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FocusHacks is a site with instructions to help you improve your Ford Focus. Here you'll find step-by-step instructions for working on your Focus, from performing regular maintenance to installing high-performance Ford Focus parts and accessories.
Use the menu on the left to start looking at the Hacks, or search to find what you're looking for. If you would like to write a hack, or have an idea for a FocusHack you'd like to see in the database, let me know!
Feeling thankful? Drop me a line and tell me your war stories, or donate via the menu option on the left (whatever amount you feel is fair!) to help keep FocusHacks online.
Another hack you need to make sure you have in place is proper car insurance. You can learn about Ford auto insurance right here. There is also a car insurance calculator that you can use here to get price estimates. There are so many options but if you do some homework, you can save yourself a bunch of hassle and money.
Disclaimer: You assume any and all responsibility for injuries, property damage, voided warranties or problems that result from following instructions outlined here. By Continuing, you agree to hold FocusHacks staff harmless.

Latest FocusHacks News:

Web redirects

For a while, links to FocusHacks have been a mixed bag of and (without the www). Both work fine, but links with www are far more common. I've set up redirects from to to simplify reporting and standardize links to the articles here.

On a personal note, I prefer not using the www prefix when possible, however given that most search engines have indexed the site mostly as, I went with that host name instead.

Both names should still work, but you'll be redirected if you try to visit most parts of this site without the www prefix.

Unplanned server migration

Our previous web host had become increasingly unreliable and announced that they were shutting down their web host ing operation. This forced us to find a new home for FocusHacks. Hopefully, we're done with that mess for a while. Our next planned maintenance will be for so ftware upgrades on May 7th or 8th, 2016.

Ford Focus ECU fuzzing at DEFCON 23 Car Hacking Village

GRIMM demonstrates the use of Intrepid Control Systems' Vehicle Spy software suite to automatically fuzz test the ECU with unpredictable, invalid or randomly-generated test data. To the right, you can see that the gauge cluster and multi-function display isn't quite sure what to do with the data. This kind of testing methodology can help curious tinkerers better understand the data on the CAN Bus and may uncover problems or vulnerabilities within integrated automobile control systems that might rarely if ever manifest themselves during manual testing, observation or reverse-engineering.

Pardon our dust

You may have noticed the site being a bit flaky over the past few days. I just finished upgrading pretty much everything that runs the site behind the scenes. For the nerds in the crowd, that means we're now live with OpenBSD 5.7, MariaDB 10.0.16, PHP 5.6.5 and OpenBSD's new web server. Things should be back to normal now. If not, contact me: webmaster (at) FocusHacks (dot) com.

MkIII Steering wheel trim problem

I experienced this a few months ago, and I've seen some grumbling on the forums. Looks like this is a common issue on 2012 (and perhaps 2013) Foci:

The fix isn't perfect, but it's easy, and keeps the damage from spreading further.

FSWerks ECU Tuning for Ti-VCT coming soon?

... it has begun! FSWerks has already been tuning the new Focus ST, but yesterday via Facebook, they announced that they're in search of volunteers in the Anaheim area with stock or lightly modded MkIII Foci with the Ti-VCT engine. That's awesome news for us. My 2000 ZX3 is not heavily modified, but having FSWerks tune my ECU was the best bang for the buck out of all the things I've done. Not only did it seem to awaken the beast within, but I also see significant fuel economy improvements when I drive it gently and keep it full of premium fuel.

I'm very interested to see what the talented guys at FSWerks can pull off with premium fuel on an otherwise stock Focus. The owner's manual states that Premium fuel (read: 91 or 92 octane) "... will provide improved performance" and in my experience, it barely lives up to that. I had also expected an improvement in fuel economy with normal driving, which never really happened while I experimented with a few tanks of various fuel grades.

Personally, I'd also like to see what kind of sorcery they can work on the non-SelectShift version of the PowerShift DCT6, specifically when it shifts related to throttle position. As I'd mentioned previously, I wouldn't be too torn up if FSWerks could somehow make stability control go bye-bye with an ECU tune.

