Huge win for car owners! All TSBs to be made public. The Center for Auto Safety just made the NHTSA (US Government) make public the full text of all TSBs from now on. They are the same organization that has petitioned the NHTSA & filed lawsuits to protect car owners over exploding gas tanks & other major safety issues. Whenever you drive in your car, you are safer thanks in part to a lot of work over the years by this small but very effective consumer advocacy group.

Please take a moment & say thank you by donating $5 or whatever you can to the Center for Auto Safety.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
83,497 miles
Total Complaints:
249 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (84 reports)
  2. replace the ignition (37 reports)
  3. insert the key and lightly tap the key with a hammer (28 reports)
  4. must go to dealership for high priced repair (28 reports)
  5. call a locksmith (25 reports)
  6. replace ignition lock cylinder (19 reports)
2003 Ford Focus accessories - interior problems

accessories - interior problem

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2003 Ford Focus Owner Comments (Page 10 of 13)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #69

Aug 152008

Focus ZTS

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,500 miles


After sitting in a parking lot for about 30 minutes waiting for roadside assistance, I broke down and called my ex-husband who works for AAA as a tow truck driver. I told him I couldn't turn my key. He told me to tap the key with a hammer or something and once it turns, just leave the key in the ignition until I could get it fixed. It worked.

- , Detroit, MI, USA

problem #68

Aug 182008

Focus ZX3

  • Automatic transmission
  • 64,000 miles

Same problem, different person. I was absolutely dumbfounded to find out how common a problem this is after stumbling across this site. Thank goodness I was at home when it happened and tried searching the internet for a solution before calling the tow truck and taking it to a mechanic.

The hammer trick worked for me, at least for now. Who knows how long it will hold up. I'm too afraid of getting my car jacked to leave the key in the ignition. I am going to carry a hammer/wd-40 in my car for now. Thanks to all who previously posted and good luck to the rest of you who have the unfortunate luck of looking for this site.

Enough is enough. Ford needs to do a recall or they are going to lose a lot of customers. They already lost another...

- , Omaha, NE, USA

problem #67

Aug 152008

Focus SE 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,000 miles

My husband and I are stationed in Germany and our warranty seemed to have traveled over here with us (Thank God!). Well, being the first and only owners of this vehicle, the past five months w/ the car have been nothing but a pain. I will stat that if you ever buy ANY vehicle, it is worth it to shell out the extra dough for the extended (as extended as you can get!) warranty.

On Friday, Aug 15, he was coming home from work and went to start the car. The key would go in, however it would not turn He tried jamming it in teh ignition cylinder many a times and after fifteen minutes, it finally worked. I called our local Ford Dealership at 8am on Saturday, they told me to bring it in Monday first thing.

Yesterday (Monday), I took the car in, they took a quick look at it and they too, decided it was the cylinder and the locking mechanism. I am looking all over and in my Ford ESP Warranty Plan to be sure that I am covered b/c paying Euros instead of dollars is MUCH pricier than the previous posters have been complaining about. They ordered the part yesterday and it shall arrive by 11am. I have to call then. If it's here, then I drop my car off at 1pm to have it fixed.

It has more or less been a PITA due to having a fifteen month old son and now I'm expecting our second. Last thing I want to do is get stranded somewhere (especially since we live OFF base).

I will say, the dealership allowed me to take my vehicle home and both them and I figured out that if you leave your key in the ignition and it turns to start, then when you turn the key off, LEAVE IT THERE! Take all the other keys off of your key ring b/c if it turns, it WILL turn again w/ no problem. Just make sure to lock your doors w/ the keyless entry and do NOT turn the key to accessory (for obvious reasons of running your battery dead). You will still hear the "dinging" noise like you would if you left your lights on, don't worry about it though, you're good to go until it's fixed.

