There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to decide how long he’s going to drive his truck. For me, that time came right around the 100k mile mark when I knew I was going to have to give my ’05 F-150 5.4L 3V its 100k mile service and inspection rundown. I decided to hold onto my truck and make the most of it for as long as I can. It has been a great truck, and to commemorate my decision, I decided to give my truck’s engine a gift – one that would give it more potential and make it a lot more fun to drive.
Intakes, Exhausts & Tuners
Enter the wonderful world of air intakes, exhausts and engine tuners. Depending on your make and model of vehicle – and in most cases – an aftermarket cold air intake and exhaust can make a notable difference in torque, a bit more horsepower, improved MPGs i.e. overall performance, especially when coupled with a tuner. Obviously, adjusting your driving habits will have the biggest impact on improved MPGs, but to get the most possible – you’ll need to swap out some factory parts and tune your vehicle.
After hitting the Ford truck forums, I started shopping for deals and ultimately went with the following products:
– Banks Ram Air Intake
– Banks Monster 3″ Exhaust
– Bully Dog GT Platinum Tuner
With the help of a 20% off coupon from AutoAnything.com and a $50 rebate on the tuner, I was able to scoop up all three for right around $1100 which I thought was a solid bargain. If all I see is a 1 MPG improvement, then I figure in 5 years from now at an average of $3/gallon, the parts will have paid for themselves and I’ll have 5 years to enjoy the beautiful sound of a V8 that can finally breathe.
Every make and model of cars, trucks and SUVs have their own quirks. Most all manufacturers – at least the ones who care about their reputation – customize the installation guidelines and instructions, and especially the parts, to facilitate your ride. Preparation is key, and you’ll want to spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with your vehicle’s systems and parts before diving in. The installation instructions won’t make a lick of sense if you aren’t familiar with these parts, which is why you can always buy the parts and then bring them to a trusted mechanic to install them.
For my truck, installing the Ram Air Intake was a breeze. It took slightly longer than the exhaust at roughly 60 minutes, because I wanted to make sure that all steps were done properly – such as correctly matching and seating the throttle body gasket on the intake. Failure here can lead to all kinds of issues down the road so attention to detail is key. I was overall very impressed with the illustrations and clear instructions provided in Bank’s installation manual.
The exhaust kit arrived ready to install, except for one intermediate piece of pipe that I needed to cut about a foot shorter because of my Crew Cab 5.5′ short bed configuration. The instructions made that perfectly clear, which is important when you start hacking away at expensive parts. For me, the easiest way to get the stock exhaust off was spraying the rubber rod attachments with a lubricant (soapy water in my case), loosening the band clamp in front of the muffler and using your hands to brace yourself, kick the muffler toward the rear bumper several times as hard as you can and the muffler will eventually fall completely off. You’ll have to finagle it out from around your rear axle, but it’s possible to do without lifting your rig. I replaced my exhaust without having to lift my vehicle – then again I do have 33″ tires and a 2.5″ leveling kit which helped give me a bit more ground clearance to work with.
The tuner was a little finicky getting set up. First, I had to download the latest software update onto a micro SD card (included) prior to installation. This is to be expected with most electronic components, so no biggie. Secondly, you had to do it on a PC – no way to do it on a Mac computer. Thirdly, the instructions for the software download were incomplete and outdated. The download link I needed was not on Bully Dog’s website where the instruction manual indicated. Lastly, one of my PCs threw the dreaded blue screen after I had installed what I later found out to be the incorrect software update so I had to use my wife’s PC. Whenever a husband has to turn to his wife’s equipment to help him with an auto repair project – you know something is wrong!
Aside from those little quirks, the tuner installation went pretty smoothly, and I’m thrilled to have the added insight into how my truck’s systems are doing. The installation kit came with one of those dandy little fuse adapters allowing you to tie into an existing “key” or “run” fuse so the tuner device turns on and off with the key. For my vehicle, I tapped into Fuse #1 (the no juiced side).
After 30 days of running the recommended tuning settings and Regular octane 87 fuel, I have noticed a 0.5 MPG gain in town and about a 2 MPG gain out on the flats. Any of you 5.4 Triton owners out there will take small gains like that in a heartbeat! This isn’t an exact science, but I tried not to adjust my driving style at all before and after. I also shaved a little more than a second off my 0-60 spurt from 9.7 seconds (with stock components) to 8.6 seconds (with mods). Nothing to write home about, but for my old F150 with 33″ tires and a rear diff made for hauling and towing, that’s not bad. I look forward to further fine tuning my truck and enjoying what I hope to be many years to come driving it.
– Written by Devin
CC image courtesy of Tim at Flickr