ST7- Part 1: The Swap

Guys, this has been a long time coming.

To everyone that has helped make this dream a reality, thank you. Although, I’ll keep all of the feels and thank you’s for the next post. This post is all work and no play. Why? That’s because the mindset last weekend was all work and no play. This post is being posted only 9 days after the swap was completed. This post is for ST Sedan engine swap number 7 in the world.  You will see some high quality pictures, and cell phone pictures because of the speed at which this whole thing took place.

Let me start off 4 weeks prior to the weekend that the swap happened, with an email from my current boss telling me that I got the job. He let me know right off the bat about the type of money I’d be making. So, a week later, I began to talk to Mike and Kyle over at Rebel Devil Customs. I wanted to see where I’d stand if I wanted to make an ST engine swap happen. This job, an I-5 corridor trucking job, is permanent. So, I knew I had no issue with income. After crunching some numbers, Kyle, Mike, and I struck a deal and we were immediately searching for the perfect donor.

In comes this, a crashed ST from Texas. It was side swiped and had substantial rear-end damage. Although, the engine was the perfect candidate for this swap! No broken parts up front at all!  Kyle and I agreed on the highest bid that we would go to. We ended up winning it and it was time to legitimately start planning how this would all go down! 

I planned for it to go down on the weekend of October 7th to the 11th. I had reasons as to why I chose for it to happen on those specific dates, and those closest to me know why. These dates also happened to be 2 weeks immediately after we had won the auction of the donor,  so it was go time! 

Mike let me know that I would need one specific part for my swap, that wasn’t on the donor, since my car was an automatic. That was a manual transmission dash harness. I immediately called dealerships to try and get one in but I couldn’t ever order over the phone. Given my recently changed busy schedule, I was always on the road and couldn’t go into the dealerships on weekdays to order the part I needed. 

Then I remembered my great friend Bill over at Oroville Ford! I had met him through my ex-girlfriend, as he was a family friend, and he had supplied parts to me before including the current ST bumper that I have on the car. I gave him a call and he was able to place my order over the phone and get me the parts right away! If you ever want someone professional and kind in our northern California area for Ford parts, Bill is definitely your man! 

Along with the dash harness, I asked Bill to order a carbon fiber shift knob for me. It was the first modification for the new engine. 

After I verified with Kyle that the dash harness was correct, I had to impatiently wait one more week for the day to go to Pinon Hills. Why Pinon Hills? Well, that’s where Rebel Devil Customs’ R&D guy, Kyle, resides. The swap would go down at his house because he had the tools and know-how to help me take on this challenge. 

I wanted to do the swap at my place, but had nowhere to do it. So, we agreed to do it with Kyle. I began asking people to go with me, and almost immediately, Brice, a fellow Focus Sedan owner in Willows, agreed he’d go. He ended up being the only one to go because he decided to take some parts along to trade with Kyle. So, on October 7th, at 4am, I woke up just outside of Tacoma, Washington in my big rig, and headed home to begin my journey to Pinon Hills, California. I got home around 1:30 and ran an errand, packed my things, picked up Brice, picked up his parts, and we headed towards Pinon Hills. 

Yeah, it was a packed car. Brice and I joked that instead of talking to each other during the 8 hour trip,we were actually talking to that lip, haha. 

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We got there at around 9:30-ish. Let me say this now: I have told Kyle to lower his ride more to make it look like a cool stance car. Although,  after driving his road, I can see why he doesn’t. You can see that my front splitter got a mouthful of dirt as a result of being way too low on Kyle’s road.  

I didn’t expect Kyle to let us work on the car right away, but he actually asked if we wanted to get started as soon as we got our things off the car. So, the teardown started. 

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We worked for a solid 2 hours before we decided to call it quits. These two hours ended up giving us a massive head start, and one that I didn’t realize until a few days later. 

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Saturday morning, we all had a bowl of cereal and then continued the teardown. 

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Kyle had the engine covered, so the moment this picture was taken, was the first time I had actually seen the new engine and it was perfect! 

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As we started tearing things down, I mainly focused on getting the dash apart, and Kyle on getting the engine apart. We’d switch every once in a while, and sometimes, I’d call Kyle for help. Brice, he was the getter. He would get us the tools we needed and he was a great help! I had no regrets  bringing Brice along! He would also help with the teardown as well. Sometimes, I’d ask him to let me do a specific job, because I just wanted to be so involved in the swap. He understood, but I’m sure he got annoyed too haha. 

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Here, you can see the donor and the receiver. Two similar cars yet, so different from each other in terms of power and body style. 

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Before lunch time, we passed to look at our progress. The dash cover was off, seats were out, the front clip was taken off, and the engine was ready to come out. 

