Got the Focus RS back and it smells like a new cat

So I picked up my RS from Metro Ford in Miami. Please, if you need to service your Ford, don’t go there. Let me tell you about my experience.

First off I drove to the dealer and noticed a nitrous blue RS waiting to get serviced right before me. I saw the owner right away because he was eyeing my car as soon as I pulled in. I got out of my car and ended up talking to him right before walking in the door. My soon to be new friend, let’s call him Zeke, was trying to warn me about this dealer. I listened to his story about how they were to do some warranty work replacing his PTU seal and received his car with scratches on the door, dirty seats, and flywheel chatter as if he got an update to a diesel tractor. He was there to see if they ever got an not engineer from Ford to take a look at it. But it seems that Metro Ford was less than helpful in that aspect.

I was a bit worried. But wanted to still use this dealer for my replacement catalytic converter. I mean it’s just a remove and replace of an exhaust piece, right? Also this is the closest dealer to my house and my normal dealer I go to is 50 min away near my old job where I no longer work.

I decided to go inside and talk to the service advisor anyway. She couldn’t tell me how long it would take, which is fine, but she couldn’t tell me when they would look at the car or an estimate of how long it would take to diagnose the error code. Ok, you guys are busy, but I just wanted to know if I should bring it back another time, of get a loner car. Nope. No loner car it an idea of time to when they would look at my car. Just leave my car and maybe I’ll get it back.

Whatever.

I ended up talking to my new friend Zeke for a couple hours in the parking lot about cars. It so happens we have a bunch of connections to each other that we didn’t know about. He offered to give me a ride back to my place since he happened to live near me.

4 no answers, 2 messages, and 4 days later, I finally get a call. We just ordered the new catalytic converter and should be arriving the next day. I asked how long it would take to install, she still had no clue.

Of course not. And still no offer for a loner car. I asked, and she said, of you should have it soon. Wtf?

The following week, I call. No answer. Left a message. No call back. Thursday arrives. She calls and tells me they can’t install it because they need their “tranny guy”. Either their main tech is non gender or the first tech is just incompetent. She proceeded to tell me that they need to drop the trans to get to the catalytic converter. They need only one more day. She finally offered a rental for me.

Friday comes, I call and the service advisor tells me that it should be done the following week.

Really? But no commitments when it would be done. Of course. Is this a cable guy where it would be done between the days of 3-1 month? For a catalytic converter replacement?

Of course, Tuesday comes and it’s finally done.

So I returned my fancy red Focus SE back to Enterprise and got my ride back up the dealer.

Up until this point I’ve been worried after the story that Zeke told me about his car getting serviced at this dealer. I didn’t want them to touch my transmission and fuck up my car. I still have a head gasket to worry about.

I look at my car. I walk around it, looking for scratches or missing panels. It seemed fine. I get into the car and take a deep breath and start it.

It sounds normal. I push in the clutch. No change in noises. No chatter from the fly wheel. Thank goodness.

I drive off. Boy I forgot what it’s like to drive there RS! I smiled like it was the first time driving it off the dealer when I first purchased it. Check the clutch, everything is good.

As I get home I notice that I smelled something familiar. Like a burning smell, but not alarming. I remembered it was the smells from when I first got the RS. I was breaking in the catalytic converter.

The smell of a new cat.

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Blown Head Gasket or Catalytic Converter Melted? I Ended up Trading in the Focus RS

On a recent road trip from South Florida to North Carolina, I encountered a Check Engine Light (CEL) on my dash. Not only was it unfortunate to run into this issue on my road trip, but I saw this light pop up 3 hours into the trip. Now for those not aware of the pleasure of owning a MKIII Ford Focus RS, there has been a known problem with the engine’s head gasket that has gotten owners in a tizzy. (see https://jalopnik.com/why-so-many-ford-focus-rs-owners-are-freaking-out-about-1820280550). I, of course, was kind of freaking out because: What if it the head gasket blows in the middle of the trip? Will I find a dealer who can address it during the holidays? Can I trust these dealers?

So after 5 miles of freaking out and hoping the light would go away, I finally pulled off to the next rest stop. I quickly stopped the car, opened the hood and checked the coolant levels. They looked fine. But wasn’t sure because, the car wasn’t very level with the ground at the time. I looked for any signs of coolant leaking at the head, and sniffing the exhaust pipe for any faint smells of sweet burnt coolant. Nothing.

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If I only had an ODB-II port scanner to see what the code was. Not knowing what to do with out one, I searched for the nearest dealer. Just my luck Palm Bay Ford was the next exit over.

I get to the dealer, the tech tells me that they are backed up. I quickly told him my situation and asked if he could at least tell me the code and get some sort of idea what’s going on. The tech comes back with the scanner and pulls up the code P0420. It’s a vague description. Catalytic converter. Ok, so at the very worse, it could be a bad O2 sensor and the car would be in “limp mode” and run the fuel mixture rich to prevent any knock from happening. So what? I get some bad gas mileage. Yeah that sucks because I’m driving 1800 miles during the week, but at least it’s not a blown head gasket.

The technician told me he could clear the code and see if the light pops up again. He then looks at me slyly and says, “Are you tuned or have any aftermarket parts on the car?”

I reply quickly, “No, no. I’m stock except for an air filter.” Knowing that if Ford finds out I have put any aftermarket parts on the car I could be denied of any warranty work on my car.

The technician then replies, ” Ok, because I’ve put a down pipe on my Focus ST and I get that code all the time because of it. Keep an eye on it. It might not come back.”

Feeling a bit relieved, I drove off and continued my journey. 300 or so miles later the CEL pops up.

“Damn it.”

I pull over to the next rest stop, and remembered I actually had an bluetooth ODBII scanner in my car.

“Dumb ass.”

I whip it out of my glove compartment and proceed to check the code. P0420.

“Phew.”

I cleared it one more time and it eventually popped up again 300 or so miles later.

After the trip, I ended up taking it to my local dealer. Not my “go to” Ford Dealer, but the one closest to me, because the other dealership I normally get my car serviced at is in the middle of a buy out transition and didn’t have access to their diagnostic tools and software.

I dropped it off at Metro Ford in Miami. One week later with them with my car, I finally receive a phone call. They have to replace the catalytic converter and that they need more time with it because they have to drop the transmission to get to the catalytic converter. They finally put me into a rental car. Now I drive this car:

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I think I’ll do a series called Rental Car Reviews in the future.

I hope to get my car back soon because there’s an autocross this weekend. Or maybe I just take the rental Focus SE?