Servicing the Ford Fiesta

Like it or not, we live in a global economy.  Products that international corporations sell in the United States also have to be sold in other countries around the world.  This “globalization” has brought locksmiths a lot of good things and bad things.  As far as I’m concerned, the worst was the original Cadillac Catera, sold as an Opel in Europe with a European style transponder system.  Because of the European nature of the system and GM’s reluctance to release PIN codes, replacing a lost key may now cost more than the car is worth.

On the bright side, we now have a wealth of so-called “domestic” vehicles that feature a door lock that can be removed by loosening a single screw.  At one time this feature was pretty much limited to German vehicles such as VW and Audi.  Now, most Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles as well as many GM vehicles use this system.

The new Ford Fiesta falls somewhere between these two extremes.  It uses the new high-security side-milled lock system that Ford plans to phase in on all of their vehicles worldwide.  It also has a transponder system that is essentially the same as other Ford products. 

It features an easily removable door and ignition lock, but both of these locks have some odd features.  I had the Fiesta in Photo 1 for three days and had a lot of fun with it, but I sincerely hope that the lock system becomes a little more “locksmith-friendly” before it starts turning up on every Ford.

The Fiesta will be available in three different features and trim levels.  The base models, like the one in Photo 1, have a door lock only on the driver’s door and an ignition lock, but no trunk or glove compartment lock.  The mid-range Fiesta does not have a door lock, as shown on Photo 2, but still has an ignition lock.  The top of the line Fiesta shown in Photo 3 had not been released by the time I’m writing this, but it will have no door lock and no ignition lock, and will feature push-button starting. 

I have been assured that the top of the line Fiesta will have an override lock somewhere on the exterior of the vehicle, so it can be unlocked if the battery dies or if there is an electronic problem.  The trouble is that no one seems to know where that lock will be. 

When I took these photos last January at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show, I questioned Ford executives about the override lock.  All of them agreed that it would be equipped with one, but didn’t know where it would be.  After searching the car that was on display, we finally agreed that it probably didn’t have one because it was a show car and not a production car.  I hope to solve this apparent mystery at the 2011 show, and will pass along the information in a future article.

Unlocking the Fiesta

Another problem that I had when I checked out the Fiesta last January was with the door locking system, Photo 4.  The Fiesta does not have a mechanical lock mechanism on the inside of the doors at all - no mechanical button, no rocker. The only way to lock the car from the inside is to push the power door lock button in the center of the dash.  Unlocking the car can be done from the inside with the power door lock control or just by pulling the inside door handle.

With that in mind, I checked to see if the power door lock button on the dash (Photo 5) would work after the car had been locked for a while.  I locked the car from the inside and then sat on the emergency brake handle (to avoid any weight sensor in the seats) for several minutes and then pushed the button.  The car unlocked, and the alarm did not go off.  I tried it again, by reaching through the open window to lock the car, and that time I waited ten minutes before I reached in to push the unlock button.  Every time I tried it, the car unlocked.

Unfortunately, the actual production vehicle did not work the same way.  On the production vehicle, after the light inside the power lock button shown above goes out, the inside power door lock button is disabled.  So, using a long reach tool to push this button will not unlock the car as I had originally thought.  However, you can still use a long-reach tool such as the Jiffy-Jak Vehicle Entry System to pull the inside door handle.

After playing with the car for a couple of days and trying several different methods, I think the easiest and safest way to unlock the Fiesta is with the Tech-Train 1026 tool shown in Photo 6.  The tool is inserted into the door and then used to pull out on the inside door handle.  The shape of the door handle makes this relatively easy since it is essentially a loop that the tip of the tool can be inserted into.

Begin by wedging open a gap large enough to insert the tool above the inside door handle (Photo 7).  Be sure to shim the double-layer weather stripping so that it does not roll under your wedge.  In addition, there is an obstruction in the door just to the rear of the door handle, so make sure that you keep your tool forward of this obstruction.  You will probably feel the tool hit the obstruction if you get too far to the rear; if you do, just move the tool forward slightly.

