Just Bought a Focus ST! Where do I Start?

So you just bought a Focus ST and you are probably looking for an overview of general knowledge, from what oil to use to what performance modifications are best to start with. With expert knowledge from tuners, manufacturers, and retailers in every corner of the ST community, it may be difficult to determine where to start. Here is a quick cheat sheet of info you need to know.

1. What oil do I use?

When choosing an oil, you will encounter a broad range of opinions. Luckily, lubricant technology has come a long way. With conventional, semi-synthetic, and full synthetic options on the market there is a broad range of choices. From experience, we recommend a full synthetic oil in the Focus ST. To understand what the differences in oils are, one must first understand how to read the packaging content.The manufacturer recommends a 5W-30 oil. Let’s break that number down. Viscosity is a fluid’s resistance to flow at a given temperature point. This measurement is taken at two points in rating oil. 5W refers to the oil’s viscosity at 0*F. 30 pertains to the oil’s viscosity at 212*F. These ratings are made through SAE guidelines. There are many full synthetic options on the market for 5W-30. Pennzoil Platinum, Mobil 1, and Royal Purple are a few great choices. 

While oil choice is very important, another very key factor in engine performance and longevity is service interval. Ford recommends changing the oil every 5000 miles. This rating is made with a lot of variables in mind. It is best practice to perform a Used Oil Analysis, commonly referenced as a UOA. Blackstone Labs is the industry leader in these tests. A standard analysis costs $28 and the test kit is free. This will help you determine your engine’s health and a proper maintenance interval.

2. This is my daily driver. Is this vehicle reliable when modified?

The Focus ST is an economy vehicle with performance as a focal point. This being said, Ford designed the vehicle knowing full-well that owner’s would be looking to modify it. The Focus ST is able to be modified pretty substantially without sacrificing much reliability. Following a proper modification path is key to keeping your ST healthy, while getting more enjoyment out of its performance.

3. What are the best “first mods”?

Oil Catch Can – The first modification on every Focus ST should be an oil catch can. The factory PCV system is designed with emissions in mind. In most vehicles, port injection is utilized. This allows fuel to spray before the valves. Fuel acts as a cleaning agent, preventing recirculated particulate emissions and other blow-by from building up. In a direct injection application, like the Focus ST, the fuel is injected directly into the cylinder. The fuel is not able to clean the valves in this manner. Over time, gunk will build on the valves and cause a drastic loss in performance. Adding an oil catch can prevents these from hitting the valves and building up.


Rear Motor Mount - The OEM rear motor mount is a weak point on this vehicle. The OEM component was designed with comfort in mind. It uses a soft bushing that eliminates transfer of NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness). This is a major compromise in performance. Allowing for slop in engine movement, this weakens the transfer of power to the ground. Results of this are more wheel hop and sloppy shifts.


Cobb Accessport w/Tune - The stock tune accommodates for a large range in climates, driver conditions, etc. It is also mapped with fuel economy as a forefront. The Cobb Accessport not only allows you to flash a custom map to your vehicle, it also allows you to monitor up to 6 parameters at a time. This means that not only will your ECU be mapped to your specific desires, but you will also be able to keep an eye on how things are working. This allows you to see small problems before they become big problems.

cobb ap

Front and Rear Sway Bars – The Focus ST has a lot of body roll from the factory. This is designed with driving comfort in mind. The addition of aftermarket sway bars help to counter this. This will allow for much better cornering and balance. The vehicle will perform better in the twisties, at AutoX, and on a large track in road racing.

sway bar

4. Where can I obtain more info? 

The best resources for information on this platform are blogs and forums. While Facebook groups are quick and easy to get an answer on-the-fly, sometimes answers can be incorrect, inferred, or misinterpreted. It is best to obtain information from credible sources.

FocusST.org is the leading forum on this platform.

Stratified Automotive Controls has a host of information on ECU calibration and fueling related topics.

Edge Autosport has a lot of information on what brands are the best and which parts suit your needs.

Like the information in this blog? Check out the James Barone Racing line of aftermarket performance parts!