Website Maintenance, March 2013

The site will be down for maintenance a few times this week. For the nerds in the crowd I'm upgrading from OpenBSD 5.0 and Apache to OpenBSD 5.2 and nginx, but it'll be performed in two phases. Expect a few hours of outage in the evening hours (US Central Standard Time) tonight and probably one other night this week.

In Focus: Torque Vectoring and Stability Control

All MkIII Foci come with AdvanceTrac®, Ford's Anti-Lock Braking and Electronic Stability Control system. They also come with traction control and torque vectoring. I wanted to wait to write about all these traction-enhancing goodies until after I had a chance to properly test them in one of my favorite environments. I got that chance this morning.

Traction Control

Traction control will override the throttle when the drive wheels lose their grip while accelerating. On dry pavement, my Focus can't break the traction in a straight line, but on wet pavement, snow and ice, it really shines. It's still possible to get stuck in a situation where you can't take off from a stop on ice and snow, such as on an uphill, though. Traction Control can be disabled in the dashboard menu, under Settings > Driver Assist.

Anti-Lock Brakes

Everyone knows what anti-lock brakes are, I think. If a wheel locks up while braking, ABS will quickly pulse the brake on that wheel. This is safer, more effective and stops quicker than a person can stop trying to modulate and pump brakes without ABS. ABS can control each brake independently, while a driver is left to modulate all four brakes at once. ABS is at the heart of AdvanceTrac® Electronic Stability Control and Torque Vectoring.

Torque Vectoring

Torque vectoring will modulate the brake on a drive wheel if only one of them is losing traction. This typically happens during hard acceleration and hard cornering (understeer). It can also minimize the sensation that the car's trying to pull to one side or the other when you really get on it. While it's not as efficient as a real limited slip differencial, it does a satisfactory job emulating the same functionality: transferring the engine's torque to the wheel with the most traction. It works hand in hand with the traction control feature to improve acceleration and cornering performance.

Electronic Stability Control

Electronic Stability Control actively applies brakes independently if the system senses oversteer, understeer or loss of control that can't be countered by Torque Vectoring or Traction Control. The driver is most likely to notice this while cornering on surfaces with reduced traction, or while aggressively cornering under normal conditions. The brakes engage even when the driver is not depressing the brake pedal, and the car is noticeably slowed and stabilized. If you begin to enter a sideways skid, for example, the front inside and rear outside brakes will be modulated, and the car will right itself within the limits of traction available to the braking system. There is no performance gain from this system. It is only there to correct a condition where the car's traction limits have been exceeded due to road conditions, evasive maneuvering or a driver simply expecting too much of the car through a corner.


My 2000 ZX3 has none of these things, and I feel that the driving experience of my older Focus is very pure and unfettered because of it. One of my favorite things about driving my ZX3 is its insatiable appetite for lift-off oversteer, and the ease of which said oversteer is controlled. If a little front wheel drive hatchback from more than a decade ago could be considered a "driver's car," the base model ZX3 lacking AdvanceTrac® would surely earn the label. With the addition of all this technology, the new Focus seems a bit more conservative and grown up, and in my opinion, not as fun to goof off in. What it lacks in "hoon factor," though, it amply makes up for in driveability in bad weather and overall safety; and where I used to cringe at torque steer in the ZX3, the new Focus will make a very valiant attempt at laying rails on every corner until you try to push it too far.

Comments Enabled

I have been using Disqus on some other sites to make commenting easier. I disabled the built-in comments with the re-write at the beginning of this year. They never really did work right. You'll also notice front page blog entries get their own individual pages. Comments are enabled on blog entries and hacks. Enjoy!

In Focus: Ti-VCT GDI Engine

New for the MkIII Focus is the Ti-VCT (Twin independent Variable Cam Timing) GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) engine. While this isn't the first Focus with variable cam timing, it's the first one with such on both camshafts, independently modulated. Gasoline Direct Injection has been around for quite a while, especially in diesel engines, but this technology is also new to Ford's entry-level cars.

With traditional four-cycle engines, the camshafts are linked to the crankshaft by the timing belt or timing chain, and they usually operate at exactly half the speed of the crankshaft, because each four-stroke cycle takes two revolutions of the engine to complete. Ti-VCT allows both the intake and exhaust camshafts several degrees of advance or retardation away from the rigid timing of non-variable cams. This can allow the engine to run smoother at idle, achieve higher fuel economy under cruising conditions and higher torque under heavy acceleration.

As the name suggests, GDI injects gasoline directly into the combustion chamber as opposed to creating an air/fuel mixture ahead of the intake valves. This has some fascinating advantages. As the fuel is injected close to the spark plug, specially-shaped pistons can be used to create a small combustion chamber. Fuel can also be injected into the engine at any point in the combustion cycle and on a much more accurate basis. The engine can safely operate very lean under low loads, and richer as needed.

A side effect to GDI that I'll be keeping my eye out for is excessive carbon build-up in the intake port and on the intake valves. The PCV system pulls crankcase gases (such as exhaust that slips past the piston rings and fumes from oil) into the intake manifold. Similarly, EGR recirculates unburnt exhaust into the intake manifold as well. These fumes are usually brought into the engine in the company of the air/fuel mixture, which can act like a solvent against the faces of the intake valves. In GDI engines, this process doesn't occur, and the hot hydrocarbon fumes are thrown into the relatively cool intake ports on the head where they are prone to condense and build-up. This phenomenon has been seen on GDI engines from other manufacturers. We'll have to wait and see what transpires with my own Focus over the coming years.

In Focus: MkIII Focus Active Grille Shutter system

Many things have changed on the Focus since I bought my first one in May 2000. I'll cover some of the technologies that have made their way into the MkIII Focus, that is 2012 and newer in the North American market.

One of the things that seems to spur a bunch of controversy is the "Active Grille Shutters" (note the UK English spelling)

The shutters sit about 6 inches behind the front bumper's superficial grill, and directly in front of the radiator. They slightly resemble venetian blinds. Not every 2012 Focus has this system, but most do. I believe all 2013 Foci come standard with Active Grille Shutters.

Here they are in action on my own 2012 Focus SE Hatchback:

These shutters are designed to keep air from entering the engine compartment while driving unless the engine actually needs cooling. This means that the front fascia is more aerodynamic and the air under the car is less turbulent with the shutters closed. This is part of how Ford significantly improved the Focus' drag coefficient compared to previous generations and is just one of many design features that give the new Focus better fuel economy while still squeezing more power from 2 liters. Indeed, on a recent road trip that was almost entirely highway, I saw 39.6 MPG. Impressive, considering the fact that I wasn't babying the throttle by any means.

In researching this shutter system, I ran across much vitriol and confusion in online forums and video comments. "It's another thing that can break!" and "Just wait until your car overheats!" among them. Given the relative complexity of all modern automobiles, this system doesn't seem any more prone to failure than some of the other systems that are employed in the name of fuel economy and convenience. As an added bonus, the shutters will likely stay closed far more often in cold weather, allowing for quicker warm-ups.

What have we here?

A 2012 SE Hatchback has made its way into the FocusHacks stable. Expect new content coming soon. More info and photos for my 2012 will end up on this page as I get my hands dirty and spend some time taking pictures. For the time being, I still have the 2000 ZX3 as well.

Ford Focus - Avoiding and Dealing with Repairs

Guest post by Lance Moncada. Lance does freelance writing and consulting. His specialty is in the auto industry.

The Ford Focus is one of the most popular American cars. According to Ford, the car was first produced in Europe during the 90s and had made its way to North America and other parts of the world by 2000. It was originally introduced as a replacement for the Ford Escort and, like the Escort, is considered a compact car, but it's on the large end for compacts. The car is extremely popular and well-known for its durability.

But, as with any car on the market, there are a few problems that spring up from time to time. If you are aware of these problems and can conduct preventative maintenance, you'll experience fewer major malfunctions. You'll find that keeping your Ford Focus properly maintained and obtaining the correct amount and type of insurance (you can decide what's right for you using sites like will help you with the major issues of car ownership.

