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I bought a 1596 focus zetec estate in 2003 (Feb) first reg in Oct 1999 with 120 000 miles on the clock for £4250 (asking price was £4600 in 2003) BUT it had had a new engine at 80 000 miles (cambelt? I speculate). Note I do a VERY LOW MILEAGE: I would only recommend a high mileage vehicle to low mileage users. Also the car I bought had a full service history (having been a company car) and all the parts that wear regularly such as tyres, brakes, exhaust were in excellent condition (at 157 000 miles I have just changed the shoes, pads and discs for the first time and I have only had to renew three of the tyres to date although the two front ones that were renewed are now fairly well worn). In the first year or two a few things went wrong: a drive shaft oil seal, front suspension 'drop links' went very creaky and were renewed and I had to have the coil replaced. I also had to replace the indicator sliding connection on the steering wheel (that was faulty when I bought the car: a pity I had not noticed it as it wasn't in the warranty!) as the indicators were not self cancelling and more recently I had to replace the heater blower switch and regas the air con. I also had to buy a spare key at the start and pay Ford for the radio code which had not been passed on to the dealer. Overall a few more jobs in the early days than I would have liked but these have been more than cancelled out by cheap motoring in the last two or three years up until my recent brake overhaul: but that is to be expected of course due to normal wear. The problems I had were not engine problems but I don't know if you would be more likely to experience such problems due to the older engine (mine has still only done 77 000 miles). However I was considering purchasing the vehicle back in 2003 even before I found the engine wasn't as old as the rest of the car. One thing about the replacemt parts I have had: Ford are relatively cheap so all other things being equal I would go for a Ford. My focus was of course from an earlier range so I don't know how valid my experience is for comparison. At the end of the day a car is a collection of parts: sometimes a lot of them go wrong sometimes you get lucky and they don't. The older the car and the higher the mileage the more that can go wrong but also the cheaper the car to start with. So it depends on how much you like the car, whether you can get the price down, whether you can fix some things yourself (I did the blower switch and indicator connector on mine), how many miles you are going to do, and what the alternatives are. And if it's from a dealership, you should get a waranty, valet and obvious faults fixed before you buy, all in the price which I'd still say is expensive but then I don't know how prices have moved since my purchase 5 years ago: given inflation maybe it is comparable but I can't really comment on the price.
I have just read in a Haynes' manual that the hub nuts on my (1999, 1596cc) focus estate are 'laminated' and can only be reused 4 times max. Does anyone know what a 'laminated' nut is (excuse my ignorance) and why it can only be reused 4 times? I've just had the brake shoes replaced (not by a main dealer) and having taken the car back to get the handbrake readjusted afterwards I've now added two 'lives' to the nuts but I don't know how many times they had been removed and replaced previously - there's got to be a good chance the total number now exceeds 4 as they have been reused at least once before while I have had the vehicle (when it had a major service) and prior to this the vehicle was regularly and properly serviced up to 120000 miles (with rear bearings replaced at 54000 ('including hub') and 80000 miles respectively). Secondly I was advised at the major service a while ago that my drums were 'worn to the limit' but when the shoes were replaced the garage (a different one) assured me the drums were in very good condition - but they took no measurement. When I asked them about this they were adamant the drums were fine - with no sign of any 'lip' on the outer edge for example - and that I had nothing to worry about. Should I insist on the drums being measured - what are the consequences of having the drums wear beyond the limit?