Ford Focus

Ford, Focus zts, 2000, 88000, 2L DOHC
My girlfriends car is having an intermittent problem and I could use some help with the diagnosis.

2000 FORD FOCUS zts
4 Cylinders, 2.0L SFI DOHC with an automatic trans. And AC
about 88,000 mi.

The problem is that the headlights dim. This problem is intermittent, inconsistant, and only happens while driving. On some nights the car is fine, but on other nights this is a serious issue. I'm afraid that one night she is going to end up getting stranded somewhere, or even worse, get into an accident.

Here is what happens: the headlights dim (as if they are going to die) and the transmission jerks; the car feels like it's about to die. Then the car returns to normal, as if nothing happened. This all happens in less than two seconds. But on evenings when this takes place, it will happens several times.

I thought it might be a failing alternator and had the charging system checked at autozone. It tested ok with the headlights on and off; but naturally we cant test it while driving.
I considered replacing the alternator just to see if that would fix the problem. Til I saw the price of an alternator for her car $$$. Needless to say, I didn't take that leap of faith.
We are desperate; if I don't figure out the problem soon then she's going to have to put it in the shop, and she can't afford that. Please help.
February 18, 2007.

Is the PCM at it's most current revsion?

How bright are the lights when they dim, about as bright as they are without the engine running?

Feb 19, 2007.
I doubt it.
Do I just take the car into a ford dealer and have them revise the PCM? Do they charge for that?

Feb 20, 2007.
Not shure. Ill need to check that, but the problem hasn't happened in a couple days.
Some times it will stop happening for a few days and then it will start happening again, so I will have to just wait and see, but I kind of remember how dim they get. I guess Il just turn on the headlights tonight and see if they are that dim.

Feb 20, 2007.
Well the dealer will be able to tell you if it is as it's most current revision. I don't know if they will charge for that, but will charge to perform it. They should also be able to tell you what the fixes are with the revisions that are more current than yours. That in itself may provide the answer. Or may not.

The dealer was unable to tell me what fixes are in the more current revision, so Im not going to have that done at $127 if I don't know it will fix the problem. And of course they said I should bring the car in and have their tecs diagnose the problem. However I haven't let a FORD dealer diagnose anything since we took the focus in for them to diagnose a problem that they just couldn't seem to find; so we took it to a nissan dealer that had the problem figured out in less than an hour and then fixed it for cheap.
I don't think the tecs at the ford dealer near us could diagnose a flat tire, let alone an intermittent electrical condition.

Feb 20, 2007.
That's funny, but sad.
Another avenue you may be able to take is check out an independent that is up to date with technology. Our shop for example can flash pcms as well as tell you before hand what the fixes are.

You can find a shop like this through the local snap on tool dealer. He should know what shops are capable of doing this if he is worth his salt.
There is a dealer locater on this site.

I dont think that will be necessary.
The battery was dead this morning, so it was charged. Then after my girlfriend drove it around for a while, the car died due to the battery having no charge.

And the winner is. ALTERNATOR!

Which was my origional suspicion.

Il let you guys know if this isn't the end of the story.

I cant beleave the alternator died after less than 90k miles. The alternator on my 89 camaro only had to be change recently; it was the origional alternator and it had lasted for more than 145k miles.
Oh well.

Feb 21, 2007.