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  • How to Tune Up a 1997 Ford F-150 with Summit Racing, Accel, Lucas Oil, and a K&N Air Intake System

How to Tune Up a 1997 Ford F-150 with Summit Racing, Accel, Lucas Oil, and a K&N Air Intake System

Project TOTYl Resurrection: Part One- 1997 Ford F-150

Aug 13, 2020
It's been affectionately referred to as Larry, the Jelly Bean, the Beater, and many other monikers since it became part of our staff more than 17 years ago. Call it what you want, but this 1997 Ford F-150 Lariat has served the Motor Trend and Truck Trend staffs well. It has survived company mergers, layoffs, and vehicle sell-offs, and is in fact the longest standing employee of either magazine!
It all started in the fall of 1996 when Motor Trend (Truck Trend did not yet exist) began its annual Truck of the Year testing. The competition was not that fierce, but the new F-150, with its extreme carlike styling (something Ford had never been accused of), new engine family, and A-arm suspension was the obvious standout. Once the Ford was declared the winner, the truck began a yearlong residency with the magazine for long-term testing, a tradition that continues today.
Photo 2/26   |   The truck is outfitted with an aerodynamic Snug Top and towing a former editor's Camaro.
A year later, a funny thing happened: The staff was so enamored of the new Ford that they struck a deal to make it a permanent fixture. It became the go-to for long drives, camping trips, and employee relocations, and was the camera car for many a photo and video shoot. There are stories that have become legend around the office involving mishaps with the truck. There are bumps and bruises on the Dark Toreador Metallic body that no one will cop to creating. But the truck has never broken down on anyone. As we said, this truck has served us well, but we had a strong feeling this could change soon if someone didn't jump in and give the tired F-150 some love. The regular service it had become accustomed to had dwindled, the 5.4-liter engine and A-arm suspension were now far from new, and the cabin emitted the distinct aroma of melted crayons. It was often left parked in dark corners of our headquarters garage for months. When we went to grab the truck, we were greeted with a dead battery and a crankcase that was extremely low on oil.
A plan was formulated. Truck Trend decided that our longest-term tester is now officially a project vehicle. With the help of great partners such as Summit Racing Equipment, we'll resurrect the ol' dog to its former glory -- and then some. Instead of simply throwing parts at the vehicle the way magazines often do, we'll start extremely small.
For this first installment, we're going to do a basic tune-up and fluid change with the help of Summit along with Lucas Oil Products. This will provide a good base for the modifications we plan to make.
Check Out the Rest of this 1997 Ford F-150!
Adding Power and Sound - Part 2
1997 Ford F-150 Brakes & Shocks Upgrade - Part 3
1997 Ford F-150 Exterior Upgrade - Part 4
Speaking of bases, we really wanted to see where we stand in the horsepower department. We were sure that after 17 years of use and abuse, the truck would no longer produce the 235 hp at the flywheel rating it once boasted. Our first stop was K&N Engineering in Riverside, California, where we strapped the F-150 to the dyno and, amazingly, the truck made 180 hp at the wheels. Using a 20-percent parasitic loss rule, that is less than 10 hp from stock.
Since we were at K&N and our factory air intake system was beyond filthy, we jumped ahead of our tune-up and installed K&N's FIPK Performance Intake System. About 20 minutes later, we were back on the dyno, and, sure enough, the K&N kit made all 10 hp of its advertised gain for this particular truck, which was now making 190 hp at the wheels and closely matching the original output.
Soon we were in our Tech Center to complete the initial tune-up. We ordered several products from Lucas Oil, then contacted Summit Racing Equipment for the rest of this installment, which includes Accel coil packs, Motocraft Platinum spark plugs, remanufactured injectors, a Fram transmission filter kit and fuel filter, Loctite RTV Black and dielectric grease, and an oil filter from K&N.
Photo 3/26   |   Project Totyl Resurrection Part One 004
01. After giving Larry a battery charge, some test tires, a few quarts of oil, and a wash after our only SoCal rainstorm this year, we trekked out to K&N to see what the truck had left in the power department. To our surprise, it made 180 hp at the wheels.
Photo 4/26   |   Project Totyl Resurrection Part One 005
02. While at K&N, we installed its FIPK air intake kit #57-2541. We were jumping the gun, but this was in the plans all along.
Photo 5/26   |   Project Totyl Resurrection Part One 006
03. The truck was a tired, dirty mess, but since it had never had any work done besides regular maintenance, everything was right where it was supposed to be.
Photo 6/26   |   Project Totyl Resurrection Part One 007
04. After removal of the throttle body cover, idle air control and crankcase vent hoses, and the air temperature sensor connector, a hose clamp at each end released the air intake tube. Once the mass air sensor connector was removed, the air filter box could be
lifted out.
Photo 7/26   |   Project Totyl Resurrection Part One 008
