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Old 12-04-2009, 13:18   #1 (permalink)
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2002 Focus belt tensioner, tire squeal, more probs... need advice

Hi all, I'm a newbie here and am looking to get some advice on my 2002 Focus ZX3. Here are the problems it is exhibiting:

1) engine rattling-type noise/slight vibration at idle;

2) zizzing noise that is sporadic but very frequent when accelerating, especially when accelerating while turning;

3) ungodly squealing noise from tires (wheels?) when making sharp 3-point turns.

The Ford dealership tells me that the first 2 symptoms are probably stemming from the belt tensioner (which I know needs replacement anyway as it has 116k miles), which of course is not covered by my warranty. I'd like to know what repair cost to expect, or if there's a possibility it could be something else entirely. They did not mention what could be causing the awful tire/wheel squeal; any ideas?

Also, the dealership said I needed to replace the ignition cylinder and switch and wanted to charge me $600 (!!), but from some online research I find it's best to have a locksmith do this for around $200... any thoughts on this? I also saw a replacement cylinder & switch on sale at Amazon for $55 and am wondering if it's simple enough to do by oneself.

Thanks!
-Linda
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Old 12-12-2009, 19:57   #2 (permalink)
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Re: 2002 Focus belt tensioner, tire squeal, more probs... need advice

1 - when was your last tune-up; or more importantly new spark plugs? You'd be surprised what new plugs can do to a vehicle. It could also be air related, such as the IAC or idle air controller, which is located around the throttle assembly (approx $40 part). If the dealer did in fact check the belt to see if it's running true, it could be an out of balance pulley, not necessarily a bad tensioner, although it is generally the first pulley to go as it sees the most abuse.

2- zizzing noise - do you have a manual transmission? If so, curious as to when it was serviced last (adjusted if necessary and fluid change)? It might even be something as a worn transmission or engine mount, which can be common on mid to higher mileage compact vehicles. This is most likely NOT caused by the fan belt. You can try a higher quality aftermarket belt (GoodYear Gatorback for instance). However, if the noise persists, install the old belt and hold onto the new one until the tensioner gets replaced. If you have a pulley puller, or some other means of removing a pulley without having it turn relentlessly on you, it can be a fairly easy job for the DIYer. Autozone generally 'rents' parts at no charge, last I heard so it might be something to look into.

3- are the tires wearing evenly? Air pressure is good? If you are turning at a very slow speed, there should be no noise unless at full lock, you'll hear a bit of a 'hiss' from the power steering box. You can also try a tire rotation, to rule out any tire imbalance problems. Worst case is that a wheel bearing is bad, or at least starting to go. Once you hear a grinding noise that increases with vehicles speed, then the bearing is SHOT.

As for the replacing the ignition cylinder I'd try a locksmith, but shop around and check for reviews online first as they can vary widely in customer service and satisfaction. If your vehicle has electronic locks, or worse, a security system, some lock smiths might refuse to do the job if it's very intricate. In some cases here it wouldn't surprise me to see a locksmith driving out to the dealer to do the work, but the locksmith in question would be favorable for that dealer, and most likely, somewhat experienced in vehicles.

It's just sad that Ford would outsource the work, and charge three times as much. When the cylinder gets replaced (if it's not causing you problems, then let it alone of course), make sure to SAVE the original key, and use it to cut other keys that you can use on a regular basis. Every few years, break the cut key in half, and get another copy made off the master. It also looks good when you sell or trade the vehicle in, having a factory key that's never been used. It might be too late for that now, but, now you know one of my secrets.

if you have the means, you can check the front wheels for a bad bearing yourself. All you'll need is a jack (spare tire jack will work fine), a pair of gloves, and if you have it, an axle stand for greater safety: Raise a wheel and place one hand on the top and one hand around the bottom of the tire. Try to tilt it towards you and back again. If there is any movement, then it's more than likely a bad wheel bearing. If there is no play, have a glance at the ball joints, CV joints, and anything else that might look broken (plastic boot for instance), or not connected securely. Then, try the other wheel.
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Old 12-13-2009, 05:44   #3 (permalink)
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Re: 2002 Focus belt tensioner, tire squeal, more probs... need advice

