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.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
96,700 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Ford Focus engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Ford Focus Owner Comments

problem #16

Aug 082016


  • 117,000 miles


Car starts but when put in gear, stalls out. Engine will run with foot on gas pedal but stalls our when placed in gear. **happens only in very hot weather temperatures. Search web for Ford Focus stalling out in hot weather. Hundreds and hundreds are reporting this problem but no solutions from anyone including Ford. Very dangerous to have car quit running at stop signs, intersections etc. No answer from Ford in spite of numerous complaints on the web. Must use two feet with one on gas pedal and one on the brake. Ford has no bulletin on this problem that effects so many Ford Focus owners.

- Suffield, CT, USA

problem #15

May 212016


  • 92,000 miles
My car lost all electrical power, but was still running then finally it died. I lost all lights and electric battery was dead so I bought new battery then it happened again, so I bought new alternator because old alternator was bad, then new alternator died within a month. Same problem, then I went online and found a forum about the hatch back Focus and its wiring problem inside the protective sleeve. So I peeled back protective sleeve and sure enough there were exposed wires just like the thousands of posts from other people, this is very dangerous luckily I was able to pull my car off the road before it died, but with severity of this problem there needs to be a recall for this problem.

- Lehigh Acres, FL, USA

problem #14

Feb 262016


  • 80,000 miles
The car stalls randomly while driving. All power is lost for steering and brakes. Highly dangerous situation and I don't feel safe driving the car. Happens in all conditions and unexpectedly. Car will restart. Appears to be a current "recall" of Ford cars for the same issues. Dealer has no idea what to fix and claims to have no knowledge of the problem. However, this appears to be a never ending problem with Ford based on the information I see online. Have already replaced air hose, spark plugs, valve cover gasket, wires. It has been suggested by others online to clean the maf sensor and throttle body, but the dealer doesn't really know if that is the problem or will fix the problem. To them there is no problem. I can see from information posted by others along with the recent recall that this is not a new problem for Ford. I have almost been hit and have almost hit others when the car stalls. The problem has been occurring for more than 1 year. Recently stalled 2 times in a week while driving.

- Olmsted Twp, OH, USA

problem #13

Dec 042015


  • 109,000 miles


The piston shattered at 109,000 miles. After doing some research, I have found many more complaints of the same thing. Come to find out that there is a design flaw in the engine when it comes to the valve seat. This happened in the #3 cylinder. The walls of the cylinder wall is so scored from the damage that it will require a new engine to fix the problem. When this happened, I was in a parking lot after shopping. I turned the key and it would not start. It also made a terrible noise. Before that, it was running fine. I had no trouble with my car except having to change an alternator. That's it. I changed the oil every 3,000 miles. I bought the car used at 90,000 miles. It was from a friend who is obsessed about keeping cars maintained. He would get a tune up, serviced, and change the oil when it was time. The car was well maintained by him. I found out there was a design flaw in the engine. But yet, there is no recall to fix the flaw. And when calling Ford, they say that there is no recall and has no intent at opening one for the faulty engine.

- Orlando, FL, USA

problem #12

Apr 042015

Focus 4-cyl

  • 170,000 miles
Car comes to a traffic stop and dies. Had been shaking prior and had a diagnostic done only to spend $150 to have it no better. Took it to a better mechanic who said the valve seat dropped. I owe 2K on this car and it is worthless not to mention I am a student who has to go to work and classes with absolutely no recourse here. How do I keep my job or my status in college shame on Ford you started me out with a really big problem and now I have to pay for a car that wont go anywhere and will not run on a 2K debt. And no transportation shame on Ford..

- Manahawkin, NJ, USA

problem #11

Feb 032014


  • 114,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Focus. The contact stated that while driving at approximately 65 mph, the check engine warning light illuminated as the vehicle stalled. The vehicle was towed to an independent mechanic, who diagnosed that the valve seat fractured which caused the engine block to crack. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 114,000.

