research that Prime knows about, I found that the last registered mileage was 65,327 in Aug. 2022, to an 80 year old man, and that it had been seized by law enforcement as abandoned in January of 2024 in Dallas.

So where had the little Focus been for seventeen months, how did it end up in Dallas, shot up, broke down and abandoned and how many miles were on it now?
 
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kirk

Butterfly King
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Allen, Texas
Collection day arrived, and since I look for any reason to take off work on a bright, sunny day, away I went. Arriving at the impound lot, I filled out my paperwork, and got my truck in the line for expectant fathers waiting to pick up their adopted sons/daughters from the lot.

Getting through the rollback gate into the yard was a longer process than I expected, but finally I was met by "Bub", a surly sumbitch. Meeting Bub is at first overwhelming. His beard, if suddenly gifted with the ability to form speech, could tell tales of foreign lands, lost loves and yesterdays lunch. His eyes, one lazy, googly and massively distracting, the other piercing and yet welcoming, say "WTF do you want" and "is that a roast beef sandwich in the clouds" all at once. Once approved, Bub had me follow him to the far back reaches of the 30 acre lot, where my newest toy awaited. He passed me off to a young hispanic kid who again checked my paperwork (this time with two good eyes) and pointed out where the hatch was.

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I opened the door, and was immediately assaulted by funk. I mean this thing STINKS. There is funk, then FUNK. Partially due to the busted rear window and wet carpet, but also due to the sheer volume of garbage inside. I mean sh*t fire its bad. Its mine now, so I'll deal with it, but GOBBLEDAMN it was rough. Couple things occur to me real quick. One, its stuck in gear, and I dont know why. Two, with no keys, and no ability to roll, Im kinda f*cked. I brought rollers, but they are useless on gravel.

Thinking quickly, I go find the young kid sitting on a forklift not far off. He some how doesnt hear me approach, even though I clear my throat and am making plenty noise walking on these rocks. When I get there, I figure out that the tits I can see on his phone are both significant and very distracting. Even to me from this distance. I stand there watching him watch them bounce for about 15 seconds before he sees me. Embarassed, he quickly puts his phone up and asks whats up. I start to say something smart, but since I need his help, I refrain. Barely. I explained to him what issue I was having, and despite the banners screaming WE DO NOT LOAD CARS DONT ASK, I ask. Indicating that his boss was on lunch, and that he didnt like that "mufukka" anyway, he takes my $40 and in under 60seconds, loads the car for me. I was impressed, no lie.

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That was worth the price just to watch. Hell, worth it at twice the price. Money earned, he goes back to his tit video, and I tape up the bullet riddled back window, and head for tacos. What a good day so far, but Im starting to wonder what exactly i just got myself into. Stuck in gear, full of water and trash, and no keys? Jeez.

But, TACOS!

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kirk

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Allen, Texas
On the way home, I call a local locksmith to see what can be done about getting some dadgum keys for this thing. He quotes me $450 to cut and program a key that will work in the ignition. He must have heard my gasp and multiple four letter words because he followed up with the fact that it would only be $127 if I brought him the drivers door lock to cut the key, then the next day, brought him the car with a charged battery. Apparently most of the cost of the key programming is having them disassembling the door to get to the lock.

Fk that.

Armed with the deep pool of automotive knowlege also known as a YouTube video, I disassemble the door and take him the lock. It was a pain, but not a $225 pain, I can tell you that much.

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I left the car out in my "remote storage", and took the battery home with me to charge it up. The next day I went back, charged power source in tow. I hooked up the battery, but still couldnt see what the mileage was, without a key. All the electrical works though, horn, lights, radio, etc. I spend about two hours shovelling garbage out. I threw away diapers (clean) unopened condoms by the f*cking ton, kids clothes, socks and shoes, snacks, snack wrappers, all kids of shiat. Mostly snacks. Plus, as a bonus, they duct taped a phone mount to the dash. Like, who does that? Should be reallll fun to get all that residue off later.

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This is where I will tell you that who ever had this car, after the 80 year old man in Nevada was a fat motherf*cker. Yes I said fat. Maybe thats not PC. Maybe its triggering to those of us who shop in the Plus size section. I dunno. But what I do know is, a significant heavyweight owned this before, and the drivers seat very clearly tells the tale. The back of the driver seat has NO padding in it. Sittin in it is both gross and uncomfortable because their fat snack eating ass wore the seat out and without 100lbs of back fat to insulate you, you can feel every single steel bar push into your spine. Which then makes you notice all the unopened condoms, which THEN makes you powerless to not think about fat sex, and wish you had bleach for your minds eye.

