Spinning Tires Transmission Problem



We have a 2005 Ford Focus. The transmission was replaced at our local Ford dealership under the warranty when it failed. Two days after picking up the car it failed again. We were told that spinning the tires in the snow could have caused this failure. They said a pin was sheared off and there was metal in a pan I think. We only had the car 2 days when the second failure happened and they are telling us the very same thing happened, sheared pin and metal in a pan and that we could have caused it by spinning the tires in the snow. Wouldn’t we have had to do that for a long time and over and over. That didn’t happen. Our 19 year old drives the car and she said she may have spun it for a minute but not for long. I am totally confused and scared to drive the car. What else could have caused the problem?


Perhaps a more detailed conversation with the 19 year old is in order…Does she have a boy-friend?? Was “rocking the car back and forth” by shifting from drive to reverse at full power part of the procedure used to get unstuck?? Transmissions in older cars could survive that but today’s FWD cars have somewhat fragile transmissions and “rocking” back and forth can be destructive…


Yes, she does have a boyfriend and we have no way of knowing for sure if the tires were spun and how much. How fragile are these transmissions? Is it the rocking back and forth and shifting the car like we used to do “in the old days” that can cause this problem? This is our 3rd Ford Focus and the other two were my husbands and we’ve had no problem. A couple of weeks ago my husband’s Focus was stuck in our carport and he spun the tires 2 or 3 times before he quit and dug the car out and it did not damage the transmission.


Polygraphing your daughter is probably not an option…But it might be the only way you will ever get the full story…You might tell her the next transmission is on her as, for sure, Ford is not going to buy another one…

The Ford Focus has an excellent record for reliability and durability. Sheared off drive pins in the transmission point to abuse…


Thank you for your feedback. I wish I could do a polygraph on her and boyfriend. We have told her that the next one is on her and if they can’t afford it then the car will have to sit and the will have to walk or use public transportation.

Is there no other thing that could have caused this issue?


It surely sounds to me like abuse was the cause of this problem.


Just spinning the tires in one direction at a reasonable speed won’t cause a problem. Shifting between a forward gear and reverse at high RPMs while trying to rock the car is another story.


I tend to think that some over-enthusiastic rocking of the car back and forth while trying to work it out of the snow could be behind this.
Just wondering if the snow incident happened a few minutes before you found out about the transmission problem.

For what it’s worth, as a tech I’ve heard that “for a minute but not for long” thing more times than I can remember.
The transmission only slipped for a minute, the engine only overheated for a minute, the oil light was only on for a minute, the brakes were only grinding for a minute, etc. and a minute often turns out to have been far longer than that.


Older Honda’s you had to be real careful when trying to get unstuck in the snow. Many vehicles you could spin backward…then before the wheels stop spinning…shift into drive and spin forward…Honda was very very specific about NOT doing that. Before you can shift from one direction to the next the vehicle must be at a complete stop. I wonder if your Focus is designed the same way.


I suspect that there was over-enthusiastic rocking that we don’t know about and that caused the first problem. The transmission problem happend the same week the snow incident happened. When we get the car back this week after the second new transmission is put in we are going to drive it and make sure it is fixed, we are not giving it to our 19 year old to drive. What I’m hearing is that it’s the rocking that could have caused the problem, not simple spinning of the tires. This is our 19 year old’s first time driving in snow and ice and we’ve had snow on the ground since Dec. 24th.


It seems like it is. It’s funny that with the 3 times we have purchased Ford Focus cars that no one ever mentioned this issue. I drive a 2008 Ford Escape and woner if it has the same issue. My husband and I are long time, experience drivers and don’t panic in the snow or if we get a bit stuck so it’s not an issue for us to spin and rock the car, we just get out the shovel and dig out or throw litter or snow melt around the tires and get out that way.


It’s not a good idea to shift from reverse to forward (or from forward to reverse) on any car while any of the wheels are still turning. You can usually get away with it on solid ground if you are only going a couple of miles per hour. However spinning in the snow might be more like 50 miles per hour.
You can keep rocking them out, just firmly brake and wait for the wheel(s) to stop spinning before shifting.


Thanks to all of you for your feedback, I’ve learned a lot.


I would suspect that someone was revving the engine before dropping it into gear. This places a high load on the driveline. On wet or icy pavement, it also makes a really cool “steamout” (like a burnout, but much wimpier) that teenagers are quite impressed with.

It’s hard on trannies, but shouldn’t be fatal by any means.

But come on… give me a break. Spinning tires in the snow destroying a transmission? IF that’s true, and that’s one big IF, then that is one seriously weak transmission.

I also wonder if they tried to re-use the torque converter. Keep in mind that if they rebuilt the transmission instead of replacing it, it could have been a bad rebuild. It happens frequently.


See the above comments of lion9car and tardis.
I agree with them that it is very likely that the driver was spinning his/her wheels at an excessive speed and then shifted from Drive to Reverse, or vice versa, repeatedly.