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I was still in shock that this was actually happening. So I kept having to pinch myself just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, not that the buddy knuckles weren’t enough. 

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I finally started to unbolt the subframe to get the engine ready to drop. I was so excited, and couldn’t wait to see this engine and transmission drop out of there given the problems it had been giving me. At around 140,000 miles, the engine and automatic transmission were showing their age. The transmission was poor, and the engine, despite me maintaining it in terms of oil changes and spark plugs, was just lugging at best. 

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Thanks to Kyle’s brother, Bryant, we unclipped some final clips and unbolted the motor mounts to begin dropping the engine, and transmission. K-frames are awesome works of engineering. The fact that all it took to pull the engine out were jack stands, jacks, and some rolling dollys really shows how streamlined engineers want to make the assembly lines at the manufacturering plants.  

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I knew my motor mounts were bad… But not this bad. This is my passenger side mount. It was so bad, that the rubber was completely torn. I didn’t want to replace them because I know the engine was coming soon. Good thing it did too. 

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Success! The engine was gone! 

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This shows just how bad the mounts were. This is the transmission mount. I wondered why it sounded like my engine was knocking against the firewall every time inaccelerated, and that’s probably because it was. 

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Kyle began working on some wiring while I removed some parts from the donor to add to mine. After this, we had some lunch at a delicious sandwich shop nearby called Hero Subs (at least I think that’s what it was called) and then came back to more wiring and interior work. Then we called Saturday quits, and had a delicious spaghetti dinner thanks to Kyle’s wife, Kelsey. Brice and I watched the first Fast and Furious in the living room for a bit while Kyle talked to Mike about some wiring things. Then, it was lights off to get some rest for the next day. It was going to be a fun one! 

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Sunday morning was here, and we all had another bowl of cereal. After, it was go time once again. We rolled the new engine towards the new, less crashed recipient, and began the painstaking process of lining it up and lifting it into place. 

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Kyle’s dad, Wayne, who was also a gear head, helped us out by moving the engine with a 2×4. This tweaked the engine just enough for it to be jacked up to the perfect spot for it to be bolted on.

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Of course, I screwed in the first bolt. This is the bolt for the new, not as separated, transmission mount. 

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Before long, the engine was ready to go, and the interior was getting there too. We hooked up my old PCM and BCM and turned the key to make sure the car started. 

It was a success! The engine turned over, and we knew that everything had been hooked up correctly. However, we only had it on for 2 seconds because the N/A PCM was the one installed. Since that PCM doesn’t account for certain turbo parameters, it obviously wouldn’t allow the engine to run well. 

At least we knew it started. So, we hooked up the ST PCM, left my BCM in, and put the rest of the car together. 

We proceeded to bleed the brakes and clutch which actually brought one of my favorite moments of this trip. While Kyle and I were bleeding the clutch, Kyle was getting very frustrated, as we had been doing it for over half an hour. It is not an easy job. So Wayne comes over and says, “Do you want me to pray for you?” Kyle of course says yes, and we say a prayer. It was a peaceful moment in the middle of all this craziness, and it was a much needed time to stop and recollect. After the prayer, not 5 minutes later, the clutch was finally bled. Talk about God answering prayers! 

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We got everything ready, and honestly, we could have been driving it that day. We couldn’t though, because we needed to program the keys for the new ST PCM. So, we called it a night, went home and had another delicious dinner by Kelsey. This time, it was tacos! Yum! 

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Monday, October 10th, 2016. I had been waiting for this day for reasons that don’t include this car. I honestly didn’t expect to be here doing an engine swap. If you had talked to me 7 months before, I would be dreading this day, but I was ECSTATIC. I couldn’t sit still. Let me tell you, I cherished every moment of this part of the trip.  

We made the decision to pull the bumper so it would actually make it onto the tow truck. We then towed the Focus to Sunrise Ford in Fontana which was about 40 minutes away. 

We got to the dealership, and immediately, we went to the service advisor that Kyle had spoken to named Robert at Sunrise Ford in Fontana. He told the tow truck guy, who was very professional, where to put the car. 

One of the biggest issues we ran into was the fact that I had forgotten to bring my second key. So, I was stressing out about it all weekend. Luckily, Sunrise had keys in stock and could cut them within a matter of minutes. 

I gave them my key, and they said they might not be able to do it because it was slightly bent. That’s when one of the mechanics came in and said he’d take care of it. 

10 minutes later he comes back and says, “I’m sorry guys, but the key broke inside the machine. It just went *pop*” 

Our hearts sank, and that’s when he looks up with a smile and says, “I’m kidding! It went perfectly fine and the car is being programmed now.” 

