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Sunday, May 07, 2006


FocusSalvage airbox mod

The designers at Ford thoughtfully included a cabin air filter to keep pollen out of the passenger compartment. Then they thoughtlessly placed it under the cowl where rain can get to it. Chances are the engineers had to pack the filter into the only spot that the stylists had left them. The result is a car that's good at helping with pollen allergies but gets the passenger side floorboards wet in heavy rain or when you drive through a car wash. Since I've seen the sort of mildew firsthand that a chronic water leak can cause, when I first found a puddle on the floor, I went about looking for a way to fix it.

The first place I looked was the FocalJet forum. Not only did the regulars there know about the problem, but I found that FocusSalvage sells a kit to fix this. Their solution is quite simple: Attach a piece of heavy plastic over the airbox with sheet metal screws. This makes filter changes harder - it's hard to change the filter without removing the whole airbox - but takes away the usual path rain follows to get into the cabin. FocusSalvage sells a modified airbox for $50, although this doesn't look too hard to rig up on your own.

Once you look under the dash, you'll see why they want so much for an airbox: The difficulty in getting the thing out of a junkyard car. It's held on by two nuts, one that looks difficult to reach and one that looks impossible because it's under a grating that separates the airbox from the wiper motor. However, you can easily pull the grating out with your hands, making the nut insanely difficult to reach rather than impossible.

You will need the right tools to reach these nuts. I don't know how they did this at the factory, but the best tool for a home mechanic to use is a 10 mm deep socket combined with a flexible extension bar or one with a U-joint at the socket end. Once you have the deep socket on the nut, you can snake in the extension bar. In some cases, you may be able to get by with 1" long extension bar, but that's cutting things very close. You'll notice that I am barehanded in the picture, but I put on gloves not long after I took this picture. It's far too easy to cut your hands on the cowl opening. Once you have the two nuts off, it's relatively easy to lift the airbox out of there.

I haven't yet had the chance to test this out in a really heavy rainstorm, but this looks like it should keep the Focus's interior dry and mildew free. I'm still trying to figure out how to get the mildew out of the Dart for good, so I definitely don't want it to get a toehold in the Focus.

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