The Ford Focus RS Mk III has a problem: some number of young, low-mileage, otherwise healthy examples have experienced premature head gasket failure. Ford itself acknowledges that some customer cars have started burning coolant with few miles on the odometer, and the automaker is working hard to make things right with affected customers.
The big question, of course, is why? Why does the current Ford Focus RS seem so prone to suffering head gasket failure so soon after assembly and delivery? One journalist may have found the answer.
In a piece for Road & Track, Bozi Tatarevic reveals that the root cause of the Focus RS’ head gasket woes could be that Ford installed the wrong head gaskets from the factory on some engines. The turbocharged, 2.3-liter EcoBoost engines in the Focus RS and the Mustang EcoBoost are more alike than they are different, but one feature they don’t share is the coolant passages that run between the block and head.
Tatarevic says that some of the photos of failed head gaskets shared by Focus RS owners show a gasket that looks more like the one used by the Ford Mustang EcoBoost. While it may seem incredible that Ford would make such an error, it’s really not; the gaskets appear to share every other feature and dimension with one another, and if both parts are sourced from a common supplier, it’s fathomable that the two could get mixed up. According to Tatarevic, if it is indeed the case that Mustang gaskets were used on Focus RS engines, coolant is likely getting trapped by the gasket where there’s no passage for it to circulate back to the block, boiling, and damaging the gasket.
It’s worth noting that the issue is nowhere near as prevalent as some outlets might have you believe, and Ford said earlier in the month that it is “working on a repair for all customers,” even up to totally replacing engines when necessary.