Garbage gone, I used the charged battery to open the hatch. Its full of glass and more garbage. Under all that, was 3" of water in the spare tire well. Wonderful.

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I took the spare tire tool and punched a hole in one of the rubber caps so it could leak out. So freakin gross in here.

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While the elegant lady of the impound yard pissed stinking, stagnant water all over the trailer, I hooked up and took her to town. The locksmith guy was pretty cool, and even though he mentioned several times how much the car stunk, he was really, really good at his job. Took less than 10 min to get a key programmed to the ignition.

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After he programmed it, he turned the key to make sure it worked. Beeping and blinking, the car hesitated a second, then recognized the key as friendly, and allowed the dash to light up.

82,740 appeared on the dash, swimming slowly into focus like a magic 8 ball letting you know that your future is uncertain. The mileage reading meant that the little Focus had covered 17,413 miles in the unaccounted for seventeen months.

Key turned, he looked at me and asked if I wanted him to try and start it.

*edit - corrected the mileage
 
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kirk

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Allen, Texas
As I have mentioned frequently before, I thrive on the chaos method, so I told him to get after it, but to be aware that its stuck in gear. He jammed the clutch, and keyed the Focus over. It spun rapidly, then erupted into life. It idled high at first before settling down into a sedately little sewing machine hum. I dont know who was more surprised, the keymaster or me, the Focuskeeper.

So, I'll be dammed, she runs, and is under 100k. I think this is something I can work with. Releasing the clutch (slowly) causes the car to lurch forward violently, so we shant be doing that. Generic research indicates that the manual transmission Focuses (Focui?) have a shift tower pin that holds all the gears together, and it is known to fail. The first gen Focus had a bolt in that position, but im sure some bureaucrat figured out how to save nine cents by making this a pin instead, and here I am.

Since I'm into this cheap, I plan to attack that repair. It can be done with the transmission still in the car, and seems to be something I can manage. I mean its already broken, so if I jack it up, Im still in the car under $650. I mean, why not? All I really need is to fix that, find a seat that hasnt been obliterated by a chonky monky ass, a rear window and some tires, and I'm in 30mpg bliss!

Am I stupid? Yeah. Do I like a challenge? Also yeah. But now that I know it runs, I'll go file the auction paperwork to get a title in my name, and go from there. If the motor was locked, I was going to sell this bitch for parts, but now who knows.

That's all for now Constant Reader, but follow along as I learn the limits of my transmission repair knowledge AND my auto detailing kit, all on the same car.

I likely need help. Three digit cars will be the death of me, im sure, but this would make a pretty great little commuter, so we shall see if I can bring it back to the land of the living.

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kirk

Butterfly King
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Allen, Texas
Man…this thing needs new wheels…
SEE THATS WHAT I WAS TRYNA SAY TOO!

Max Greenfield Reaction GIF by CBS
 

kirk

Butterfly King
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Location
Allen, Texas
Howdy Constant Reader, didja miss me? I thought not. So, work has been busy, and I have not yet had a chance to remove and repair the shift tower. But what I did have time to do was waste time on everything else, Focus stuff included. Last week, someone on bookface was parting out an SVT, which caught my eye because I love me some SVT wheels. And I need seats! So I said sure, I need seats and wheels for a car that doesnt move. Sign me up.

But for under $500 for both the seats AND the wheels, I mean, wouldn't you?

Of course you would.

And, I did.

The wheels will need at least two tires, so I wont worry about mounting those just yet, but with a wild hair and nice weather, I decide there is no time like the present to stick those dirty red suckers in there! But first, these suckas really ARE dirty, and since I already have some funk issues to deal with, and these are loose, me thinks I'll shampoo them up first.
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These suckers are DIRTY. I spend about an hour cleaning the fronts and rear, beer in hand, sun on my back, music up. All in all a very good day! The next day, I head out to where the car still sits, and get started.

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I start pulling seats out, and I find MORE garbage, a ton of busted glass and a toothbrush. A gross toothbrush. I also notice that both halves of the rear seat are different colors. I assume thats because when the window was shot out, the back seat was shot up, meaning this thing likely has not had a back window in a long time, since some one cared enough to replace the seat. Dear Focus, where have you been? What have you seen? Who did you affront so mightily in your scant 84k miles that they had to shoot at you?

The world may never know.

But much like my therapist always says, throw out your past like a dirty Ford Focus seat, and move on. So, its getting replaced again!

