A Driving Instructor's Blog

Slave CylinderAbout a month ago I noticed my clutch pedal on my Ford Focus 1.5TDCi felt different. It started off where as you lifted it, your foot would leave it, then the pedal jumped the last few centimetres and bounced on to your sole.

The next morning was quite cool, and after the first depression to start the car, it stuck half way down. Hooking your toes underneath and pulling it up righted it, and it would be OK for a while – but you could still feel something odd in that as you pressed it, there was initially not much tension until you’d gone several centimetres down, then it would bite.

Over the next week or so, cold mornings made it worse to start with, but pumping the pedal a few times would make it work again for a while. During a warmer period it was less noticeable, but still apparent as the day wore on. As I switched between pupils each day, I’d sometimes realise that some of them had been driving with it stuck part way down. Several of them had commented on it – one asked if I had used the dual controls a couple of times, because she’d felt the pedal move.

It went into the garage (a main dealer, as it happens) for a day, and they could feel the bounce, but I got the usual spiel that made it sound like they’d never come across it before. They bled the system (sigh) and asked me to try it for a few days. The mechanic said it might be the master cylinder. He assured me the clutch was still working fine, it was just the pedal return.To be honest, it still didn’t feel right even driving away, but after a couple of hours it was back to the way it was before, so I booked it in again. They said they’d need it for three days, and I scheduled lessons around it as necessary. It went in this week.

Before it went in, I did a bit of Googling, and it seems that this is not an uncommon problem either with Fords or various other makes. I told the dealer that when I dropped it off.

Long story short, they replaced the slave cylinder (which meant taking the gearbox out) and it is now fixed. No more clutch pedal sticking down.

I’ve seen a few instructors asking about it in various places, and a lot of normal drivers elsewhere. I wish people who haven’t got a clue wouldn’t try to behave as if they do, because some of the suggestions authoritatively given across instructor and motoring enthusiast forums are complete bollocks. It isn’t because the floor mats are jamming the pedals, and it isn’t because the dual controls are playing up. Like many such issues, it is a real fault which needs fixing properly, and a can of WD40 is unlikely to resolve it.

Note that from what I have seen on Google, this fault is absolutely not confined to Fords. Modern clutch systems are hydraulic much of the time (they used to be cable-controlled). So if you get a clutch pedal not coming all the way up, this may well be the problem you are experiencing. A slave cylinder for a Focus costs about £40 (probably more at a dealer), plus there’d be labour on top, but it’s not the end of the world in terms of total cost of repair. Fortunately, mine is covered, so I didn’t have anything to pay.

If dealers know about the problem, why don’t they fix it first time?

In many cases, it is down to warranty issues. It would appear that Ford will not cover repairs under warranty unless every possible alternative has been investigated first. Even if your bloody car is shooting flames out of the engine compartment, Ford will insist on it being checked for slight overheating until they’ll accept there is a problem – even if every Ford on the road has been doing it.

I had a similar issue recently with my new Focus (2018). The DAB radio wouldn’t remember the settings when you switched off the ignition, and Sync 3 kept locking up intermittently. My dealer wanted it in for a day to “look at it and do a Sync 3 update”.

At the time, there was no Sync 3 update – I’d been checking – so that suggestion was bullshit, and since it was intermittent, there was no way they would observe it themselves. I’d just be flinging £200 of income down the drain.

But a month or so later a Sync 3 update was issued. I installed it myself and it fixed all the problems completely. I conclude that:

  • Ford knew there was a genuine fault
  • my dealer knew there was a genuine fault
  • at the time, there was no fix
  • it needed something that didn’t exist
  • my dealer was taking the piss asking me to bring it in

In fact, it was the conversation I had with them at the time which provided me with Ford’s corporate approach to not dealing with warranty-based issues until it was absolutely unavoidable.

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