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Freaking out about my car PLEASE HELP!

Hi I own a 2008 Ford Focus that about 3 weeks ago started to upon ignition not have a working blower. So I would turn it off and then back on again and it would be blowing again. Then a week ago my wipers, washer and gear shift upon ignition wouldn’t work…turn off turn on and then it all works…yesterday my daughter thinks the radio as well wasn’t on??? Ugh…I am taking it to a shop tomorrow but as usual am a nervous wreck… As I work in a school and am off in the summer budgeting money to make it till September! Any ideas, advice so I don’t have to go there totally blind would be so greatly appreciated!

As I see it, the two most likely suspects are a bad ignition switch or a failing alternator, and I’m not sure which is the actual culprit.

Because of the electronic nature of so many parts on today’s cars, fluctuations in the electrical supply can cause all sorts of strange, temporary problems, and as the diodes in an alternator begin to go bad, the electrical output does vary enough to affect many of the car’s electronic devices. If the diodes in your alternator are dying, it could be only a very short time until the alternator fails totally, thus killing your battery and necessitating a tow. In other words, get thee to a mechanic right away, before the repair costs mount ever higher.

Incidentally, if it turns out to be a bad ignition switch, you should take a good look at how much is weighing on your key ring. For reasons that I can’t seem to fathom, many women keep an incredible number of…doo-dads, talismans, charms, and gim-cracks on their key rings, along with the keys. The added weight will eventually wear out the contacts in the ignition switch. Are you possibly one of these people who have a very large accumulation of…objects…on your key ring?

It is probably the ignition switch. When you turn the key all the way to activate the starter, the accessories (blower motor, radio, wipers, etc) are switched off so that full power is applied to the starter motor and so that the extra current pull and voltage drop will not damage the accessories. The switch is hanging up and not allowing the power to be restored to the accessories when in the run position. This shouldn’t be a terribly expensive repair.

Not only should it not be terribly expensive, but if this Focus is anything like my old Taurus, Ford made it ridiculously easy to remove the switch, so long as the key still worked to turn it… Autozone has instructions online, and it looks about the same - it would take someone with minimal skills only 10 minutes, tops, to pull the switch. The replacements are $45-78 at rockauto, depending on if you get OEM or not. If you pull it yourself and take it to a locksmith (or even a hardware store that keys locks), you might be able to get the new one keyed for $5-10…

DIY, I’d say this is a $55-88 repair - if you pay a mechanic, you’re probably at $150-200…

Thank you thank you for responses! Appreciated more than you could ever know! I am NOT a trinket on my keychain kind of girl…the ignition has been my suspicion! I will post back and let you all know!

The actual ignition switch is not located near the the key, but down at the base of the steering column connected to the key lock by a long rod…Regardless, they are not that easy to change…Before you let a bunch of BoZos mess with it, I would have a Ford Dealership take a look at it for the reason VDCdriver said…

Common troubleshooting logic says look for a common part and look for something that has an effect on the problem and in this case, that says ignition switch. But this time, I think common troubleshooting logic would be wrong. The ignition switch has only one contact that affects all these items, along with a slew of others, so they would all fail at once or all work.

Now if the OP is only noticing one thing not working, then maybe nothing is working but the she is just seeing one at a time, then the ignition switch would be a good candidate. This is so intermittent right now, taking it to a mechanic is really going to be a waste of time and money.

My suggestion is to live with it for now. As long as all you have to do is restart the engine, its not a problem. now when it reaches the point where it is more consistent, like at least half the time you start the engine, then the mechanic will have a better chance of observing the problem and finding the source. Right now, they might just start replacing parts without being able to confirm the fix.

My dad had a similar problem in a '94 Escort several years ago. It turned out his ignition key was worn causing the problem. My mom had a key that wasn’t nearly as worn as dad’s and when he tried it everything worked fine so he went to Wally World and had a new $1 key made off mom’s key. I would suspect it’s something in the ignition system. Worn key, worn ignition lock or ignition switch.

Not sure if a worn key could cause your symptoms, but it’s a possibility to investigate. Just so that you know: you can go to a dealer and get a key made from the VIN (bring your registration or title to prove the car is really yours), as opposed to copying any key you have. It’s more expensive, but not terribly so. I spent $12 for a Dodge key last spring since the key I got when I recently bought an older vehicle was very badly worn. Yours is probably much better, so you probably don’t have that problem, but if your key is badly worn, don’t bother making a duplicate of the worn out key, get a new key from the dealer.

Well to all of you who responded: I took the car to a good shop today and they found nothing…nada…didn’t even act up for them at all! :frowning:
The awesome shop owner didn’t charge me a thing and we are gonna wait and see! Keeping fingers crossed here!

When my car has had problems that were hard to reproduce and hard to diagnose, I left my car with my mechanic and told him he could drive it home for a few days. You might consider doing the same.

Intermittant electrical problems such as this can be a real headache to try to find the root cause of. But there are places that specialize in automotive electrical problems. Perhaps if there’s one in your area they could help solve this one. They’ll have the schematics and the expertise to make them your best bet.

Ok well when I left the shop last week when they could not get it to act up they told me they were suspicious of ignition but did not want to change it w/o certainty ( these guys are awesome)! But they gave me directions to if it did the not blowing thing again to click my key forward and if the blower came on they would know for certain! It did act up and I did what they told me to do and wa~la took it today and they changed the switch for me! Very happy that we nailed it down!

Thanks for the post back. It’s good to hear the problem was solved.

Happy motoring.

Oh wow…pretty upset! Went out to go get a pizza for my son and turned the key in the ignition and NO BLOWER…again…just had the ignition switch replaced today. So frustrated…so now I am headed back to the shop in the morning…feeling fairly upset that this did not indeed do the trick even after they said it would. Want it fixed NOW and right! Will keep u posted! Any ideas ???

So no blower but it does start?
And with ‘blower’ you mean the fan motor, I take it.

Could be the ignition switch, but it could be a main power supply relay on the fritz too. In any event, the repair cost should be fairly reasonable. I can’t imagine it would be more than $250. It’s just a simple parts replacement. Keep a good written log of what is happening as it happens, as it will be of help for our mechanic to diagose the problem.

OK, back to Caddyman’s comment. What did they replace, the key lock or the ignition switch on the steering column? If the key lock, it probably should have been the switch itself. If it was the switch, it may not be adjusted correctly. I had a Riv that nothing would happen when the key was turned, bought a new switch, and discovered it just needed to be adjusted. There is a rod that goes from the key lock to the switch. Turn the key and it activates the slide switch which turns the car on and operates the starter. Switch is ajusted up or down.

On the other hand, the fact that two or three different devices did not work at one time and then only one, seems to not point to a switch which would affect all of the accessories. I would still look for a common point to those devices that did not work. First thing would be to refresh the common ground connection. A bad ground can be intermittant, affect one or more devices on that ground, and a poor contact could be overcome by a second attempt with the key, temperature, or other factors.