Do you own an Ecoboost F150 / Raptor? Get up to speed on all the common questions we answer for people everyday here. That way you know what upgrades are worthwhile, only spending money where you need to. Here are some of the Hot Topics around the ecoboost community. We have compiled this list to make it a little easier for research.
What is it and is it right for me? With tuning we can modify certain engine management characteristics to produce better power, touque, and smoother shifting. We have a really nice introduction to our tuning here:
This link takes you on a ride to knowledge of tuning your EcoBoost. Quickly navigate your way to learning the first steps in the tuning process. From start to finish this guide will help you learn the basic “How to’s” of tuning. Retrieving tunes from the cloud or email, loading and flashing tunes, creating datalog configuration files, datalogging, monitoring. You have questions and this page has the answers!
Proper gap and heat range is crucial to achieving optimal performance in any turbocharged engine. Improper gap on spark plugs can diminish power, cause rough idling and misfires. We do offer pre-gapped spark plugs at the proper heat for most Ecoboost engines on our website. Spark plugs should be changed approximately every 20k miles on a tuned Ecoboost engine, mileage may vary based on driving habits / towing. We’ve found that a gap of 0.028” performs best on the tuned ecoboost engines. If you are gapping spark plugs yourself only use a quality gapping tool, like a feeler gauge or wire gauge.
Never use one of these circular ramp-style tools, they are terribly inaccurate.
Back in the 80s through the early 2000s you could pull out your OEM intake piping, replace it with an aftermarket cold air intake kit and gain a little extra power. Although manufacturers of cold air intake kits often claim a 10-20 HP gain with their kits due to higher flow rates, we’ve never seen that in the real world on an Ecoboost F150. We’ve done back to back dyno testing of stock intakes vs some very well known aftermarket CAIs and CAIs either make the same power, sometimes less than stock.
CAIs however can look very cool under the hood, often offered with replaceable filter elements which is nice.
The biggest benefit of some CAIs would be the noticeable improvement in turbo sounds both inside the cabin and outside of the truck. CAIs with an open airbox provide the best sound improvements. AFE, Injen, Full Race and other companies offer systems like this. Closed airbox systems rarely change the sound at all.
WikiBoost Catback Exhaust Systems (aka Catbacks)
Similar to CAIs in the 80s-2000s, OEM catback exhaust piping was rather restrictive, and could be upgraded with an aftermarket system for improved performance and sound. On the Ecoboost F150 platform however there are very little (in any) performance gains to be had by running an aftermarket catback.The only reason to switch to an aftermarket system would be for increased exhaust sound output.
Have you ever noticed how much “peppier” your Ecoboost F150 feels on a really cold day compared to a very hot day? Upgrading your intercooler will help your truck run more like it does on a cold day.
After a tune the next part that should be upgraded would be your factory intercooler. We often get asked “how much power does an aftermarket intercooler make?” Try not to think of an intercooler as a power adder, but think of it more as a component that keeps your truck from losing power. Turbos are coupled to both the intake and the exhaust. As you push your truck harder the turbos heat up, and some of that heat is transferred to the intake air going into the engine. The intercooler’s job is to cool that hot intake air before it goes into the engine. The cooler the incoming air is the more power can be made. Conversely the hotter the incoming air is the more prone the engine is to knocking. Once the engine gets to that point the engine management system senses it and automatically dials back power to protect the engine.
Aftermarket intercoolers come in many different varieties. Basic intercoolers will have empty end-tanks. Higher end intercoolers will have specifically engineered turning vanes designed into the end tanks which makes the intercooler much more efficient by distributing the airflow evenly through the entire volume of the intercooler’s core.
If you do a lot of summer towing intercoolers can help maintain solid power and fuel efficiency.
An often overlooked part of the intercooler system is the front license plate on the 2015+ F150s. You’ll notice it is mounted right in front of the intercooler, blocking some of the potential cooling air flow. Relocating your license plate can alleviate that issue, Swarfworks makes a really nice license plate relocation kit that mounts on your tow hook. As you can guess adding aftermarket LEDs, bull bars, and off-road bumpers in front of the intercooler also impedes cooling.
Upgraded turbos can help your truck make a lot more power. Depending on the year of your Ecoboost F150 additional fuel system capacity may be needed to support upgraded turbos. There are quite a few options on the market for upgraded turbos. We have had a lot of luck with CR Performance Engineering’s upgraded turbos over the years, making them our go-to brand. Feel free to contact us to determine which upgraded turbo is right for you, and for the custom tuning necessary to run upgraded turbos.
OEM ford exhaust manifolds are notorious for warping and causing exhaust leaks. This can sound like a squeaking or chirping from the engine bay when accelerating. Typically the leaks occur on the rear cylinders (closest to the firewall) due to the weight of the turbos and the lack of a 3rd mounting stud on those cylinders. The warpage can also snap off manifold studs.
Most people who replace a warped manifold with another OEM manifold eventually wind up with a leak again. We prefer to replace them with CR Performance Engineering’s manifolds which are a much thicker casting. With these manifolds being so much thicker they are far less prone to warping.
