Low and Slow - Focus ST Brake and Suspension Upgrades
Power numbers and engine specs are spoiled. They get all the hype and attention. What about the other stuff? If power is the life of the party, the brakes and suspension are the chaperones. They make sure everyone is having fun the right way. What happens after you take your foot out of it to slow down and turn is arguably just as important as when your foot is all the way in it.
The Focus ST is a potent machine. We know this. It's been out for a handful of years now. Everyone is modding. It's what the cool kids do. When modding the ST is this easy and gobs of power are within close reach, it's easy to forget about what you need to compliment power.
The ST has a pretty good suspension from the factory though. You wouldn't be an idiot if you kept the stock suspension but who wants a monster street car without anyone knowing by just looking at it? On top of that, sitting the car down gives the driver a better feel for the road, a lower center of gravity, and better grip in different situations.
The brakes aren't bad either. But holy crap, the wheel dust alone makes you want to vomit if you have even the slightest OCD about your car. Either way, the brakes are good for maybe 2 to 3 hard slow downs before your pedal all of a sudden starts to get a little spongy and it just keeps getting worse from there. The ST has decent braking power, just not endurance. If you have a big turbo, the argument that it has enough braking power might not be relevant anymore.
You need to think about upgrading these parts at some point if you're really into modifying this platform.
Pads alone can be a great upgrade. You can use a mildly aggressive pad on a stock rotor without issues. If you're using them on your current rotors, make sure you machine your rotors first and enough thickness exists to service them without making them too thin. Three things that a good pad upgrade will do is lower the amount of dust being emitted, give you better initial bite, and allow you several hard stops without fading. Brake fade can be extremely dangerous. If you've never experienced fade, picture needing to stop a certain amount quickly and within a small window but your car won't let you no matter what you do. You're helpless. Not good.
The next best upgrade without getting a full big brake kit is a set of stainless steel lines. I would take these over a rotor upgrade any day. If you do both, then great. But the effectiveness of a brake line upgrade to a stainless steel braided option is like night and day. Your pedal becomes firm, you don't have to press the brakes as hard to get the same braking ability, and when you do push them hard, the pressure goes to stopping the car better, not to expanding the rubber lines and deflecting braking power away from the caliper and pad. The best part is they're not expensive at all. Sure, you have to bleed the brakes which isn't the most fun process but after you feel the brakes on the first drive, you'll forget about any hesitation you might have had to do these.
New rotors, upgraded or not, are a necessity at some point. I have upgraded them just because I was doing the pads and lines anyway. Either way, if your current rotors are getting old and worn, you have a reason to get a better set for what are probably just as expensive as the OEM rotors. The Focus ST features a high carbon rotor from the factory so you don't want to get the cheap stuff. Get something equivalent to OEM or better. Regular old cast iron brakes aren't as good as stock. I'm a fan of the slotted rotor design, it keeps the brakes cooler, wears the pads more evenly, and retains the integrity of the rotor's construction.
I'm going to start with the meat and potatoes here. Coilovers are a great way to add flexibility to your suspension setup. Virtually every coilover on the market today features height adjustability. This is perfect for setting that gap just the way you like it. Although going the lowest you can rarely gives you the best handling potential, it can certainly aid in the getting a few double takes here and there when it's the right height and fitment. Many coilovers also feature dampening adjustment too. This allows you to change how stiff the suspension is through changing the rebound and compression characteristics.
Lowering your car using springs is completely fine, you just don't have the flexibility that coilovers provide. However, if you know you just want to go a little lower, then these are for you. Or, if your plan calls for you to upgrade springs and shocks separately, this works. Shocks can be purchased at a later time with more aggressive units than stock.
Shocks do the brunt of the work when it comes to how your car is performing. Luckily, there are a handful of options whether you want to stay with the stock springs and height and get a slightly stiffer shock of if you want to pair a set with some nice lowering springs. Koni Sports (commonly called Yellows) come with a 3 way dampening adjustment and all others are preset to provide a predetermined level of rebound and compression.
One thing to take note of with the Focus ST specifically is the changes made at Ford after the 2013 model year. They switched to a different lower spring perch in the front which means shocks and springs from a 2013 won't fit a 2014 and newer. However, if you have a 2014 and up and want something that is only available for a 2013, you can purchase the 2013 specific springs and shocks and the fitment should work just fine.
Bushings and Chassis Linkage
If you go low enough, you'll need a set of rear camber arms that will allow further camber adjustment to correct the excessive negative camber that happens when you lower your car. That's only on the rear though. The front should come with plenty of adjustment ability. Some coilover kits come with the upper strut mounts and camber plates on the front for ultimate adjustability. Other suspension components are available like sway bars, end links, toe arms, and more, to get more adjustability and performance from your Focus ST's chassis.
Bushings are an essential part of any high performance build but in street cars, you need to be careful. Often times, bushings can transmit more NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) into the car's cabin and make it more noisy and uncomfortable. Some bushings kits are popular because of certain design features that allow for adjustability to camber, caster, toe, etc. Use bushings with caution. If you want the ultimate performance, bushing kits are great. If you're trying to retain as much comfort and quietness as you can, use them sparingly.
About JP Alonso
I'm the founder of Edge Autosport and I remember first getting into cars in high school. I read all the magazines, bought a bunch of technical books, and finally got to start wrenching around the age of 19. I really enjoy modding and being able to live out a passion is truly awesome. I wouldn't change a thing.