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Hi Ian, The transmission on my 2013 Focus does not shift like it did when it was new; I get a hesitation when first taking off from a stoplight?     Rick from Fenton

Thanks for the question Rick, I know exactly what you are talking about, I have experienced that condition myself on several occasions. Ford introduced the DP6 automatic 6-speed transmission in the 2012 Focus. The DP6 transmission is a very innovative design and a testament to Ford’s engineering skills. Unfortunately, Ford’s marketing department did not meet the challenge of explaining the DP6’s unique design to the buying public. The DP6 is actually a standard manual transmission modified to shift like an automatic.

One of the advantages of a standard manual transmission is that it gets better fuel economy than an automatic transmission installed with the same engine package. Of course, the disadvantage of the standard transmission is that you must push in the clutch and shift gears repeatedly when driving. With the DP6 Ford engineers sought to provide the fuel savings of a standard transmission without the need to require the driver to apply the clutch and manually shift gears. A transmission control module does the work for the driver; the module is even smart enough to learn the driver’s habits and model shift patterns after the way the vehicle is driven. This adaptive learning program and driver acceleration styles are the reason Focus transmissions sometimes develop shifting issues. 

For most Focus buyers fuel economy is a major factor in the decision to purchase the vehicle. Buyers seeking to get maximum fuel economy avoid jackrabbit starts, accelerate slowly, and drive conservatively to squeeze the maximum amount of miles from each gallon of gas. Those of us who learned to drive on a manual transmission know what happens when you take off to slowly from a light, release the clutch and do not give the engine enough gas; it hesitates, bucks and might even stall. The solution to that condition is to hit the accelerator pedal and raise the RPMs of the engine; that reaction wastes gas. You eventually learn to match the actions of the clutch with the accelerator to achieve a smooth take off from a stop.

This same type of activity occurs within the control module of the DP6 transmission. By babying the accelerator trying to squeeze fuel economy out of the Focus, drivers are actually wasting fuel because the control module is reacting to the way the vehicle is being driven. The control module dumps extra fuel into the engine to compensate for the slow start and to prevent the clutch from slipping. In addition, this driving style causes greater wear on internal transmission parts such as the clutch, shaft and gears. So, when driving the Focus more pressure on the accelerator pedal is actually a good thing and it helps the vehicle to perform as designed and get better fuel economy.

That is a simple explanation to a very technical issue; the best advice is to drive your Focus as if you stole it; you will not experience the initial hesitation and your fuel economy will actually improve. If your vehicle exhibits the same problem Rick’s Focus does, it may be necessary to service the transmission to eliminate the issue. Ford warranties the transmission for 150,000 miles, the control module can be reprogrammed to the latest specs and the clutch replaced if necessary, all at Fords expense. After repairs, it is important that you modify driving habits to not stress the clutch with slow initial acceleration or the module will again learn to operate in that manner and exasperate the problem. It is like learning to drive that manual transmission car all over again, finding the right mix of gas pedal pressure to match the computer’s clutch action inside the transmission.

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Steve Sweitzer
Steve is the Sports Editor for the Lasco Press and highlights our coverage of NASCAR and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Steve is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association and a nationally published author of automotive related articles for industry trade magazines. He is also a freelance technical writer and accomplished photographer. A 25-year resident of Southeast Michigan, Steve’s passion for reporting on our community, it’s residents, and our automotive connections allow us to use his skills to cover a number of events. Steve’s ability to seek out the unique behind the scenes accounts that tell the often-overlooked aspect of a story makes for entertaining reading. Follow Steve at thelascopress.com with weekly NASCAR updates and featured articles.