Ever since its introduction back in 1998, the Ford Focus has been one of the best-selling compact cars in the world. Multiple Car-of-the-Year awards winner and recipient of a plethora of other accolades, the Focus has served its owners faithfully and continues to do the same to this very day. Although it’s been discontinued in North and South American markets and its sales are dwindling across the remaining ones, the compact is still considered one of the best hatchbacks money can buy. However, even reliable cars tend to have some issues. Ford Focus transmission problems will be the focus of this article (no pun intended).
Although most Ford transmissions are just fine, some were of subpar quality and had tarnished the Blue oval’s reputation in the process. One of these has, incidentally, been used on a Ford Focus between 2012 and 2016. The “PowerShift” (DPS6) dual-clutch, as Ford likes to call it, was trouble from the get-go and gave its owners headaches. Hesitation issues, shuddering, inability to accelerate or shift into gear properly, switching into neutral at random – you name it, the PowerShift did it.
There were problems with other Ford Focus transmissions too, but nowhere near as many as with the, at least on paper, this highly advanced dual-clutch automatic. If you own a Focus equipped with one, you’re probably already familiar with its problems. If you’re interested in obtaining one, on the other hand, read on. You should at least be prepared for what might come should you proceed with the purchase.
What is a PowerShift Transmission?
Since most of the article will focus on the Ford Focus PowerShift transmission problems, let’s first explain what this particular transmission is and how it works.
The PowerShift transmission is a dual-clutch 6-speed automatic transmission intended to provide better fuel economy and smoother shifts than most of its coevals. It was developed in a cooperation between Ford and Getrag and was first introduced in 2008.
The principle behind it is that it works similarly to two traditional manual gearboxes with two separate clutches working in parallel, each responsible for alternate gears. One operates the reverse, first, third, and fifth gears, while the other takes care of the second, fourth, and sixth gears. While one is engaged, the other one is disengaged, but its cogs are already in gear, waiting for the clutch to become active. To put it simply, when you shift from first to second, one clutch will immediately shift from first to third, but the other clutch will engage instead of it. The first clutch will, however, be ready to shift into third gear immediately upon engagement, and the process repeats itself.
Unlike other manufacturers that use wet-clutch technology (oiled clutches), Ford opted for a dry-clutch system. The latter is cheaper to produce, but it’s typically intended for manual transmissions. Essentially, the dry clutch doesn’t let oil flow into the shifting mechanism and doesn’t allow slipping that smoothes out the gear transition and instead engages abruptly, leading to most of the symptoms we’ll talk about further below.
Common Ford Focus PowerShift Transmission Problems
Let’s now move on to the most common problems with Ford Focus’ PowerShift dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Shaking and shuddering
Due to the nature of the dry-clutch design and the fact it engages abruptly, shaking and shuddering are common occurrences in the Ford PowerShift transmission. Aside from an unpleasant and annoying driving experience, this particular problem can lead to more severe ramifications. Shaking and shuddering usually means that the transmission hasn’t fully shifted from one gear into another, which leads to premature clutch wear. Once the clutch gives out, a complete transmission rebuild is the only course of action left, and that doesn’t come cheap.
Difficulties when shifting
The fact that the PowerShift transmission experiences difficulties when shifting from one gear into another ruins the idea behind its dual-clutch design intended for the smoothest possible operation. Hard shifts are one of the most common Ford Focus transmission problems that can lead to more serious issues later. If you experience trouble shifting, it’s best to take your Ford Focus to a certified mechanic sooner rather than later. Failure to do so will only lead to more expensive repairs further down the line.
The sudden shift into neutral
Every once in a while the PowerShift transmission is known to shift into neutral in the middle of driving or setting off. Needless to say, this will either lead to your car stalling or not being able to move, depending on the situation. Not only is such gearbox behavior potentially dangerous, but the car typically refuses to shift into gear after that. In the best-case scenario, your Ford Focus will leave you stranded, but if you’re unlucky, you can easily cause an accident. The reason for such transmission behavior is improper transmission control module calibration. Once the gearbox gets stuck in neutral, however, little can be done to get it back into perfect working order without the issue recurring.
Transmission slippage and hesitation
Since the dry-clutch design doesn’t allow slippage when working properly, hesitation to shift and transmission slipping is something you don’t want to experience in the PowerShift-equipped Ford Focus. If such a thing happens, it essentially means that the transmission isn’t working as intended. There are a few potential reasons for such behavior, and they range from contaminated transmission fluid or improper module calibration to worn or broken shift solenoids. The former two problems are relatively easy to fix, but broken solenoids require a bit more effort and money.
