Ford Focus RS Mk2 Buyer’s Guide, History & Specs

If you are looking for one of the greatest front-wheel drive hot hatches of all time, you really can’t go far wrong with the Ford Focus RS Mk2. The massively powerful RS Mk2 burst onto the scene in the January 2009 and it put many supercars in the shade with its bold and aggressive styling.

In this Ford Focus RS Mk2 Buyer’s Guide we are going to look at everything you need to know about purchasing one of these fantastic hot hatches, from the history of the car to common problems that occur on it.

How to Use This Ford Focus RS Mk2 Buying Guide?

This is a long guide, so make sure you use the handy table of contents below to skip to the section you want to read. To start with we will be covering the history and specifications of the RS Mk2, and following those two sections we will be looking at what you need to know about buying one of these cars. To wrap up we will be looking at more general car purchasing advice such as how to get yourself the best deal.

History of the Ford Focus RS Mk2

Credit: Ford

With the end of the Ford Focus RS Mk1’s production in 2003 and the introduction of a new second generation Focus model the next year, many motoring enthusiasts and journalists wanted to know when a Mk2 version of the RS was coming.

Potential buyers would have to wait until December 2007 to get the first official confirmation that a Mk2 RS was in the works when Ford of Europe confirmed the car’s existence. The press release from Ford confirmed that a concept would be launched in 2008 with the final production model would come the next year.

With the announcement that the car was going to be front-wheel drive and powered by an upgraded Duratec ST engine, many enthusiasts worried that the Mk2 RS would simply be a slightly souped-up Focus ST.

These fears were instantly blown away when the concept was revealed at the British International Motor Show in 2008. The concept Ford Focus RS Mk2 featured some of the most aggressive and bold styling of any hot hatch every produced, and it marked a radical change from the somewhat subtle RS Mk1.

Ford gave the new RS a unique bonnet/hood with special air exhaust vents, new bumpers and side skirts and a twin-bladed spoiler that continued the RS tradition. Xenon automatic levelling headlights were another addition with LED lights at the rear. Dual chrome tailpipes completed the sporty new look.

Credit: Ford

Another major talking point was the engine. The Focus ST originally launched in 2005 with a Duratec 2.5-litre 5-cylinder engine with 225 hp (168 kW), but for the RS Mk2, Ford turned it up to eleven. The Duratec engine was now rated at 305 hp (227 kW) at 6,500 rpm and 440 Nm (325 lb ft) of torque at 2,250 to 4,500 rpm.

This massive power increase was achieved with a larger BorgWarner K16 turbo with 20.3 psi (1.40 bar) of boost. A new air-to-air intercooler complemented the larger turbo, and Ford’s engineers also gave the car a forged crankshaft, silicon-aluminium pistons, graphite-coated cylinder bores, a compression ratio of 8.5:1 and variable valve timing.

With all this power the 0 – 100 km/h was quoted to be under six seconds with final production cars being tested at around 5.8 – 5.9 seconds. The top speed was stated to be around 262 km/h (163 mph).

Ford mated the powerful engine with an uprated version of the ST’s six-speed manual gearbox. This transmission featured the same ratios as the ST, but was given stronger bearings, a stronger clutch housing and a Quaife helical limited slip differential (LSD).

As the Focus RS Mk2 remained front-wheel drive, Ford’s engineers had to come up with a solution to control the massive amounts of torque steer that the powerful new engine was creating. The solution was to combine the Quaife LSD with a MacPherson strut suspension system at the front called RevoKnuckle. The RevoKnuckle suspension features a lower scrub radius and kingpin offset than traditional designs, while avoiding the increased weight and complexity of double wishbone and multi-link suspension setups.

Ford complemented the new suspension setup with a wider track, enhanced drive-shafts, a rear anti-roll bar, revised springs and dampers, and retuned suspension. The Focus RS Mk2 also received a specially developed version of Ford’s Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) with Traction Assist (TA) that provides more assurance to drivers in slippery conditions.

As power was increased, Ford’s engineers also worked their magic on the braking system. The front received 336 mm ventilated discs while the rear was given 300 mm discs. Ford covered the brakes with distinct 19-inch alloy wheels that were wrapped in 235/35 tyres.

Credit: Ford

On the inside the Focus RS Mk2 was given unique Recaro sport seats, with side bolsters trimmed to match the colour of the car. Rear passengers didn’t miss out, with sculpted Recaro-style seats being added as well.

Standard features included a manual air-conditioning system, a Sony radio and six-disc CD player, and a keyless engine ignition that was combined with a Thatcham Category 1 alarm system.

For those who wanted more, a luxury package option was available that included Dual-Zone Automatic Temperature Control air-conditioning, automatic headlights, rain-sensor wipers, parking sensors, tyre deflation-detection, a Ford Key-Free system and rain-sensing wipers. A more expensive luxury package added a Touchscreen DVD Navigation System, with a seven-inch screen.

Other optional extras include a Bluetooth hands-free system, USB connectivity, and partially leather-trimmed seats.

The first production Ford Focus RS Mk2s hit the road on 5 January 2009. Unfortunately for Ford, the worldwide economic crisis occurring at that time meant they had to put a dampener on their sales targets for the car.

Ford Focus RS500

Credit: Ford

A special edition Mk2 RS known as the Focus RS500 was introduced in April 2010 as a sendoff to the RS and was limited to a total of 500 units. Ford only expected to sell around 8,000 RS models during the car’s production, but by the time the RS500 was introduced they had sold over 10,000 units and the company saw that as a massive success to celebrate on.

While the standard Focus RS Mk2 was an already extremely powerful hot hatch for the time, Ford wanted to take it further. They squeezed around 345 hp (257 kW) from the 2.5-litre engine, which dropped the 0 – 100 km/h time down to an impressive 5.4 seconds and bumped the top speed to roughly 266 km/h (165 mph).

This performance increase was achieved by fitting a larger intercooler, larger airbox, larger exhaust downpipe, uprated fuel pump and by updating the ECU.

Credit: Ford

No changes were made to the running gear of the RS500 as they were deemed perfectly adequate for the increase in power. This let Ford offer the power pack (known as the MP350 kit) as an aftermarket upgrade to existing RS Mk2 owners. However, those who upgraded their cars missed out on the special numbered plaque, the matte-black paint finish, and red-stitching for the steering wheel and seats.