I don't know how much it will cost me yet. Here's to hoping it's only the $100 deductible

- , Minot AFB, ND, USA

problem #66

Aug 082008

Focus LX5 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles


click to see larger images

key won't turn in the ignition

One Solution to Ford Focus Ignition Problem

We purchased a used 2003 Focus in June 2008. It replaced my wife�s dead van. In August, the dreaded �key won�t turn� problem arrived after work, at 11:30 PM. Since this was the first time it happened to us, a small tap on the key got the car running. I had previously searched for problems with this model, so when it happened, I knew somewhat how to get the car going.

The next morning, I removed the cylinder lock from the car using this information:

I checked to see if the problem was still there. It was. Holding the outside of the cylinder assembly, I could not turn the key. Tapping on it did allow the key to turn.

I then removed the steel clip on the end of the lock assembly and removed the actual lock mechanism.

I then inserted the key to see if the locking bar would drop down like it was supposed to.

Only part of the bar went down. Taping on the key and working with it, made the rest of the bar drop down. After working with it about an hour, the lock would work 100% of the time. I at least then I knew nothing was broke, just things sticking inside.

The bar would stick up where the deepest part of the key was. I suppose any of the tumblers will stick, mine just happened to be one of those.

This gave me a clue as to what was sticking. The tumblers and connecting linkage to the bar was the problem. I did not attempt to disassemble the lock any further. Major lack of knowledge and scared I would not be able to get it back together. As it turned out, I did not need to do any other disassembly.

With locks, the use of oil is not a good idea. Oil collects dust over time. So I decided to use spray silicone. This would allow the silicone to seep in and around any moving parts. The liquid part of the spray would then evaporate and leave dry, very slippery, surfaces.

I sprayed the silicone into where the key goes in and around the bar. That was the only places I thought where anything that moved would be. I worked the lock for about an hour and sprayed about 4 times. I do not know if less spraying is needed, that is just what I did. I could no longer get the lock to fail to turn.

The major problem with the lock assembly is lubrication and weak springs. The springs work good at first, but weaken over time. That is very normal. These are marginal at first and then get worse. I imagine eventually the springs will have to be replaced. This just delayed it for a while. The lubrication type that is needed would keep the linkage working longer. That is something I know very little about. Silicone works for me.

In talking to the wife, the key worked OK at first, then, started to catch when she turned it. But it would turn. Looking back, it would have been a good idea to find this earlier. I had read many web pages and had just assumed the lock would fail and I would just need to shell out big bucks to the local Ford dealer. Maybe someday I will, but I am hoping I delayed that a few years. I think I will do this on a preventative schedule. I am thinking once a year, but if the key starts to stick, then more often. The whole job would take less than 3 hours when you know what to do.

- , Lisbon, IA, USA

problem #65

Aug 042008

Focus SE 4cyc

  • Automatic transmission
  • 64,000 miles

I have had this issue for awhile, but usually if I just push on the ignition, the key will turn. Not this time. I come out from the store and the key will not turn. To make a long story short, I had to call a tow truck driver who came out and tapped it with a heavy metal wrench while turning it and it came right on. There goes $55 down the drain.

- , Cary, NC, USA

problem #64

Apr 172008

Focus ZX5 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 186,000 miles

I got to be one of the lucky ones my car went farther than the average mileage before this happened. I first thought that maybe the key i was using was bad so I had the spare brought to me well I found out other wise. I got mad and hit the key with a book I had in my car and there you go it turned I thought I was golden until the next morning when I went to go to work and damn if it wouldn't turn again. So I called Ford they said it had to br replace and it would cost me $365. Well I then did some researches and found out that you can buy an after market one and put in yourself (just make sure to do it in front of the dealership) and have them just reprogram the key a much cheaper solution. The part cost about $80 and the Chevy dealer ship only wanted $65 to reprogram the new key. Thank God for Chevy( I will NEVER buy another piece of sh*t FORD)

- , Richmond Hill, GA, USA

problem #63

Jul 012008

Focus ZX3 2.0L

  • Manual transmission
  • 82,397 miles


Same story, with a twist (har).

