Bolt-Ons for Beginners: Basic Mods For 2.3-Liter EcoBoost Mustangs

Bolt-Ons for Beginners: Basic Mods For 2.3-Liter EcoBoost Mustangs

The Ecoboost Mustang has become one of the most popular selling modern muscle cars of the century. Needless to say, this platform is here to stay. Replacing the 3.7-liter V6 is one of the best things Ford has done because of the  ability to extract power from this new engine. The potent 2.3-liter, turbocharged, high-compression, direct-injected, 4-cylinder is able to produce a respectful 310 hp and 350 ft-lbs torque. With the ability to upload new tuning maps, install custom exhaust, or even swap bolt-on turbos, the EcoBoost Mustang is perfect for someone who wants a sleek ride without breaking the bank.

I personally own a 2016 Ford Ecoboost Mustang myself. It came loaded to the brim from the factory and I had modified the vehicle for the 2016 SEMA show. My Mustang is equipped with Full Bolt Ons, or FBO, which consists of the following:

Whenever we mention “bolt-on,” it quite literally means that. To qualify as a “bolt-on” the component cannot be inside the engine or fabricated on the vehicle.

If you are reading this, you most likely have just gotten your hands on a new EcoBoost and you might even be a first time muscle car owner. There is a lot of information out there and sadly for every good article or post, there are 100’s of misleading or ridiculous claims by others.

However, you are in great hands. I promise to be unbiased as an EcoBoost owner can be. I have personally put my Ecoboost Mustang through every sort of hell imaginable from track time, autocross, many drift events and road trips. I have the highest respect for each car enthusiast and their build as we are all different. From going fast to laying out at a show, we should all show each other respect as everyone has their different goals when it comes to modifying their vehicles and Mustangs.

Intercooler / Charge Pipes

Tuners, serious car builders, and enthusiast have all spoken and come to an agreeance that what holds the Ecoboost Mustang back is the OEM intercooler. I have replaced the stock intercooler on my Mustang, the OEM unit is just enough to handle the stock boost levels with some mild track use. Our Mustangs can handle around 7 minutes of hard ciruit racing before the engine begins to suffer from heat soak.  

After minute 7, you’re just stuffing hot boost back into the engine. Back-to-back dyno results have shown power loss with each pull. To get scientific with it, what’s happening is a condition known as “heat soak.” Heat Soak is when the intercooler becomes so hot it is unable to cool the charged air coming from the turbocharger which transfers more and more hot air into the engine. The hotter the air, the less power the engine is willing to make.

To combat the heat exchange, the only option is to replace the stock intercooler with a much larger aftermarket intercooler. There are many different options ranging from near OEM size to in your face oversized cores. Regardless of whatever intercooler you choose, it will be better than your stock unit.

Most aftermarket intercoolers will feature a polished aluminum end tanks which will hold higher boost levels while looking pretty opposed to the nasty OEM plastic tanks. All aftermarket intercoolers will feature a much larger core that is wider and thicker than a snicker. The larger core will allow hot charged air from the turbocharger enough time to cool down. Cooler temps mean happy combustion which means more power for you.

When I first strapped my Mustang down to the dyno with no tune and just an aftermarket intercooler, I saw an increase of over 20 wheel horsepower! The 20 additional horsepower was consistent throughout the dyno pulls.

My Recommendations:

Tuner / Tune

The second modification to consider is crucial to the entire performance of your Ecoboost Mustang. Purchasing a tuning device is hands down, the “best buy” you can do for your vehicle.

There are multiple tuning devices for the Mustang, my recommendation is the Cobb Accessport V3. It offers nearly unlimited parameters for our Mustang’s and allows your tuner full control of your fuel and ignition. Before you think you’re a tuning god and want to tinker with this device, you can’t. To access and build those tuning maps you must be a certified Cobb “Pro-Tuner.” The EcoBoost ECU is one of the most advanced ECU’s on the market and must be treated with the highest respect and care. Failure to do so will lead to a thrown rod. Make sure you choose a tuner that you trust, I do not recommend box tunes that do not come with revisions after the purchase.

With bolt-ons and tune, it is entirely reasonable to see over 100 wheel horsepower increase with an additional 120-foot pounds of torque. With the extra power from the bolt-ons and a more aggressive timing map, your Ecoboost is able to breathe better and produce power more efficiently.

My Recommendations

Lowering Springs / Coilovers

One of the most popular mods in Mustang groups is lowering springs and coilovers. Lowering Springs are a inexpensive option and offer near-instant gratification after purchase. Most springs provide a one-and-a-half-inch drop which is safe for most driving conditions. Not only do they add a whole new look to your Mustang but  they also reduce the vehicle’s center of gravity which allows it to handle better.

Coilovers are a more track dedicated option but offer more control and adjustability when it comes to fine-tuning your suspension. Your entry level coilover will include ride height adjustment and rebound. These adjustments are more than enough for the weekend warrior. Being able to adjust ride height is a massive advantage as the lowering springs are set to a static height.

The handling characteristics of coilovers are much more significant than lowering springs as the shocks have been valved to the springs they were fitted with.

My Lowering Spring Recommendations:

My Coilover Recommendations:


So you’ve grown tired of your silent little Ecoboost and you want her to sound more aggressive? Since it is a 4-cylinder, in my opinion, if you cheap out on your exhaust system you will regret it. Depending on how much you want your neighbors to hate you, there are many options to purchase and to a degree, you can’t go wrong with most. First and foremost I do not recommend straight pipe unless you are making over 650whp+ or enjoy tractor sounds.