With such a big increase in performance and power, the RS500 gained massive interest from buyers. All 500 cars were sold before the price was even announced, with the final price later winding up to be around 27-percent more than the standard car.

MP375 Kit

Mountune, the company behind the MP350 kit also introduced a more powerful version of the kit known as the MP375. As you can probably guess, this kit took power up to 375 hp, which resulted in a 0 – 100 km/h time of around 5.0 seconds.

The kit included a three-inch exhaust downpipe, sports catalyst and cat-back exhaust, upgraded engine mapping, recirculating bypass valve, and cast aluminium inlet plenum. Unfortunately, unlike the MP350 kit, the more powerful version was not backed by Ford’s warranty.

Ford Focus RS Mk2 Specifications

ModelFocus RS Mk2
Years of Production2009 – 2011
LayoutFront-engine, front-wheel drive
Engine2.5L 5-cylinder Duratec RS
Power305 hp (227 kW) at 6,500 rpm

345 hp (257 kW) at 6,500 rpm (RS500)

Torque440 Nm (325 lb ft) at 2,250 to 4,500 rpm

459 Nm (339 lb ft) at 2,500 to 4,500 rpm (RS500)

Gearbox6-speed manual (uprated from ST)
Suspension FrontQuaife Automatic Torque Biasing Limited Slip Differential (LSD) with a MacPherson strut
Suspension RearMulti-link
Brakes Front336 mm ventilated discs
Brakes Rear300 mm discs
Tyres 235/35/19
Weight1,464 kg (3,227 lb)
Top speed262 km/h (163 mph)

266 km/h (165 mph)

0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)5.8 – 5.9 seconds

5.4 seconds (RS500)

 

Ford Focus RS Mk2 Buyer’s Guide

Credit: Ford

Now that we have covered the history and specifications of the Ford Focus RS Mk2, let’s take a look at some things you need to know before purchasing one of these fast Fords. As with any car, a poorly maintained RS Mk2 is going to be trouble, so you need to make sure that the one you plan to buy has been looked after well.

Arranging an Inspection of a Ford Focus RS Mk2

Setting up an inspection is an important step in the car buying process, so here are some tips to help you out:

  • Go in person or get a reliable third party to inspect the vehicle for you – Buying any car, let alone a performance machine such as the Focus RS Mk2 sight unseen is a big risk. Always try to view a vehicle in person before making a decision.
  • Try to meet at the seller’s house or place of business – This is a good idea because you can get a rough idea of how the Focus RS Mk2 you are looking at has been stored. Additionally, you can get a general idea of what sort of roads the vehicle is regularly driven on. If they are really bumpy and full of potholes the suspension may have worn quicker than a car that is regularly driven on smooth roads.
  • Arrange for a time early in the morning – This is largely going to depend on you and the seller’s schedule, but it is always better to try and look at a vehicle early in the morning. The main reason we recommend this is that the seller is less likely to have pre-warmed the vehicle and it gives them less time to clean up any issues such as an oil leak.
  • Take a helper with you – This is always a good idea as they may be able to spot something you missed and they can give you their thoughts on the RS Mk2 you are interested in buying.
  • Try to avoid inspecting a Focus RS Mk2 in the rain – Water can cover up numerous different issues with the bodywork and/or paint, so try to avoid inspecting a car when it is wet. If you do happen to look at an RS Mk2 when it is wet, try to go back for a second viewing when it is dry before making a purchase.
  • Be cautious of a Focus RS that has been freshly washed, especially if it still has water on the bodywork or in the engine bay – this is largely for the same reason as above, but some owners will also wash the underside/engine bay to hide a nasty looking leak.

How Much is a Ford Focus RS Mk2 Worth?

This is a really difficult question to answer as it depends on a number of factors from the condition of the Specific RS Mk2 you are interested in to its spec level and where it is being sold. For example, an RS500 in excellent condition is going to be worth a lot more than a standard RS Mk2 that looks like it has just been taken through a stage of a WRC event.

With the above on mind, we recommend that you check your local auction/classifieds websites and dealer websites for RS Mk2s for sale. You can then use the prices on these websites to work out roughly what you need to spend for a specific condition/model.

Is the Ford Focus RS Mk2 Expensive to Maintain?

Credit: Ford

The Ford Focus RS Mk2 is a performance car, so you are going to be looking at higher running costs than something like a bog-standard Focus or Toyota Corolla, however, it is not as bad as you think. Many people who have owned both the Focus ST and the Focus RS have found that the running costs are similar.

Where these cars can get expensive is when they go wrong or if you need to replace specific model parts (bodywork, etc). If you purchase an RS Mk2 that has not been maintained correctly, you will probably find that the running costs are quite high.

Will the Ford Focus RS Mk2 Be a Future Classic?

Many ‘RS’ badged Fords have become classics and without a doubt the Mk2 is one of the most striking cars to wear the RS badge. While Ford did produce more of these cars than the first generation model, the production volume was still fairly limited.

RS Mk2s in good condition and with low mileage will appreciate the most over the coming years (at the moment prices are fairly flat). If you want the most sought after version of the car you will probably have to cough up the extra for an RS500 model.

VIN

The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a series of characters and numbers that manufacturers such as Ford assign to a vehicle at production. VINs can reveal quite a lot of information about a car from the model year, to place of manufacturer and more.

The VIN can be entered into a VIN checkup/decoder website that may be able to tell you if the vehicle you are looking at has any money owing on it or if it has been written off at any point. You can also enter the VIN into Ford’s own checkup service to see what comes up as well. Most of these VIN checkup websites/services are region limited, so keep that in mind.

Where is the VIN on a Ford Focus RS Mk2?

The VIN can be found in the following locations:

  • Bottom left of the windscreen
  • Sticker at the bottom of the driver door B pillar
  • Under a carpet/trim cut out in the floor alongside the driver’s seat (The VIN should be stamped into the metal)

Engine

Credit: Ford

The first thing to check when you open the bonnet/hood is to make sure that it holds, and the struts have not failed. Once you have done this, do a general check for the following:

Damaged, broken or missing parts – Do you notice any damaged or missing components? If you do you should be asking the seller why. They may have a perfectly reasonable explanation for it, however, if they try to brush it off as nothing or claim they don’t know anything about it you should proceed with caution.

