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Broken Spring Mystery

The car is a 2001 Ford Focus with 71,700 miles.Yesterday I went to my regular local independent repair shop for oil change and tire rotation. Upon completion and after I had driven about 10 feet in the driveway of the shop I heard a loud thumb from the front with each tire revolution, same thing when I backed it up. The shop put it back on the lift and identified the problem as a broken spring at the right front tire. I examined both springs myself while the car was on the lift. The right spring had a bulge within a plastic sleeve on the spring above the lower circular plate upon which it rests, about one complete revolution of the spring above its lower end. The plastic sleeve appeared to be intended to prevent chafing against the bolt holding down the lower end of the spring. The left spring was identical in all respects except for no bulge. The shop identified the thumping noise as being caused by the broken end of the spring slipping beyond the edge of the lower circular plate when the weight of the car was on the spring after leaving the lift and rubbing on the tire.

The lift is entirely above ground with a column on either side . Two arms from each side swing out to support the body of the car, leaving the suspension to hang. The car was initially raised on the lift to change the oil and rotate the tires.


Could the spring have been broken before I arrived at the shop? I certainly did not notice any symptom and the shop didn’t notice any before putting it on the lift. I understand that one can drive for quite a while on a broken spring without noticing any overt symptoms. This being the case, might the spring have been broken for some prior period of time but was prevented from any lateral movement causing rubbing on the tire until the car was raised on the lift, thereby permitting the spring to extend to a position not normally experienced on the road and move in a lateral direction not previously possible?

If the spring was intact when the car went on the lift for the oil change and rotation, is there any means by which it could have broken before it left the shop garage? That is, could placing the car on the lift, raising the lift, lowering the lift and driving the car out of the lift have broken the spring?

Obviously, this all relates to whether any action of the shop could have contributed to the failure of the spring.

Yes. The vehicle can have a broken spring and you wouldn’t know it. I’ve raised many vehicles and have found this.

When a spring has a broken coil there’s less tension on the spring. Then when the vehicle is raised the spring is able to relax to the point where the broken pieces seperate. If this isn’t noticed while the vehicle is on the lift and it’s lowered, there’s no way in knowing how the broken spring will try to reseat itself onto the lower spring perch. Most of the time the upper portion of the broken spring pops out of the lower spring perch.

So this is common occurance. That’s why they make Quick-Struts. You get the strut with a new spring.


It’s quite possible the full extension caused by the wheels dropping caused this. However, the root cause is the springs are probably rusted as they are 11 years old and a contributing factor could be the locale where you live. Age and road salt can do it.

This means the other side is right behind the one that broke and both should be replaced. This would be a good time for Quick Struts, meaning new strut and spring in one shot.

Bottom line is raising the car may have caused the spring to fail but it’s not the shop’s fault.

The spring could have been broken before or after the shop raised the car up. It’s impossible to tell. Broken coil springs on a car of this age are very common, and it is no fault of the shop that one of them broke. Metal fatigue due to age and use will do it. As mentioned by others, Quick Struts are the way to go for this repair. You are fortunate that nothing else was damaged when the spring broke. I had a Taurus towed into the shop once with a broken rear spring. They had a blowout on the highway caused by a failed spring having spun out of the strut, had it towed to Wal-Mart to replace the tire, and the guys at Wal-Mart went through three tires before they realized why they were blowing out after being driven on for more than twenty feet.

Pretty sharp bunch of cookies working at that particular WM, huh? :slight_smile:

The WM service center is a separate entity from WM itself. They’re essentially a contract operation and they expect to maintain a certain percentage when comparing the service center operations costs to the revenue brought in. (Something like 37% maybe?) Three new tires is going to put a dent in that month’s ratio… :slight_smile:

I agree with the feedback you’ve received you’ve been given.
One more data point: I’ve replaced several broken Taurus springs on cars built in the early 2000s. While buying the Quick Strut replacements, the guys at the parts store commented that they’ve seen lots of broken springs on Fords from those years.

It really isn’t that much of a mystery.
Instead, it is a known problem, and it has been acknowledged by Ford.

IIRC, Ford extended warranty coverage for coil springs on Focuses (Foci?) to 10 years/150k miles. Since the OP’s car is right around the 10 year mark, it may still be covered for free repairs at a dealership, especially since the odometer mileage is very low for its age.

If the repairs have already been done, it is possible that the OP may be able to receive reimbursement from Ford. A phone call to Ford’s customer service folks (contact # can be found in the Owner’s Manual) may yield some financial assistance, especially if the OP keeps the conversation civil.

Incidentally, the OP’s local shop is not especially knowledgeable–at least when it comes to this topic–as both the spring problem and the extended warranty on these cars are not exactly classified secrets. They would have done the OP a huge favor if they had immediately referred him to a Ford dealership for possible free repairs.

Thanks for the very focused (pardon the pun) feedback. Particularly the possibility of recompense from Ford which I will pursue tomorrow, Monday.

One further bit of info: corrosion seems unlikely to have played a role in this spring failure. The springs and all other suspension parts visible in both front wheel wells appear well preserved with only minute evidence of rust where a component might have been dinged by something which scratched the paint. The break occurred in a part of the spring covered by a flexible plastic chafe-prevention sleeve about 2" or 3" long, and it is at least possible that some intense corrosion has occurred but been hidden by the sleeve. However there is no suggestion of corrosion at either end of the sleeve or of any irregular surface on the spring underneath the sleeve caused by corrosion.

If the strut tower tops (I’ve seen them called insulator assemblies and top mountings to name a couple) have gotten rough to turn or are binding, that could lead to increased pressure on the springs, too. Has it been “pop”'ing when you turn the steering wheel at all? That would indicate the tops aren’t turning smoothly.