How to Tune and Modify Ford Performance Engines

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Of all the Ford Mustang parts out there, I’m sure we can agree that the engine is one of the most important. In this article we’ll discuss 6 things to keep your Ford performance engine in top shape.

How To Tune And Modify Ford Performance Engines

When you have a Ford performance engine  or a racing crate engine, make sure it is tuned and modified to the fullest so you get the best performance possible. To do this, look at the mods you want, pick what is in your budget, and make sure to choose what works well together. Set a plan of what modifications are going to be tackled first as some mods should be done together to give you more power.  Knowing what works best and keeping your engine in top shape is important.

1. Breathing Mods – Intake & Exhaust

Breathing mods refer to the intake and exhaust parts of your engine which are not only one of the most popular modifications but also the easiest. They focus on improving the breathing of your engine. Most of the Ford performance engines come with stock induction and exhaust that can limit their power. You want to modify it with parts that allow for higher airflow so the power is rebalanced and, even better, increased. Make sure to purchase the correct ones as some induction kits and big bore exhausts can cause you to lose engine power rather than gain it. Understanding the balance of the exhaust with intake and engine capacity while not causing backpressure is important.

One of the easiest switches is to replace the restrictive air box for the intake to let air flow easily without restriction so the engine breathes more. Choose one that blocks the engine area from the air filter. You should also combine this mod with a free-flowing air filter as well as a larger diameter intake tube to help with the extra air coming into the engine – a perfect combination of modifications.

The second easiest mod is the exhaust. Pipes should allow air to get out easily so the engine runs efficiently and has a better fuel economy. Look at a cat-back exhaust as that means it covers all things that come after the catalytic converter. They aren’t all prohibitively loud and can be high-flow with quiet noise levels. You can also do an axle-back upgrade if your regular pipes are good so you’re just changing out the rear mufflers.

2. Internal Engine Tuning Modifications

Internal Engine Tuning Modifications

When you choose to modify the engine, it should include high compression pistons as they improve the compression ratio. You may also want to tune it by skimming the head as this further increases the compression ratio. That said, if you do skim the head to make it flat again, you can’t reverse it so make sure you know what you are doing if you go this route. This modification should only be done if you are well versed in the process. You don’t want to damage the engine by doing something you don’t know how to do properly.

3. Superchargers

Adding a supercharger to your Ford performance engine is going to up the torque. This is different than a turbocharger. These are driven by a belt off the engine and increase torque immediately. Forcing air into the engine gives that boost. A great mod that can really give you some additional power.

4. Spark Plugs and Wires

We all monitor spark plugs and wires no matter what car we drive but when you are working with a performance engine, you want to be even more cautious to stay on top of this. All spark plugs die over time because the elements erode. This makes the ignition coils work harder to create a hotter spark. Along with putting in high-performance spark plugs, modify the wires as well to make sure that even the most basic engine parts are upgraded to meet the standards of a Ford performance engine.

5. Pulleys


Some Ford performance engines use a belt drive for parts like the alternator and A/C. This means that with the crankshaft driving the belt, the extras pull power away from the engine. A way to counteract this is to mod it by adding underdrive pulleys. These can overdrive the crankshaft using a little pulley and underdrive the extras with a bigger pulley. It slows the extras down so there is less drain. These mods need to be done properly so if in doubt have someone who is mechanically trained do it if it is beyond your scope.

6. Change a Tune

After installing a few Ford racing parts, you’ll want to update your tune to account for the extra air and fuel.

The easiest way to change a tune is to install a chip that overrides the stock tune. This means you can bypass the timing table for increased HP. You can also do this with a tuner that is handheld and simply plugs into the OBD2 port to load in a custom tune and data log as needed.

Final Thoughts

There are lots of sites and discussion groups on how to best tune and modify Ford performance engines. The more input you get, the better. If you are new to the field of mods, do a lot of reading and research. Ask questions and make sure you know the laws. You don’t want to do a bunch of engine mods and then find out that your exhaust or intake is either problematic or illegal. Mods are not just something you choose and then throw on without a thought.

Mods need to be assessed. Make sure they are compatible with other mods and are suitable for your engine. Find car communities online who are doing mods like the ones you want so you can learn from other’s experiences. Understanding what you are capable of doing and what you need help with is important. Being overconfident and under prepared can cost you money and time and damage your car. Do what you can and find a good performance car shop if the work is beyond your scope. Having your Ford performance engine providing the best power and output that it can makes driving a sweeter experience.

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