Cleanliness – How clean is the engine bay? A completely spotless engine bay is usually a sign of a good owner, however, it may also be a sign of somebody who is trying to cover something up. Some sellers will clean the engine bay and underside of a vehicle to hide something like an oil leak, so be cautious. If the engine bay or underside of the car is still wet when you go for an inspection, it may indicate that the RS Mk2 has been washed to hide an issue.

Modifications – This is a big one for the Focus RS Mk2 as plenty of owners like to modify their cars. Mods are perfectly fine if they are suitable for an RS Mk2 and are installed correctly, but watch out for poorly tuned cars or those with low quality aftermarket components. Additionally, try to avoid cars with excessive amounts of power as they can be trouble. Some owners will detune/remove power mods before sale to hide the fact that their car has been run with lots of power.

Checking the Fluids

Following on from the above, move onto checking the fluids. Incorrect fluid levels (both too low and too high) or fluids that have not been changed in a long time are a sign of poor maintenance. Failure to keep the fluids at the correct height and to change them regularly can lead to increased wear and possibly even total engine/component failure. It is a good idea to check the heights of the fluids in an RS Mk2 both before and after a test drive to make sure they are still roughly the same height.

Oil & Oil Filter Service Interval for RS Mk2

It is important to check with the owner and the service history to make sure that the engine oil and oil filter have been changed regularly. If you discover that these two items have not been replaced regularly it is a major red flag. This is because oil can become contaminated overtime and the oil filter material can breakdown.

When to Change Engine Oil

The recommended service interval for a Focus RS Mk2 is every 20,000 km (12,500 miles) or every 12 months. Many owners will replace the engine oil more frequently than this and that is a sign of a good owner.

Best Oil for Focus RS Mk2

Ford recommends using a 0W-40 weight oil with the specification ‘WSS M2C937-A’ in the Focus RS Mk2. Some owners will use heavier weight oils, especially if they are running more power and/or regularly tracking their car. Good 0W-40 options include Castrol’s one and Motul’s 8100 X-Max engine oil.

Oil Filter

The oil filter should be replaced with every oil change and the most recommended one is the OEM filter from Ford. Aftermarket options are available as well, just make sure they are from a good brand. Check with the owner to see what oil filter they use in their car.

Checking the Oil Condition

Don’t forget to have a look at the condition of the oil while you are inspecting its level. Metallic particles or grit in the oil and on the dipstick are a sign of trouble. Also remember to watch out for any foam or froth as this may be a sign that the RS Mk2 you are inspecting has overheated and blown a head gasket.

Does the RS Mk2 Burn a Lot of Oil?

These cars aren’t known to consume a lot of oil, however, this can depend on how the vehicle was run-in when it was new and what sort of life it has had. While you probably aren’t going to be able to work out how much oil the RS Mk2 you are looking at burns during a short inspection, we do recommend that you ask the owner. If it seems like an excessive amount further investigation may be necessary.

Oil Leaks

Make sure you watch out for any oil leaks or puddles of oil under the RS Mk2 you are inspecting. Walk away from the car if it has major leaking issues as it may be seriously expensive to fix. Very small, slow leaks are often fine, but they can be a nightmare to locate and fix. If the RS Mk2 you are looking at is leaking oil, try to find out where it is coming from and if you are interested in purchasing the vehicle, get it checked out by a Ford specialist.

A leak coming from the back right of the engine by the timing belt/cambelt could be something like the oil pressure release valve or camshaft oil seals. It’s best not to drive the car if this is the case and we would recommend that you move onto another RS Mk2.

Another common oil leak area is around the oil filter. This sometimes occurs because the filter has not been installed correctly or is the wrong filter. Alternatively, the OEM design of the oil filter housing is quite fragile and prone to leaking or splitting due to its clip-on design. Aftermarket replacements that fix the problem are available, so check the service history to see if the original one has been changed.

You can check to see if the oil filter/breather has a problem by removing the dipstick while the engine is idling. Listen out for a hiss of escaping air and a ‘mooing’ sound that indicates there is a problem.

Exploding Plenum Chambers

Some early Focus RS Mk2s experienced exploding plenum chambers caused by backfire. Ford did resolve the issue with a remap of the fuelling, but many owners took the matter into their own hands and purchased on uprated plenum chamber (Mountune, etc.). Check with the owner and in the service history to see if the work was actioned upon or if an aftermarket chamber was fitted. RS Mk2’s with more power should have an uprated chamber as the problem can still occur on them if the original is used.

When Does the Timing Belt Need to Be Changed on an RS Mk2?

The Focus RS Mk2’s power unit is an interference engine, so make sure the timing belt/cambelt has been replaced. If the timing belt fails it can lead to engine destruction and a very expensive repair bill.

Ford recommends replacing the timing belt every 200,000 km (125,000 miles) or every 10 years (every car should have had at least one change by now). Many owners will change the belt sooner than this, which is a good thing.

If the timing belt hasn’t been replaced and you still want to purchase the RS Mk2, make sure you get a hefty discount and get the work done immediately. Alternatively, you can get the owner to replace it at their expensive, just make sure they actually do it and check the reviews of the place that carried out the work.

The auxiliary belts, water pump, tensioners and some other parts should also be changed with the timing belt, so make sure this was the case.

Exhaust

Credit: Ford

Check the exhaust to see if it is standard or aftermarket. These cars are starting to age, so there may be problems here, especially if you live in a country with salted roads (UK for example). Many RS Mk2 owners will replace the original exhaust with something like a Miltek or Mountune system, which is a plus in our eyes.

If the aftermarket exhaust is from some poor quality, badly reviewed brand we recommend that you move onto another RS Mk2 as it suggests that corners have been cut with maintenance. When checking the exhaust, look for the following:

  • Corrosion – This is going to be more of an issue if the car has lived in countries/areas with salted roads and harsh winters. Try to inspect as much of the system as possible for corrosion and if it looks really bad walk away unless you can get an excellent discount. Also keep in mind that corrosion may form on the inside due to moisture in the system. Good quality aftermarket exhausts will probably corrode less than the original.
  • Black sooty stains – Typically a sign of a leak and depending on the severity of the problem a simple reweld may be all that is needed to fix the issue.
  • Cracks or accident damage – If you notice lots of dents, cracks or scratches on the exhaust it may be a result of careless driving. This sort of damage can lead to reduced performance from leaks, etc. and may even lead to corrosion forming.
  • Bad repairs – Keep an eye out for bodge jobs that have been done for a quick sale.

