Personal Stories – Ford Focus Freezes

    The ignition on my Ford Focus froze this week. I had to have it towed and it cost me $250 to fix it. That is not much of a story, I know, but please keep reading; it will boost my stock in ophthalmological devices.

    Apparently, this ignition freezing up thing happens a lot. The Ford Focus is a popular car. Funny looking when it was introduced in the United States in 2000 and only marginally less funny looking now, but a huge seller regardless. It is cheap, it is fun to drive, and for six footers like myself, it is comfortable. It has won many a car award and has been considered a best buy by many a car magazine. It also has a marginally good safety rating, which is for an American car is excellent to outstanding. Plus, as a response to the post 9/11 economic downturn, Ford began its zero percent financing with the Focus. There are now millions of Ford Foci and all of them are prone to ignition lock.

    What happens is, if you are a Ford Focus owner, you do your normal thing with you Ford Focus, driving around and enjoying the tight turning radius, you park, buy some sandwiches for your wife and visiting family, get back in your car, put your key back into the ignition, and BLAMO, the damn thing will not turn. No matter how hard you push, it won't turn. It is super hot out and you can't get your key into the accessory position to open the windows. You have a huge bag of sandwiches for your wife and visiting family that aren't doing any good and you have to get back to work within the hour. Moving the steering column doesn't help. Shaking everything violently doesn't help. Even the manual doesn't help! What the crap monkeys is going on?

    Thank goodness my parents were visiting and my Dad could give me a ride. Thanks Dad! Nothing like being in your 30s and asking Dad for a ride.  I happened to be at a Panera's when this happened and had the forethought to bring my handy little wi-fi enabled PDA. So while I waited for my Dad I ran a search on "ford focus ignition lock" and found a story from a local affiliate about the abundance of Ford Foci that come down with this terribly annoying blight.  Later research would yield a multitude of
such stories, but I digress.

    My Dad brought me home and the sandwiches home where I regained my composure. In my remaining ten minutes of my lunch hour, I called Ford's roadside assistance program. They suggested the following, pull the steering wheel all the way to the right, insert key while holding the steering wheel, while turning the key pull the steering wheel to the left, repeat until the car starts or you break your steering column. I should preface that the Ford roadside assistance call center lady said to pull the steering wheel "all the way" to the right and then left. Pity the damned who are one-handed because it is hard enough to pull the steering wheel and turn the key with two hands. I had my wife help me with this. She tried the key while I tried to bust the steering column. Meanwhile, because we couldn't open the windows, we left the doors open.  The "open door" alarm was beeping, we were sweating to death, and nothing was Ford's self fix plan was not working.

    I then called Ford who called in a tow truck. One of the many benefits of owning a problem car is that you get to actually use your warranty. Take that Toyota owners! In my experience, tow truck drivers are nice guys. They are like angels who work for money and are covered in black stuff. The Ford hired tow truck driver was the nicest of any I met and quite huge in an obese teddy bear sort of way. He said, "I've been seeing a lot of these lately" and that Ford probably won't recall it because "it's not a safety issue". In my case, I couldn't argue with that. There was nothing dangerous about being parked at Panera except high
cholesterol. Yet, I could imagine dire safety issues where inadvertently stopped cars precariously block intersections, kind people are stranded in the middle of inner city gang wars, or thirsty people stalled on abandoned desert highways.

    It took only a day for my local Ford dealership to fix the ignition and now I can drive again, or to put it more accurately, I can stop driving with the confidence that I can resume driving whenever I feel like it. Oh the poor Focus, my funny looking friend. You were such a joy to drive after my breakup with Old Peely, my 1991 Ford Tempo, and your marginally good safety rating made me feel all safe and warm. But now you have more recalls than any other car in your class and it looks like you are full of crappy parts that will plague me interminably. Still, you let me stretch out my feet and make easy U-turns. Really, there is too much between us for me to just let you go. I forgive you.

    Ford, on the other hand, you are on my shunning list.

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