2000 – 2007 Ford Focus Poses A Challenge To Locksmiths

Dec. 2, 2011
Both the trunk lock and ignition lock were designed to be replaced rather than serviced.

Some vehicles locks were just not designed to be worked on, but I’ve never let that stand in my way. The Ford Focus built from 2000 to 2007 will probably go down in the record books as one of the least locksmith-friendly vehicles ever made by a U.S .manufacturer. The ignition lock failed so often that it became legendary, and the trunk lock was considered virtually unserviceable.

Trunk Lock

Let’s begin by proving that even though the trunk lock was certainly not designed to be serviced, it can be serviced with a lot of determination. The trunk lock, used on the Ford Focus sedan from 2000 until 2007, is more electronic then mechanical. It’s obvious from the design that Ford meant for this lock to be replaced rather than serviced. But with a dealer price of more than $100, you can imagine that a lot of folks would really prefer to have the lock repaired if possible.

You can generate a key for the lock by sight reading the tumblers through the drain hole in the side of the lock cylinder. The trunk lock uses cuts one through six and all six tumblers are easily visible through the drain hole. After you have a working key for the trunk lock, it’s easy to progress cuts seven and eight in the ignition for a completed key.

The problem comes in if you actually have to disassemble the lock for any reason. As you can see in Photo 4, the backside of the lock assembly is a sealed unit that contains more electrical components than I would have thought a trunk lock could possibly use. There is also no access to the lock cylinder itself from the rear of the lock or anywhere else other than through the drain hole. If you plan to rekey the car, or have a broken key or other debris inside the lock that you can’t pull out, you’ll have to either replace the lock or take drastic measures.

The whole thing is held together with a spring-loaded pin inside the arm-like casting on the side of the lock housing. When the lock was assembled, it was rotated until the pin popped into a hole in the metal plate, locking the cylinder in place. There is no poke-hole to depress the pin, so you will have to do it the hard way by modifying the lock.

The easiest way to access the pin is to use a cut-off wheel to remove the “elbow” on the arm-shaped casting. Make sure to wear safety glasses as you do this, since it will throw shavings in all directions. In addition, cut-off wheels often break, sending sharp pieces flying. I’ll make two cuts through the casting so as to cut the “elbow” completely off of the casting.

You will now be able to see the hole for the spring-loaded pin in the casting. You have probably cut the end of the spring off along with the casting, but that really doesn’t matter, because you’re not going to reuse the spring anyway. Pull the spring out of the hole and discard it.

You can sometimes shake the pin out of the hole, but I’ve found that it’s easier to use a magnet to pull the pin out. Once the pin is up, the lock cylinder housing will be free to rotate so that you can remove it. Turn the lock cylinder counter-clockwise and it will pop free of the mounting plate.

The lock cylinder housing has three lugs that fit into slots in the plate while the lock tailpiece fits into the plastic driver in the lock body. After the cylinder has been removed, you can take it apart for service.

The black plastic face-cap comes off easily, if you pry carefully between the face-cap and the lock housing with a pocket knife blade. There is no need to remove the shutter assembly unless you are trying to remove some type of debris from the lock. Having the shutter out of the way will make that type of job much easier.

At the rear of the lock is a return spring that you can remove by pulling up on one leg of the spring with a hook tool. Pay attention to how the spring is fitted so you can reassemble the lock properly. The ends of the spring fit into two slots in the lock housing.

The plug must now be rotated in order to remove it, which is no problem if all you are trying to do is rekey the lock. However, if the lock is jammed with debris, you will have to find some way to turn it before you can go any further.

Once you have turned the plug slightly, it will pull out of the housing, allowing you access to the tumblers. A lug on the inside of the lock housing aligns with the “T” shaped slot that you can see in the side of the lock plug. You can see the lug easily by looking into the rear of the lock as you rotate the plug.

With the lock plug out of the way, you can see the lug inside the housing that has to align with the slot in the lock plug. In Photo 14, I have removed the pin from the lock housing. I’ve done this for two reasons; to keep from losing the pin, and because I will need to thread the inside of the chamber in order to reassemble the lock.

I’m using a tap to thread the hole for a ¼ x 20 thread. The tap will fit the hole without having to do any drilling, but you will have to remove the pin in order to thread the hole as deeply as needed.

Replace the lock cylinder back onto the mounting plate and then rotate it clockwise until the hole in the plate aligns with the hole in the lock housing. Don’t forget to replace the return spring at the rear of the lock plug before you do this.

Slip the pin back into its socket and push it down until it locks the cylinder into place. Check the operation of the lock to make sure that you have it properly reassembled.

Thread a ¼ x 20 bolt into the hole that you threaded earlier and then tighten it down against the top of the pin. Once again, check the lock for proper operation. I could have used an Allen headed setscrew for this.

If you used a bolt as I did, you’ll need to cut the top of the bolt off so that the lock will fit back into the car. I’m cutting the bolt off with the cut-off wheel just as I cut away the lock housing. This step would not be necessary if I had used a set-screw of the proper length.