Along with looking for the above, don’t forget to listen out for any hissing, chugging or rattling noises that may indicate there is a problem with the exhaust system.

  • Hissing – usually indicates that there is a crack or leak
  • Chugging – could be a sign that there is a blockage in the exhaust
  • Rattling – exhaust system may be misaligned or may have some other sort of problem

Cooling System

Problems with the cooling system can occur on any car including the Focus RS Mk2, so make sure you inspect it thoroughly. If the cooling system does fail it can lead to total engine loss and an extremely expensive repair bill. Below you can find the main parts of an RS Mk2’s cooling system:

  • Radiator – removes heat from the water/coolant – check to see if the radiator has been replaced on the Mk2 RS you are inspecting (more on this below)
  • Thermostat – sends water/coolant that is hotter than the target temperature to the radiator to be cooled
  • Water Pump – belt that is driven from a pulley. Pushes water/coolant through the engine (should be replaced with the timing belt) – make sure this was replaced with the timing belt
  • Overflow or Expansion bottle – removes air from the system and provides a filling point
  • Coolant Lines – hoses that allow water/coolant to remain contained as it moves through the engine/cooling system
  • Intercooler – cools the air compressed by the turbocharger, reducing its temperature and increasing its density – aftermarket options are available, but the standard one is satisfactory. Remember to check the condition of the intercooler and make sure it is not warped or dented from accident damage.

Make sure you check the cooling system both before and after a test drive to make sure there are no leaks, and that the coolant is still at roughly the same level. The coolant should be reddish in colour, so if it is brown or muddy it suggests poor maintenance. Coolant changes should occur at least every ten years and the coolant used should be WSS-M97B44-D standard.

Radiator Issues

As we mentioned just above, check to see if the radiator has ever been replaced as the ones Ford fitted to the RS Mk2 are prone to leaking. Due to the under tray and a sponge at the bottom of the radiator, it can be hard to tell if there is a leak unless it is really bad.

Try to look down towards the undertray at the front of the engine bay by the radiator and check for any coloured coolant. Those with small hands may be able to reach in and touch the sponge to see if it is wet and reddish in colour. If you see any reddish fluid or get any on your hands the radiator has probably failed.

Many owners like to check the coolant very regularly with some even doing it every day to make sure the radiator has not failed and is leaking.

Signs of Overheating & Head Gasket Failure in an RS Mk2

Keep an eye out for the following as if the Ford Focus RS Mk2 you are inspecting is displaying any of these symptoms it may be overheating or suffering from a blown head gasket.

  • Bubbles in the radiator or coolant overflow tank
  • Oil that is white and milky
  • Fouled spark plugs (if you can get to see them)
  • Low cooling system integrity
  • Engine oil that smells of coolant
  • Sweet exhaust smell
  • Coolant leaking externally from below the exhaust manifold
  • White smoke from the exhaust pipe (especially if you see lots of it)
  • High temperatures and heat radiating off the engine

If you notice any of the above when inspecting or test driving a Focus RS Mk2 you should probably walk away. Alternatively, if the RS you are looking at has had repair work for overheating issues find out who did the work and check their reviews. Be careful of any RS Mk2 that has just had work done for overheating (rebuild, etc.) as they are a bit of an unknown.

Another thing to check is the temperature gauge. If it sits on the higher end or behaves erratically it may signal there is a problem with the cooling system and the car is overheating. Alternatively, if it sits on the low side it may be a sign that there is an issue with the thermostat.

Turning on a Focus RS Mk2 for the First Time

Credit: Ford

It is a good idea to get the owner or seller of the Focus RS Mk2 you are looking at to start the vehicle for you for the first time. We recommend that you do this for the following two reasons:

  1. So, you can see what comes out the back (smoke, vapour, etc.)
  2. To see if the seller revs the nuts off the vehicle when it is cold. If they do move onto another Ford Focus RS.

What Should the Idle Speed be for an RS Mk2?

When the vehicle is first started, expect the idle speed to be quite high (over 1,000 rpm) and you may notice that it cycles. Once warmed, an RS should idle at around 800 rpm but this will increase if you turn on the air conditioning and other electronics.

Poor idle could be caused by anything from a dirty/bad throttle body (a number of owners have reported this), a dirty intake system, worn spark plugs and more.

It will probably be hard to pinpoint the exact cause of bad idle during a short inspection. Keep in mind that if the problem was an easy fix the seller probably would have got it sorted before putting the car on the market.

Checking the Spark Plugs

While it probably won’t be possible to do this during a short inspection, we do recommend that you take a look at the spark plugs if you get the chance. The condition of the spark plugs in a Focus RS Mk2’s Duratec engine car tell you quite a lot of information about its health and how it is running. For more, we recommend that you check out this guide for more information on spark plug analysis.

When Should the Spark Plugs be Replaced in a Ford Focus RS Mk2?

It is recommended that the spark plugs be replaced every 60,000 km (37,500 miles) or every 3 years, whichever comes first. Remember to check with the owner and in the service history to make sure the plugs have been replaced and if they haven’t it is a sign of poor maintenance.

What are the Correct Spark Plugs for an RS Mk2

The OEM spark plugs are perfectly fine, but many owners also like to use the equivalent NGK or Denso plugs as well, especially if they are running more power.

Smoke

As we are sure you already know, lots of smoke or vapour from the back is a very bad sign and we recommend that avoid any Focus RS Mk2 with a serious smoking problem.

A small amount of vapour from the exhaust during startup is perfectly normal, especially if the weather is cold. This small amount of vapour is usually caused by condensation in the exhaust and it should disappear pretty quickly. If the vapour doesn’t go away or seems like a lot it indicates a problem. Below we have put together some information on what the different colours of smoke mean:

White smoke – Typically this is caused by water in the cylinders and could indicate a blown head gasket. If the smoke smells sweet, it is probably coolant.

Blue/Grey smoke – This can be caused by several different things from worn piston rings, valve seals and more. Oil leaking into the cylinders will burn, leading to a blueish smoke (can occur on startup). To check for blue smoke, ask a friend to follow you while drive the vehicle and take it through the rev range. Alternatively, get the owner to drive the car for a bit and watch out the back.

