Need help with electrical problem


Asked by Jan 22, 2011 at 10:07 PM about the 2003 Ford Focus SE Wagon

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

I will try to make this as detailed as I can.  I’m driving down the freeway at 40 mph in a bad snow storm.  I turn on my lights and I loose my entire dashboard.  Odometer, speedometer, gas gauge, everything, the radio is on but the sound is dead and when I try to turn it off it will not turn off.  The car jerks sputters races for a minute and dies.

I get toed to a Ford dealership, they jump start my car and run tests they find nothing wrong.  They said the on board computer recorded no problems.

I get back in my car and half way home the battery light comes on. With a little experimenting I find that as I accelerate the battery light is out but shortly after I take my foot off the gas the light comes on.  When I do get home the car stalls in idle while I’m opening the gauge door, but easily starts again.

The next day I go out to take a look at the car.  It starts without a problem and idles with no light.  I check the battery and the alternator both check ok.  I take it out for a drive, and it runs fine until I get it home. When I come to a stop to back into the gauge the engine begins to run a little erratic.  I turn off my lights, I had been running with everything on, and again the radio stops putting out sound although the display is on, and pushing the off buttons does not turn the radio off.  I back into my drive way and turn my lights back on the car dies.  This time the dash board stays operational and when the lights came on the sound on the radio came back.  But the car will not start and acts as if the battery is dead.

Does anyone no what is wrong with the car?  How do you fix it?

Some additional info that might be important:
I had to have the ignition switch replaced about a year ago.
My left dashboard turning light does not work.
There is occasionally a smell like burning insulation when making a left turn.
I have had to replace the right rear turning signal twice in the last six months.
My Cyclopes light does not work even with new bulbs.
My plate lights do not work and are corroded.

40 Answers

sounds like you got a cluster going bad,know this sounds stupid but they go bad and cause all kind of problems that a scan will not pick up.

7 of 7 people found this helpful.

Ok, I’m a little new at the do it yourself car repair. Can you tell me what a cluster is, where I can find them, and can they be replaced? And Thank you for replying.

4 of 4 people found this helpful.

cluster is the part where the speedod,gas guadge are easy to remove can get at salvage yard,it has to be same modle engine trans as yours.

5 of 5 people found this helpful.

Sounds like the exact same problem that I'm having with my '04 Focus, including the alternator light at idle, engine sputtering, starter failure and total cluster and radio failure, all at once. I haven't had a chance to troubleshoot, but the first thing I want to look at is an internally shorted battery which could draw down the alternator output.

4 of 4 people found this helpful.

very true.

2 of 2 people found this helpful.

I checked the battery and found it completely dead - the little charge indicator was RED not green as I thought earlier in subdued lighting. As soon as I hooked up my charger and the charge built up a little, everything started working again, including instruments, radio etc. After the charge builds up fully, I'll check the alternator output. I may have a bad alternator or a loose connection to it which I have heard is common in earlier Focii.

4 of 4 people found this helpful.

i would like to know the update on this post , did replacing the cluster work ... i have an '08 focus but this sounds exactly what i went trough with my focus .

6 of 6 people found this helpful.

i changed the alternator as well and switched trough a couple of batteries

6 of 6 people found this helpful.

i want to see rpm. signal

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

Hi guys my ford focus have a electrical problem, the doors don't open with the remote control and I have a light always going down. I see you guys understand a lot about it. Thank you for replaying.

6 of 6 people found this helpful.

i had to replace the alternater nack in november, we got a really bad snow storm here in michigan not to long ago, i went out to start my car to go to work and my car was dead, it would click over like it wanted to start, so a friend amd i went to napa and got a new nattery, we changed it over and i drove it about a mile down the road when i noticed the battery light was on, i thought it was a flook and just drove it to work without a problem, after work i stopped for some food and i was waiting in the drive through, when my radio died, i panicked and shut the car off, bad idea, it wouldnt start... I called my wife and i drug her but out of bed so she could come give me a jump, well while i was waiting, i figured i hope back in my car and try starting it again, it fired back up without a problem, so i called my wife and told her to go nack to bed, oh before i forget....before the car died a little yellow light for abs cme on to....but anyway, on my way home the battery light stayed on....whats the deal with that??????

15 of 15 people found this helpful.

Sounds like a bad alternator to me. The new battery gave you good juice.. for awhile but wasn't charging. Letting the batter rest (during the brief shut down) let the battery rebuild some juice.. only to die again later.

6 of 6 people found this helpful.

This isn't really pertinent info but these cars are known to have a TON of electrical issues. If you own one, I suggest joining a Focus online forum and getting familiar with these heaps.

