really awful
Crashes / Fires:
4 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
7 / 0
Average Mileage:
59,941 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 2 of 3)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

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

problem #27

May 082010

Focus 4-cyl

  • 46,000 miles
2003 Ford Focus has a locked ignition and will not turn even to roll up windows. Froze up once last week and was able to jiggle it and get it working. Now it will have to be towed to Ford. Ford dealership in bozeman Montana says it is a common problem with this make and model but Ford will not do anything about it.

- Belgrade, MT, USA

problem #26

Mar 152010


  • miles
I just recently bought my 2003 Ford Focus. Just this week the key would not turn in the ignition and my steering wheel would be locked. I was always able to get my car started after a few tries or 10 minutes or so. Today I sat in my car for 40 minutes trying to get my key to turn; it would not. I had to leave my car at the school which I work at, since I am a teacher, and be picked up. I have just read online that many people have or are having this same issue and that there is no recall on the ignition yet. I am confused as to why. This is a safety hazard as it leaves you stranded and to not be able to get your car started is a big deal. If it was just my car, fine, I would get it fixed with no issue. But to read that hundreds or thousands of people and Ford Focus' are having this same issue is a little outrageous and something needs to be done. Thank you.

- Cold Spring, NY, USA

problem #25

Dec 212009


  • 85,000 miles


2003 Ford Focus steering wheel lock. With the key inserted, the ignition cannot be turned on. Believe to be a tumbler problem. I have read hundreds of these problems in the last two days. This should be recalled.

- Hoyleton, IL, USA

problem #24

Dec 162009


  • miles
I own a 2003 Ford Focus ZX5 that has an issue with the key turning in the ignition. At random times and locations when returning to the car, I will find that I am no longer able to turn the key in the ignition. I must work at it (longest has been an hour) to get the key to turn. This creates really big problems when you are stranded with kids at different locations and you never know when it is going to occur. From my research on the internet, many other Ford Focus owners have experienced the same issue and the fix has been to replace ignition switch (something about tumblers not engaging) and the Ford service teams are very aware of the issue and the repairs. What I don't understand is why consumers must pay for a wide reaching manufacturer's defect.

- Hampton, GA, USA

problem #23

Jan 072009


  • 50,000 miles
I have a 2003 Ford Focus ZX5 and the rear hatch latch does not always engage so have to slam it down a few times to get it to latch. I noticed the recall, but I live in Nebraska and the recall does not apply there. I believe this needs to be expanded. Also the door latches are getting harder and harder to open, is there any recall on them. Also I have a problem with the steering column adjustment lever it will not stay, it releases as you are driving causing the steering wheel to bounce up and down. Not safe.

- Omaha, NE, USA

problem #22

Sep 192009


  • miles


Steering wheel locked, ignition locked and shift gear locked!!!!

- Chesapeake, VA, USA

problem #21

Aug 252009


  • 70,000 miles
I own a 2003 Ford Focus. I just hit 70K miles yesterday, and starting today my ignition is completely locked up. My car is in park, the tires are not turned, etc. I went back in the house to try and find a solution and upon searching I found site after site, complaint after complaint about 2000-2003 Ford Focus' locking up like this after 70K miles, and that it costs $500 to fix. My car is no longer under warranty. This is clearly a manufacturing defect but is not covered by Ford and has not been recalled yet. I do not have the money to replace this and now my car is useless and can't even be moved. I can only move the steering wheel about an inch and a half either way and the key in the ignition does not move at all.

- Parker, CO, USA

problem #20

Aug 162009


  • 147,500 miles
I have a Ford Focus 2003 in which the ignition key will not turn and everytime I need to start the car I have to rock the steering wheel real hard right to left. One occasion the car locked up on me while back but fortunately I was able to stop it as I was moving very slow. This ignition problem is a very real safety issue and steps need to be taken to make Ford fix the problem before someone gets killed. You only have to go to the internet and put in the search window "Ford Focus ignition problems" and it will tell you all you need to know. In fact I found out in California there is a clss action suite against Ford for this very same problem. I will probably have a locksmith fix the ignition as I don't want topay double to the Ford dealer.

- Effingham, KS, USA

problem #19

Aug 072009


  • 123,000 miles
The key won't turn in the ignition and I was stranded at a walmart parking lot.