Blue or grey smoke on start-up and overrun could be a sign that the vehicle has been thrashed. Alternatively, if you see a bit of smoke on engine start-up it may be a sign of an oil burning issue, so we suggest you ask the seller about the car’s oil consumption. This colour smoke could also be a sign that the turbocharger has problems.

Black smoke – This usually indicates that the engine is running too rich and burning too much fuel. The first things to check are usually the air intake components as if they are dirty or blocked, they may restrict airflow.

Signs of a Failing Turbo on a Focus RS Mk2

With increasing age and mileage the turbochargers fitted to these cars will eventually fail and need to be refurbished or replaced. Sourcing and installing a new OEM turbocharger can be quite expensive, so make sure the one in the RS you are looking at is in good condition. Aftermarket turbos are also available for those who want more power, but just be careful of cars running excessive amounts of power.

Most of the time, turbo failure is caused by a bearing in the turbo. The turbo wheel gets wobbly and then self-destructs. You may hear a weird whistling, rumbling or high-pitched metallic sound if the turbo is failing, but by this point it is too late. Here are some other signs of a bad/failing turbocharger:

  • Distinctive blue/grey smoke – This usually indicates that the seals are worn, however, it can also be a sign of a cracked turbo housing (pretty unlikely). If the seals have failed a blue/grey coloured smoke will exit the exhaust.
  • Burning lots of oil – This could be caused by a whole range of different issues, but a failed turbo may be the culprit.
  • Slow acceleration – If the RS Mk2 you are test driving feels particularly slow it may be down to a failed turbocharger. This is why it is a good idea to try out numerous different RS Mk2s, so you can get a rough idea of how fast the car should be.
  • If the boost pressure comes on late – Boost pressure that comes at higher than normal rpms could indicate either a worn or unbalanced turbocharger.
  • Check Engine Warning Light – The check engine light (CEL) can be displayed for a number of reasons, from major to minor. One of these reasons may be due to a failing/failed turbocharger. If the light is on and you notice some of the other symptoms we have listed above, then it is a good sign that the turbo has failed.

How to Extend the Life of a Turbo in a Focus RS Mk2

While you can’t do anything about how the previous owner or owners have treated the vehicle, you can do something about how you treat it. Make sure the oil is topped up and the car is serviced regularly. Oil starvation and contamination is the leading cause of turbo failure, so if the Focus RS you are looking at has not been maintained well it could have some nasty consequences for the turbocharger.

Rebuilt Engines & Engine Swaps

Credit: Ford

An owner may have got the engine in their Focus RS Mk2 rebuilt for various different reasons, from simple wear and tear from mileage to a major failure of something like the cooling system or timing belt.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a car with a rebuilt engine as long as the work was carried out by a competent Ford specialist or mechanic. Watch out for rebuilds that have been done on the cheap for a quick sale, as they can be a nightmare to deal with down the line.

It is a good idea to check for any receipts for parts and/or labour. Look up the reviews of the place that did the rebuild to make sure they seem competent.

Much of the same can be said for an engine swap. Make sure the place or person that did the swap knows what they are doing as it is quite a task to replace the engine in one of these cars. Avoid any car with a non-stock engine if you do come across one (probably won’t as the original RS Mk2 engine is great and there don’t seem to be any reports of anybody putting a different engine in the car).

If you are looking at an RS Mk2 with a rebuilt or swapped engine, go with something that has at least 5,000 km on it. A fresh rebuild or engine swap is a big unknown and you will be opening yourself up to much greater risk.

Compression Testing a Ford Focus RS Mk2

A compression test is certainly not necessary when purchasing a second generation Ford Focus RS, but it is a good way to work out the health of an engine. However, remember that a compression test will only tell you that a problem exists and not necessarily what the issue is.

The most important thing with a compression test is not necessarily the readings from the cylinders, but that they are within around 10% of each other. If one or more cylinders gives a reading that is vastly different to the other cylinders there is a problem.

If you do want to get a compression test done before buying a certain Focus RS Mk2, we recommend that you take it to a specialist to get the test carried out. You can do the test yourself, but you need the equipment, and the owner will probably be more accommodating if you take it to a proper mechanic or specialist.

Common Engine Modifications & Kits

  • Uprated plenum chamber – Mountune is highly regarded, but difficult to source. Other brands will work as well.
  • Mountune airbox combined with open ended filter – provides better induction than standard airbox.
  • Engine stabiliser bracket – eliminates vibration and helps smooth power transfer to the wheels
  • Uprated injectors – stock are good for up to around 370 to 380 hp
  • Exhaust – Mountune and Miltek are common options, but other brands are perfectly fine as well
  • Mountune MP350 (same as RS500) and MP375 kit – see history section for more
  • Graham Goode Racing kit
  • BBR kit

Transmission

Credit: Ford

The second generation Focus RS was fitted with a six-speed manual transmission that is more than adequate for stock power figures and more. Despite this, the transmission and clutch can suffer with repeated aggressive starts.

When testing the transmission, go through all of the gears at both low and high engine speeds to make sure there are no problems. Additionally, see how the transmission feels when stationary. You may notice that the shifts are a bit stiff when the transmission is cold, but it should loosen up as the car warns.

Keep an ear out for any graunching, grinding or whining sounds as that could be a sign of a wallet wounding experience on the horizon. Synchro wear can occur and is usually made worse by hard driving or repeated poor gear changes (pay particular attention to the lower gears). If the transmission feels really bad move onto another RS Mk2.

If the transmission jumps out of gear it could be anything from a clutch problem to issues with the shift fork and shifter bushings. You probably aren’t going to find out what is causing the problem during a short test drive, so it may be best to move onto another second gen Focus RS.

While Ford does claim the transmission is fluid is a ‘lifetime’ fill, many owners have replaced it to get rid of a notchy feeling gearbox.

Clutch

One of the biggest things to watch out for when it comes to the clutch is that it is not sticking to the floor. Some owners have complained about this problem, so make sure the clutch works correctly all throughout a test drive. Other than that, check for the following:

Clutch Engagement – The first step is to make sure the engagement is good. To do this put the Forester into gear on a level surface and let the clutch out slowly. It should engage around 7 to 10 cm (2.5 to 4 inches) from the floor. Engagement that is too early or too late indicates a problem. Remember, if the clutch stays on the floor or feels soft it may have one of the problems with discussed above.