6 of 6 people found this helpful.

I got my "heap" free with nearly 300,000 miles on it and very little trouble. Now that's some amazing heap.

3 of 3 people found this helpful.


1 of 1 people found this helpful.

My 2006 Ford Focus has an electrical problem of sorts and I was hoping somebody might be able to identify it. The car starts up as long as I start it within a short period of time, but if I leave it parked overnight, the battery goes dead and I have to charge it. The alternator and battery have both tested fine but, according to my mechanic, something in the cars system is drawing power from it when it is off. He pulled all the fuses one at a time to identify the system and could not. He said that it is drawing in a pulsing fashion. The electricity is not be drawn from the battery in a steady amount but ranges from 40 miliamps to 1.6 amps. Does anyone know what it is?

22 of 22 people found this helpful.

I really wish I would have seen these posts before I bought my 07 Focus. My battery light started radomly going off about a week ago. Today when I was coming home from work, my ABS light came on and my radio stopped working. By the time I got home all of my dash warning lights and turn signals were not working. I turned the car off and tried to turn it back on again and the car will not turn over. Just bought it 6 months ago and warranty is done, so I'm on the hook for any repairs. If I would have known about this problem I wouldn't have bought this vehicle. Now I'm stuck with a car loan and an unreliable car. I thought going with a Ford would be good, apparently I was wrong.

9 of 9 people found this helpful.

I am having very similar issues. Except... My car doesnt start at all and has not for weeks. One day my battery light came on ,and the next day im driving it fown the interstate and cluster in the dash went out, my lights began to dim(it was 2 am) as i was getting off the next exit to investigate it kept kicking off but would kick back on (probably only because it is a standard , and if the wheels are moving the engine WILL kick back on.. ) had it been an automatic it probably would have died altogether. But it kept kicking on, my gauges are going crazy spedometer going 0 to 140 to 0 to 140 and all the gauges doin it together. When i got to the exit it died as soon as i slowed. We pushed it to the gas station. While waiting on help we tried push starting it but it just kept dying. Tried jumping it it did the same thing . ended up replacing the battery (which wasnt bad) the next day i dropped a new alternator in it (i shouldve tested it first bc that wasnt it either..) And now ive replaced the cranksaft ventilation hose but i think thats unrelated the prongs just broke off . im so fed up, the gauges still jump , the battery is losing power quickly but even charged all the way up it cranks but wont start. I have considered my timing being not right or the fuel pump but the symptoms just dont sound right.. Im starting to think it will just be an endless search for a bad wire. Please help!

12 of 12 people found this helpful.

I'm seeing alot of questions abou this electrical problem and have to wonder why Ford has not done a recall. My problem turned out to be the alternator, I replaced it and am hoping that solves the problem. So far it seems tobe working but I've only had it back for a week. I will post again if I run into more problems.

3 of 3 people found this helpful.

I have had all kinds of "out of the norm" problems, my sister-in-law has a 2001 ford focus the battery light is on vut battery and alt have tested good. Looked at tge wiring and found 2 bad spots and rhat has been fixed, but problem still exists. Some mornings i go out and car wont turn over, but has enough power to cut lights on. Again battery and alt tested good and went over wiring and corrected all bad places. Reads no prob when scanned. I am stumped, does anyone have any suggestions of what to try next

14 of 14 people found this helpful.

My 2000 focus randomly dies while I'm driving it. No warning,no lights come on in the dash,nada. It just stops. It fires right back up afterwards but otherwise it's a deathtrap. I'm thinking/hoping it's an alternator/alternator wiring issue but who knows.

13 of 13 people found this helpful.

I have a 2001 focus and the alternator has been slowly going out over the last couple of years. A couple months ago I was sitting at a light with the lights on because it was dark. I went to take off and I heard a loud pop, and the car totally died. Can't figure out what went out. Any suggestions?

4 of 4 people found this helpful.

I'm not a mechanic but I do help build cars. A lot of your issues sound like a loose ground wire. If it's not that , I would check the serpentine belt. If it was just crazy dash lights and gauges, it would be your cluster gauge unit or a bad fuse.

4 of 4 people found this helpful.

the alternator blew the ignition switch which killed the car. got it fixed but thanks for the response

4 of 4 people found this helpful.

I know this sounds very crazy but I have a 2000 ford taurus and car startedeasy every time the I would go down the road couple miles the lights would get dim.cluster would go crazy then the car started running very crappy then it would die and not start.if I waited 20 mins it would fire right up..turns out it was a battery drain's a relay under the hood in the battery distribution box.hope that helps someone.