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Seats all out, time for some vaccuming, as broken glass is REALLY uncomfortable to kneel on. So I vaccum. And I vaccum. And I vaccum. Then, I vaccum. Finally I get most of the glass out, and the floor not perfect but passably clean enough to put seats in. It all still needs shampooing and heavy detailing, but that will come later.
 

kirk

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Junk seats out, SVT Seats in!

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I will eventually have to do something about the middle seat bolts since there is no mounting provision for the middle brackets. The stock seat in a non SVT Focus hatch is one solid piece unlike the SVT split rear. But for now, I have a very high tech solution to this problem. The spanish call it "El out of sight-o out of mind-o" or something similar. Im not sure, to be honest I dont speak Spanish. Or, for that matter, English very well. BUT, no one ever will be in that back seat anyway.

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And it continues.

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I wasnt sure how I'd like the red seats in a blue car, but I dig the crap out of it! And they are sooooo much better than the stock seats. Even if I cant drive currently, I can still sit in comfort and make motor noises.

Vroom Vroom

Now I read a million threads on the wiring of these seats, since the SVT plugs dont match the plugs of a standard Focus. To be fair, I honestly dont see the issue. The car they came from didnt have the cold weather package (no heated seats) and other than the airbag, what do I really need them plugged in for? I will likely just run a wire to this switch so I can control the seat bottom ups n downs.

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kirk

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Allen, Texas
So that's it for this episode of "A fool and his money."

So now, I have to find an armrest, because I dunno where mine went and I hit my elbow on that protruding metal more times than I care to count. I can see why the PO had it covered in paper towels and bright red tape, but I can't see why they removed it in the first place. Probably because fat.

Tune in next time as I tackle something more challenging like, oh, I dont know, actually getting the car to move under its own power before I waste more time money and effort on things that dont matter quite so much.
 
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kirk

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Allen, Texas
I'm just jealous that you have the bandwidth to mess with it.
I get all fired up for new projects! Its the ones that are lingering that are a beating.

If this damn rain would stop, Id get the rest of what I need off the red one and get it gone. I dont need much more from it.
 

Brunnie

Bumpers Installed
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Location
Colorado Springs
I get all fired up for new projects! Its the ones that are lingering that are a beating.

If this damn rain would stop, Id get the rest of what I need off the red one and get it gone. I dont need much more from it.
You're gonna let a little sprinkle stop you???? WIMP!!!!

GET"ER DONE!!!
 

kirk

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Allen, Texas
This past weekend I made time for the Focus, as I was very curious to see what lies beneath. Which isnt exactly gramatically correct, but it IS a good way to plug one of my favorite "horror" movies, staring the ever capivating Michelle Pfeiffer. Still holds up.

Back to the task at hand. The ford focus transmission has a common fail point withe the shift tower, as I mentioned before. Its pretty well documented how to disassemble and repair, so I felt up to the task. Armed with my Fisher Price tool kit, and loads of undeserved bravado, I decided to tackle it.

I was surprised at how easily it all came apart.

All starts Battery tray out, down to this bracket, which holds the motor/transmission mount.

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All of that comes out, then you get to the actual mount.

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Took that out, and accessed the shift tower. I didnt photo the before, but it was bad bad. Like solid black covered in goo. A can of brake cleaner and a throw away towel later, its easy to see and access.

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Then you take off the shift cables. Videos acted like they were tough, but they came right off.

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I then remove the shift tower, so that I can replace the pin.
 

kirk

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Or so I thought. Looking at this tower, I dont think the pin is the issue. This doesnt seem broken, and looks clear through it. I can shift and move the tower when in my hands definitively. Snaps around like you would think it should. Yet the car is stuck in gear. Me thinks I have a larger problem, which may just cause me to bid farewell to yon Focus. It also doesnt seem to have much (any) fluid in here that I can see, but as this is the first one I have ever looked at, who really knows? I do feel pretty confident in the fact that all that debris you see in the transmission is the universe saying "Hello Kirk, don't worry about that smell, it so happens its your goose, and its cooked."

Also, speaking of smells, the inside of a transmission f*cking stinks. Like horribly. Holy shiat how do people work in these every day?

So, Constant Reader, we hit a snag, and I'm not sure what comes next for the Focus and I. But for now I await your replies and Im off to research land to learn what i can about transmissions, and which ones fit from where.

To say I am quite bummed would be an understatement, but I haven't quite given up yet. I am still in it very cheaply, and I know a thing or two about a thing or two.

Bummed, table for one? Bummed, table for one.