I was stranded by the faulty key/ignition mechanism at a gas station. After about 15 minutes struggling to get the key to turn, I called my brother to see if he had any insight into the situation. He typed "ford focus ignition key" into Google, and was linked to this very page. He read a few entries, then advised me to give the key a few taps ... and it worked.

So, BIG thanks to the people who've taken the time post complaints here.

The problem gets progressively worse. The "tapping" method is becoming less reliable, and I know I need a permanent fix/solution lest I be really stranded when it completely gives out. Leaving the key in the ignition is not a solution. Replacing the part with the same badly designed part is not a solution.

So yes, Ford, you need to do a safety recall on this shoddy part. Leaving Focus owners stranded god-knows-where when this thing fails is a serious safety issue.

- , Saugerties, NY, USA

problem #62

Jul 182008

Focus SE 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

I am glad I am not the only one. About two months ago my ignition locked on me, thank god I was at a tire place getting a knew tire, but the tech tried for almost an hour trying to turn my key over. He used wd40 and hitting it with a hammer and neither worked. So he got some kind of screwdriver or something and took the panel off underneath the steering wheel and some how got it to turn over. Now today July 18th it did it again at a gas station and my boyfriend and I tried to get it to turn and we did not have any luck. I had called ford dealership and the tech had told me that he has had in the past year alot of cars to come in to get that particular problem fixed on ford focus and it cost around $300 to $400 dollars. So right now I am trying to decide what to do with this car because I have other issues with this ford and I don't want to put anymore money in this piece of junk. If there is a petition sign me up.

- , Kansas City, MO, USA

problem #61

Jul 102008

Focus ES

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,622 miles

2 things...

1st: WTF!!!

Yesterday my wife and baby got stranded at the Stop & Shop in the middle of a scorching hot day because the bloody key has suddenly stopped turning in the lock... She calls me from the parking lot thinking she is losing her mind. So I leave work early, head to where she is, tool around with the goddamed thing, give it up as a lost cause and bring her the 10 miles to home rather than listen to my poor baby girl bawl anymore - sweaty and miserable from the heat. Wasting no time I jump right back into my truck to trudge back to the supermarket where I called AAA who mercifully showed up in less than 15 minutes later (GOD I love those guys - you don't need them often but when you do MAN nothing compares) and have the nice man tell me that he has seen 6 or 7 of these problems in the past 3 or 4 months... Awesome. Thanks Ford, thanks a lot.

The 2nd thing I wanted to say was: Thank God for this site...

Allow me to explain ~ I spoke to the "charming" operator from the local dealership who told me between the smacking of her gum over the phone, that A) she wouldn't be able to get us in "until next Wednesday" which was over 5 days away and that B) it would be $87 just to have someone look into the problem... I asked her if she was sure there was no recall on this serious malfunction and she assured me there was not. >:(

Sooo, in the mean time my wife starts doing some research and one of the first things she finds is this site. We both blanched when we saw the likely cost of $400 bucks it would take to replace the whole mechanism. That was when we also saw the suggested fix of tapping the key with a hammer... Well, with little hope or expectation of success, I resolved to give it a try. I made my way out to car (in the middle of the night I might add) inserted the key and... LOW AND BEHOLD with 3 taps of the hammer the key turned!! We were relieved I can tell you. However, the other thing that we read is that many people resolve to just leave the key in the ignition rather than risk another episode which can apparently happen quite frequently according the folks here that have been through a similar circumstance. I guess we are going to follow suit for now. Personally I think that it is unconscionable for Ford to allow this to go on uncorrected. I guess it goes to show that the Pinto mentality hasn't fully left their old modus operendi of "acceptable loss" over there at Ford HQ.

In conclusion allow me to say that reading through the 60 odd complaints about this it has set my resolve to contact the local news channels and the Providence Journal Newspaper... This is just the sort of thing they LOVE to get a hold of... In the end it may not amount to much but by God I will be heard!!! Thanks for reading me this far!


