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How to Get More Horsepower From My Ford F-150 5.0 Liter

by Tracy Underwood

The fuel-injected 5.0-liter 302 was the base V8 engine in the 1987 through 1996 Ford F-150. The 5.0 in this application is not a high-performance engine, but this does not mean those desiring more performance must swap up to a 5.8-liter. Because the 302 has existed in various forms since 1968, a large aftermarket exists for the purpose of improving its performance.

Step 1

Tune up the engine according to the service manual. Install a high-flow aftermarket air filter. Replace the O2 sensor, if you haven't done so in the past 75,000 miles. The engine control computer cannot set the proper air-to-fuel mixture unless it receives a good signal from the O2 sensor, and a proper mixture is essential for performance.

Step 2

Check the compression of all eight cylinders, using the compression gauge. This gives a picture of overall engine health. A worn engine is not capable of providing top performance.

Step 3

Replace the factory engine control chip with an aftermarket performance chip, following the instructions provided with the chip. This reprograms the fuel and ignition curves for a more performance-oriented application.

Step 4

Remove the factory exhaust system from the catalytic converter back and replace with a performance exhaust system, following the instructions provided with the new system.

Replace the original catalytic converter with a high-flow aftermarket converter.


  • These steps should be followed in order, but do not necessarily have to be all performed at once. Each step offers incrementally improved performance.
  • Experiment with higher grades of gasoline, especially after installing a performance chip. While the engine may still run fine on low-octane fuel, a higher-grade fuel may allow greater performance improvement.

Items you will need

  • Ignition cap and rotor
  • Spark plugs
  • Plug wires
  • High-flow engine air filter
  • Compression gauge
  • O2 sensor
  • Service manual
  • Performance chip
  • Cat-back exhaust system
  • Performance catalytic converter

About the Author

Since 2008 Tracy Underwood has been fulfilling a lifelong dream of writing professionally. He has written articles for and online, and in print for "Backwoodsman Magazine." Underwood holds an Amateur Extra license from the FCC. He received an Electronic Technician certificate from the U.S. Navy BE/E school, NTC Great Lakes.

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