He got us good! That was the one thing I had been stressing about the whole weekend and we were fortunate to get it fixed. Now though, the next big hurtle was getting the car programmed to my keys. I was a bit nervous, but Kyle was very reassuring that it would work. 

This was the exact moment I saw the car running with the new engine. I forgot that I had it only manual mode for bright light settings. Well, since it was for bright light, the camera obviously didn’t capture it correctly because the service department is somewhat dark. I was so happy to see it running though! 

I wanted to be the first to drive, and I killed it! It’s not that I had never driven a manual, because my first car was a 5-speed Manual Jetta. I was just used to driving a semi-truck where you let out the clutch BEFORE you hit the accelerator. After a few laughs, I started her up again and we went out to the parking lot. 

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We got it outside and put on the bumper, then went to the nearest gas station so Kyle could fill up with E30. I filled 91 and we headed to our last lunch together, Slater’s 50/50. This place has the BEST burger I have ever had and you can only go there and actually eat them to know what I mean. 

After that, we tried to get the car aligned, but no one would because either the car was too low, or they didn’t want to touch it knowing that the engine had just been swapped. So we proceeded back to Kyle’s so we could head home. That’s where the final issue arose. 

I noticed that the car would hit certain 3-5k RPMs and the fuel would just cut off completely in 3rd gear and up. We had no idea why, and noticed that the gauge cluster was still showing PRNDL. It shouldn’t show anything, as it was a manual. So we fixed that thinking it would solve the fuel cutoff issue. It didn’t. 

Next, we decided to pull out the fuel filter because it could be so dirty that it’s not sending enough fuel to a new engine that needs more fuel. Especially after 140,000 miles. 

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We started the daunting task of taking off the fuel tank, and switched filters. We put it back in, and nothing. 

Just so you know, in order to test if the cutoff issue was fixed or not, we kept having to drive down Kyle’s road and make our way to the highway. It was an annoying task. As a last resort, we reflashed the car using Kyle’s Accessport and Rebel Devil tune. It still didn’t work. 

We decided to call it quits and just head home. That’s when Kyle reminded me that we needed to fix my taillights. The taillights were stuck on, and I remember Bill in Canada had that same issue with his ST swap. So we fixed it the same way he did. 

You see, I think that when these cars are involved in crashes, the brake pedal sensor gets stuck on. Hence leaving the lights on. When this happens, you need to fix it by putting a spacer on the metal plate that pushes the button on the sensor that tells the car that the brake is NOT engaged. 

We JB-welded a spacer, said our goodbyes, and made our way home. Before I left, I told Kyle, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that brake light fix actually fixed the fuel cut-off issue? That would be a great way to end the trip, huh? By being able to actually use all of my car’s new power on the way home.” Kyle agreed with me. 

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As Brice and I proceeded down Kyle’s road once more, I told Brice, “I know you probably don’t pray much, but can you pray that this fixes the issue?” We both proceeded to pray. 

We hit the highway as I hit first, and it goes through the full rev range like before. Hit 2nd, and the same. 3rd is where it was giving us the issues. So I tell Brice, “Here we go! Let’s hope God answers us again!” I step on it and HOLY MOTHER OF BOOST! It had worked! We were using my car’s full power! Brice and I were so happy! It was an awesome way to end the trip! I called Kyle and told him the good news and he was so happy! 

I believe what happened was, that since the brake sensor was stuck, the car thought it was braking and it was telling the PCM not to give it fuel because well, the car is braking. So, by fixing the sensor, it fixed the fuel cutoff issue! 

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After that,  Brice and I proceeded home with massive smiles. We made it home safely, and Brice even had a new ST bumper for his sedan! It took almost exactly 48 hours for the ST sedan engine swap to be completed. That is the fastest one recorded. I am also the first Focus sedan in the US to have the full ST body and drivetrain swapped into a sedan. 7th with a sedan ST engine swap. So now, my car is ST7. I even created a logo for it! 

Right now though, the car has 2 main issues I need to fix. One is the BCM and ABS. The car has no speedometer because for whatever reason, the BCM is not picking up the ABS module. This occurred with the old engine too, and since the only thing left on the car from the old engine is the BCM, we have concluded that a new one is needed. I will then need to reflash the new BCM and give it a PATS reset as well. 

The other issue is my steering wheel buttons and horn don’t work. Mike is helping me out by sending me the steering wheel buttons and a new harness to fix the issue. 

Part 2 will conclude these fixes and will conclude the ST swap coverage. 

Thanks you so much for everyone who continues to tune in and GodSpeed! 

-Jose

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