Bizarre symptoms

I have a 2004 Ford Focus that has always run like a champ; (71,000) miles. Two years ago it started having some really strange “issues.” The car’s dash light for the ABS would start to flash off and on, accompanied by a clicking sound whenever it flashed. The brakes are always fine. Next, though, the car starts kicking and “bucking” as though it wanted to die. Whenever I pulled off the road, turned off the car and turned it back on, everything was fine. This went on for weeks but it was sporadic in nature; and naturally it didn’t do anything for my mechanic even when I left it there. I finally took it to the Ford dealer who charged me $800 for a new alternator belt, but it came with no guarantee - they said they frankly didn’t know whether it would work or not. Turns out it did, for a couple of years; but it has just now started doing it again. I can find nothing that I’m doing or not doing determines whether this happens or not. Now I’ve got the same scarey problem all over again, and if I have to budget $800 every couple of years for a new alternator belt, I might as well give it up and sell. Does ANYONE out there have any suggestions or clues as to what is going on? I’m getting so tired of hearing “I don’t know what’s wrong”. Oh, by the way, the “check engine” light never goes on. Help!

$800 for a new belt?!? They must have done more work than that. Even replacing the belt AND the alternator would be cheaper than that. Or they are the most dishonest mechanics I’ve heard of in a while. That said, most cars that are 8-9 years old are going to start costing you repairs like this every couple of years.

Are you sure they didn’t replace the TIMING belt? Even a timing belt shouldn’t cost $800, but maybe they did a few other odds and ends while they were in the neighborhood.

I don’t see how any belt could have much to do with the ABS system.

Just for fun:  Has anyone checked for any CEL's (Check Engine Light)

“Oh, by the way, the “check engine” light never goes on.”

I believe Joseph has asked a good question, but I think his keyboard may have typoed.
“Just for fun: Has anyone checked for any CEL’s (Check Engine Light)”

I take it (Pardon me, Joseph) that we are wondering if anybody has checked for any DTCs (Diagnostic Trouble Codes) which could be recorded by the car and would possible offer clues to the mystery ?

These DTCs are usually accompanied by a CEL (Check Engine Light), but not always (example: codes pending).


Can you look at your copy of the shop order and post exactly wjat it says? Like others here, I suspect that price includes the timing belt.

As to the ABS system, that should store codes. My guess is that it’s probably a wheel speed sensor, a simple fix. If the bucking is happening during braking, that would be consistant with a bad wheel speed sensor. It would suggest that the system thinks you have one wheel not turning (slipping on ice) and is pulsating that wheel.

If the bucking is without having applied the brakes, that’ll may be an entirely seperate problem. The ABS should not come into play unless the brakes are applied.

I don’t know if your “bucking” is the same as my 2004 Focus’ “hiccups” or stutter but this has been a problem for me for almost 3 years; the last 18 months, I realized the frequency increases as our Florida temps increase. The rpms will drop suddenly and then resume just as quickly, I am almost afraid my car is going to lunge into the car in front of me so I leave plenty of space. I have taken my car to local Firestone and they suggesteda transmission shop, transmission shop wouldn’t bother with it because he said it is not a transmission problem. I saw a 2009 posting when I googled that said it was the engine mounts and the bolts need to be tightened. I even took it to Ford and they cannot fix it … I love my Focus but summer is fast approaching and I am going to be “stuttering” up and down “U.S. 1” The new thing … when I stop suddenly, the car feels like it is going to stall and then kind of lunges. HELP!!! I want to drive my car another few years but I have a feeling this problem is indicative of the Focus.

If someone hasn’t been back since November, 2012, It’s safe to say they aren’t listening.

As TSM says above, if the bucking is occuring when the brake are not applied – just going down the road or when starting up from a stoplight say, the ABS flashing is probably unrelated to the bucking.

But if the ABS light is flashing, this may mean you have a problem that needs to be fixed straight away, as it may not just affect the ABS anti-lock function, but even when the ABS isn’t activated. If the ABS system fails, as long as the brakes still work, you just have a car like anybody else who doesn’t have ABS, so for you, that might not be an immediate concern. For many people who drive conservatively, they never trigger the ABS function for the life of the car, or at most just a few times during the life of the car, even though they have ABS installed on the car. ABS is only activated on very quick stops.

First things first; read your owners manual. If it says a flashing ABS means the brakes need immediate att’n, getting this looked at is the first priority.

The bucking problem can almost certainly be fixed. Maybe not cheaply, but it can be fixed. You need to find a shop who know how is all. First, make sure they have all the diagnostic tools Ford recommends for this car. Then they can read any pending codes, run the engine while hooked up to their scanning tool in real time operation to look at the engine parameters, fuel delivery parameters, O2 data, determine if you are running rich or lean, which bank is rich or lean, which if any cylinders are misfiring, etc. Cat status, etc. From that they should be able to diagnose the actual problem.

One caution, for a 2004 the Ford Dealership may not be your best choice. The dealership’s main job for their shop is to take care of Ford warranty work, and that work is done for newer cars. I suspect you may get better results by asking friends, relatives, co-workers etc for a recommendation for an inde shop, preferably one that specializes in Fords.

@Grammys Wheel

It can be a number of reasons why your car is experiencing that problem such as, vacuum leak, mass air sensor failure, low fuel pressure, etc. Difficult to diagnose without driving it.

Best bet to get a drivability expert to hook up a scanner to your car and check for codes. That way you can locate where the problem is.

Here’s something to consider

If the alternator belt (serpentine belt, I’m assuming) is loose, glazed, etc. and the alternator can’t maintain a proper charging voltage of 14V - 14.5V, all bets are off.

Many DTCs are caused by voltage problems.

Seen it many times.

FWIW I’m fairly certain that the $800 included the alternator, belt, diagnosis, and perhaps some more stuff.

@Grammys Wheels
The best way to get help on your issue is to begin a new thread. At the top of this page, on the right, click on the big red box “ask a question”. You can certainly just copy the content of your current post, and paste that into the new thread. I’ll bet someone here will get you a long way toward solving your problem.