Ford Gas Truck Dyno Tested Upgrades

It used to be that a diesel power plant was a requirement for towing with most Ford trucks. But with the introduction of the 5.4L Modular power plant, the Ford F150, F250, and Expedition got enough oats to tow, though still lacking to the diesel big brothers. Another aspect to consider is the cost of diesel is about 40 cents more per gallon. Many full size SUV owners are transitioning to the more fuel efficient CUVs. Those who remain full sized are looking for better mileage and horsepower. One of those seeking salvation is me, with my 2004 Ford Expedition. I was looking for an increase in economy, more horsepower, and no installation hassles.

I had sworn that I wouldn’t modify my daily driver. Unfortunately, here at the powerTV Garage, that’s not how we do things. While the main purpose of this truck is to get from point-A to point-B with a plentiful amount of leg space, getting there cheaper and faster is even better. The Ford Expedition has never been a car that comes to mind when talking in terms of speed or performance, despite it’s 5.4L Modular power plant that comes OEM-equipped in similar form as the F150. For the most part, the upgrades that we are going to do in this article would be very similar (if not exact) with the results you would get with any Ford 5.4L Modular platform.

The Plan – Our Upgrades

To put a little more beat in our step, we have picked out a few key upgrades to increase both horsepower and torque in our gas Ford truck. By opening up the exhaust and intake, adding a tuner, a bigger mass air intake, and some light oil, we expect impressive power and fuel economy gains. Given the large wheel and tires our beast was carrying, we set out to pick up 15-18 hp at the rear wheels.

Here is our part roster:

• SCT PowerFlash 3 EFI Tuner — SCT is one of the leading aftermarket tuning companies in the world, and we tapped them for one of the SCT PowerFlash’s for Ford Gas Trucks. This will lean out the engine, producing better fuel economy and more horsepower.

• Granatelli High Flow Mass Air Kit — The GMS mass air does two things – increases power by flowing more air, and the electronics are capable of reacting to changes in airflow rate more quickly, giving us better throttle response and a more accurate air/fuel ratio.

• Nippon Eneos Synthetic Oil, 0-20W — Lighter oil, and a synthetic with some serious technology to boot, will reduce friction and should add power and even increase durability.

• Magnaflow Cat-Back Exhaust — A great choice for an affordable price and good sounds for a stainless steel exhaust, we used a Magnaflow muffler and tail pipe kit (“cat-back”) for the 5.4L Expedition

• K&N Cold Air Kit — K&N makes a replacement filter for the truck, but we wanted a more significant gain and less restriction than the factory housing permits. K&N outfitted us with a Generation 2 FIPK kit, which is an open air element with a high-flow K&N filter.

You’ll notice that we also have a set of Granatelli Coils in the photo. We ordered the wrong coils, and we weren’t able to use them with the Expedition. Our bad, and we were really looking forward to testing them. We’ll hold on to them for a future project.

The Install

We started things off by putting on the K&N Air Intake kit. This is their series 77 FIPK and it was specifically designed for the 5.4L Expedition. It’s a direct factory fit that uses the factory mounting points and can be installed with minimal experience and tools. Our first impression on the system was that the air piping was physically larger in diameter equating to better airflow. Secondly, the K&N air filter is a larger Conical open element type, adding higher flow rates as well as looking much more attractive in the engine bay.

Here BJ is removing the stock intake box.

“The factory air filter and intake track are usually very restrictive,” said K&N Performance Kit Manager Bert Heck. “Simply, we gain horsepower by replacing the factory air filter and air intake housing with an aerodynamically designed intake system.” We didn’t have any challenges installing the intake kit, I’d say it took about 30 minutes including taking photos.

Here is the intake tube after is installed. The intake tube was plastic as well, which K&N says will reduce air temperature. You’ll notice there is a clamp and bracket K&N provides to hold the cold air kit, as well as the Air Temp sensor you will need to transfer.


The completed air intake. Simple.

Nippon Eneos 0-20W Oil

If changed regularly, oil eliminates wear on the metal parts grinding in our engine. While thicker oils may last longer and hold up at higher temperatures, a lighter weight oil will reduce some of the frictional losses in the engine. By switching to the lighter weight Nippon Eneos 0-20w oil, we reduced some of the frictional losses caused by said thicker oil, thus improving performance. While some of you might be thinking, thinner oils break down at high temperatures we don’t expect our applications to cause temperatures that break down this 0-20W. As a bonus, we will be saving fuel by reducing that frictional loss incurred by our original oil.

We know Eneos reduces friction and provides an increase in horsepower because of the tests we did with Wheel to Wheel Powertrain on an LS2 engine. Of course, that engine made 550+ hp. We’re hoping to see some small gains and increases in efficiency as well.

Magnaflow High Flow Exhaust

The first thing many people upgrade on their cars are the exhaust systems. Factory exhaust systems usually restrict air flow and reduce noise caused by throttle input. Why? Soccer moms. The last thing Mrs. Smith wants when taking little notchhead to the batting cages is a louder car that makes other moms look at her funny. We, on the other hand, would love a slightly more “aggressive” exhaust note which comes along with greater horsepower.

