Ford Focus RS head gasket failure issue: What's the cause?
Ford Focus RS Blown Head Gasket Shenanigans

Head gasket shenanigans: Apparently, some Focus RS hatchbacks are suffering from engine head gasket failure, but Ford hasn't shed any light on why.

UPDATED: Why are Ford Focus RS head gaskets failing? It might be an engine mix-up

More speculation as to the root cause of Ford's 2.3-liter EcoBoosted engine's problem

January 9, 2018

Share

  • Pinterest

Updated late 1/9/2018 with comment from Ford.

Recently, some owners of Ford Focus RS hatches have reported that their cars are suffering engine head gasket failures. No one knows exactly why, and Ford hasn’t been forthright with an explanation. With nothing else to go on, concerned enthusiasts have stoked the fires of speculation -- and Jalopnik, with an assist from Road & Track, just dumped a full tank’s worth of gas on the blaze.

At first, many suspected a mistake in the design of the gasket. But there's an alternative explanation: It might be the wrong gasket. The latest suspicion is that Ford goofed and used the Mustang 2.3-liter EcoBoost head gasket when building at least some of the Focus RS engines.

Because they are fundamentally the same engine, you’d be excused to think they must use the same gasket. They don’t. To understand why, look at horsepower.

The Focus RS makes 350 hp. The 2.3-liter also sits between the front fenders of the Ford Explorer, Lincoln MKC and Ford Mustang, but those applications produce a peak horsepower of 280, 285 and 310, respectively. Clearly, these engines encounter different loads, stresses and heat.

Consequently, the design of the Mustang gasket and the Focus RS gasket are different. Both the number and location of coolant passages differ between them, and if cooling paths do not match precisely, the gasket itself would receive unwanted stress from the engine and tend to fail.

But this is where things get tricky. Like the gaskets in question, this theory has holes. As Jalopnik points out, if it is indeed the wrong part, it would be an easy, if slightly embarrassing, fix for Ford via service bulletin or recall. Further, it would make sense that a particular batch of engines received the wrong part, which would be simple to tie to a range of vehicle identification numbers (VINs). There’s no indication that is the case.

In response to the problem, Ford issued the following statement: "Ford is aware that some 2016-17 Focus RS customers have experienced concerns with their engines, which may initially show white exhaust smoke and/or coolant consumption. We are working on a repair for all customers that will be available in the near future. In the meantime, if vehicles show these symptoms, customers should visit their dealer for an inspection and repair under warranty."

That's reassuring, but not an explanation for the initial problem, so we’ll keep this in the automotive X-Files. Smart and passionate Focus RS owners are keen to find the root cause, we'll keep you posted if we hear one. Until then, the speculation rages on. 

H/T Jalopnik

Robin Warner

Robin Warner - Robin Warner is Editorial Manager at Autoweek. He once tried and failed to become a professional race car driver, but succeeded in learning about debt management and having a story to tell. A former engineer, Warner loves cars for their technology and capability.
See more by this author»