Carefully insert the tool into the door between your wedges and lower it until it is below the base of the window glass (Photo 8).  Flex the tool so that the upper bend slips to the inside surface of the window and then pull up on the tool.  As soon as you see the weather stripping bulge, as the tool begins to come up inside the passenger compartment, stop and remove your wedges.   Removing the wedges will take most of the stress off the glass, make it easier to pull the tool up, and reduce the possibility of breaking the glass.

After removing the wedges, pull the tool up until the tip is free to move inside the vehicle.  Because the business end of the TT-1026 tool has a relatively wide reach, it should be easy to slide the tip of the tool over the top of the door panel and down to the inside handle. (See photo 9)

Lower the handle end of the tool until it is almost horizontal, and push forward on the tool to lock the tip into the opening in the door handle.  This may take a moment or two, but by changing the position of the tool as needed, you should be able to get the tip of the tool through the loop of the inside handle, which will push the handle out from the door panel. (See Photo 10)

With the tool in position, twist the handle portion of the tool downward, which will lever the handle out far enough to unlock the door, shown in Photo 11. Notice that the tip of the tool is actually protruding past the end of the handle as it passes through the loop portion of the handle.  Positioning the tool in this way may sound difficult, but it’s actually not that difficult.

The problem is that there is almost no way to feel when the handle has moved far enough.  You can either pull the outside handle as you work the inside handle, or you can just lever the inside handle out far enough that it actually opens the door.  (Photo 12) Because the fit at the base of the window is not nearly as tight as on a lot of other vehicles, and the fact that it doesn’t take a lot of power to pull the handle, makes this method quick and easy.

A long reach tool such as the Jiffy-Jak (Photo 13) can also be used on the Fiesta.  If you decide to take this route, hook the tip of your tool through the loop in the door handle and then pull the handle. (Photo 13)   The problem with this technique is that when the door opens, your air wedge will cause the door to “pop” open with a vengeance.  In addition, because the latch is under pressure from wedging the door open, it will take more force to pull the handle, making it easier to slip off and damage the trim.

Another problem with this method is that the trim around the door is covered with a vinyl coating that reminds me of old-fashioned shelf paper.  Even if you use a protective sleeve on your tool, just the pressure of the rod against the trim can damage this flimsy coating.  Photo 14 shows the damage that I did to the door by using the Jiffy-Jak on this vehicle.  Of course, I did unlock it over a dozen times while I was videotaping and photographing it, so a single opening would probably not cause too much damage.  I’d rather use the TT-1026 just to prevent the possibility of damage.

Removing the Door Lock

The door lock on the Fiesta (Photo 15) looks very much like those found on many other new cars where the lock is held in place by a single screw that can be accessed from the edge of the door.  This is in fact the case, but the lock on the Fiesta is located further from the edge of the door than on most vehicles.

The access hole to remove the lock is covered by a plastic plug (Photo 16).  Unlike a lot of other cars that have this type of set-up, the plug on the Fiesta is relatively small and made of a harder material.  This plug is almost impossible to remove with just your fingernails.

In order to reduce the possibility of scratching the paint, I found that if I pushed in hard on the center of the plug, I could slip a knife blade under the raised edge of the plug, in this way I could easily pry the plug free without worrying about scratching the paint. (Photo 17)

After the plug has been removed, you should be able to see a shiny plate through the opening that has a small hole in it for an Allan wrench.  At first, I assumed that the Allan wrench would need to be a metric size, but was surprised to find that it required a 7/64” SAE Allen wrench.  The wrench also needs to be relatively long in order to reach the screw because the door lock sets back so far from the edge of the door.  (Photo 18) I had to turn the wrench 26 full turns in order to release the lock.  As I was loosening the screw, I was constantly afraid that I was going too far and that the screw was about to fall down inside the door.  As it turned out, this was a needless worry because the screw is held in place very well.