If you’ve spent any time looking around the internet for upgrades for your Ecoboost F150 you’ve no doubt seen people talk about swapping out their thermostat for a colder version. The common thought behind this is if the thermostat opens at a lower temperature that the engine will run consistently cooler. This is simply not true. Once the engine is up to normal operating temperature the efficiency of the radiator is what dictates how warm the engine operates. We do offer radiators that have a larger cover volume which will help to keep the coolant temps down when driving while towing, driving in the mountains, in very hot conditions, and in aggressive driving situations.
Some light reading on thermostats
Upgrading your factory downpipe to a less restrictive downpipe can help to improve turbo spool times, resulting in a 5-10 HP increase throughout the RPM range. Due to emissions regulations you should only run downpipes with EPA certified catalysts.
Your F150 will come off the production line with a slight “rake” (meaning the front sits a little lower than the rear). This is done mainly for aerodynamics to promote MPGs. Many people prefer a more level look, hence the name “leveling kits”. Leveling kits can also be used to help clear some larger wheel/tire combos. There are two mail flavors for leveling kits; leveling pucks and leveling coil-overs.
Leveling pucks are 1-3” tall spacers that install on top of your front factory coil-over (the shock / spring). They take about 2-3 hours to install since you do have to take the font suspension apart to get them in there. These will generally lift the front of the truck up 1-2.5” in the front. Keep in mind a 1” spacer (for example) does not always result in a 1” lift. It’s always a good idea to research the kit you are buying to determine the actual lift. Leveling pucks / spacers are typically made from either steel or billet aluminum. Expect to maintain a mostly stock ride quality when running a leveling spacer kit.
Leveling coil-over systems actually replace the front OEM coil-overs with a taller aftermarket coil-over, which provides the lift. Prices for these systems vary quite a bit due to the different quality of the components used. If you are running a heavier wheel / tire combo we recommend going with a little higher end coil-over to manage the extra weight (you’ll be glad you did). Some leveling coil over kits will have an adjustable spring mount. This will give you the ability to raise and lower the front end to your liking. We don’t recommend going much past 2.5” in the front as it can put a lot of stress on CV axles (for you 4WD owners), and upper control arms. We highly recommend running the Icon coil-overs, they ride amazing.
Upper Control Arms (aka UCAs)
Aftermarket UCAs are often used to help get the suspension geometry of a leveled / lifted truck closer to ideal. Some lifted / leveled trucks can wander a bit when the suspension flexes if they still have the stock UCAs. Also lifted and leveled trucks tend to put more stress on OEM UCAs due to the large angle the UCAs sit at. Aftermarket UCAs typically are designed to sit flatter on a lifted / leveled truck which reduces stress on the ball joints. Many aftermarket UCAs have replaceable ball joints which greatly reduces repair cost if one of your ball joints bites the dust. Some even come with greasable zerk fittings which is nice.
Lift Kits 4+”
If you are looking to go big on the truck you will need a lift kit. These typically lift the front and rear of the truck. These come in many different varieties. Basic kits will have you utilise your OEM front shock / strut and add a large spacer to it. While this keeps the cost of the kit down, it doesn’t provide a very good ride quality when you are running a heavier wheel / tire combo. We highly recommend running a kit with high quality shocks.
Suspension Lowering Kits
If you want to slam your truck you are going to need a lowering kit. Belltech makes some nice kits and they have been leading the industry for many years. Their basic kits come with really basic shocks. These kits ride decently, but do not corner well at all, lots of body roll. If you are planning on driving your truck aggressively you will seriously want to consider going with the Belltech handling kit. The difference in handling between this and the basic kits is 100% night and day. They utilise high quality adjustable shocks and a rear anti-sway bar. You can throw your truck into a corner with confidence on these kits, and ride comfortably down a bumpy road. Well worth the extra money!
Many lowering kits will relocate your rear axle on top of your leaf spring. This can present some challenges with exhaust systems so research your kit carefully.
Differentials (aka diffs)
Most F150s were made with an electronic locking rear differential. When this is engaged (vai a knob on your dash) both of your rear wheels will be locked together. This is useful for launching, slippery conditions, burnouts and donuts. Some trucks came with whats called an “open diff” or “open differential”, meaning power only goes to one rear wheel. Often joked about as a “one tire fire”, “one wheel peel”, or “one wheel wonder”. These trucks tend to just spin one tire in slippery situations which is no fun. Yukon Axle makes a duragrip differential which solves this problem. Similar to a “posi-traction” it links both rear axles together through a series of clutch plates. This puts power to both wheels which gives you a lot more traction, control, and fun! When upgrading make sure you determine if you have the super 8.8” differential or the 9.75” differential. Also plan on getting carrier bearings, 75w-85 differential fluid, Motorcraft friction modifier (necessary for clutch plates), and RTV silicone for sealing up the differential. Note that Duragrips do take some time to break-in the clutch plates, so they are a little “groany” the first couple weeks of driving.