- Salt Lake City, UT, USA

problem #10

Jun 182014


  • 26,692 miles


While waiting in a parking aisle for a car to exit a parking place the engine accelerated to very high RPM. As my car was stationary and my foot on the brake and in drive the car did not seem to move. Placing the car in neutral or park made no difference. Shut off engine and restarted with same result. After waiting several minutes while responding to an interested person I tried again and everything appeared normal. Drove the car home and left it parked. This is the only time this has occurred.

- South Lyon, MI, USA

problem #9

Nov 022012


  • 109,000 miles
While driving, an odd odor could be smelled, but went away after a minute. Came back once briefly. 20 minutes later, as I was about to turn into my work's parking lot, my car turned itself off. When I tried to turn it back on, it would not turn over and all the gauges went haywire. After I stopped trying to start it, I took the key out of the ignition and the car attempted to start itself. Immediately after this, the inside of the car filled up with smoke. The fire originated near the battery. An officer showed up less than 2 minutes after this all occurred, and he sat there and watched my car burn. He pulled out a fire extinguisher 10 minutes later so my car wouldn't create visibility issues for the cars driving past (it died in the middle of a four lane road). They told me it was most likely an electrical fire. Two weeks prior to the incident, I had my alternator replaced. The new alternator was a Ford manufactured part.

- Newberry, MI, USA

problem #8

Dec 012010

Focus 4-cyl

  • 70,000 miles
Key cannot turn - vehicle cannot be started. Unacceptable and hazardous condition with a poorly designed and/or low quality part on all Ford Focus and likely other Ford products. I got around this by pounding on the key with a small hammer I keep in the glove box - I had lived with this for more than 3 years. Same thing happened to my brother-in-law's car (he removed all the tumblers so any key can start his car). It is obvious from reading through the complaints that this is a very significant percentage (>50%?) of all of the numerous complaints against this vehicle. Dealerships want $400 to fix it - that's bs. Actions by NHTSA or a class action lawsuit against Ford is appropriate. It appears that Ford is using this design defect as an opportunity to profit after having put 1000S of consumers in dangerous situations.

- West Bloomfield, MI, USA

problem #7

Aug 282013

Focus 4-cyl

  • 125,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Focus. The contact stated that the vehicle failed to start without warning. The vehicle was taken to a dealer where it was diagnosed that the piston valves and the ignition switch needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure and current mileage was 125,000. Updated 10/29/13

- Berkeley, CA, USA

problem #6

Mar 152011


  • 126,000 miles


I purchased a 2003 Ford Focus in February of 2012. Immediately after purchasing it, I had to spend $700 to fix the motor mounts, bearings in the front wheel, something regarding a cover for the tail pipe/muffler area, A/C, (twice repaired, and went out). Fuel pump, door jams in front (2 door), locks on the doors would automatically lock whether you wanted them locked or not. Door on passenger side refuses to open from the outside. Spent over $4,000 in fixing, replacing, engine & body parts.etc. Just when I bought a second set of new tires last week and did the 3 month oil change, it konked out on me, after a shrilling, high-pitched noise. Just got off the expressway. Found out from a repair shop that this model, especially the 2003 is known for transmission, shoddy parts, and is a safety hazard! the pump inside the transmission broke. This car came with 124,000 miles and over 2 years, spent $4,000 on top of the used private purchase of $2,400. Car repair shop wants $2,400 (what I paid for it) to put a new transmission in. One thing after the other went wrong. I plaint experienced, and it has cost me so much money, I feel Ford needs to replace every penny us consumers paid on this model. Never again need to recall the whole car, it is a death trap.