- , West Warwick, RI, USA

problem #60

Jul 022008

Focus LX

  • Automatic transmission
  • 44,000 miles

my wife was in an accident in her ford focus the insurance will not cover this problem of the key not turning over , the problem is that it did not do this before the accident but it does now , it was a front collision not her fault , ford says that this happens to 9 out of 10 focuses , now can somebody tell me that if thats true where is the god dammed recall . somebody has to be accountable for the 90 percent of sh*tty fords out there . we as consumers need to rise up and not take this sh*t anymore . so ford f*ck you and deal with sh*t . no wonder your nearly bankrupt you cant make a car that turns on.

- , Wichita, KS, USA

problem #59

Apr 092008

Focus 2.0L

  • Manual transmission
  • 65,000 miles


I'm another member of the club. I felt like I was totally crazy. Get up in the morning to go to work and suddenly, my key won't turn. Did I take the wrong set of keys? Am I in the wrong car? How do I get to work now?

After fiddling with it for almost an hour, I called a friend to give me a ride. When I got home, my father-in-law and wife had both tried it without success, and I got back in the car and tried to push it with my finger, to get it to turn without the key, and the inside part pushed in and must have loosened something because magically the key worked. I continue to have the problem every couple of weeks, but so far, the magic finger is working. I just thought I'd add my voice to the many complaints here.

Update from Aug 9, 2010: So, eventually the key stopped working and the tapping pushing action stopped working as well.

So, I called the nearest locksmith who recommented I call AAA (since I was a member) and use one of my annual roadside service calls. I'm AAA Plus so I get up to $100 in locksmith services per call. Throught the AAA call, the locksmith then came to where my car was stuck (luckily at home), and it was repaired in about an hour. It cost about $250, but I only had to pay $150 (ha, only $150 for a problem that shouldn't have happended at all).

He said it's common (like mentioned so often here) problem. As the key enters, small scrapings of the key are left in the cylindar and it gets all messed up and needs to be replaced. Annoying, but fixed.

- , Orem, UT, USA

problem #58

May 262008


  • Manual transmission
  • 30,000 miles

Yesterday my wife parked our Focus on the driveway apron. Later, when I went to move it into the garage, the key wouldn't turn. I tried hitting it with my hand, with a hammer, I tried WD-40. Nothing. I called AAA and they came out. Of course, this is such a common problem, the driver also tried hitting it with a hammer. He couldn't get the tow truck up my driveway, so I was stranded in my own driveway. Today, I called a locksmith, who, of course, knew all about this problem. He said this probably happens to every Focus eventually. He installed a new ignition in the car in the driveway. Luckily, because I have AAA, I got $50 off, but it still cost $350 for something Ford should be taking care of. The tow truck driver said tapping the key with a hammer usually works about 60% of the time. Unfortunately, it didn't work for me. I took some comfort in reading the on-line discussions. When it happens, you think you're crazy at first--the key just worked five minutes ago--what happened? You don't want to break the key, but you keep trying it over and over, desperate that you're doing something wrong or that the tumblers will magically click into place. You'd think having it happen in your own driveway would be an advantage. No such luck. The tow truck driver apologized. He said, "It's my job to tow cars, when I can't do my job, I feel bad." See, Ford's even causing grief for the tow truck drivers. I can't believe they won't step up and take care of the problem. I am a former Ford employee and the son of a Ford retiree. Buy Ford has been ingrained in my head since I was a kid. Next time, I don't know. This is ridiculous!

- , Pittsburgh, PA, USA

problem #57

Feb 072007

Focus ZX3 2.0L

  • Manual transmission
  • 55,000 miles

I agree with everyone else on this is issue...I definitely think that Ford should have a recall on this part. Its not a wear and tear issue and its out of anyone's control no matter how well someone is able to maintain their vehicle. The cost is extravagant and annoying...but without the key turning, you are stuck. I have left my key in the ignition without totally locking it into position to be removed. You just never know how often this is going to occur. I have tried graphite powder when this issue originally occurred. I have an extra tube in the glove box at all times.....BUT STILL...we shouldn't be having these issues. If someone starts a petition...i will most definitely sign.