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JBR Featured Owner #2 – Jeffrey Sachse – 2014 Focus ST

In our last Featured Owner blog post we Focused largely on vehicle performance. The following post is going to have a heavy emphasis on using that performance to its potential. Autocross is a great entry into the world of racing. With as few safety concerns that you can have while pushing the limits of a vehicle and a relatively inexpensive fee, you are able to begin your path to acquiring a well-rounded set of driving skills. Some spotlight has been drawn to a few Focus and Fiesta ST drivers in the autocross world, mainly because of their great potential in this event.

One of the drivers in the spotlight has been Jeffrey Sachse from Appleton, WI. Jeff has been around cars his whole life and continues to evolve as a performance enthusiast, ranging from all types of tracks to drag racing. Wanting a daily driver with some spirit without breaking the bank, Jeff found himself contemplating between a Subaru BRZ and the ST we all have come to know and love. We think he made the right choice. With a background in racing Jeff wanted to use the Focus ST in some fun and competitive events. Naturally, having purchased a hot hatch, Jeff found himself chasing gates through cones in parking lots.


Documenting his rookie season in AutoX this year with a blog (which can be found here), Jeff managed to pull off a very successful season taking on the G Street class in the Fox Valley Sports Car Club. Capping off his stellar season, Jeff was awarded the SCCA Milwaukee Region Rookie of the Year. This class has strict rules limiting modifications and is compliant with SCCA classing (for more info on SCCA classing, visit Sports Car Club of America‘s website).


Due to these strict regulations, Jeff has kept his ST relatively stock. If asked, he will point his first and most important modification directly to tires. Choosing the correct set of tires for your application is paramount in performance- both on the track and off the track. Many may think that fitting the largest tire possible on a wheel is best. While this may ring true for some straight-line performance situations, it is definitely counter-productive when you hit the twisties. Finding a balance between soft compound and rigid sidewall is key, as well as a proper size to balance grip and tire roll.


Another key component in Street classing is an aftermarket sway bar. Street class only allows for one upgraded sway bar. Our recommendation is a stiff Rear Sway Bar for improved vehicle rotation and decreased body roll. If one is looking for optimal performance and has no concern for SCCA classing, the addition of a Front Sway Bar will balance the car very well. Following the sway bars, another upgrade that can improve handling and maintain Street classing is a set of aftermarket shocks. Aftermarket springs or coilovers are not allowed within this classing, though if one is looking for optimal performance a set of fully adjustable coilovers is recommended along with Adjustable Camber and Toe Arms and a performance-oriented alignment. These components will allow fine tuning of the suspension to optimize cornering potential.


Once handling has been addressed and higher corner entry and exit speeds are achieved, Focus ST drivers will find additional performance to be desired in the stopping category. The Focus ST is in its first purpose a street car. With this in mind, Ford engineered a braking system with common street car problems at the forefront. Brake noise and dust were primary concerns. To curb these potential issues, optimal performance was thrown on the back burner. For most enthusiasts, a set of brake pads and a fluid change will deliver all of the desired results. Some will choose to have dedicated street pads and track pads. For those that do not want to go through the hassle of changing pads every time they hit the track, Hawk HPS Front and Rear pads are highly recommended with performance in mind. If brake dust is a concern, and you do not plan to track often, then a switch to the Hawk Performance 5.0 pads are a good compromise. Once these pads are installed, braking temperatures will boil the OEM fluid. An upgrade to Motul DOT 4 RBF660 is highly recommended.


Though a Focus or Fiesta ST is an absolute blast to race in stock form, once these areas are addressed, the Focus ST is set up perfectly to hit the track or AutoX course. Classing only allows for certain guided modifications, however, if AutoX classes are not a concern other areas can be addressed as well. After tires, suspension and brakes are upgraded there is a proper foundation set to start increasing power with engine performance parts and a tune.

If you would like to be featured in our blog, send us an email and tell us your story.

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JBR Featured Owner #1 – Adam Clover – 2013 Focus ST

Being the Ford Focus ST is a cross between domestic economy and European hot hatch performance, the market spans a wide demographic. This unique cross creates a very interesting community that is different than all others. We see owners from [as jealous as I am to say it at that age] high school students in their first car all the way up to middle-aged performance enthusiasts.

