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Common Problems (Puma)

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Article kindly written by Pumapeople member Mountain Lion

The Puma - The Bad and the Ugly


Every car has its niggles – annoying things that can go wrong that are peculiar to that particular make and model, and the Puma is no exception. Thankfully though, the Puma's foibles are comparatively minor.

In this article, I attempt to outline the most common faults that have been reported on Pumapeople (the on-line Puma owners' club) over the years. When inspecting a Puma with a view to buying it, you should of course check all of the usual things, as you would with any car. In this article, I attempt to give a rough idea of extra things that a prospective buyer should be aware of when viewing a Puma.

Very Common Faults

Phew! It's Hot in Here

One of the most common questions asked on the Pumapeople forum is "Why is my heater not working properly?" The most common cause of a malfunctioning heater is a failed heater control valve. The Puma inherited this notoriously unreliable component from the Fiesta, and when it fails, the heater temperature will stick on either full heat or no heat.

Although a new heater control valve will probably set you back less than £20, Ford will probably charge you an hour's labour on top of that to fit it (although if you're mechanically-minded, there is a guide on <a href="" target="_blank"></a>, which shows you how to fit a new one yourself). It is important therefore, to always test the heater on both the hot and cold settings when viewing a Puma.
Wiki fitting guide <a href="" target="_blank">clicky me</a>

Oops! There Goes My Parcel Shelf

Another very common fault with Pumas is the tendency of the parcel shelf to fall into the boot space. This is caused by the parcel shelf's two hinge pins being too thin for the recesses in the plastic trim, which are supposed to hold them securely in place. Many Puma owners have solved this problem by fattening up the pins with electrical insulation tape. As the solution to this fault is so simple and inexpensive, it is probably not worth even taking into consideration when viewing a prospective purchase.

The Incredible Melting Steering Wheel

Actually, this is not as dramatic as it sounds. The Puma's steering wheel is trimmed with faux leather on the left and right, where you would normally hold it. With some Pumas, the surface of the leather develops a lumpy texture that looks as though it has melted and then re-set. Some owners have theorised that this is the result of the trim reacting with sweat from the hands, but this has not been proven. This fault doesn't affect the car's driveability in any way, just the aesthetic appearance of the steering wheel.

Tailgate Impotence

The Puma's tailgate is supposed to fly open automatically when the catch is released, courtesy of two pneumatic struts. Unfortunately, these struts lose gas pressure over time, which means that on an older Puma, the tailgate will not rise as high as it once did when the car was new.

Those of you who remember your physics from school will know that temperature and pressure are inextricably linked, which explains why some Puma's tailgates will fly open on a warm day, but not when the weather is cold. When the car reaches a certain age, the struts will lose their ability to lift the tailgate at all, regardless of the ambient temperature.

The only solution to this particular little niggle is to fit a new set of gas struts, but most Puma owners are prepared to put up with lifting the tailgate themselves. Whether or not the tailgate lifts automatically might help you decide between two otherwise equally good Pumas, but it is certainly not a fault upon which you should reject a Puma which is otherwise in good condition. However the slower the tailgate opens the less water you will get in the boot when it rains, so weigh up the pros and cons of fitting new gas struts, where it can be beneficial is if the tailgate is sporting a spoiler.

Fairly Common Faults

Window Glass Woes

The Puma has a pretty unusual door glass design. Instead of the door frame surrounding the glass, the glass has a frame of its own, which can be adjusted independently of the rest of the door. Puma door windows are electrically operated, and can be prone to sticking. When viewing a Puma, wind both windows all the way down and back up again to check that the glass is not sticking or jumping out of its runners. Also check that both doors and the glass frames are flush with the car body when closed. If they are not, then this could be indicative that the car has been involved in a collision.

Electrical faults

Ford cars can be prone to electrical faults, and the Puma is no exception. One problem that can happen with Pumas, is that the resistor pack that controls the speed of the heater fan can burn out. This isn't as dangerous as it sounds, but results in the heater fan not working in positions 1, 2 and 3. Always check that the heater fan is working on all four settings when viewing the car.

The Puma has also been known to suffer from earthing problems. There is a braided metal earth strap that runs from the rear of the engine to the bulkhead, which is prone to corrosion. It's worth checking the condition of this strap when you perform your under-bonnet checks.

The Puma's coil pack and exhaust oxygen sensor can also be prone to failure, although if either of these components has failed, it would be self evident from the rough running of the engine.

