Why a Ford Focus Shouldn’t Have a Tow Hitch

Ford Focus on jack stands

There’s a Ford Focus in my neighborhood.

I realize that’s not particularly interesting, especially considering there are roughly 383,895 other neighborhoods, in my city alone, that can say the same thing.

The Focus in my area, though, doesn’t run. I’m guessing it’s a 2000 model. The car is perpetually sitting in its owner’s garage on jack stands with the hood open.

All I’ve ever done is drive by this car, but I’ve seen some clues as to what the problem might be.

First clue: There is a trailer hitch on the car.

Second clue: There is a cargo trailer in the driveway.

It doesn’t take a mechanic to venture a guess that the brakes, transmission, frame, suspension and/or cooling system are shot because someone’s been towing with a car barely able to lug around the typical American family, much less tow anything. But the owner probably got some advice from an online forum and decided he didn’t need an F-150 when he already had access to a perfectly good Focus.

Trailer

Not to be towed with a Focus...

The standard engine in the 2000 Focus was a 2.0-liter, 110-hp 4-cylinder. That’s barely enough grunt to move the Focus and its driver to the nearest hamburger joint. Towing that trailer, which probably weighs 3,000 pounds loaded up, likely caused the engine to heat up faster than the radiator could cool it down. The water pump may have failed. If it pulled excessive loads, there’s a possibility the frame buckled and is no longer structurally sound.

The brakes are probably gone, too, because the inadequate Focus calipers, rotors and drums bore the entire load of stopping the car and trailer.

Excessive heat in the transmission probably caused the rubber seals and gaskets to harden and create a loss of hydraulic pressure.

I suppose I could stop the next time I see the guy working on the car and offer some suggestions or ask if he’s found the problem. Who knows, maybe he’s just having a hard time cracking a spark plug loose. I have a feeling that’s not the case, though, and that car will remain on those jack stands for a long time to come.

Please, fellow CarGurus, if you need to tow a trailer, especially on a regular basis, use a vehicle that’s properly rated for the job. Failure to do so will not only wreak havoc on your car, but it’ll put the safety of you and others at serious risk.

Have you ever exceeded your vehicle’s towing capacity?

-tgriffith

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    2 Comments

    1. I have a 2005 Ford Focus ZXW SES with a 132 hp 4 cylinder. I also have a 4X8 closed utility trailer that I use to haul a few hundred pounds of professional sound equipment. The focus currently has 246,000 miles on it. Original engine, original clutch, and mostly original suspension – only the anti sway links have been replaced. I tow 2-3 times a month, probably average 60-70 miles of round trip towing each time. A mix of highway and New England back road driving. This car tows the trailer just fine. It is rated for 1,000 pounds, I’m sure that the trailer and the cargo is somewhere around 1,200 pounds. The only issue is stopping quickly on wet roads. Just need to leave plenty of room for stopping! I wouldn’t tow 3,000 pounds, that’s ridiculous! But for my need, the car does a great job. I’ve had the car since new, and have been using the trailer for three years.

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