I feel your pain- Hannah

- , Austin, TX, USA

problem #56

Feb 012008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles

I see that a lot of people are having an issue with this so Ford should step up and do a recall on this defective part. The only way I have been able to turn my key is by leaving the keys in the ignition and when u turn it off don't go past the lock arrow but I really should not have to do this Ford should take care of this problem. Maybe there is a petition we could all get started.

- , Linton, IN, USA

problem #55

May 012007

Focus ES V4

  • Manual transmission
  • 70,000 miles

Ford needs to step up to plate and accept responsibility for their defective cylinders!!!

- , Hampton, NH, USA

problem #54

Feb 252008


  • Manual transmission
  • 42,235 miles

I'm so done with Ford. My husband has a 2002 Ford Explorer and it too is a piece of crap! I'm so tired of Ford having significant problems with their vehicles and refusing to do anything about it. No more Ford's for this family!

- , LaVergne, TN, USA

problem #53

Sep 122007

Focus ZX3 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

when the car show the problem somebody toll me to hit the key with my hand an don't take out of the cylinder and that have been working since then.

- , Elizabeth City, NC, USA

problem #52

Feb 192008

Focus SE Comfort

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,150 miles

Out of my other 2 complaints this is the most ridiculous out of all of them and will be the most expensive so far, since this isn't covered under a warranty.

I went to get into my car today and the ignition would not turn. It was about 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside and I sat in my car for 45 minutes turning the key in every different way. I pushed the key in very hard to try and get it to turn and I also turned the wheel hoping that would help. Nothing! After 45 minutes I called for some help and got a ride. Ford is saying that this will cost around $250 to be replaced and isn't covered under anything, warranty, recall, nothing! This isn't a wear and tear problem. The ignition should never not turn. I have read of so many of these issues I feel like this needs to really be addressed by Ford Motor Company. If it became a recall everyone who ever had a problem would be reimbursed. Anyone have any ideas of how to make that happen?

- , Rochester, NY, USA

problem #51

Feb 112008

Focus SE 2.0L

  • Manual transmission
  • 90,000 miles

Just like everyone else. My 2003 Ford Focus ignition locked on the coldest day of the year. Not only that but my first day of work at a new job. I had to call the office at lunch and ask for someone to come get me. I was stranded in a parking lot. Then I had to have the car towed and the ignition replaced. Total cost $389.44 plus three days without a car.

- , Mont Clare, PA, USA

problem #50

Jan 252007

Focus SE 4 cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 60,000 miles

I have been having problems with my ignition since summer, but it's been acting up even more lately. I'll try to turn on my car and the key won't turn at all! I will mess with the steering wheel to make sure it isn't locked, but that's never the problem. Finally after sitting from anywhere of 5-10 minutes, it'll finally turn on. Not so fun in the winter when it's 0 out... Lately if I hit the key with the heal of my hand, that'll make it turn. But it is for sure getting worse....

So today I went to Tires Plus to get an estimate and see what the problem was. They said that I need a new "Ignition Lock Cylinder" Something to do with the pins where the key goes in wearing down. Price: $180.00 for the parts, $120.00 for labor. A total of $300.

Then I look online and see this is VERY common for 2003 Ford Focus' I have never liked Fords, but when I bought my car in 2003 I went with it for a few reasons... My step-dad agreed to co-sign and pay a down payment on it, and he loves Fords. It's the Republican in him I think. I also liked the design and that it had good gas millage. It was new with only 10 miles on it, and I've only had used cars before this one.

I always said that once this car gets ground to dust I'll buy a Toyota or Honda...and now I REALLY know why. Ford should have recalled this, but that would be asking a lot I guess.

- , Madison, WI, USA

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