Clutch Slippage – The way to check for this is to shift into a gear that is too high for the speed you are going. Once you have done this, plant your foot on the throttle and watch the revs. If the engine speed goes up but the car doesn’t accelerate the clutch is slipping. Here are some things that can cause slippage.

  • Worn clutch
  • Clutch covered in oil
  • Clutch cable is too tight and is not releasing properly

Clutch Drag – Get the RS on a flat surface and press the clutch pedal to the floor (do this while you are stationary). Rev the car hard (once it is warm) and see If it moves. If the car does move, the clutch is not disengaging when you shift and parts will wear prematurely.

Replacing the clutch in a Focus RS Mk2 is quite expensive, so make sure it is in good condition or you get a heavy discount if the clutch is bad and you still want to purchase the car. Clutches will tend to last anywhere from 48,000 – 96,000 km (30,000 to 60,000 miles), but this will largely depend on how the car has been driven and what sort of power it is running.

Aftermarket clutches are available, so if the RS Mk2 you are looking at has one make sure it is from a good brand. Many owners will fit an aftermarket clutch if they are running more power, so keep this in mind.

Suspension & Steering

Credit: Ford

Suspension and steering components will eventually wear, so it is important to check they are in good condition on the RS Mk2 you want to purchase. We have listed some things to watch out for below:

  • Dipping and swerving when the brakes are applied
  • Excessive Rear-end squat during acceleration
  • Tipping during cornering
  • High speed instability
  • Excessive vibration coming through the steering wheel (could indicate alignment issues or failed ball joints)
  • Delayed or longer stopping distances
  • Uneven tyre wear
  • Excessive bounce after hitting a bump or when pushing down on the suspension
  • Leaking fluid on the exterior of the shock/strut
  • Sagging or uneven suspension
  • Knocking, clunking or creaking sounds during a test drive (this may be caused by something else, but bad suspension and steering componentry is a common issue)
  • Rattles

Make sure you visually inspect as many of the suspension and steering parts as possible. Use a torch/flashlight and a mirror to get a good view of hard to see areas. Watch out for any corroded, damaged or misplaced parts that may indicate the vehicle has been in an accident.

Common Suspension & Steering Modifications

  • Uprated bushes – Hard Race, etc.
  • Aftermarket shocks and springs – Eibach, Koni shocks, H & R springs, BC coilovers (watch out for clunks if these are fitted)

Brakes

Credit: Ford

While you are checking the suspension components, remember to take a good look at the brakes as well. If the pads and/or discs need to be replaced make sure you get a discount on the vehicle as they are quite expensive to replace.

Make sure that the brake fluid has been changed every two years regardless of mileage. If the owner hasn’t replaced the brake fluid at or before this interval it is a sign of poor maintenance.

During a Test Drive

The stock brakes fitted to a Ford Focus RS Mk2 are more than adequate for road and even some light track use. If the brakes on the RS Mk2 you are test driving feel weak or spongy there is a problem.

Erratic braking such as pulling to one side is usually caused by a sticking/seized caliper. This usually happens if the car has been left unused for a long period of time. Another sign of this problem is a loud thud when you pull away for the first time.

Juddering or shaking through the steering wheel of the RS Mk2 you are test driving may be a sign that the discs are warped. This problem occurs when the brakes are in use and usually becomes first apparent under high-speed braking.

Squealing sounds could be a sign that the pads need replacing or the rotors have something on them. Other than that, keep an ear out for any loud bangs, knocks, grinding or other strange sounds when the brakes are applied.

Stretched ABS Leads

The ABS leads can stretch, which will cause the ABS warning light to come up on the dash. It can also make the dials go funny. Aftermarket leads are available that fix the problem, so check to see if they have been installed.

Common Brake Modifications

  • Upgraded pads – EBC Redstuff, Carbotech, etc.
  • Brake kits – AP Pro (highly regarded), Revo, Mountune
  • Braided brake lines
  • Aftermarket ABS leads

Wheels & Tyres

Remember to take a good look at the rims and check for any damage. Lots of curb damage suggests that a careless driver has owned the vehicle, so check other areas of the car as well. Getting the rims repaired or replaced is possible, but can be quite expensive. A small amount of damage is to be expected, especially with the age of these cars.

Don’t forget to check the locking studs as the factory Ford ones tend to rust badly. Make sure that all of the studs are present and that the owner has the locking key socket.

If the Focus RS Mk2 you are inspecting has aftermarket rims, ask the seller if they have the originals. Owning the original wheels will only add value to the car if you decide to sell it in the future. If they don’t have the original wheels, try to get a discount even if you like the aftermarket ones.

While you are inspecting the rims take a good look at the tyres and check for the following:

  • Amount of tread – this is a big one on a Focus RS Mk2 as these cars absolutely chew through tyres. Front tyres get hit the hardest and in some cases owners have reported that the tyres on their cars have only lasted around 10,000 km (6,000 miles).
  • Uneven wear (Can be a sign of alignment or suspension issues)
  • Brand (they should be from a good or well-reviewed brand) – if they are from a poorly reviewed brand it suggests that the owner has cheaped out on maintenance.
  • Same tyre in terms of tyre make, type and tread pattern on each axle (preferably on all four wheels) – mismatched tyres can lead to poor handling performance and may even be dangerous.

Making Sure the Wheel Alignment is Good

Find a flat, straight section of road to check that the wheel alignment is all good. If the RS Mk2 you are test driving does not run straight with minimal or no driver inputs than the wheel alignment is probably out. Uneven tyre wear is another sign of bad wheel alignment.

It is important to make sure the wheel alignment is good as it will greatly improve the life of the tyres.

Bodywork & Exterior

Credit: Ford

Bodywork issues can be expensive to repair, so make sure you are happy with the condition of the exterior. Ford finished the car in the following colours, so if the vehicle is a different colour it has been resprayed:

  • Frozen White
  • Performance Blue
  • Ultimate Green – very hard to match, so watch out for patching/mismatched areas
  • Black (RS500)

Rust

Unfortunately, rust can be a bit of an issue on these cars. Below we have listed some of the main areas to watch out for:

  • Top of the wheel arches, especially the rear – this is usually caused by rubbing
  • Metal parts of the front grille – the lower grille and plastic surround take the biggest beating – replacing the front and lower grille is expensive, so make sure it is in good condition
  • Bonnet/hood and bumpers – stone chips can lead to corrosion
  • Exhaust

Those are the main areas where you may find corrosion, but it is also important to check the rest of the car as well (sills, doors, around the windows, etc.).

Things That Can Make Rust More Likely to Occur

  • Vehicle has spent time in countries or areas with salted roads (United Kingdom or Northern States for example)
  • The vehicle has been driven in wet conditions a lot
  • Car has spent time in countries or areas with very harsh winters
  • Vehicle is often parked/stored by the sea for significant periods of time
  • If the RS Mk2 you are looking at has always been kept outside (never garaged)
  • Accident damage (stone chips or more significant damage)

Looking for Rust Repairs

It is not only important to look for present rust, but you should also keep an eye out for signs of past rust repair. Watch out for any areas that may have been resprayed or cut out and replaced. You should also check the service history and with the owner (however, don’t trust what the owner says completely as they may be trying to hide something from you).

Use a magnet on steel sections of the car or a coating gauge thickness tool such as this one to find any areas that may have been repaired.

Accident Damage

This is always going to be one of your primary areas of concern when purchasing a used vehicle. Like with rust, accident damage is often much more serious than it first appears. Many owners will try to cover up the fact that their vehicle has been in an accident and some may even claim their car hasn’t been in a crash when it clearly has. Hope for the best and assume the worst with accident damage!

Below we have put together a list of things that may indicate that the second generation Focus RS you are looking at has been in an accident.

  • Bent or broken parts underneath the car – Check to see if everything is straight underneath the RS Mk2 and watch out for any replaced parts. Take a good look at all the suspension, steering and exhaust components for damage.
  • Rust in strange locations – May be a sign that the Focus RS you are inspecting has been in a crash or has some other sort of problem. The most common cause of rust on the bodywork is usually from stone chips.
  • Paint runs or overspray – While this could be a factory issue, Ford’s quality control is pretty good (although they did have issues with these cars with the Ultimate Green colour being the biggest problem child).
  • Missing badges or trim – Could be due to repair work (body shop couldn’t find replacements) or a number of other things (stolen, etc.).
  • Misaligned panels or large panel gaps – Check that the bonnet lines up correctly and fits as it should. Additionally, check the bonnet catches as if they look new the car has probably been in an accident. You should also check the doors and the lights for any damage or signs of past damage.
  • Doors that drop or don’t close properly – If the doors drop or don’t open/close properly the Focus RS Mk2 you are inspecting may have been in an accident.
  • Inconsistencies such as waving, rippling or different coloured panels – Indicates a respray which may have been conducted as a result of accident damage or rust. Alternatively, this may be a factory issue or somebody has tried to fix a factory issue.
  • If the bonnet/hood looks like it is popped when it is not – This may indicate that the RS Mk2 you are inspecting at has been crashed into something (even a light knock can cause this problem).

While accident damage is a very serious issue, don’t completely dismiss a vehicle because of it. If the RS Mk2 you are looking at had some light damage that was repaired correctly by a skilled body shop/panel beater it is perfectly fine. However, major damage that also affects the structure of the vehicle is a major problem, and you should probably move onto another car.

If the owner/seller tries to cover up or lie about the accident it suggests that the problem is worse than first appears. Alternatively, if the owner can’t tell you much about the accident/damage it may have happened when a previous person owner the vehicle.

Fading Badges

Along with checking that all four RS badges are present, also make sure they are not faded. This is quite a common issue and sourcing new badges is quite expensive. Repairs are possible, but if the car you are interested in has this problem make sure you get a discount.

Rattling Door Glass

The door glass can rattle when it is partially down. Not a major issue, but something to be aware of.

Rattling Rear Spoiler

If you hear a rattling sound from the rear it may be the rear spoiler shaking slightly in its fixings. To fix this problem you will have to remove the spoiler and place a small bead of sealant around the base of it to hold it in place.

Interior

Credit: Ford

Overall, the interior in the RS Mk2 is surprisingly hard wearing thanks to the use of hard plastics and good quality materials. The main area to watch out for are the seat side bolsters as they are prone to wear. Make sure you check the other areas of the seats for tears, rips or stains as well. If the seats move during acceleration or braking it is a major safety issue and it will be an MOT/WOF failure.

Have a look at the gear gaitor as sometimes the material splits. Aftermarket options are available from the likes of Mountune and they tend to be much better quality.

Make sure that the car has a full set of RS floor mats as they are expensive to source if you have to buy them (difficult to find as well).

If you are looking at an RS500 model make sure it has a numbered plaque on the centre console. The RS500 also received red stitching on the steering wheel and gear lever gaiter, door cards and floor mats. If the car is being advertised as an RS500 and has none of these, it is probably not an RS500.

Credit: Ford

The radio/voice control joystick under the indicator stork has a couple of small buttons on the rear. These can become loose and start to rattle, so watch out for that. Not a major issue and can be fixed easily.

​Make sure you check for dampness and leaks around the cabin and in the boot. The most common area to find dampness is the boot carpet. This is because the foam seals that prevent water coming through the rear light fixtures can perish, allowing water to seep in. In some cases, the water can make its way to the rear foot wells, so check there is well.

Another place to check is the front passenger foot well, but this is a less common area for leaks. One other thing to do is to look at the underside of the floor mats. If there is water residue it indicates that there has been a leak at some point.

If you notice excessive amounts of wear on the seats, steering wheel, carpets, shifter and pedals for the mileage it may be an indicative of a car that has had a hard life. Apart from that, go over the rest of the interior and look out for any broken, missing or worn trim pieces and parts.

Remember to have a look at the headlining above the driver’s seat. If it is a slightly different colour it may be a sign that the Focus RS Mk2 you are looking at has been owned by a smoker. A smell test will also help you determine whether or not this is the case as well.

Electronics

Credit: Ford

Make sure that all the electronics work as intended and that there are no problems. Check that the windows go up and down, the stereo works and all the lights turn on. Electrical problems may be something simple, but they can also be very expensive to fix as well.

Check that the owner has all the keys, there should be two Fobs and a fixed key. It is quite expensive to source and reprogram the Fobs if you lose one, so make sure they are both there.

If the air conditioning/climate control doesn’t work don’t let the owner convince you it just needs a re-gas. While a re-gas may simple be what is needed, it may also be a much more serious issue such as a compressor failure.