Gearing (aka gears)
Ecoboost F150s are made with a variety of gear ratios in the axles. Some gear ratios are better for acceleration, some are better for MPGs. People who are looking to improve acceleration typically move to a “shorter” gear. When doing this you need to replace both your ring and pinion gears. On 2WD trucks this only needs to be done in the rear, 4WD trucks need it both on the front and rear. Keep in mind that tuning needs to be done to correct the speedometer after doing a gear swap, which we can help with. Yukon makes nice ring and pinion gear sets for F150s
As you may have already discovered these V6 Ecoboost engines are pretty impressive while towing. They do work pretty hard with a trailer and typically get about 9-10mpg, so don’t be alarmed if you see that. If you are looking to improve that rating see our intercooler writeup.
One of the best things you can do for your truck if you are towing or hauling a lot is to install a set of helper springs in the rear. We recommend the Roadmaster Active Suspension (RAS) for anyone towing or hauling a lot. These springs help strengthen the factory leaf springs and also minimize axle wrap. They are also adjustable so you can dial it in exactly for your needs. Once adjusted properly rear end sag from a trailer or a load of plywood in the bed will be greatly reduced. This results in a much more stable feeling truck especially at highway speeds. They also reduce slack in the driveline, so when you hammer on the accelerator you feel a snappier launch. Body roll while cornering is also reduced. They install pretty quickly, and are a lot cheaper than airbags. Check them out.
Ecoboost F150s came with either halogen headlights or LED headlights (higher trim levels). The LED headlights work great, but the halogens are pretty terrible. Some people with upgrade their halogen bulbs to aftermarket LED bulbs for more light output. This works for the driver, but LED bulbs in halogen headlight assemblies often creates a blinding situation for oncoming traffic. If you want a quality headlight upgrade you will need LED headlight assemblies. Be careful because not all aftermarket headlights are created equal. Most aftermarket headlights will also leak water, causing fog and condensation on the inside of the headlights. Some companies offer “projector” headlights with halogen bulbs, the light output of these is worse than your stock headlights. Lots of light energy is lost in the projector lens because they are often cheaply made plastic lenses (compared to glass). The only aftermarket headlights we have found that have awesome light output, and don’t leak are the Morrimoto headlights…and yes we’ve tested them all. Expect about a 4x light output improvement with the Morimoto headlights compared to OEM halogen headlights. Plus they look killer!
Also be very cautious if you are considering hiring a headlight retrofitter. Professionals like this take OEM headlights and retrofit aftermarket lighting inside of them for added light output and curb appeal. Make sure you are covered if something breaks, if they leak, or if they are 2 months late getting your headlights back to you (ask us how we know!).
If you are looking for a cheap and easy way to improve night visibility on your ecoboost F150 upgraded LED fog lights are a great option. You can either go with a LED bulb in the factory fog light housing, or a complete LED assembly. Be careful if you are going with aftermarket bulbs, as there is a lot of “fly-by-night” operations selling bulbs made in China. Also be sure to mount any ballasts firmly so they aren’t just hanging there by their wiring (they break fast that way).
We really like the Morimoto LED fog lights. They fit right in the factory holes, have great light output, and look clean.
If you’ve done any research on the 3.5L Ecoboost F150s you’ve undoubtedly seen that some owners have timing chain rattle issues. This was seen more on the steel body (2011-2014) F150s than on the aluminum body trucks (2015+). Some steel body trucks never have the issue though, and some aluminum body trucks do. If you are buying a used truck it is recommended that you do try and get a hold of the service history to find out if the timing chains have been replaced. If they have, the truck will probably be fine for years to come. Ford’s timing chain recall replacement kits only come with some of the components in the timing chain system. We recommend that if you are going in the engine to replace the timing chain that you go the full 9 yards. This means replacing all of the chain guides and tensioners. Yes, taking the cab off the truck makes this job much easier.
What’s the deal with catch cans on the Ecoboost F150s? The PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) system on Ecoboost F150s works by routing excess crankcase pressure back into the intake of the engine. This pressurized air often contains some vaporized oil. This vaporized oil can build up on the intake manifold and also find its way into the intercooler. So it is totally normal if you see traces of oil in these places. Catch can systems are installed between the PCV valve and the intake, and act as a mechanical dropout to capture these oil vapors. This way the oil does not go into the intake of the engine. When oil goes into the intake it can make for an inconsistent burn, and can also start forming deposits on the intake valves.
The Gen1 3.5 and 2.7 Ecoboost engines only had one set of fuel injectors, these spray fuel directly into the combustion chamber. The Gen2 3.5 and 2.7 Ecoboost engines also incorporated a set of port injectors. These port injectors help give these engines some additional fueling and do a great job of washing any oil deposits off the intake valves.
We’ve had several Gen1 3.5s apart (that were not running catch cans), and didn’t notice a big buildup of oil on the intake valves. So this PCV issue does not affect every truck. A catch can will keep those random occurrences of vaporized oil from running back into your intake, which would be important for people who drive their trucks aggressively or tow. We are based in Wisconsin, so it gets pretty cold up here. We’ve seen that during the colder months we collect about 4 times the amount of liquid in our catch cans compared to the warm months.
So do you need one? Up to you but I run one in my truck! We really like UPR’s catch cans: