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Focus MK1 Buying Guide

Focus MK1 Interior. Photo of dashboard from driver's side

Last updated on May 25th, 2021 at 12:15 pm

This Focus MK1 buying guide will tell you the main things you need to look out for. Not sure if this is the car for you? Check out our “Is a Focus MK1 a good buy in 2021” article here.

Any MK1 Focus will be twenty years old now so a lot of the things in this buying guide will be relevant to any car.

Focus MK1 Buying Guide

I’ll go from the front of the car to back and cover the issues we have had with this specific car. This guide mainly looks at the 1.6 model.

First things first. Ask the seller if there is anything they think you should know about the car.

Engine bay

Bonnet release

Lock can fail. Lock can be removed completely or fit a replacement lock barrel which will mean an extra key on your key ring.

Radiator

More specifically the cooling system. Engine can over heat if under load for an extended period. Take the car on a long test drive where you can put it under load for an extended period eg motorway.

Fix for the problem is not clear. Heater control valve could well solve it.

On a healthy engine the temp needle will be bang in the middle of the gauge. If its low or high it points to some issue.

Engine should get up to temperature quickly, within around 3 minutes. If it takes longer you could be looking at a bodge fix for the overheating issue specifically someone has drilled some holes in the thermostat.

This overheating issue is very important to check.

Air conditioning

Check it blows cold. If not budget a hundred Euro/pound to diagnose the problem and to regass the system.

A properly working system will be quite powerful for cold and hot settings.

Heater Motor

A recent failure on ours. The thermal fuse for the fan can blow. If the fan works on number 4 setting but nothing on 1,2,3, its the fuse. Not expensive to fix or difficult.

Radiator fans

Check they work, resistor assembly in fan motor can fail meaning fans don’t come on. Hard to check ie you need to have the car idling for a long time.

Gearbox IB5 1.4 & 1.6

Gears should go in easily without crunching. Not a nice feeling change but not obstructive. There might be a very slight whine from the IB5 gearbox on the 1.4 and 1.6 motors but anything more points to trouble. We have had no issues (touch wood)

Engine 1.6 Zetec SE (Sigma)

Engine should be quiet. They do get noisier as they get older and higher mileage but if the engine is quite quiet, it points to it being in good condition.

Check the oil, if it looks brand new be suspicious, why has it recently been changed?

Here is a tuning guide for the 1.6 Zetec engine

Coolant expansion tank.

Connected to the overheating issue. Check its relatively clean inside with no petrol/oil odours.

Coilpack

Check there is no misfires ie engine is only firing on 2 cylinders. Common issue with coilpack failing.

Power steering

Check for leaks around the steering rack. Check power steering pump isn’t noisy. If it is possible it just needs a top up.

Fuse box

Check everything looks in order

Front suspension

Check for rust everywhere. Sub-frame, wishbones, rods, brakes, pipes, chassis.

Check tyre wear is even.

A tip for any car, if the car is wearing good quality tyres ie Continental, Pirelli, Michelin then it is a clue the owner did not skimp on servicing.

Front scuttle.

Scuttle can distort leaving a gap between windscreen allowing water into cabin filter box. Not the end of the world.

Engine Mounts

Again, if the engine mounts haven’t been changed they should probably be replaced. Again, makes a big difference to comfort and traction.


Inside

Dashboard

Check speedo & fuel gauge work.

Check everything electrical. Power windows, heater, AC, mirrors, all switches.

In ours the electrical seat adjustment mechanism failed in the first 5 years.

Trim

Check all trim is present and secure. This is an issue on ours but ours could be a Friday afternoon car.

Central Locking

This can fail completely. Personally I replaced the module with an aftermarket item. Replacing the Ford module might also fix it.

Keys

Euro models have the round key. This gives you an excellent idea of how many miles the car has covered. If the key is well rounded with very little profile you can assume the car has done 200K miles.

Also get two keys with the car.

Boot release

Check the button actually opens the boot.

Fuel Pump

Fuel pump is located under the rear seat. Unfortunately fuel tank and exhaust needs to be removed to get to it.

Accelerate the car from low revs until redline. Should be pretty smooth all the way to the top. If it loses power at the top end could be a fuel pump issue or blocked fuel filter.

Boot

Check for sign of water ingress. Ie smelly carpets, stained carpets, perished rubbers, wet carpets. Run water over rear boot if weather is dry.

Rear

Check for whining from wheel bearings. They could be a weak point but I think it is more down to the brand of wheel bearing than a design problem.


General

Suspension Bushes

The MK1 Focus will be 20 years old now. Check all the suspension bushes. If they haven’t been changed, they will probably need doing. I changed the front wishbones on ours and it transformed the handling from good to great. Article: replacing front wishbones.

Rust

The most obvious thing to check for is rust. The climate I am in, means rust is not a factor but I have seen pictures of cars which have rusted badly. Basically you need to check absolutely everywhere for rot.

The body itself should be okay, I think parts of it are galvanised, but wishbones, suspension mounting points, boot, wheel arches etc etc should all be checked. Don’t be afraid to pick up carpets.

Check for crash damage. Open the bonnet and check the inner wings, do they look straight? Check the bumper bar/slam panel, is everything straight. Check the fit of the bumpers around the car, everything should be tight, 2-3mm gaps are normal. Boot, bonnet and doors should shut easily, do they foul the body even slightly?


Main Points

The big catastrophic things are the overheating engine, rust and dodgy electrics. If these check out okay anything else that is wrong can generally be fixed pretty cheaply either with repair or buying a used or new part.

To get the car into top notch condition, changing the suspension bushes and springs (H&R) will be worth the outlay. We have changed the springs front wishbones and engine mounts and the car is transformed.

Improvements

To make the car better than new I’d recommend fitting the ST170 seats. They are a direct swap and will make a huge difference to how the car feels because they support your body so much better than the normal seats.

ST170 Wheels?

For sure they look better but the 15 inch wheels will give a better ride and the amount of grip you get from the 15s (when you use them with good tyres like Continental Eco Contact 6) means you don’t really wish you had more grip. With the 15s the car is nice an adjustable and you don’t need to be travelling at super high speeds to have fun.

This page was last modified May 25, 2021 @ 12:15 pm

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