Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Long Term Test: 2014 Ford Focus Electric post #5

The Focus has been both great, in that it requires little maintenance, but terrible in that it is the car among the many I have owned, that has required the most unscheduled time in the shop. Some of it was the result of other people's inattentiveness, but some of it was the result of issues with the car or associated accessories. Even so, the Focus EV has been a very reliable car by most standards given that the issues that we have experienced with it have not been with the drive motor or high voltage battery, but rather with other minor systems. Let's take a closer look.

The first time that the Focus was in the shop was actually because the EVSE, which is the cord that allows the EV to charge from a wall socket, failed and simply stopped charging the car. It would plug in and charge for a few brief moments before cutting off and throwing up an error message. We relied on charges from public Level 2 charging for a few days and finally brought the car to the dealer, where we discovered that the issue was with the EVSE. While the car was in the shop, there was an update to the car's charging controller and software that were available so the dealer completed those without charge.

The second time the Focus was out of our possession was the result of the car being rear-ended on the freeway by an inattentive driver. The hit was not at a particularly high speed differential, but it did enough damage under the surface to warrant a replacement of several key safety structures along with the exterior plastic bumper cap. During the crash, it seems that the car's 2G radio was damaged because after the repair, communication with the car became spotty. At times, it was almost impossible to get the radio to respond to update requests from the app, making the app virtually useless.

The next time the car was in for repair was the result of driver error. A seemingly minor impact of the underbody with a small brick retaining wall resulted in a lot more damage than expected. That resulted in the car spending over a week in the shop as parts trickled in and work was completed. It took forever, but the car was eventually fully repaired and returned to us, looking no worse for wear.

Trip number four was the first scheduled maintenance check-up where tires were rotated and basic components checked to make sure everything was in good shape. Given that the car is electric and required no oil change, the dealership tried to throw a fit when I insisted on the "first maintenance free" promotion that had been packaged with the sale of the car. They tried to argue that this was only for "oil changes," but after a little pushing, they owned up to the deal and charged me nothing for the visit. It was also at this time that I was notified that our Focus would fall under the door latch recall that many Ford vehicles were now subject to.

As we approached the end of 2016, the Focus was in the shop once more because the battery on the car kept dying no matter what I did. Not the large high-voltage battery, but rather the small 12V battery that ran the basic electrical systems. Luckily, my trusty portable jump-starter allowed me to start the car and once running, the car would be fine, but the moment I shut it off, it would refuse to restart. Dropped it off at Ford and they diagnosed the issue as a 12V battery with a dead cell, causing it to refuse to accept a charge. They replaced the battery and, at my insistence, also performed the required upgrade of the nearly defunct 2G radio in the car to a 3G radio, which promptly restored connectivity with the app.

So in the two and a half years we have had the car, it has been in the shop five times for various reasons. Not to say the Focus EV is difficult to live with, as it really has not had many issues at all, but certainly our luck with it has not been great. As of right now, I am still waiting to need to bring the car in to have the door latch recall completed as somehow parts continue to not be available. Given the short time left with the car, however, I may just not worry about dealing with the recall  and make it the dealers problem when we return the car at the end of our lease.

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