Magnaflow has several things working for it in the pursuit of power and increased performance:

  • Larger diameter tubing
  • Entire Cat-Back is Mandrel bent for maximum blow.
  • Performance oriented muffler which is less restrictive
  • Stainless steel material is more duable

Of course, it sounds a whole bunch better than the crappy stock exhaust also.
The exhaust note on the Expedition is stronger, yet not too loud to where you can’t carry a conversation. Heck, we’ll even go on record-stating that even a soccer mom-type would be able to run this exhaust without any problems. I even had a kid last week stop me last week to tell me, and I quote, “Dude your car sounds wicked.”

The systems feature large 22″ long, 5″ x 11″ stainless steel performance mufflers, fast-flowing 3″ stainless steel mandrel-bent tubing and 4″ polished stainless steel side exit exhaust tip. The material is made of 100% stainless steel and the system is all welded and built for endurance. Along with increasing the amount of air that we can push out through the back end, the chrome tipped Magnaflow produces a much more sporty look coming out of the rear side exit on our tow-capable grocery-getter.

Did we just say sporty?

Granatelli Mass Air Sensor

We also installed a Granatelli Mass Air Sensor for our 5.4L Truck. The sensor itself is actually pre-calibrated for use with a cold air induction system such as our K&N kit. It is a direct OEM replacement and Granatelli told us that it shouldn’t void the factory warranty (our was long-gone anyways). The purpose of a mass air is to measure air flow. However, when you are installing things like a high-flow intake, the mass air itself can become a restriction.

The install process is around 10-minutes with basic hand tools. Granatelli has beenselling mass air sensors for over 10 years and is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) manufacturers of aftermarket sensors that they get straight from the OEM’s but built to GMS’s specifications. GMS Founder J.R. Granatelli told us, “We offer MAFs for just about everything Ford or Chevy from 1985 to current. The mass air is a simple change, and it’s almost always worth horsepower.”

The Granatelli mass air is made with a larger inlet diameter than the factory sensor, so your theoretical maximum airflow increases. Now before you get the wise idea to take a Dremel tool to your factory MAF sensor, keep in mind that the Granatelli MAF is calibrated to work specifically with it’s diameter—just like your factory sensor. Drill it out and you’re asking for a “check engine” light to join you for the drive. The GMS sensor install was a 15-minute project to get it to mate up to the K&N intake kit.

SCT Tuner – PowerFlash 3

We used a SCT SF3 Power Flash hand held tuner to tune our 04 Expedition. We used the factory SCT “pre-programmed” tune for the 5.4L truck and we were very pleased with it out of the box. SCT’s pre-programmed tunes (call them canned tunes) lean out the engine in a safe manner, and adjust the timing for maximum performance while still being safe. This also has the very desirable side-effect of reducing gas mileage. In fact, we saw a 1.0-1.5 mpg increase in our limited testing over a 2 week period testing the drive to work. That’s big when you are talking about a 15-mpg truck.

We used the manual adjustment in the Power Flash 3 to fine tune our setup by checking the fuel/air mixture and playing with settings. This is not recommended for inexperienced users, but if you are using a dyno like we were, we’d expect you know a thing or two about programming. Running the normal tune, we did experience gains of about 9 rwhp. By running the car slightly leaner and adding a single degree of timing, we gained about 12 rwhp which is portrayed in our dyno sheet. The SCT canned tune also really helped out with the slow shifting slush box. The Expedition shifted much crisper after the SCT file, and we could even adjust it from there.

The SF3 Power Flash is the newest SCT handheld tuner that that offer. “Its basically one part number that supports 20 different vehicle applications,” said Brad Grissom from SCT. “It is designed to improve horsepower, torque, drivability, and improve vehicle economy. We’ve got some bells and whistles you can play with at home, including fine tuning, shifting, and other fun stuff.”

Using the OBD-II port, the SCT Power Flash 3 can flash your ECU in about 10 minutes including reading the instructions! It also includes the actual cool hand held tuner itself, code reader, and has some data logging capability.

If you want to play with your tune, check out the User Adjustable Features:

  • WOT Fuel Adjustment
  • Idle RPM
  • Spark Adjustment
  • Transmission Shift Points
  • Axle Ratio
  • Fuel Injector Size
  • Tire Size – Rev / Mile
  • Air Intake Selection
  • Cooling Fan Temps
  • Traction Control On / Off

Before and After Results

As can be seen by the dyno results below, we improved our 5.4L V8 motor by a good amount. Our stock dyno run resulted in 192 rwhp with 266 ft-lbs of torque. After our upgrades and tune, we increased our horsepower by over 20 hp at the wheels. The most significant improvement was in the 30 ft-lbs of torque we gained at the same measuring points and increased range throughout the power band.

Before: 192.9 rwhp, 266.6 ft lbs
After: 213.6 rwhp, 295.39 ft lbs
Gains: 20.7 rwhp, 29.4 ft-lbs.

Article Sources

About the author

James Lawrence

James started working on a Nostalgia Top Fuel drag racing team in 1992, and the rest has been history. A life-long automotive enthusiast, James is in fierce competition to see whether he can collect more cars or cats. Right now, the cars are winning. James co-founded the NMRA and NMCA Drag Racing Series in 1998 and continues to be an avid and passionate fan on everything 1320. He also thinks he can drive. Thinks, is the key word.
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