3 of 3 people found this helpful.

Battery light kept coming on 2001 focus I got for my daughter. The alternator was bad so got a used one. Drove fine for 100 miles or so then dash instruments dies but could still rev the engine. Then the car would die and re-jump itself as I was going down the road. One of the times it died I was at a light so got push started and made it home. Now it has intermittent times it starts and dies, just sitting. Would it be most likely arcing on the back of the alternator connection I've read of? We didn't put any grease over the connection as suggested.

5 of 5 people found this helpful.

What did Ford do with their biggest mistake??? ............... they circled it. ;) on that note, something similar to this is going on with my '03 Ford Focus right now and I'm hoping to find some suggestions here as it's currently stuck on a canyon road until I can figure it out... Car has always been pretty reliable with the exception of ignition lock cylinder (or whatever it's called, I'm no car expert.) Instead of replacing it, a friend of mine suggested removing a tumbler since that was the problem, the key would not catch the tumblers correctly or something along those lines, and since there were several tumblers in there, it would temporarily fix the problem, which it did but about 6 months later, the problem came back. Instead of removing another tumbler, I decided to google it and learned that all i needed to do was bang on the key while it was in the ignition with a hammer (or I now just use back of my lighter) and it would catch the tumbler. Although it's a little embarrassing how I have to start the car, it works without fail every time. But now the problem is much more serious, and I'm at a loss for answers. Two days ago I was on the interstate going 70mph and my car decided to, quite literally, turn itself off. All the lights inside and out of the car dimmed to about 50%, nothing happened when i pushed the accelerator and the car coasted until it reached about 10mph. At that point the car started to "jog/jump" its way to a stop at which point all the lights on the car including dome lights and all gauges dropped and went out. Although the airbag light on the dash came on momentarily, no other lights nor check engine light came on. Pushed car off the interstate and replaced the battery the next day. Started up fine with new battery, went home, about 5 hours later car wouldn't start. I popped the hood to check battery connections and as I did that, the lights, radio and air conditioning began working, car still not starting although tried to turn over once, second attempt didn't even do that much. Looked at the new battery, everything seemed OK? Dropped the hood and tried again, car started right up. --- But while driving it shortly after this, it began acting up again. When going slower than 15-20mph or at a stop light, the battery light (red) would come on, flickering.. and the car would attempt to die. But as I pressed on the gas and accelerated, it would act normal again and battery light turned off. I was able to put the car in park and "flirt" with the accelerator while at stop lights to keep it from dying completely for about 20 miles and then again, gauges and lights stopped working, car still running for about 1/2 mile and then jumped/jogged until dead. Battery light came on momentarily then went off, airbag light came on and stayed on. The connection on the negative side of the batter was loose and I was able to "jimmy-rig" it to get the car to start a couple more times but that only helped it run maybe 1/2 mile or so before dying again and after I got the appropriate size wrench to tighten the bolts on the cables, the car was even more difficult. Attempted to jump start it and nothing - thinking its most likely electrical or alternator? Alternator connection? Any thoughts or suggestions? Thanks for reading and best of luck to all you Ford owners out there! I feel your pain! ;)

8 of 8 people found this helpful.

Morning guys may b this mite help Some one, firstly I am no car expert I own a Ford focus 02 did almost the same thing dash went dead while driving mo gages nothing ko odo meter fuel gage everything dead no dash lights the whole cluster unit as I figured out now that's what u call it was dead, but my car was fine tho idled revs picked up everything else working perfect just no dash action weird, nothing registered @ ford they checked everything fuses wires, relays told me it was an electrical fault sumwhere, I took my car home my buddy suggested that we remove this unit thing that we did very eazy to my surprise like 4 screws that's it plugged the unit out 1 plug @ the Back then for interest sake we removed this white cover it has @ the back just so we could she the circuit board if u can see if sumtin burnt or not we noticed small bulbs in this unit figures it's the gages then I took them out 1 by 1 I noticed the one behind the odo meter was black all the others looked OK went to the shop got this 50c small light bulb fitted it everyone was saying never never that can't cause all ur gages to die ND your whole dash to be dead I plugged the unit back in and the whole thing was alive I actually shouted couldn't believe my eyes not saying this is the problem but this mite help Some one that has a similar problem a small little flippen light bulb I thing it's the way the circuit is Desinged when one of the lights that light up ur dash pops ur whole unit becomes void, have a great day.

2 of 2 people found this helpful.