Once the screw has been loosened sufficiently, the lock will pull out of the door easily (Photo 19).  There are no cables or linkage rods connected to the lock that need to be disconnected.  At this point, you can take the lock to the workbench for service.

In Photo 20, you can see the socket that the lock fits into and the lock retainer mechanism fully retracted to release the lock.  The lock retainer is a “U” shaped bracket that slides into two slots in the lock housing.  Loosening the screw pulls this bracket toward the edge of the door, allowing you to remove the lock once the bracket has moved far enough.

In photo 21, I have re-tightened the retaining screw with the lock removed so that you can see where the retainer rests when the lock has been re-installed.  Personally, I like this type of retainer and think it will do a very good job of holding the lock in place.  More importantly, it doesn’t look like this retainer will fall inside the door while you have the lock out like on some vehicles.

One quick note on the door handle though, just as on the new Camaro, the handle will pull completely out of the door if you pull on it while the lock is removed.  Make sure that while you have the lock out that no one messes with the handle.  I left the Allan wrench in place and gently closed the door until the handle of the Allan wrench was against the body of the car while I was working on this one.

Disassembling the Door Lock

The painted cover on the lock cylinder would be easy to scratch while working on the lock, so the first order of business is to remove it for safe keeping.  The cover, like that on the new GM door locks is plastic and snaps into place on the lock housing. (Photo 22)

On the edge of the lock cover that is normally against the handle, there is a rectangular opening that fits over a ramp on the side of the lock housing (shown in Photo 23).  A little careful prying between the lock and the cover at this point will allow the cover to come off the lock.

On the opposite end of the cover, a small tab that fits over the end of the lock housing.  (Photo 24) Once the flat edge of the cover is loose, sliding it toward the tapered end of the lock will allow it to come free.  Be sure to put the cover in a safe place while you work on the lock.

With the cover off, you can see the lock housing in Photo 25.  If you have to buy a replacement lock for one of these, it will not include the plastic cover, since that is painted to match the car.

At the rear of the lock, Photo 26 shows the cam and the push-on fattener that holds it in place.  When I first saw this fastener, I was shocked, because I’m used to more easily serviced fasteners.  However, after looking at the lock and the way that it fits into the latch, it’s clear that even if this fastener came loose or fell off, the lock would still work.  This is because the cam is trapped between the latch and the back of the lock.

The easiest way that I found to remove the push-on fastener was to use an offset scribe to lift the individual tabs.  (Photo 27) After lifting only two or three tabs, the fastener comes off easily.

Before you replace the fastener, re-straighten the tabs so that they will hold onto the shaft tightly. (Photo 28)  I did this by placing it on a flat surface and then I pressed each tab down flat with a large screwdriver.  As soon as I saw this push-on fastener, I began to suspect that this lock was not intended to be serviced.  I recommend replacing the lock rather than attempting to service it, unless you have no other choice.

After the fastener is out of the way, the cam will lift off of the shaft.  Like most modern high security door locks, the Fiesta door lock is equipped with a clutch that will allow the lock to freewheel without unlocking the door if too much pressure is applied.  The driver, or clutch plate for this system, is located directly below the cam. (Photo 29)

The driver will lift off the shaft easily after the cam has been removed.  Note that the driver has a tab that fits into a slot on the tail-shaft of the lock.  (Photo 30) When the clutch has been activated, this tab will be pulled away from the shaft allowing the lock cylinder to turn without turning the driver or the cam.  Also note the curved slot on the underside of the driver.  The end of the clutch pin fits into this slot so that the lock turns freely under normal conditions, but when the clutch has been activated, the clutch pin will pull the driver free of the tail-shaft.

With the clutch plate out of the way, Photo 31 shows the clutch pin.  Just as on the new GM “freewheeling” locks, this pin rests in a slot on the side of the lock cylinder and locks the cylinder into place.  However, instead of being backed with a rubber pad, this clutch pin has two “wings” that rest in slots in the lock housing.

