I think I’m getting obsessed by the handling of the Focus. I managed to kerb the car in the car park last week, and after having done it the drive felt significantly more floaty than it had been since I’d had the replacement tyre put on. Since we were going to go on the M25 to David’s wedding I thought I’d take it and have the wheel allignment checked. I used the Fleet branch of RoadWheel whose Portsmouth branch had rebalanced all the wheels after the new tyre had been put on, who put it up on the machine and discovered that all the settings were out, in some cases by about 100% looking at the printout. They duly alligned the wheels for me.
One thing about RoadWheel is they allow you to watch as they do the balancing. At Micheldever, where I’ve had the allignment done before, they take the car into another part of the building which you can’t see from the waiting area. The interesting thing I noticed when the car was up on the platform was that the brand new tyre, despite being a Goodyear Eagle NCT5 just like the rest had a different tread pattern.
Anyway, having got the wheels alligned I headed for home, and the car felt a lot better. However on the way down to Leatherhead, when I took it up to motorway speeds there was a definite shimmer through the steering, and after I eneded up going round the roundabout coming off the motorway twice, the steering felt very weird.
On the way back from the wedding I took it steady, and didn’t go above 60mph on the motorway. The next morning I took it down to Reg Vardy and asked them to drive it to see what was wrong.
As is usual with car problems and garages, they said that the car was driving as they would expect for one with this mileage (52,000), and that he “had driven worse”. He then proceeded to demonstrate that the steering, suspension and road holding was absolutely fine by going considerably faster than I would up the A33 to Risely and back down the old road. Suffice to say that I don’t think the wheels will be falling off any time soon! He said that the cause of the noise and vibration is the tyres, and that Ford almost never supply a Focus fitted with NCT5’s. He said that it would be a waste of money to replace the existing tyres until they were worn out, but when they came due for renewal recommended getting a different brand. As a side note, he also said that the engine was misfiring, something which I’ve mentioned I thought was a problem in earlier postings, and for which I’d had the car back into Reg Vardy to sort out a couple of weeks after I took delivery, but was told there wasn’t anything wrong. I’ve been running the car on Shell Optimax and lately on BP Ultimate which has largely eliminated the problem, so it was pure fluke that it misfired, and I think only becuase he was putting the car under heavy acceleration. Suffice to say that he said that unless the car was consistently misfiring it would be difficult to find unless it did it more frequently. The only way to get it to do that would be to switch back to normal unleaded, and with the mileage I’m doing that would be a general nightmare.
Back to the tyre saga, he said as far as he was concerned it was absolutely fine, and indeed when I drove it back home, it did feel pretty good, certainly a lot better than it has been.
Three days later I’ve driven to work and back three times, and also gone out to get a paper when I got home tonight. I also checked the tyre pressures properly today, and although there was some variation in how much, it was only by 0.5psi. To me the car still feels like it is moving around, moreso on rough surfaces, and the tyres are especially noisy on the various bits of road that Hampshire County Council has “surface dressed” over the past couple of years. Having said that, as Beth points out I’ve never been totally happy with the way the car has driven, it’s just that I’ve been more focused on the misfiring and “moods” that the engine goes through. (Incidentally it had another mood tonight, going to get the paper. The steering felt decidedly heavy on starting up in the car park outside the shop. I think was down to having stopped and restarted it twice in quick succession).
With regards to the ride, in contrast to the endless rave reviews of the drivability of the Focus, I have read a number of comments saying that the feedback through the chassis borders on the hyperactive at times, and may not be what some drivers would like. With the rough B-Roads that a large part of my regualr commute is on, I guess I fall into that category! Whilst I used to quite regularly go out driving for fun, since taking a job 44 miles down rough B-Roads from home, extra driving is not something I particularly relish. The problem is not really going to be solved until I either change jobs to one with a different commute, or replace the car. I guess I might be able to improve things by replcaing the tyres, but as I’ve only had 10,000 miles out of this set, and the other set lasted over 40,000, that may be some time! Anyway, whatever happens I am fast reaching the end of the 60,000 mile/3 year warranty, after 2 years use, so I guess I’ll stump up to extend to the 100,000 mile/6 year extension, which on current form will last for four years, but I think it’s probably necesary if, as with my previous Fiesta, the misfire is a symptom of an engine problem. Having said that, like the Fiesta, although the Focus has more noticable moods, it has not actually broken down on me. The Fiesta, even when the misfire was continuous, still never actually stopped running.