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really awful
Crashes / Fires:
4 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
7 / 0
Average Mileage:
60,493 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 steering problems

steering problem

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2003 Ford Focus Owner Comments (Page 1 of 3)

problem #47

Mar 292016


  • 84,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Ford Focus. The contact stated that the ignition switch failed to unlock the steering wheel when attempting to drive the vehicle. The vehicle was not diagnosed nor repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 84,000.

- Belmont, CA, USA

problem #46

Jan 312016


  • 89,000 miles
The contact owned a 2003 Ford Focus. While driving 55-60 mph, the steering wheel seized and the vehicle crashed into a retaining wall. The contact stated that both air bags were deployed. A police report was not filed. The contact sustained an injury to the right knee, which did not require medical attention. The vehicle was destroyed and towed to the contact's residence. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 89,000.

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #45

Dec 012015


  • 85,000 miles
While parking the car on a city street the steering wheel came loose and control of the car was lost. Was able to brake and stop the car at the curb. We determined that the bolt that holds the steering wheel on the shaft had loosened to the point where the steering wheel was no longer making contact with the splines on the shaft.

- Kendallville, IN, USA

problem #44

Dec 012013


  • 185,000 miles


When riding down the road the doors will automatically lock by themselves. The steering wheel has locked several times over the years. When I bought the car used, it came with many keys. Well, this time when it locked, the steering wheel locked and the ignition locked and I had to get it towed from smithfield nc; approximately an hourly from my home. The mechanic can not get it unlocked because the steering wheel has to be turned to unlock it, vice versa, and the steering wheel is locked. Also the lighting is very poor with the head lights and I see this on all the vehicle for that year and make as I ride down the road. My car is parked because I cant afford to fix it. I have found many complaints about this steering and ignition lock issue. I am wondering why this vehicle has not been recalled for the issue. It is a hazard. I have contacted the Ford manufacturer concerning the matter and was told that they can't assist me with it because my car has no warranty. Also, there was a recall on the real door lock. Ford dealership informed me that it was repaired by team Ford dealership prior to me owning the vehicle; I informed him that the problem was still a issue getting the rear door to lock securely at times. He informed me that it could only have been fixed once under the recall. These issues have occurred repeatedly since I bought this vehicle in 2009. They all put me at risk of great danger.

- Warsaw, NC, USA

problem #43

Feb 222012


  • 100,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Focus. The contact stated that while driving 35 mph, the vehicle suddenly stalled. The contact lost all control of the vehicle and crashed into a guard rail. The front passenger was thrown into the windshield and as a result of the impact, the contact's hip was dislocated and she sustained severe bruising and a laceration that required thirteen stitches. A police report was filed of the incident. The manufacturer and the dealer were not made aware of the failure. The vehicle was destroyed. The failure mileage was 100,000. The VIN was not available.

- Morgantown , WV, USA

problem #42

Jan 012014

Focus 4-cyl

  • 86,000 miles
When driving on snow or wet roadways the handling becomes very unstable at speeds over 35 mph with the rear of the vehicle wanting to veer/pitch sideways causing the driver to have to quickly oversteer to avoid oncoming traffic. Vehicle has 85,000 miles, new Goodyear tires. This car is not safe to drive in these conditions and is getting more unstable even on dry surfaces making the vehicle feel like it's following every groove in the roadway. Numerous complaints seem to be everywhere on the internet. How many accidents/injuries/deaths is required before Ford is made to take this seriously and stop putting sub standard parts on their cars?

- Columbia, MO, USA

problem #41

Oct 312013


  • 170,000 miles


Steering wheel/key lock. The key doesn't turn in the ignition.

- Sioux Falls, SD, USA

problem #40

Jul 292013

Focus 4-cyl

  • 188,500 miles
In past week and a half, 90% of the time I attempt to start the car, the ignition is locked and won't release. I have to attempt to rock the key back and forth many times before it finally releases. This is of great concern because it is the only vehicle I own and my teenage daughter drives it as well. I feel like this should be classified as a safety issue because I or my daughter could end up stranded some where at night. Ford has been made aware of the problem because it is rampant on Focus between 2000 and 2003.

- Chesapeake, VA, USA

problem #39

Apr 292013


  • miles
I started the car in the drive, put it in reverse, began to back up and heard a loud clunk. After some investigation, my husband (a former auto mechanic) found that the front coil spring on the driver's side was broken, and the tire was at risk of damage/potentially damaged. I am very, very glad this did not happen while I was driving on the road.