- Manhattan, Il 60442, IL, USA

problem #5

Mar 142013


  • 130,000 miles
Bought the 2003 Ford Focus new from mallon Ford (currently lakewood Ford), in Tacoma, wa. Car advertised at 27 to 36 mpg. Actual mileage on hwy was 42 mpg. Yesterday (March 14, 2013) car owner, [xxx], said car had stopped and was making lot of noise. I told her not to try and start it anymore but that I would be there in 30 minutes. So I arrived and restarted the car. I shut off the engine and raised the hood. I found a connection to the air flow sensor disconnected. Re-connected it and the engine ran but lots of noise in valve train. Like spark knock on steroids. Checked with stethoscope where the noise was coming from. It was emanating from the top of #1 and 2 cylinders. Engine oil is clean and full. So, as a long time mechanic, I am reasonably certain that the valve seats dropped and where broken by the valves in either number one or number two cylinder. That means the engine might be toast or it could be that the cylinder head is toast- - engine has not been dismantled but I am almost certain that the valve seats have dropped on one or more cylinders on the 2003 Ford Focus SOHC 2.0 liter engine. Ford Motor Company should man or woman up and fix these factory defects.local Ford service managers told me it was a common problem with that engine. In my opinion, that is a dangerous factory defect designed to cause catastrophic failure. It would have been simple to either pin the valve seats or use another rmethod (such as screw in and pinned) to make sure the seats stay in place. This car used no oil, got great mileage and was otherwise defect free. It is about time that Ford does something about the problem before someone files a class action lawsuit. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Tacoma, WA, USA

problem #4

Feb 112004


  • 1,500 miles
This vehicle is a total 4,900 miles 5 disc cd player had to be replaced. At 15,000 miles the vehicle began leaking coolant and had to have the radiator replaced, luckily it was still under warranty. At 22,000 the vehicle needed a new alternator because it would not crank. At 24,000 miles the key became stuck in the ignition and would not even turn over so the ignition was replaced. 26,000 the center console broke of hinges. 27,356 miles the car would not turn over the starter had to be replaced.32,000 miles the air conditioner went out. 36,000 miles alternator went out again and had to be replaced.38,000 miles complications with the air conditioner again. Had no problems until 54,000 then everything spiraled out of control. The water pump went out, the pump housing was leaking. The starter coil was bad a few fuses had blown that I hadn't know about. I had a full tune up, sparkplugs and new wires and also purchased a new battery. 61,000 the window lever to roll windows up on passenger side completely broke off, the door handle on passenger and driver side became very stiff and had to be aggressively opened until the passenger door handle broke and does not open from the inside or out. 68,000 miles waterpump adapter cracked and sprayed antifreeze everywhere. 72,000 light oil leak from the top of the engine, coolant leaked into the spark plug compartment and only days later the alternator went out. So this little problematic baby is parked in my garage with only 73,263 miles on it because I cut her off at nearly $4K in repairs. I don't know what to do with it besides send it to the junk yard because I would hate to sale it and pawn this money consuming vehicle off on someone else. Ford should just buy it back from me.

- Bayou La Batre, AL, USA

problem #3

Feb 012012


  • 84,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Focus. The contact stated while driving various speeds, the vehicle suddenly stalled. The failure was experienced several times. The vehicle was restarted and began to function normally. The contact also stated that the trunk latch failed to function correctly and the ignition failed; however the ignition switch was replaced. The vehicle was taken to a private mechanic where the failure could not be replicated. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 84,000 and the current mileage was 93,000. The VIN was not available.

- Windsor , NY, USA

problem #2

Jun 272012

Focus 4-cyl

  • 75,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Focus. The contact stated that the vehicle could not be started. The vehicle was not taken to the dealer for inspection or repairs. The manufacturer was notified who offered no assistance. The failure mileage was 75,000. Updated 07/25/12 a lock smith determined the lock wafers were bent, due to it being made of cheap metal. Updated 07/30/12

- Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #1

May 152012


  • 118,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Focus. The contact stated that the rear passenger wheel emitted a loud whining noise, overheated, and caused the engine rpms to increase. The vehicle was taken to the local mechanic several times for the failure. The local mechanic replaced the rear passenger wheel drum assembly several times. The failure was not corrected. The rear passenger wheel continued to emit a loud whining noise, overheat and cause the rpms to increase. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 118,000 and the current mileage 121,000.

- Flagstaff , AZ, USA

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