Water, Water Everywhere

Several owners have reported problems with water in the passenger foot well, and less commonly in the driver's foot well. This is usually caused by a leak somewhere in the bulkhead, often around a rubber grommet where wiring enters the cabin from the engine bay. The solution is simple enough – a blob or two of silicone sealant. Water in the passenger foot well can also be caused by an air conditioning drainage pipe that has come adrift.
Wiki water guide <a href="" target="_blank">clicky me</a>

When looking over a Puma, check the foot well carpets for dampness. Also check under the mats, if fitted.

Heated Oxygen Sensor

The Puma's heated oxygen (or lambda) sensor, which is located in the exhaust manifold, can be prone to failure, and the Puma's 1.7 engine seems to be particularly sensitive to a failed oxygen sensor. When the sensor fails, the engine will most probably run rough, be hesitant, or stall when idling. This should be self evident on your test drive.

Less Common Faults

Rust spots

On the whole, the Puma is very good as far as corrosion goes; it's certainly no rust bucket. Places to look for rust spots are on the edges of the wheel arches, the door edges, and sills. A list of possible rust locations <a href="" target="_blank">clicky me</a>

Leaking Core Plugs

The 1.7 engine has core plugs located near the spark plugs. Sometimes these core plugs can leak coolant. Unfortunately, you would need to remove the engine cover trim to look for evidence of this, which most sellers would probably think is not appropriate behaviour for a prospective buyer. The solution to this problem is to fit a new set of core plugs.

Thermostat Failure

The needle on the temperature gauge on the instrument panel should always be bang in the middle of the scale. If the engine is running too hot or too cold, this could indicate a failed thermostat.


5W30 Oil Only!

The Puma's 1.7 engine demands that you use 5W30 grade oil (the Ford User Guide details semi synthetic), and only 5W30 grade oil. Using anything less could lead to engine damage, although other grades are acceptable for topping up.

Regular Oil Checks

The Puma's 1.7 engine, as it gets older, can burn off oil during normal running, especially when driven enthusiastically. This is normal, and in no way indicative of any fault with the engine. It does, however, mean that the owner needs to be extra vigilant about checking the oil regularly, and topping up when necessary.

Timing Belt Renewal

The Puma's 1.7 engine requires that the cam timing belt be renewed more often than other Ford engines. The belt and tensioner should be renewed every five years or 80,000 miles, whichever happens first. Ford sell for the 1.7 a cam belt kit containing the belt, tensioner and stretch bolt etc.

When buying a 1.7 Puma, always ensure that the car is up to date with its timing belt maintenance, and that the tensioner was renewed as well as the belt. Don't accept anybody's word; ask to see documentary evidence, such as a stamp in the service book, or better still, an invoice for the work done.

The 1.4 and 1.6 variants of the Puma have a timing belt service interval of ten years or 100,000 miles.

Interesting 'Features'

The Puma is considered by many to be a design classic, but the design does incorporate some interesting features that may not appeal to some.

Tiny Rear Seats

The Puma's rear seats, if one was in a critical mood, could be described as more decorative than functional. There's certainly not much leg room for back seat passengers. However, the Puma is not a family hatchback; it's a sporty coupé, a driver's car. It's the sort of car where the words 'passengers' and 'excess weight' can be considered to be interchangeable.

What You Can't See Can't Hurt You

Because of the Puma's distinctive styling, the rear window and quarter-lights are tiny. Add to this the unusually wide A-pillars, and the driver's visibility of the outside world is considerably restricted compared to other cars. Puma drivers need to be more observant than most if they're to maintain a full appreciation of what's going on around them.

Tailgate Waterfall

If the tailgate is lifted too quickly when it is raining, water tends to flow off the tailgate and into the boot space. This can be avoided by lifting the tailgate half way, waiting a couple of seconds for the water to drain into the gutters either side of the boot space, and then lifting the tailgate fully.


On the whole, the Puma has few faults, and those that it does have are fairly minor. Few people who have driven a Puma would criticise it. Its style, agility, and exceptional handling make it a driver's dream, which incidentally was the marketing slogan that Ford used when they launched the car. Add to this the willing 1.7 engine with variable valve timing that delivers power all the way up to the rev limiter, and it's easy to see why Top Gear awarded it their 'Car of the Year' accolade. Quite simply, it's an incredibly fun car to drive. If you know what to look for, there's no reason why you shouldn't bag yourself a bargain.