How to Get More Horsepower on Ford Cars

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

Horsepower is the amount of force that your car puts out, and it's one of the measurements used to determine how much raw power the engine is creating. However, if you drive a Ford car then there are ways you can increase your horsepower output. They take time to install and often a lot of money to purchase, but if you are determined to get as much power out of your Ford car as possible then there are a lot of roads you can take.

Under The Hood:

 How to Get More Horsepower on a Ford Ranger

Use high-quality motor oil in the correct grade. 5W-20 is the correct grade for most Ford Rangers.

Have the air filter replaced with a high-flow air filter, such as a K&N performance filter. Different models are available for different Ranger models and years. These allow greater air flow while properly filtering air.

Replace the oil filter with a high-quality filter that provides higher oil flow rates. K&N offers good oil filters for Ford Rangers.

Use the recommended gasoline to increase compression in the engine and improve performance. Regular unleaded is the optimum gas for most Ford Rangers.

Have a Motorvac service performed at your local mechanic shop. This cleans out the engine and helps your engine performance at its highest ability.

Have the camshaft replaced to increase the compression ratio. Crane cams, Compcams and Camcraft all offer camshaft upgrades for Ford Rangers.

Have the air intake system upgraded. Better piping will reduce air resistance and improve engine performance. K&N's cold air intake systems are best.

Upgrade to a larger muffler that allows air to flow out of the Ranger more easily. Your mechanic can choose a muffler that is the best fit for your model and year, but Flowmaster makes high-quality mufflers for all Ford Rangers.

Have the exhaust pipe enlarged to reduce air resistance and pressure when air leaves the engine.

Items you will need

  • High-quality motor oil

  • Replacement air filter

  • Replacement oil filter

  • High-quality camshaft

  • Replacement muffler

  • Exhaust pipe replacement

 How to Get More Horsepower from a 3.0L Ford

How to get more horsepower from a Ford 3.0L

Remove any unnecessary weight from the vehicle. Extra weight means the engine is working harder to achieve less.

Keep the vehicle's tires properly inflated. Under-inflated tires will slow down vehicle. Avoid using oversized tires, which place added pressure on the vehicle's engine, thus reducing horsepower output.

Keep the wheels aligned, and maintain shocks and struts. Misaligned wheels can create "drag," and force the engine to work harder than it has to.

Use the recommended Ford fuel. Ford suggests using regular unleaded with octane rating of 87 in most of its vehicles.

Install power pulleys, bigger exhaust, additional air intake system and/or filter. These modifications or additional parts can add additional horsepower to the engine.

Items you will need

  • Work gloves

  • Flashlight

  • Additional horsepower installation kits

 How to Get the Most Horsepower Out of a Ford 302

Install a performance aftermarket cold air intake to replace the Ford 302 factory air intake. Performance air intakes enhance the airflow from the exterior of the vehicle into the engine and also cool the air more efficiently. Having more air and cooler air flowing into your engine increases horsepower and torque.

Install a performance aftermarket exhaust system to replace the Ford 302 factory exhaust system. Performance exhaust systems improve the flow of warm air from out of the engine. This allows the engine to stay cool even under difficult operating conditions, which improve horsepower and torque.

Install a forced induction -- supercharger or turbocharger -- kit. Forced induction kits attach to the top of the engine and suck in large amounts of air, then divert this air into the engine. This provides a massive boost to the engine's horsepower, sometimes more than doubling available power. These kits are extremely expensive and challenging to install for an amateur.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

 How to Get More Horsepower on an Expedition

Replace the factory air intake system with an upgraded, cold air intake system. According to KN Filters this can add as much as 12 horsepower to your engine because it will be able to gain access to more air, which is one half of the internal combustion formula of oxygen and fuel.

Replace the exhaust system with a larger diameter exhaust. If your Expedition can get rid of exhaust faster then it will be able to process the fuel and air more quickly. It's as if you increased your power to inhale, but not exhale if you put an aftermarket intake system but you leave the old exhaust in place.

Replace the tires. Horsepower has to translate from the engine to the tires in order for the power to be of use, and tires that are specifically meant to grip the road are extremely useful in helping that translation along. Additionally, balding tires with no tread will cause you to lose a great deal of power output.

Replace the performance chip. This is a complicated endeavor and you should consult a professional if you're not familiar with the process. In your engine there's a chip that decides the ratio of fuel to air, but the standard chip is designed for the average driver. For those who want to tweak the ratio and find a more optimum horsepower output for the Expedition, a performance chip is a solid investment.

Items you will need

  • Air intake system

  • Exhaust system

  • Performance chip

  • Tires

 How to Get More Horsepower Out of a Ford 289

Machine the block to bring it into spec, and bore the cylinders 0.060-inch over to increase displacement to 297 cubic inches. While not an enormous increase in displacement, the large bore will help to better un-shroud (allow air to flow away from) the large valves you'll be using, which will help the heads to work more efficiently. Micro polish the crankshaft and install new camshaft bearings.

Choose a cylinder head before you install the pistons. If you're going to use the stock 289 heads, install 1.84-inch intake valves, then port the intake and exhaust; these mods will net you about 185 cfm of intake port flow at 0.50 lift. Late-model ford GT40 and GT40P heads with 1.84-inch intake valves will also flow 185 cfm at 0.50-inch lift, but flow more than the 289 heads at all other lift ranges. A set of race-ported 351W C5AE heads will net you a whopping 215 cfm. More port flow equals more power, so choose carefully.

Install a set of forged H-beam rods and a set of forged pistons designed to deliver about 10.5:1 compression with whatever cylinder heads you choose. Coat the tops of the pistons, the roof of the combustion chambers and the insides of the intake/exhaust ports with thermally-insulating, ceramic-metallic powdercoating. This will keep combustion heat where it belongs, increasing power, decreasing coolant temps (a problem with over-bored Windsor motors) and increasing octane tolerance so that you can run 91-octane with your high compression pistons.

Install a split-pattern, hydraulic flat-tappet camshaft with about 219/233 (intake exhaust) duration at 0.050 valve lift, 275/283 advertised duration and 0.295" Intake and 0.304" exhaust lift (at the cam lobes). The Dual Energy cam used by Mustang Monthly met this spec, and delivered power in the 2,000-5,500 rpm range on their 331 stroker; expect about 500 rpm higher for your 297. A 270S cam will work if you like a smoother idle, but will cost some top-end power.

Install a high-flowing dual-plane intake, ceramic coated headers (stock 289 HiPo manifolds flow well and will fit nicely on GT40P heads if you opt to use them), a 675-750 cfm carburetor (or a retrofitted 5.0L electronic fuel injection system), and a good HEI-style aftermarket distributor.

About the Author

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