Finally, after many months of Ford Focus RS owners complaining about failing head gaskets, the automaker has issued a technical service bulletin that will replace head gaskets—and, potentially even entire cylinder heads—on vehicles built between Aug. 2015 and July 2017 free of charge. Here are the details of that fix.
If you want a bit of back story on the whole Focus RS head gasket issue, read our in-depth articles on why owners were complaining, and why we suspect Ford might have installed the wrong head gasket.
It’s a saga many months in the making: RS owners around the world have been complaining about steam billowing from exhaust pipes. Many have had to have major engine work done, and even more have been biting their nails wondering if their hot hatch is next.
But now—nearly a year after the enormous thread entitled “Failed/Leaking Head Gasket Resource Thread” went up on FocusRS.org—it’s all coming to an end, because Ford has just issued a technical service bulletin calling for the replacement of Focus RS head gaskets and, based on results of a pressure test, also entire cylinder heads of vehicles built between August 3, 2015 to July 6, 2017.
Alex, an engineer at British Columbia-based tuning company Stratified, and also the person who initially posted the aforementioned enormous thread, just sent me this screenshot of what came up when he typed in a customer’s VIN into Ford’s “Online Technical Information and Services” called Etis:
This particular vehicle—a 2017 Ford Focus RS—has outstanding Field Service Action called “Head Gasket Leaks and Head Corrosion.” But this car is just one of many, as a number of forum members have typed in their VINs and found the same notice.
One forum member named GreatWhiteBuffalo from FocusRS.org has posted three documents that he or she claims come directly from Ford, and that include the details of the fix. The first document, shown above, is addressed to Ford dealers, and describes the issue, stating:
In some of the affected vehicles, the cylinder head gasket may develop a coolant leak into the engine combustion chamber. A leaking cylinder head gasket may exhibit noticeable white smoke and/or low engine coolant level without an external leak.
It goes on, detailing what dealers are to do to remedy the issue, saying:
Dealers are to pressure test the cooling system and replace the cylinder head gasket. Based on test results, some vehicles may require a new cylinder head assembly. This service must be performed on all affected vehicles at no charge to the vehicle owner.
In addition, the document assigns a labor time of 9.2 hours to replacing the head gasket, and 10.3 hours to also exchange the cylinder head if the pressure test shows there are issues with the head. It also mentions the parts required to complete the fix:
Those parts include a head gasket kit with or without a cylinder head (depending on the results of a pressure test), engine oil, an oil filter, coolant, RTV, a gasket scraper and prep wipes to clean the metal surface for optimal sealing.
That document sent to dealers mentions that owners are to expect written notification this week. The document above appears to be that written notification.
It answers a number of questions, including how long the customer has to get the vehicle fixed (until Jan. 31, 2019), how long the repair takes (“less than two days” plus however much time it takes to get an appointment), and whether owners will get rental cars while their RS is in for repairs (they will.)
The final document describes the service procedure, starting with a list of tools needed:
It goes on, describing how the pressure test procedure works, saying:
1. Install a coolant pressure tester with adapter onto the degas bottle. Pressurize to 138 kPa (20 psi).
Once stabilized, pressure should hold at 138 kPa (20 psi) for a minimum of 5 hours.
- If pressure drop over 5 hours exceeds 27.57 kPa (4 psi), proceed to Step 2.
- If pressure drop is less than 27.57 kPa (4 psi), replace cylinder head gasket only, following the WSM procedures in Section 303-01D.
2. Remove the spark plugs following WSM procedures in Section 303-07D.
3. Using a bore scope, check for evidence of coolant in any of the cylinders.
- If coolant is found in any of the cylinders replace the cylinder head and gasket, following the WSM procedures in Section 303-01D.
- If coolant is not found in any of the cylinders, replace the cylinder head gasket only, following the WSM procedures in Section 303-01D.
Based on this description it seems that, if a customer brings in their Focus RS built between Aug. 3, 2015 and July 6, 2017, they will definitely have their head gasket replaced for free. Whether the vehicle’s engine gets a new lid, however, depends on whether the cooling system’s pressure drops more than 4 psi over five hours, and whether there’s coolant found in any of the cylinders.
If the pressure drops less than 4 psi over five hours, only the head gasket gets replaced. If the pressure drops more than 4 psi over five hours, and there’s no coolant found in the cylinders, only the head gasket gets replaced. Finally, if the pressure drops by more than 4 psi over five hours and there’s coolant in the cylinders—that’s when the head get swapped out.
I reached out to Ford for comment, and here’s what they sent me:
Owners of 2016-17 Focus RS vehicles are being offered a free inspection and repair, regardless of warranty or mileage status, for concerns of white exhaust smoke and/or coolant consumption stemming from an issue with cylinder head gaskets. Ford dealers will test the cooling system, replace the cylinder head gasket and may replace the cylinder head, as required, at no cost to the customer.
Good on Ford for issuing a free fix for customers, even if it took what seemed like an eternity.
h/t: Frank, Sam, Dallas, Craig