At James Barone Racing, we have observed that with the wide demographic, there is also a great acceptance and warm welcome to new owners. This community is a great place to be and the owners are really a whole different breed than most car enthusiast groups. We’d like to introduce the community to some of these members that stand out the most to us. We would like to introduce our first JBR Featured Owner, Adam Clover.

Living in Green Bay, WI; Adam is a member of Wisconsin ST Club. The Wisconsin community has a strong level of respect for all types of enthusiasts. Adam came from a family background of car enthusiasts. His grandpa restored old cars, and since Adam was 5 he loved to help. While he was helping, he learned a lot along the way. We all know that once cars get into one’s blood, it never fades.- the passion that drives us all to tinker, to love and appreciate the machines for the true beauty they possess.

Starting off with a 1990 Honda CRX, Adam had some work to do for his first project car. Rust plagued the rear of the vehicle, and as a true car guy Adam realized that needed to be addressed. To fix the problem, he bought a second donor vehicle and cut both vehicles in half. He then proceeded to use his fabrication skills to do some surgery and stitch the two back together.

A few vehicles later, Adam found himself with the Focus ST we all know and love. There are corners of the community focusing (no pun intended- ok maybe a little) on aesthetics; performance; autocross events; road course racing; and even the simple utilitarian nature of the ST picking up the kids and transporting snowboards, skis, bikes, and more. Adam happens to have a mixture of a few of these interests.

Adam started by addressing the aesthetic shortcomings of the ST. Starting with a set of Eibach Sportline lowering springs. Shortly after, he dug into the head unit to replace it with a Nexus 7 tablet. Being a maintenance mechanic by trade, Adam has some fabrication skills. He eventually graduated into a few custom cosmetic modifications including wing risers, a custom grill, and a custom crash bar; Adam made his ST one of a kind.

After addressing the cosmetics, Adam moved on to performance. Realizing the hunger for a large amount of power, Adam went for everything at once. Adam’s Focus ST features the following performance modifications:

  • Custom Cold Air Intake
  • Custom 3” Side-exit Exhaust
  • OCD Downpipe
  • ATP GTX2971 Turbo Kit
  • Stratified Xtra Fuel Kit
  • Cobb Accsessport V3 w/ Stratified E42 Tune
  • Cobb Rear Motor Mount
  • JBR 80/88 Duro Side Mount Package
  • Boomba Short Throw Shifter + Bushings
  • CX Front Mount Intercooler

Adam’s favorite modification to his ST has been the Stratified E42 port fueling tune. This is a great bang-for-your-buck modification on every level of ST, from stock form to big turbo. It cannot be stressed enough how a proper calibration is key to getting the most our of your driving experience.

We spoke with Alex at Stratified about the tuning process…

  “There are several important aspects to consider when building a car. It is important to know how the car will be used in order to determine the power level needed and the modifications needed to get to that power level reliably. With modern turbocharged vehicles it should always start with a tune. We use the COBB AccessPort for its capabilities and versatility and the excellent support. 

Adam’s car was a joy to tune. He spent the time and decided on the direction he wanted to take with the car. When he came to us we were able to address those needs with an ATP GTX2971 big turbo kit, Stratified  Aux Fuel System, and full custom tune. He had the supporting modifications needed and since he purchased quality and proven parts as part of this kit, he was able to reach his power goals of 400+whp reliably quickly. Adam was also very quick to respond with data and feedback during the E-tuning process and this allowed us to progress quickly towards his goals. The advantage of coming to us with a clear goal and getting the correct parts and tune is that we can address those needs without having to go through several setups, kits, and headaches that can leave a lot enthusiasts disappointed and cost a lot more in the end. If you have further questions regarding tuning and setting up your Ecoboost Focus don’t hesitate to get in touch.”

This past year has been a lot of preparation on the ST, and now that things are where Adam would like them to be for the most part he plans to enjoy it in the coming Spring and Summer. He would like to use the well-built machine to get some track time under his belt. We hope to see you at the track alongside our test vehicles this year, Adam!

If you would like to be featured in our blog, send us an email and tell us your story.

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