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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

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