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Muadeeb

Nissan al Gaib
Admin
Location
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Hows the transmission on the SVT? Is it possible the bind is coming from a diff? Sounds like it might be time to pull it and strip it. The transmission, not a rental.
 

kirk

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Allen, Texas
Look at you pulling the curtains back over my secret plans! Smart boi. Pretty soon this pig will be a SVT lady of the night dressed as a church mom.

Sorta.

The SVT transmission should be good. It was running when he detonated the motor. The bellhousing is different, but If I swap those, It should/might/maybe work. The SVT is a six speed, this one a five. So I need to see what that changes, with gear ratios, etc.

All else fails, I can trade the SVT for a regular transmission pretty easily.
 

meisanerd

Need Bigger Tires
Gets annoyed, drags car to highway somewhere and abandons it.

5 years later...

Hey guys, guess what, I just bought a focus at an auction. Rear window is shattered, interior is full of junk. Oddly enough, it seems to have svt seats and wheels on it...
 

Prawn

First Fill-Up (of many)
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Location
Las Vegas
I would think some nutserts and a few bolts would anchor those rear seats very well.
 

kirk

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Allen, Texas
Small update. So I found out that my secret SVT transmission plans were not going to work. Apparently to use the SVT, you need the right computer to communicate, etc etc, and that chore was quickly more than I wanted to do.

What I DID do however, is post on a focus page, offering the SVT transmission and related accoutrement for trade. Almost immeidately, I was contacted by a guy with a 92k mile Focus who was making an AutoX and wanted what I got.

A deal was made to trade what I gots for what he gots, which was a 92k mile transmission that was an exact match to my car. Perfect!

I pulled mine, and pulled his (pause) and the trade was made.

So weekend before last in the sheeting rain, I obtained the 92k mile transmission, ordered up the seals and a new clutch, which was a fiasco in its own right.

Putting this back in a car that still has its motor without a lift was likely impossible. But, my buddy Phil, who I have known since childhood, has a friend (actually a friend of his dad) who runs an old school transmission shop. He quoted me a price if he put the trans in for me, and a MUCH lower price if I came and worked with him in his shop.

I bet you know which one I chose Constant Reader. Mama didnt raise no fools.

Well execpt my brother, who runs marathons. I mean, cmon, thats kinda foolish.

So this week, my buddies dad's buddy reached out to me and said he had room in his shop and time to babysit me and an ailing Focus, so took off work, and changed careers for a day or so. I haven't taken very many pictures, as he is an old school guy. The "why you touchin that damn phone when there is work to be done" type guy, and since he is doing me a favor, I'm trying to be respectful of that and his time. And my damn hands have been gross and i dont want this gross shiat all over my phone too, so there's that.

I arrived at his shop yesterday morning, and spent a good bit getting this locked in gear sucker off the bed of the trailer. What I ended up doing is snatch blocking it off the lift, and using my winch to drag it backward. I was sho nuff hoping the lift was mounted solidly, turns out it was!

Not crushed to death by lift in an old school transmission shop, lets just put that right on in the win column, shall we?

Now, after getting it unloaded and shoved around on two jacks, we spent considerable time cleaning grease, bracing the motor, and etc, disassembling (good Lord there is a lot to take apart) to remove the OG unit. I then spent considerable time cleaning and resealing the incoming used unit.

And while its fun to work in the shop, and I have a massive ton of respect for him and the work he does, I am supremely glad that transmission tech was not my chosen career path. I would likely drink more if I had to do this every single day.

Today I begin day two of focus transmission R&R. Where the newly cleaned and sealed one goes in with a crispy new clutch.

I fully intend on driving the Focus out of this bay at some point today, so wish me luck.

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kirk

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Dusk, day five.

Tired, scratched and smelling of rotted, rancid gearbox fluids, our hero wearily puts his hand on the door to the garage. Inside waits his latest folly; a well worn Ford Focus, replete with blood, sweat and swears. He hopes in some way the blood he bled removing the transmission (either the first or second time) offers some form of sacrifice to the problematic trouble gnome living within.

Why, he thinks to himself, do I do this?

Everytime he does it, he swears he won't do it again.

And he does.

Why buy junk, to try and fix and drive reliably? Stamps, he thinks, would be a much easier hobby. Maybe graded comics. Cocaine might be a cheaper hobby.

But he isn't that person, and he doesn't like stamps. Or cocaine for that matter.

Rolling up the door, he walks to the filthy focus and slides behind the wheel. Sitting there in the dusk, post-chaos silence of the shop he reaches up, puts his hand on the key and reflects on the last week.

Day one was simple. Cleaning. Degreasing, disassembly.