Ignition Troubles

Some of the most common problems with the Ford Focus are issues with the ignition. Your key may not turn in the ignition or can get stuck there, for example. According to Car Complaints, this is the most frequent issues for Ford Focus owners. Luckily, this is normally an easy fix. Quite often the ignition is just “stuck” and with some maneuvering of the steering wheel, the key will turn. For more serious issues of this nature, you may need to take the car to the dealership.

A quick tip: Some car insurance companies offer free roadside assistance, which could help you get your Focus in for this repair at no cost to you. If your current policy does not, compare options and find a service that includes this. It could save you hundreds of dollars in towing fees if you face this common issue.

Engine Problems

One of the last thing any car owner wants to hear is that they are facing engine problems. Unfortunately, this often occurs when you've owned a car for several years and have had some work done on it already. The most major engine problem that Ford Focus owners need to watch out for is a blown engine. The car will often show some signs of trouble before the engine completely goes out though. One thing in particular to keep an eye out for is the check engine light. It is easy to ignore this warning, but by taking your car to the dealer or a trusted mechanic, you may save yourself a full engine replacement.

Electrical Problems

The third of the three most common areas where Ford Focus owners face problems is the electrical system. You'll normally discover this problem by trying to start your car. Often, a car won't start because the battery is dead. Batteries usually last only around four to six years, depending on where you live and how you use your car. If you keep your Focus for many years, you may wind up replacing the battery several times. Luckily, batteries are relatively inexpensive and easy to replace, but they can be a sign that more major electrical issues are rearing their head. Other problems with the electrical system may require more in depth work. For instance issues related to the starter are often quite expensive.

From the mailbag - 2002 Focus Key Chip Reset?

I'm trying something new. I often get email from people, and I figure I can post my replies here as they might help others. I'll edit the submissions so they don't contain last names, and I'll I may paraphrase a bit where needed to make it more clear.

Ron writes: Hi, you helped me a great deal before and am in a fix. I was on vacation for 6 months and a friend started my Focus to keep the battery charged. That was fine but second time it started ran about 15 seconds and shut off. I thought perhaps he had run it out of gas, nope I put 4 gallons in and recharged battery and same thing happened to me: ran 15 seconds and stopped. It just cranks, does not start. Can I reprogram the chip? Or am I screwed?

Thanks, Ron

My reply:

One of my keys just lost its association with the car one day, and it doesn't act like this. The red blinking light above the hazard light button blinks fast and the car will refuse to crank. Additionally, the odometer and trip meter show all dashes ( - - - - )

I'm not entirely sure what's wrong, but it sounds like it's not getting fuel. Check the inertia switch in the passenger footwell. Pop off the little plastic cover and press the button. If that isn't the problem, it sounds like it could be the fuel filter to me. The last time I did this, it was only $7 in parts. It's a cheap thing to try. Let me know if that works. If not, there are some other things you can try, but let's go for the cheapest, easiest thing first.

Search should be working again

When I completely re-wrote FocusHacks, one thing really holding me back was the search capability. The previous search functionality caused all kinds of problems with Google and other search engines. I decided to launch the site last month without the integrated search feature. Tonight, I finally got it working again. It works the way I like it to, and I expect that it will work for you just as well as it did before.

Go ahead. Kick the tires and use the search box in the navigation pane on the left side of the site. You can search by title only (default) or through the whole text of all the hacks in the database. Let me know if you encounter any problems with it.

FocusHacks 3.0

FocusHacks is undergoing a significant re-write and I'm migrating to a different hosting provider as well. You'll notice a few significant changes, such as completely revamped URLs. I've taken care to ensure that most old URLs redirect to the new ones. There are also a few features I haven't completely worked out yet, some of which I plan on bringing back (like integrated search) and others of which I'll probably allow to die silently. Thanks for bearing with me through this.

Existing Focus owners can look into auto refinancing as a way to help cut down the monthly costs of their loans.
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