- Columbia, IL, USA

problem #18

Jul 052009


  • 81,000 miles


I was stranded many miles from a highway because I could not get my ignition key turned, steeringwheel turned or automatic shifter moved. All blocked. Luckily, I was able to get a ride back to where I could use my cellphone. A friend checked the internet on the problem and he found the suggestion to hit the key. Later many taps this actually worked and I was able to drive home.

- Bozeman, MT, USA

problem #17

Dec 012007


  • miles
Ignition key mechanism would jam and not turn -preventing turning the key and locking the steering wheel. Unable to tow car (luckily all 2-3 times this happened I was close enough to dealer for flatbed tow). Was able to remove the ignition key and the car was still running. Last occurrence that was not under warranty and Ford would not reimburse even though other Focus owner had this problem - some up to 10 occurrences and Ford said not a defect. I only had two keys on my key ring so not a weight issue.

- Bisbee, AZ, USA

problem #16

Apr 082008


  • 36,500 miles
Rack and pinion developed a leak. I bought my car in Feb 2004 and everything was fine on it. Last spring I noticed my car was making an odd sound and I raised the hood and found the power steering fluid level very low and filled it up. The noise went away. While changing the brakes on it my husband found the rack and pinion leaking fluid. The warranty was only good up to 36,000 miles and at the time this happened the warranty had expired. I currently have only 39,962 miles on this vehicle and drive it very little obviously since it is a 2003 and when we bought it Feb 2004 it only had 19,221 miles on it. I am the second owner of this vehicle and as I said I have only put approximately 20,000 miles on it in 5 years. There should not be a problem with the rack and pinion on this vehicle with this little of mileage on it and not driven that often, but there is and I have not to date been able to get it fixed as the two estimates I got to get it fixed is between 550 and 600 dollars to get it fixed. No one other than the rich people can afford a major repair such as this when it is obvious that Ford has a manufacturing issue on the rack and pinion on this model vehicle. It will be a total pain if this goes out before I can afford to fix it since it is has power steering and will convert to manual steering if it goes out before I can afford to get it fixed. Ford should be forced to make a recall for this issue.

- Wabash, IN, USA

problem #15

Jan 222009


  • 45,000 miles
Key will not turn in 2003 Ford Focus. Dealership says it appears to be linkage in the steering column.

- Agana Heights, GU, USA

problem #14

Jan 062009


  • miles
Went to start my car and the key would not turn and the steering wheel was locked. I tried every trick in the book. I have had this happen in the past, and by turning the steering wheel, I was able to start the car. Not this time...

- Bangor, PA, USA

problem #13

Nov 012008


  • miles
The key will not turn in the ignition. The ignition barrel is completely stuck, impeding any use of any vehicle functions. Has occurred daily or every other day for a few weeks. A few minutes of jostling may allow it to work. A few times it has been stuck for hours until finally working. This may strand some travelers in winter conditions, like myself. Very stressful and potentially dangerous situation.

- Rexburg, ID, USA

problem #12

Dec 132008


  • miles
My car refuses to start. You cannot turn the ignition switch to get it to come on. After searching the internet I saw dozens of complains from people having the same problem. I simply cannot afford to make the repairs and since my car is out of warranty my dealership will not help me. Ford customer service hung up on me twice. The only fix is to leave the key in the ignition. I managed to use a hammer to hammer it in.

- Deerfield Beach , FL, USA

problem #11

Dec 072008


  • miles
This is the second time I have had my key fail to work in a locked ignition of my 2003 Ford Focus. The first occurred when the car wa purchased in 2004 and now it has recurred. The first was under warranty but this is not. Apparently Ford is quite familiar with the problem as several Focus owners have fixed this compliant on line. Why is there no recall" why should Ford get a bail out when they leave their consumers without assistance for repairing a problem of their making"

- Alameda , CA, USA

problem #10

Oct 162008


  • 71,000 miles
I have a 2003 Ford Focus and was stranded and had to have my car towed because the steering wheel locked and I couldn't get the key to turn over. The care repair cost was $551 and the ignition and starter cylinder inside of the steering column had to be replaced. I believe this is a manufacturing flaw and Ford Motor Co. Should pay for the repairs as a recall problem. It's my understanding that many 2000-2003 Ford Focus models have this flaw.

- Cedar Park, TX, USA

problem #9

Aug 162008


  • 70,000 miles
The wheel/ignition locked as turned the wheel to park on a hill. This is the first time it has happened on this car and could not unlock it. I took it to the dealership and they said it would $340 that the whole cylinder would have to be replaced.

- Montebelloc, CA, USA

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