Day two was supposed to be just as simple, a proverbial sprint to the finish, but it turned out to instead be the 200m hurdles with special guest star, the punji pit.

The old trans came down easily, and it was truly a boat anchor. It had no fluid in it, but contained all the metal shavings you could possibly want. The new transmission went up easily. I was at this time celebrating our (his) prowess, and likely jinxed myself. Replacement transmission went up easily, but the clutch, pressure plate and throwout bearing all went in semi easily, but something didn’t seem quite right. I got it all back together, but it almost felt forced.

Once back on all fours, and buttoned up, the feeling just wouldn’t go away that something was wrong. I turned the key and the motor didn’t turn. The starter kept trying to turn but it was dragging and I knew we (me) had done something wrong, or, that the transmission was somehow bad.

shiat.

Car goes down, now car goes back up and I start disassembly all over again. The sun sets on a very disheartening day before it's all done.
 

kirk

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Day three.

It doesn't take me long to determine that the clutch I bought, and installed, thus rendering it non-returnable, was the wrong clutch. Had I paid attention to the completely roached one I removed, I might have noticed it. Then again, I might not have, because it was in a significantly bad way. Like they had been doing 9000k rpm hammer drop single wheel burnouts bad. I remember laughing and throwing it over my shoulder into the junk pile. The same junk pile I now found myself climbing in digging it back out. And sure enough, they don't match. A quick call to the local parts house revealed they could have one in their (my) grubby mitts by 8am tomorrow, and I, as a temporary employee of Butch's Transmissions, qualified for a 15% discount. I ordered it, cursing my misfortune.

The rest of day three was spent arguing with rock auto over the wrong clutch, cleaning up my wounds and generally helping Butch around the shop. I mean I'm already there and dirty, might as well clock in.

Except I'm not being paid.

Day four.

I stopped by the parts house on my way in, and grabbed the clutch. When I got there, Butch and I got started. It went much smoother this time, since the parts actually fit like they were supposed to. I installed the new motor mount on the transmission (drivers) side, since to take the transmission out you have to remove it anyway. I didn’t buy one for the passenger side, as I thought it wouldn’t be impacted and had no reference if it was bad or not.

I would quickly learn the error of my ways. The Focus was reassembled by lunch time and once again back down on all four wheels. After a lunch of company funded cheeseburgers from a nearby burger shack, I put my greasy ass in the towel covered seat, and keyed the focus over once again. It fired to life immediately, but after five seconds began clattering massively. Like the absolute loudest rattle I have ever heard a motor make. Picture if you will, if pistons were prisoners hell bent on rejoining the free world, and their only way out to rape and pillage was to destroy their surroundings, this is what that would sound like. The dash shook. The mirrors shook. I shook. I turned the Focus off immediately. Butch gave it a healthy exclamation of GD and threw his hat. I blinked mouth agape.

The sounds emitting from the Focus were nothing like the sedately little sewing machine hum of before.

What had I managed to do?

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kirk

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Butch suggested I fire it back up again, and it must have been written all over my face that I thought it a bad idea. Him: "If the f*ckers broke, its broke. Nothing you can do now, fire it up and let's figure it out."

I keyed the Focus over again, and it immediately began to clatter and vibrate. Oddly the vibration didn’t seem to increase in violence with RPMs but it was consistently loud in a scary way. It also didn’t seem internal, but the racket was so loud, it was hard to tell. Shutting the focus off again, Butch suggested I get the floor jack and lift the motor on each side by the mounts to see if getting pressure off one, then the other made any difference. I jacked up the driver side, started the focus and the ruckus ensued.

Focus off.

I then jacked up the motor on the passenger side, lifting it slightly.

Focus on.

The clatter was hugely reduced. It was still present, but not nearly as violent.

Focus off.

Through this highly scientific process, we determined that the passenger side motor mount, which is filled with hydraulic fluid and is critical, was bad. I'm thinking that replacing just the driver's side put pressure on the pretty much failed passenger side, causing it to fail completely, immediately.

You know, if you give a mouse a cookie, he is going to want a motor mount. Or, something similar. Everything I read suggested the only mount to buy was the OEM Motorcraft, fluid filled one. I googled it, but didn’t find one, anywhere. I then called the Ford house, gave them my VIN and will wonders never cease, they could have one in their (my) grubby mitts by tomorrow, and I, as a temporary employee of Butch's Transmissions, qualified for a 5% discount and no tax. (At least I get a discount! Freaking motor mount was a smoooooooooth one-hundo buckaroos) I ordered it, cursing my misfortune.
 
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