The overheating of the Ford Focus PowerShift transmission is usually a result of one or more damaged or improperly configured transmission components. In essence, any of the above-mentioned Ford Focus transmission problems can lead to overheating, which results in poor transmission performance, corresponding fuel economy, and generally reduced transmission life. A transmission fluid flush is only a temporary solution here, as the real problem is likely one of the damaged components that need replacing.
Common Ford Focus 4-Speed 4F27E Transmission Problems
Although a vast majority of transmission problems in a Ford Focus are related to the infamous PowerShift dual-clutch automatic, other Ford Focus transmissions, such as the now-outdated 4-speed automatic, exhibit a few problems of their own too. The 4-speed automatic, internally referred to as 4F27E, was used in Ford Focus between 2000 and 2011, which means it provided its gear-shifting services to the first two generations of the popular compact.
Upshift flare and lack of gear
The upshift flare in a 4-speed automatic transmission when shifting from second to third or third to fourth is a relatively common problem in the second-gen 2008-2011 Ford Focus. Essentially, your engine’s revs will go up for a moment instead of dropping down after switching to a higher gear. A complete lack of third and/or fourth gear is also a possibility which is a more serious problem than a mere upshift flare. Luckily, Ford has since issued a direct clutch repair kit which should be able to sort the described issues.
Transmission slippage and lack of reverse gear
The 4F27E transmission is prone to slipping when it’s breaking down, and the problem becomes more and more severe as time progresses. Furthermore, the transmission might lose the ability to shift into reverse gear, which poses problems of its own. The latter is typically caused by a deformed check ball inside the valve body, which leads to a leaking reverse air bleed capsule.
Hesitation in forward gear movement
A severe hesitation to start and shift gears when the shifter is in the drive is typically a sign of incoming clutch failure. If you notice a severe delay in the 4F27E transmission’s forward gear engagement, chances are your clutch drum is on its last legs. The problem should be addressed as soon as possible, as otherwise, you’re risking potentially severe transmission damage.
The Ford Focus is one of the best-selling and most capable cars within its class. The compact has been around for almost a quarter of a century with mostly stellar reliability records. However, some model years have experienced severe transmission issues that have eroded the compact’s reputation. The most common Ford Focus transmission problems are related to the infamous 6-speed dual-clutch PowerShift transmission. We can’t recommend buying one of these models due to an inherent transmission design flaw, which means that even a complete transmission overhaul doesn’t guarantee the problem won’t return. Furthermore, the older 4-speed automatic transmission is best avoided too, as it’s not only dated, but poorly designed as well. Other than that, most Ford Focus transmissions are sound and should last as long as the car itself.
Is Ford Focus reliable?
Ford Focus is generally considered reliable as most models tend to exhibit no severe issues whatsoever. However, you’d do well to avoid any 2012-2016 Ford Focus with a dual-clutch transmission, as that’ll only lead to an inevitable headache.
What is wrong with Ford Focus transmission?
Most Ford Focus transmissions are fine, but the old 4-speed automatics, and especially the modern dual-clutch 6-speed PowerShift, can’t boast the same. They both suffer from slippage, hesitation to shift, and overall jerkiness, but the dual-clutch unit is, by far, one of the worst transmissions ever to come down from the blue oval’s assembly. Due to an inherent design flaw with a faulty clutch and poor software calibration, it’s poised to fail no matter the circumstances. Even a complete rebuild or replacement can’t guarantee that the same failure won’t happen again.
How much does it cost to replace the Ford Focus transmission?
Depending on the severity of the problem, rebuilding or replacing the dreaded Ford Focus PowerShift transmission can set you back anything between $1,500 for a clutch replacement and $5,000 for a complete transmission rebuild on average. Of course, the cost of transmission replacement can be lower or even higher depending on where you live and what type of parts you’re using.
Is there a recall on the Ford Focus transmission?
Ford Motor Company had never issued a recall on the dual-clutch transmission-equipped Ford Focuses, but most owners in the U.S. have received compensation in a court settlement after filing a class-action lawsuit. As far as Ford Focus transmissions go, there was a standing recall for some 2016-2018 models equipped with a combination of a 1.0 L 3-cylinder engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. This combo is known for potential clutch fracture and transmission fluid leak, which can result in severe transmission damage.