The largest determining factor of sound is going to the size and length of the mufflers used. Not be confused with a resonator, mufflers for the S550 EcoBoost can either be placed in the middle section or very rear of the exhaust. For most of you that are on the stock turbo, this will be a huge factor as some enjoy the turbo whistle while some do not.

The system I have on my EcoBoost is the Full-Race Motorsports Race Type Exhaust system, featuring a very short Thermal Research muffler and high-quality stainless steel piping. I have been told by 100s of people that this is hands down the best sounding exhaust for our cars. To achieve this sound, you must have a larger turbo to get rid of that “fart” sound that is produced by the tiny turbine housing. This is going to be one of your more expensive options, but the sound is a signature.

The system that we have found to be cost-effective if you’re equipped with the stock turbo but yields a sexy sound is undeniably the MBRP street and race systems. Starting at $629.99, this cat back system is unbeatable for the price, sound, and fitment. They even have an option for flat black muffler tips and a carbon fiber option.

My Recommendations:


Depending on what Ecoboost trim you purchased or leased, your car will either come equipped with 18-, 19- or 20-inch wheels.

As a note, our Mustang’s have much thicker wheel studs than most other vehicles. You will need to take this in account when purchasing wheels. If you are wanting a JDM style wheel, you must have the manufacture or a wheel shop redrill your wheels to the proper size.

I went with a very aggressive Yokohama Advan GT, Premium Edition, 19-inch, 5-spoke wheel design. They feature an extra deep concave face with a massive lip. What makes the Yokohama’s on my car truly unique is that they are a one piece, aluminum forged wheel. I also went with a very low offset at +15.

Offset is the position of the wheels mounting point relative to the center of the wheel. This is extremely important to know when purchasing wheels for any car. It will dictate where the wheel will ultimately end up at. Either it being inside the fenders, near the fender, flush with the fender or “poking” out of the fender. Your choice of offset is entirely dependent on what look you are trying to achieve. I am a firm believer that it will make or break the entire look of your Mustang.

There are many different wheel designs out there but the most common is variations of  5-spoke 5-spoke splits, multi-spoke or mesh designs. Wheels can come in a 1, 2 or 3-piece design. For most, a 1-piece flow form is going to be your best bet. Not all 1-piece wheels will be inexpensive, often 2- and 3-piece wheels will range from $850 to over $2000 per wheel depending on modications done.

When choosing a size, again, it is entirely relative to the use of your Mustang. I only recommend staying with 18’s if you’re serious about track use. You will be able to use taller slick to fill your wheel wells resulting in more grip. I personally went with 19-inch wheels as I do daily my car on R-Comps and street tires, I find the pricing of 19” tires to be fair compared to 20” tires.  Getting into the 20-inch range, price will begin to rise but with the correct spoke design, they can be pulled off exceptionally well on our cars.


For A “Safe” Look

  • Offset +45 to +35
  • Width: 9- to 9.5-inches

Damn Decent Looking

  • +32 to +25
  • Width 10- to 11-inches

Big Talk Offsets

  • +25 to +15
  • Width 10- to 13-inches

Blow Off Valve

As a kid, a blow-off valve was something I had always wanted if I ever owned a boosted vehicle. Lucky for us, we have some remarkable bolt-on solutions that take no more than 30-minutes to install.

If you are unfamiliar with blow-off valves, or BOV’s, I’ll take you on a quick, crash course to helping you understand them. One thing I’ve noticed about novices and boosted cars, they can get the terminology mixed up. A blow-off valve and a wastegate are two, completely separate items and have two critical jobs.

An internal or external wastegate is going to regulate boost pressure. This is done by “boost reference.” When the spring “sees” a set amount of boost via vacuum hose, let’s say 10 pounds of boost for example, the wastegate valve will open and release all the extra exhaust gases through it.

The Blow-off valve on the S550 Mustang is on the “hot” side of the charge piping, meaning the charge pipe before the intercooler. As the turbo begins to spool and boost levels rise, that magical power making air is being fed through your charge pipes to the intercooler and into the throttle body. When it’s time to let off and slow your roll, the throttle plate slams shut even though the turbo is still spinning. Unlike the wastegate, the BOV opens when the throttle is in the “off” position.  As soon as the BOV sees vacuum or negative air pressure, it evacuates as much of that extra boost inside the charge pipes being generated by the still spinning compressor blades.

I have set my spring much stiffer so the BOV will open and quickly slam shut. This produces the heavenly noise called “compressor chatter” not to be confused with compressor surge. Surging occurs on the throttle, not off.

Turbosmart and Go Fast Bits have created an OEM replacement valve that releases boost to the atmosphere. That will give you the WOOSH or PSH sound. Cheap, easy and a super fun item. If you’re ballin out of control, you most likely bought an intercooler with some custom charge pipes giving you the option for a custom flange. The most common being TiAL, Turbosmart, and HKS. Regardless of your choice, all options will sound awesome, definitely turn heads and most importantly protect your turbocharger.

My  Recommendations:

I sincerely applaud you if you’ve made it this far and are taking the time to research before aimlessly modifying your EcoBoost. Stay tuned as we will be releasing more and more information about the Ecoboost Mustang. If you’ve got any special request on topics to cover, shoot us an email and we’ll take it into consideration.

About the author

Charles Siritho

My name is Charles Siritho - my name is hard to forget as you’ll say it wrong the first go around. I am the owner and founder of The Function Factory, specializing in high-end automotive media / commercial video and photography services.
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