I have a question, I had a 2006 Ford focus. The engine light stayed on while driving. My mechanic reprogrammed the computer. It seemed fine. On the fifth day I was on Eastern boulevard turning into the place where I live, when my car just died. I noticed that before it died it started going real slow. By this time the police came and set up flares so I wouldn't get hit. Some man stopped and gave me a hotshot. It started but died. I should say before it died nothing came on the dash board. He gave me another hotshot and got it running. He drove it over to the 7 eleven and left it running. The police came to the 7eleven and told me to follow them to my apartment. The man that helped me was to follow me. Well when I got in the car and bairley touched the gas peddle the car mad a noise and jumped and just took off. I couldn't stop it so I turned the wheel so I wouldn't hit the police car. My car jumped the curb and hit the wheel of a big truck The police said they thought my car malfunctioned. Can you please tell me what you think.

3 of 3 people found this helpful.

Im curious same thing going on with my ford focus well the dash board is going constantly and turning off .odometer going up and down dome interior light coming on too .Battery light stays on .and I had the instrument cluster just replaced 2 days ago and its still doing it .my dome light has never been so bright .please Help thank u

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

Oh and I'm a passenger in my car rite now radio is going on and off .I have a 2007 focus .


If your Ford focus acts up and the dash board fails please do not try to drive it.I have no idea what is wrong with it, but I almost got killed. When I tried to drive mine after a hot shot it just took off and I couldn't stop it. The police were there and in their opinion the car malfunctioned. Please be careful. My car is totaled but at least I am alive.

Can someone help me? I have 2005 Ford Focus I have been having problems starting it. No warning lights are on. Have taken it to Advance, Auto Zone, Ford, AAA everything checks out. I can be driving down the road at times car jerk. Sometimes when go to crank car will not crank I can try to tighten and shake cables/wires connected to battery and go turn ignition it starts sometimes have to repeat 2 to 4 times before start. I personally think rhe problem is conected to the battery because the radio and clock come on after starts. Sometimes I have to do that process everytime I get in car to go to work, back home, church etc. Then sometimes do not have the problem for few days even weeks at a time. Either way it go when start up car the clock/radio stalls to light up/come on. I do not listen to radio no more so it comes on by itself when come it comes on clock resets to 12 and radio come on automatically to am station with static basically radio and clock reset self as if just put battery in

I had a similar problem with the dashboard that became crazy, starting on and off by his will. I change it with a new one and now everything is ok.


@George-a new dashboard? I replaced the alternator (with a used one) and it didn't help, replaced with a new one and that worked.


Just curious if anyone has found the problem. I'm having simular issues. I've had people tell me it's an electrical issue in the shifter. Also tI pull fuses 36 and 50. Something I just noticed is that the factory radio can be turned on and off while car is off and key out of ignition. I'm sure there something there. Tracing down this battery draining issue pretty tough. I do know I have noticed also at a lower charge on the battery the less the alternator wants to work. And because of the battery being low your dashboard being run from a computer it will flicker the lights and gauges spaz out.

2 of 2 people found this helpful.

Can anyone help, we have a ford focus and the heater blower panel lights do not work and the lights on the steering wheel also don’t work BUT when the indicator is turned on they all start to flash on and off. HELP whats gone wrong.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

Ok what is the 7 wires that In a connectors on the left side of the steering wheel call my wires came out but I don't know what the part call hello please

Well let's see if anyone can help me. My Ford Focus 2003 has been having acceleration problems for the past months or so. It stalls then jumps when it reaches a certain speed then all is well. Recently, I started hearing weird zapping noises coming from in front of the car but thought that it was a couple of wires that were dangling in front. Now to the good part, a couple of days ago while I was driving, the battery light suddenly went off and the steering wheel became very tough and rigid to maneuver bit I continued driving it like that until I got to work, about 5 miles or so, where I left it until I got off work. I checked the power steering fluid, full, I put in 2 quarts of oil and some water which it needed. The wheel was still tough to manage and I started to notice that the lights on the dash board were dimmer than usual. As I took a short cut home, the car began loosing power quickly so I stopped it before I turned off completely. Called a tow truck and brought it home. When I was going to take it to the mechanic I noticed that he had left it in N but didn't think much of it. Now the battery has been charged but it still won't start. What could it be? Starter, Alternator, Broken belt, Power steering pump or something electric then... SOMEONE HELP!

Michy0318 check your belts....everyone else...I cleared most of my problems by running an extra ground directly from the negative battery terminal to the rear engine lifting lug location...there was no bolt in the hole so I stole it from the front lifting lug. My belief is that the poor grounding system the Focus uses, bolts through painted holes, alters the feedback the alternator uses to figure how hard to charge the battery

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