When we pull the clutch pin out of the housing, Photo 32 shows that the “wings” are slightly curved so that the pin will only fit into place in one orientation.  The entire pin assembly is made of a cast material that is not flexible.  If too much force is applied to the cylinder, the wings on the clutch pin will break off, allowing the pin portion to be pushed up out of its slot.  This will in turn pull the clutch plate free of the tail-shaft and allow the cylinder to freewheel without unlocking the door.

With the clutch pin removed, we can see how the cylinder can rotate. (Photo 33) Since this type of clutch actually breaks when it is activated, the lock will have to be serviced before it can be put back into service.  At the time I am writing this, replacement clutch pins are only available as a part of a new lock set.  That may change in the future, but until then, the only repair for a lock that freewheels is a complete replacement.

We are now ready to remove the lock cylinder from the housing.  The cylinder is held in place with two small steel tabs that are driven into a slot in the lock housing.  The slot is only open on one end and after the tab is inserted, the top of the slot is staked over to hold the retaining tab in place.  In photo 34, you can see the tops of both tabs marked with the arrows.

The only effective way to remove the retainers was to drill two small holes on the opposite side of the lock into the retainer chambers.  Then I could insert a punch and drive the retainers out of the slots.  The drill points will have to be determined by eye, and are indicated by the arrows in photo 35.

To accurately drill as small a hole as possible, I chose to use a Dremel type of tool with a 1/8” bit.  Since I was drilling freehand and had never done this before, I drilled a little too far and actually drilled away a small portion of the retainer, but not enough to affect the operation of the lock. (Photo 36)

After driving the retainer out with a small (1/16”) pin-punch, you can see the retainer free of the lock.  The scar where I drilled too far should not affect the operation of the lock, especially if I flip the retainer over so that the damaged portion is away from the hole that I drilled. (Photo 37)

Once both retainers have been removed, we can slide the lock cylinder out of the housing.  In photo 38, notice the slot in the outer shell that the retainers fit into.  When the clutch is activated the cylinder will freewheel around the retaining tabs.

In photo 39, you can see the slot that the clutch pin normally rests in.  The grease in the slot trapped a lot of the drill shavings.  Before I can reassemble this lock, I will have to clean it thoroughly, and replace the grease.

The lock plug will slide out of the sleeve, with or without a key at this point.  The collar at the face of the plug is larger than the hole in the lock housing, so the plug cannot be removed from the sleeve until the sleeve has been removed from the housing.  The wafers will fall out of the plug easily, so make sure that you keep them under control as you disassemble the lock.  The assembly tool that you will see shortly on the ignition lock can also be used to keep the wafers in place as you disassemble the door lock. (Photo 40)

Photo 41 shows a full assortment of the wafers that come with a replacement lock.  Notice that each wafer is stamped with not only the depth of the cut, but also the handing of the wafer.  As with other side-milled lock systems, the wafers that rest on one side of the key are mirror images of the wafers on the other side of the key.  Decoding the lock can be done by removing the wafers one at a time and reading the depths that are stamped on each wafer.  The depths are “1” is shallow and “5” is deep.

Also notice that there is a slot on one end or the other of each wafer.  These slots are designed to help prevent the key from being pulled out in the wrong position.

Photo 42 shows the lock shell with the plug removed.  Note the fin that runs down the length of the tumbler chamber.  This fin interacts with the slots on the ends of the tumblers to keep the key from being pulled out in the wrong position.  Also note that the chambers as well as the tumblers have serrations that are designed to prevent picking.

With the key removed from the plug, we can see how the tumblers are grouped in pairs.  Each pair of tumblers contains a left and a right handed wafer.  Moving bow to tip, the wafers are arranged as follows: left, right, right, left, left, right, right, left, left, right.  Once again, this is done to prevent picking.  The door lock contains all ten cuts that are found on the key so after the lock has been decoded correctly, you should be able to cut a key that will also work the ignition lock.  Reassembling the door lock is the reverse of the disassembly. (Photo 43)

Part 2 of our article on Servicing the Ford Fiesta will address the  removal, disassembly and reassembly of the ignition lock.