To prevent the bolt from vibrating out of the lock, I used an automatic center-punch to peen the top of the bolt. I could also have used a thread locking compound to do the same thing. The lock is now ready to go back into the vehicle, and I’m ready for the next challenge.

Ignition Lock

The problems with this particular Ford Focus don’t end with the trunk lock. The OEM ignition lock was built by Huf and it was simply not designed to be serviced. Unfortunately, severe design problems caused most of them to fail. Once the lock has failed, it still needed to be turned to the “ON” position in order to remove it. This job was so difficult that a special tool called the “Focus Buster” was designed to deal with the problem.

As the name implies, the Focus Buster breaks the failed lock so that it can be removed and then replaced. Most locksmiths use Strattec Model 707592 as a replacement lock for the OEM Focus lock. This lock will fit all years of the Ford Focus up through 2011. (The 2012 Focus uses the new Ford side-milled system.) The Strattec lock can be keyed up to match the original key, using standard Strattec 8-cut Ford tumblers. And, since you will be re-using the original key, there is no need for transponder programming.

Because so many of these locks have been replaced, you need to be able to tell the difference between the OEM lock and the Strattec replacement. Fortunately, these two locks are very easy to tell apart. The OEM lock is a sidebar lock that has a keyway that is offset to one side and a rough face. The Strattec replacement is a non-sidebar lock that has the keyway in the center of the plug and a smooth face.

If you ever encounter a Strattec lock that has failed, do not attempt to use the Focus Buster on it. The Strattec lock is constructed differently than the Huf lock and attempting to use the Focus Buster on the Strattec lock will just break your tool.

Apparently something in the design of the OEM lock causes one or more of the tumblers to jam, causing the lock to fail. When that happens, the lock must still be turned to the “ON” position before it can be removed. Normally, that would require drilling out the sidebar. The problem is that on this lock, the face of the lock is surface-hardened to make drilling difficult. If you do drill for the sidebar, drill shavings tend to get down into the lock, making it hard to turn even after the sidebar has been drilled out.

The solution to the problem lies in the design of the lock. The top of the plug, between the face of the lock and the first tumbler, has a weak spot where a hardened shutter is mounted. If enough pressure is applied at this point, the face of the lock will simply shear off from the plug and fall on the floor. The Focus Buster is designed so that you can easily apply pressure in exactly the right spot.

Insert the Focus Buster securely into the lock as deeply as it will go. Once the tool is in place, use a wrench to apply pressure to shear off the face of the lock. The mistake that many people make is to try to use gradually increasing pressure to snap off the face. The best way to use this tool is to press it into the lock securely and then “snap” the tool with the wrench. I usually warn people not to try to “sneak up on the lock.” Instead, give it one good hard snap. Use as long a wrench as possible for maximum leverage.

If you use the tool properly, the face of the lock and the hardened shutter will fall out into your hand or onto the floor. Notice that the end of the plug broke off jaggedly. Sometimes the plug will break off cleanly to expose the end of the sidebar, and other times it will break in such a way that you will have to break a little more metal out of the way to get to the sidebar.

When the plug does not break cleanly, you will have to dig a little deeper to reach the sidebar. In Photo 27, you can see the jagged edge of the plug that still obscures the sidebar as well as the spring from the shutter. If you look carefully at the photo, you can just barely see the edge of the sidebar peeking out around the right hand edge of the broken plug. All I had to do was insert a small screwdriver between the edge of the broken plug and the sidebar, then twist to break the remaining piece free.

After I’ve cleared the debris out of the way, the sidebar is exposed. The twisting force applied to the lock by the Focus Buster has also served to widen the sidebar chamber, which will make it very easy to grip the sidebar. I can now pull the sidebar out of the lock easily with a pair of tweezers. With the sidebar removed, there is now nothing to keep the lock from turning. I used a large screwdriver to turn the plug to the “ON” position for removal. This entire job can be done in just a couple of minutes.

After you have turned the lock to the “ON” position, you will still need to depress the retainer, and in order to do that, you have to know where it is.

Photo 31 shows a different Focus steering column as seen through the opening in the steering wheel. I apologize for the poor focus (no pun intended) but this was the best I could do at the time. The important thing is to see where the poke-hole is located, just behind the transceiver ring. This is about the only way you can see the poke-hole without removing the transceiver ring.

After removing the transceiver ring, the poke hole is a lot easier to see. You can then insert a tool into the poke hole to depress the retainer. Use a tool with a blunt end because something sharp, like a Shrum tool, will sometimes slip between the retainer and the lock. The retainer can be depressed while the lock is turned to any position, but the lock cannot be removed until the large clip at the rear is properly aligned at the “ON” position.

Once the lock is properly aligned, it will pull out of the housing freely. Force should not be necessary unless you have drilled out the sidebar and you are fighting the drill shavings that I mentioned earlier. Note the large clip of the rear of the plug. Once the lock is out of the housing, you can then do whatever you need to do to the lock.

All in all, I try to avoid dealing with these vehicles, but when I have to work on one, I always charge extra. These cars just take more time than they are worth, but my Focus Buster has really paid for itself.