360ci, I hope you are not cutting transponder keys in half,, if so, you've got some extra buck to throw away.
To the op, for sure, use a locksmith to change the key cylinder. If possible, use one with a "walk in shop" Not to take away from mobile only shops, but you will save $$ by not having them come to you. Don't wait to long to change the lock or it will cost you alot more when it fails. But I do agree with keeping an original key stashed so you have factory key cuts to make copies from. Since transponder keys can be costly, you can have a copy made on a non-transponder key blank and put that one up.
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Old 12-13-2009, 05:53   #4 (permalink)
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Re: 2002 Focus belt tensioner, tire squeal, more probs... need advice

Quote:
Originally Posted by thefonz View Post
360ci, I hope you are not cutting transponder keys in half,, if so, you've got some extra buck to throw away.
To the op, for sure, use a locksmith to change the key cylinder. If possible, use one with a "walk in shop" Not to take away from mobile only shops, but you will save $$ by not having them come to you. Don't wait to long to change the lock or it will cost you alot more when it fails. But I do agree with keeping an original key stashed so you have factory key cuts to make copies from. Since transponder keys can be costly, you can have a copy made on a non-transponder key blank and put that one up.
I have a transponder key for my Sprinter van. I ordered two additional keys as a factory option for $105. Replacement cost for each is a reasonable $68 at the dealer. The van's not old enough to require a replacement key yet, but I've already checked into it! I don't care what the cost is, I don't want my wife or myself for that matter, outside in -48C weather having to play with a key to start the engine in any of my vehicles. It's definitely worth the $68 when the time comes to get a replacement. I hold one of the master keys in the filing cabinet, and we use the other two that I ordered on the Sprinter.

None of my other vehicles use keys with security codes built into them. I thought my Taurus was equipped with this feature as it's a fairly big key, but it's not. Keys for it, and my other vehicles are only a few bucks, which is more than reasonable to replace every few years.

Afterall, I spend around $200-400 a day anyway, so what's $68 every few years!
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Old 12-14-2009, 10:32   #5 (permalink)
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Re: 2002 Focus belt tensioner, tire squeal, more probs... need advice

Thanks for the reply, 360ci (et al). I purchased the car 3 months ago from a used car lot and have not yet had a thorough tune-up per se, though I've taken to the Ford dealership twice in the past month. The first time was for a very strong engine shake at idle, which they fixed by replacing the motor mounts; however, now at idle there's still some distress (a noise and slight rattle rather than a full-on shake). The mechanic said he did not check the belt, but that was his best guess. (Not the answer I'd expect from a dealership!!) Could this really be as simple spark plugs??

Re: the zizzing noise when I accelerate: I have an automatic transmission, and the sound is getting increasingly worse. I now hear it pretty much every time I accelerate.

Re: the horrible noise when turning the wheels, it's actually not so much a squealing, but more like a chirping sound when I do a very tight turn (like a three-point turn). It's really loud and ONLY happens when I do those tight turns. Does this still sound like a bad bearing?

Re: ignition cylinder & key: thanks for the advice; it does sound like a locksmith is the way to go.

I'm beginning to really miss my Toyota...!
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Old 12-22-2009, 15:23   #6 (permalink)
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Re: 2002 Focus belt tensioner, tire squeal, more probs... need advice

Well, this time of year the "zizzzzzing" could be one of the power steering pump or the alternator. I bought my focus last year in November and everything sounded fine. A few days later the temp dropped below freezing and I heard the same kind of noise. In my case, at least, it comes and goes with the temperature so I won't spend time or money on it. It's the kind of noise that will get worse slowly. In fact, I walked away from a deal on a Ranger 4 years ago over the same sound (although this one did it warm too). Since then I have heard a number of Fords - especially trucks - making the same sound so I sleep OK.

The tensioner - I did mine last summer. I would get a chirp or screech when I started the engine. Occasionally when wet I'd get a real belt squeel, of course. The tensioner should be about $50 for the part. Most mechanics will try to sell you a new serpentine belt at the same time - $35 maybe and an hours labour is being really generous.

Should be under $200 - if the mechanic is honest enough and your belt is in good shape it could go down approaching $100 but I wouldn't count on it.

Call around - start with a dealer as the upper limit. Don't let them upsell you. No matter what else they find - the only job they get today is the one being quoted.

[They like to pitch extra's once you are on the hoist - but they don't want to discount the labour even though the car is already half way apart.]

Best wishes.
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Old 01-20-2010, 09:50   #7 (permalink)
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Re: 2002 Focus belt tensioner, tire squeal, more probs... need advice

Thanks Wobbie. Unfortunately I don't think it's the cold, as I live in Southern California! I guess I'd just better buckle down and get it looked at... so long, tax refund...
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