It’s not just scorched rubber that’s responsible for the clouds of white smoke surrounding some Ford Focus RS models. The model’s high-output 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder, credited with turning the staid Focus 5-door into a performance hatch worthy of fanboy lust, seems to have a serious flaw.

Numerous complaints of white exhaust smoke seen during cold startups has forced the automaker to admit there’s a problem with the FoRS. 

According to  Autocar , 2016 and 2017 Focus RS models with as little as 6,000 miles on the odometer are experiencing the issue. Of course, Blue Oval fans who regularly visit the  FocusRS.org  forum already know something’s up, as the site’s dedicated “failed/leaking head gasket resource thread” currently has 247 pages of complaints and discussion.

While there’s no recall for the issue, a Ford spokesman told Autocar that the automaker is “working on a repair for all customers,” implying a solution that spans all owners, not just those with complaints.

“In the meantime, if vehicles show these symptoms, customers should visit their dealer for an inspection and repair under warranty,” the spokesman said.

At least one American 2016 owner has taken their coolant-related complaint to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Georgia driver’s complaint is straightforward:
AT 26000 MILES MY HEAD GASKET HAD TO BE REPLACED. STARTED WITH ROUGH MORNING START WHITE SMOKE AND LOSS OF COOLANT. LEAK WAS CONFIRMED IN CYLINDER 3. THE CAR IS STOCK WITH NO MODIFICATIONS.
While the issue sounds like a simple head gasket failure, it seems that’s not necessarily the case. Owners claim block distortion experienced over multiple heat cycles creates an opening between the engine block and cylinder head that the gasket can’t seal, thus allowing coolant to enter the cylinders when cold. The fact that some owners have received new engines built to a different spec adds to the theory.

Owners of other 2.3-liter EcoBoost Ford products shouldn’t worry, as the RS engine uses a different aluminum alloy in its block, cast-iron cylinder liners, and has its own head gasket design.

All Focus RS models were built at the company’s Saarlouis, Germany assembly plant. After entertaining Europeans for years, the model entered the hot hatch Hall of Fame after making a long-awaited trip to North America in late 2015. The current generation dried up after the release of 1,500 Special Edition 2018 models tuned by Ford Performance.