- Turners Falls, MA, USA

problem #38

Apr 032013


  • miles
This vehicle has been plagued with electrical issues since the day it was purchased. Now last night the engine, steering and brakes lost all power. The result is now 4 people getting injured and 2 cars damaged. No fatalities but all 4 experienced their first car accident. They are all sore and bruised. I cannot believe that Ford has not recalled these cars to fix this obvious issue. I guess someone may have to lose their loved one before Ford will acknowledge that they made a lot of bad cars! better not be my loved ones!!! I'll make someone pay dearly!!!!

- Middleburg, FL, USA

problem #37

Sep 112012

Focus 4-cyl

  • 65,000 miles


I went to start the car and the key will not turn. The steering wheel is locked and will not move. I was unable to got to my doctors appointment..

- Staatsburg, NY, USA

problem #36

Jul 022012

Focus 4-cyl

  • 83,000 miles
Key will not turn ignition switch. Tried turning steering wheel back and forth and no success. This is my only means of transportation. Car is just sitting.

- Zanesville, OH, USA

problem #35

Apr 282012

Focus 4-cyl

  • 84,390 miles
I was shopping with my child about an hour from home. We left a store and got into my car to return home when the key wouldn't turn in the ignition. The wheels were straight but the key wouldn't budge. I tried releasing the steering wheel but nothing worked. I had to have it towed which cost me $100 for 4 miles. I was told it was the ignition cylinder which I was told was a common problem area for 2000-2003 Ford Focus models. After doing research online, I found that it really is hundreds of people on one site alone complaining about the same issue I have and even a class action lawsuit in California. If this is so common why haven't they been recalled" I was left stranded with a child because of this malfunction and even though I have an extended warranty, it wasn't covered and cost me $374. Why is that type of malfunction only in those model years" maybe they knew about the flaw and changed it in later years. They should have to change it in every year they sold these defective ignition cylinders. For them, it would be a minor inconvenience and a little money to get these properly taken care of.

- Canton, OH, USA

problem #34

Nov 242010


  • 80,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Ford Focus. The contact stated that while parking, the steering wheel seized while the power steering warning chime sounded. In addition, the key would sporadically fail to turn when inserted into the ignition. The contact stated that the vehicle would start after approximately thirty minutes of repeated attempts. The dealer was made aware of the failure but the vehicle was neither diagnosed nor repaired. The failure mileage was 80,000 and the current mileage was 140,000.

- Big Bear City , CA, USA

problem #33

Jan 162012

Focus 4-cyl

  • miles
Key froze solid in the ignition. Steering wheel would not turn nor the key. Left stranded and had to call a locksmith to physically drill out the factory installed ignition and replace it with a strattec replacement part # 707592. Locksmith reiterated what I read on the internet with this being a known problem with the Ford Focus.

- Auburn, AL, USA

problem #32

Aug 012011


  • miles
The steering column locks. I have already had it fixed once before and now it has happened again.

- Brighton, TN, USA

problem #31

Jan 092011


  • 167,000 miles
Ford Focus 2003 - key won't turn to turn on car - ignition cylinder/tumbler was broken and need to be replaced. I was stranded in a store parking lot. Had to have a tow truck tow my car to dealership.

- Delta, 00, USA

problem #30

Aug 182010


  • miles
My ignition is locked up/steering wheel.

- Cuyahoga Falls, OH, USA

problem #29

Aug 052010


  • 170,000 miles
The power steering pressure hose on my 2003 Ford Focus zts (2.0 liter, DOHC) leaked power steering fluid onto the hot exhaust manifold, causing an engine fire. The power steering pressure hose is routed directly over the exhaust manifold.

- Rockwood, PA, USA

problem #28

Jun 142010


  • 85,624 miles
Key gets stuck in the ignition. Ignition will not turn. This happens just about every time an attempt is made to turn the car on for approximately one year. Multiple attempts must be made and excessive force to engage key must be used. After contacting several locksmiths and being repeatedly told that this problem can only be repaired by a Ford dealer due to the computer needing to be programmed to match a chip in the ignition and key, a local Ford dealership was contacted. A customer service employee reported that it can be replaced for $250. But that it is a common problem with no guarantees that the ignition would not need further replacement for the same problem in the future. Ignition will no longer turn at all resulting in the key snapping in the ignition. Entire ignition will need to be replaced.

- Little River, KS, USA

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