Don’t forget to check for any warning lights on the dashboard during both engine start-up and while the car is running. If you don’t notice any warning lights during start-up, they may have been disconnected to hide an issue. If you are really serious about getting a good Focus RS Mk2 we recommend that you take along an OBD2 scanner or take the car to Ford to get the codes read.

General Car Buying Advice the for a Focus RS Mk2

Credit: Ford

How to Get the Best Deal on an Second Gen RS

This information applies to both dealers and private sealers. Knowledge is power and it can save you a lot of money when purchasing a vehicle.

  1. Research heavily – Prior to starting your search for a Focus RS Mk2, figure out what specs and condition you are happy with. Do you want a low mileage example or are you happy with a car that has travelled far? Are modifications okay or do you want a stock model.
  2. Shop around – It is always best to shop around a bit before you make a purchase. There are loads of different second generation RS cars out there in different levels of condition and spec, so don’t limit yourself to one seller, dealer, area or auction platform.
  3. Go look at and test drive multiple RS Mk2s – It is a good idea to test drive a many cars as possible, so you know what makes a good and what makes a bad second generation Focus RS.
  4. Adjust your attitude – Never rush into a purchase. If you are desperate to buy a car you are more likely to get ripped off. Take your time when looking for a Ford Focus RS Mk2 for sale and only go for promising looking cars.
  5. Use any issues with the car to your advantage – Take a mental note of any issues you find with the vehicle. When it comes to discussing the price, use these problems to try and drive down the price. For example, if the car needs new tyres or brake pads make a point of it and try to get the seller to reduce the price.
  6. Don’t trust the owner – While some owners/sellers are honest about their cars, many will lie to get a quick sale. Take in what the owner has to say but back it up with a thorough inspection.
  7. Go between sellers/dealers – If you are looking at multiple cars, let the owner/seller know. This way they will know that you have other options and they may try to undercut the price.
  8. Be prepared to walk away – If you are not happy with the deal, simply walk away. You may miss out on the car or the seller may get back to you with a better offer.

Mileage vs Condition 

Mileage vs condition is always a hot topic for debate, but we feel that it is always better to buy on condition and then on mileage. Lots of owners make the mistake of believing that they are preserving their car by not driving it. In reality, this is completely false and not driving a vehicle can actually do more damage than good.

Short distance trips do not allow the engine to warm up properly, which can lead to increased component wear and reduced engine life.

Rubber seals and plastic parts will fail regardless of mileage and can even deteriorate quicker on cars that don’t get used often. Letting a car sit will not prevent rust or stop the electronics from failing.

Mileage will never decrease with age, so go out and drive your car!   

Service History and Other Documentation

Credit: Ford

It is incredibly important to check any vehicle’s service history and any additional paperwork that goes along with it. While the servicing doesn’t need to be done at a dealer, it should be carried out by a competent Ford specialist or mechanic (especially for major repair work).

The service history will give you a good idea of how the Ford Focus RS Mk2 you are inspecting has been maintained. In addition to this, receipts and paperwork for modifications (if the car has any) can help you determine whether they have been done by an experienced tuner or a bad one.

If the owner can’t or won’t let you see the service history, you should probably pass on the vehicle. A complete service history will only add value to any vehicle your purchase and will make it easier to sell the car in the future.

Additionally, you can check websites such as CarFax (USA) and CarJam (NZ) for more information about the car you are thinking of purchasing. These sort of websites can be incredibly useful, but there is usually a cost associated with them.

Questions That You Should Ask the Seller/Owner 

  • How often do you drive the car?
  • When was the last service and who was it serviced by?
  • When was the timing belt last replaced?
  • How much oil does it use?
  • What oil do you use in the car?
  • What parts have been replaced?
  • When were the coils, spark plugs, leads changed?
  • What’s the compression like?
  • What modifications have been made to the vehicle?
  • Has the vehicle overheated at any point or has the head gasket failed?
  • Has the car been in any major or minor accidents? Is so, what repairs were made?
  • Is there any money owing on the car?
  • Have you got any information on the previous owners and how they treated the vehicle?
  • Is there any rust?
  • Has rust been removed at any point?
  • When were the brake pads replaced and have the calipers seized at any point in time?
  • Where do you store/park the car usually?

There are loads more questions you can ask the seller, but we feel these are some of the most important.

Things That Would Make Us Walk Away from an RS Mk2

Here are some things that would make as walk away from one of these cars. While you may be happy with a vehicle with these problems, we are not.

  • Overheating problems or blown head gasket
  • Significant Crash Damage
  • Money owing on the car
  • Stanced
  • Modifications with no paperwork or carried out by a poorly reviewed tuner
  • Excessive amounts of power
  • Bad compression
  • Bad resprays
  • Significant rust problems
  • Engine swaps with non-standard engines
  • Significant track use (probably not a major issue as these cars are not known for their track capabilities)
  • Major engine or transmission issues
  • Owner who is not forthcoming with information (could be trying to hide something)

Notes on the Owner 

Credit: Ford

The owner is one of the most important things to think about when viewing any vehicle. You need to ask them plenty of questions when inspecting their Ford Focus RS Mk2 (however, don’t trust their answers completely). Remember, it is your problem if you wind up buying an absolute lemon. Here are some things to watch out for.

  • How long have they owned the vehicle? If it is less than 6 months it tends to suggest that the car needs major work done to it that they can’t afford. It also could be a sign that they deal cars as well.
  • Do they thrash the car when it is cold or continually launch the vehicle? If so, you are better to walk away.
  • Why are they selling the vehicle? Could be a genuine reason or they may be trying to offload their problem onto an unsuspecting buyer.
  • What sort of area do they live in? Is it a good area or a complete dump?
  • How do they respond when you ask them simple questions?
  • Do they know anything about the Focus RS Mk2 and the model they are selling?
  • What can they tell you about previous owners?
  • Do they have lots of cars on their drive? If they do it may mean they are a dealer.
  • What is their reaction when you ask them about money owing on the car? Tell them you are going to do a check and see how they respond.
  • What is their reaction to you asking for details for HPi check?
  • How do they react if you ask to do a compression test on the vehicle?
  • How do they respond when you ask them to show you the service history and paperwork for the car?

If you get a bad feeling about the owner, you are better off moving onto another second generation Focus RS.

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