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.


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?


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  1. The Ford Focus ST has a very rigid suspension. If hauling a trailer and the trailer should sway as the operator of the Focus steps on the brakes the Focus could be pushed side ways and not slide but roll over. I have jacked up one wheel on my Focus ST 3 three inches off the ground the other wheels rise also. My concern is stability while braking on a corner. It is not so much the engine power, it is controlling the weight applied the the periphery of the vehicle.

  2. Im planning on movibg to Virginia from Alabama a 10 hour drive or so. I have a 2007 ford focus se and am wanting to get a 4×8 uhaul trailer to carry some basic supplies. Will my focus se be able to pull it. I dont have much money for the move

    • Hey whatever happened? I’m planning the same kind of move in 4 months.

  3. In 1978, I moved to San Diego from Chicago with a 1976 Ford Pinto and a Uhaul 5X8 box trailer, the car had a 65 HP 2 liter engine and a manual transmission, and a trailer rating of 2,000 pounds. This trailer, fully loaded was probably close to that, if not over. Over the mountains was around 25 to 35 MPH, mostly in second gear (This was a 4 speed). Some times it had to be in 3rd on level ground due to head winds. I opened all the windows and did not use the air conditioner when crossing the desert, and brought a lot of water with me. That was probably wise. Uhaul had a “max 45 MPH” label on the trailer, but nobody ever pulls them at 45 on the freeway. At the time there was a nation wide 55 MPH limit, and that’s the speed I usually drove at. The car performed well, other than much lower than usual MPG, around 16 to 17 instead of 25, and the trip was trouble free. I’m not sure how it would have worked if I pulled a camper the same size somewhere every weekend, but that single trip worked out just fine. That was probably the biggest trailer I ever pulled with a 4 cylinder car.

    • I have a 2001 Ford Focus was thinking could hook up tow package for my 1969 aristocraft vintage trailer and then of course take it on a trip!

  4. Can a ford focus pull a Happy camper trailer. There 1,100 pounds but they had a mini car pulling it

    • Towing a trailer is not recommended with a Focus. Consider renting or borrowing a vehicle more suited for towing. Good luck!

      • The 2000 Ford Focus is considered to be a Class A towing vehicle which means it can tow up to 1000 pounds. Also, the Focus has 130 horsepower, not 110. Not sure where you got you’re information. My source: I am a 2000 Ford Focus owner who has read the manual over 10 times.

    • Can a ford focus wagon tow a 8 ft camper that’s 1400 lbs?it’s a 2006

  5. A glimpse of an image in the fog …
    GVWR, GCWR, What is all that? The Ford Focus does not have a GCWR ( C = combined ). Ford Focus ST, 252 HP enough power to pull a trailer, 6 speed manual GETRAG trans strong enough to pull a trailer if it can handle 252 HP, big brake disc in front to stop 252 HP. So what is the issue ???????
    GVWR = 3992 – Curb weight = 3223 Total remaining balance is 769 pounds US. So now what ? Add a 175 pound driver 769 – 175 = 594 pounds. Add a companion 150 pounds, 594 – 150 = 444 pounds. So you now have 444 pounds of capacity before reaching your GVWR. 10% tongue weight.? So can we add 444 pounds on a trailer hitch…NO… Why because the weight is behind the rear axle not centered in the passenger compartment. Add 50 pounds of gear in to the trunk because you have average size people in the front seats. 444 – 50 we now have 394 pounds remaining of the GVWR Suppose someone decided to use the 394 pounds left to hang off a hitch. Really 3800 pounds of trailer with a tongue weight of 380 pounds ??? Well it looks like there is 394 pounds of cargo remaining if we use GVWR. Not so.
    If you follow it you will see GVWR is a complex formula not just ratios of HP and cooling and Brakes. GVWR is not GCWR
    Suppose I wanted to tow 1500 pounds with 150 pounds on the tongue, behind the passenger compartment beyond the rear bumper. I would need to form a ratio of leverage to determine what ratio of weight is actually at the rear axle and how much weight is removed from the front axle. Just (( guess )) its 3 to 1 Now you have 150 pounds on the tongue and 3 x 1 is 450 pounds against the GVWR. 3992 – 450 = 3542 – 3223 = 319 pounds. 319 / 2 = 160 pounds. So 4 passengers and some luggage there is only about 50- 75 pounds left to hang on the tongue. A 750 pound trailer with 75 pounds on the hitch would exceed any weight rating any way. 4 relatively average persons and cargo would put the vehicle weight right at the max GVWR. The Ford Focus data tag gives no GCWR C = ( Combined ).
    The reason for this mathematical nightmare is to point out that towing a trailer with a vehicle not rated for such is beyond the average consumers ability to safely manage. Anyone whom tries to tow a trailer with a vehicle that is not rated to do so and has the ability to calculate all parameters is still liable If someone is killed or injured should some thing go wrong. A cheap TV lawyer will sue you for every penny he/she can get if you are found liable.
    I also considered towing a trailer with a Ford Focus but the math is all wrong.
    Interesting note : I saw a mustang painted white with black spots a big computer screen on the dash and wires all over the interior, a test mule around Dearborn Mi. So what, well it had a trailer hitch on it. Will I put a hitch on a mustang, no. Do I know why they did that, no.
    Remember there are many TV lawyers waiting for you to screw up.

  6. 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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