05. Nut inserts replaced the stock mounting grommets, and then the edge trim was installed on the heat shield before being bolted down with the supplied hardware.
Photo 8/26   |   Project Totyl Resurrection Part One 009
06. The intake tube saddle was bolted to the bracket before the whole assembly was mounted using the protruding stud located on the cylinder head.
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07. We then connected the air temperature sensor to the intake tube with the provided grommet, then secured the tube to the throttle body.
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08. After the stock plumbing was removed from the mass air sensor, the K&N adapter was installed.
Photo 11/26   |   Project Totyl Resurrection Part One 012
09. The mass air sensor was slid through the heat shield and secured to the intake tube with a silicone connector. The K&N filter was then attached to the adapter. Finally, the sensor connector was reattached.
Photo 12/26   |   Project Totyl Resurrection Part One 013
10. We ran the truck on the dyno one more time, and our new filter made a full 10 horses over our baseline. Now we were excited to get over to the Tech Center and install the many more new parts onto the 5.4-liter and see what it could really do!
Photo 13/26   |   Project Totyl Resurrection Part One 014
11. Here's what the rest of our self-made tune-up kit looked like. We brought the oil filter home with us from K&N (HP-2010). Everything else came to us in one order from Summit Racing. Included were transmission and fuel filters (FRM-FT1167A, FRM-G3850) from Fram, Accel Super Coils (ACC-140032-8), Uremco remanufactured injectors (7188), Motocraft Platinum spark plugs (MOF-SP432), and RTV Black and dielectric grease from Loctite.
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12. We also ordered all the necessary fluids from Lucas Oil Products. Included was synthetic 10W-30 engine oil, semi-synthetic transmission fluid, Synthetic 75W-140 gear oil, Deep Fuel System Cleaner, and some Slick Mist Speed Wax for fun.
13. Planning to tackle everything in one long day, we raised the truck on the lift started on the underside. We began by draining the oil and removing the filter.
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14. We always prime the new oil filter before reinstalling it. There are different theories on the necessity of doing this, but better safe than sorry. The K&N oil filter has a 3/4-inch nut on the bottom to make the installation that much easier.
Photo 16/26   |   Project Totyl Resurrection Part One 017
15. Next, we removed the 20 bolts and dropped the pan from the E4OD transmission. We had the drain pan jacked up on the transmission jack to catch it. For a transmission that had not been serviced since who knows when, the pan looked pretty good. The amount of metal on the pan and the magnet was not excessive. With the pan cleaned, we installed the new filter and reused the heavy factory gasket without sealer, per the instructions. There are no leaks, so they must know their business.
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16. Next, we pulled the differential cover and drained the gear oil. Neither the metal in the pan nor the gears showed excessive wear. This was also the time to pull and clean the magnetic fill plug, where the metal shavings would be if there were a real problem. The pan and plug were cleaned and a healthy bead of Loctite RTV Black was applied around each mounting hole. We reinstalled the cover and tightened the bolts systematically until there was a tiny bit of RTV squeezing out all the way around.
Photo 18/26   |   Project Totyl Resurrection Part One 019
17. Fuel filter replacement is pretty much impossible without the quick disconnect tool, of which there are several different types. This one is as simple as they come and did the job easily. Without too much of a mess, we popped the Fram filter into place and hooked it back up.
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18. The good thing about replacing the injectors at the same time as the plugs and coils is that they're all crammed in the same place. That is the bad thing, too. After finessing all the wires and hoses out of the way as much as possible, we began on the passenger side by removing the bolts that hold the fuel rail in place.
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19. Next the fuel rail was lifted off the four injectors and (sort of) out of the way. One thing to check very carefully is to make sure all the O-rings stay on the injectors and are not stuck up in the fuel rail. The forums are filled with people asking why they can't get the rail to bolt back down or why they have a fuel leak. This is the culprit.
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20. With the fuel system out of the way, the ignition system process is much easier. One bolt holds each coil, or COP (coil on plug). The unit was then wiggled up until the boot was off the plug. The plug could then be removed with a plug socket and extension.
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21. We prepped our replacement parts. Dialectic grease was applied to the tops of the plugs and inside the boots, a touch of regular grease went on the outside of the boots and the injector O-rings, and a dab of anti-seize went on the plug threads.
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22. Once the plugs were cinched down, the Accel Super Coils were pushed into place. As with an old-style plug wire, they need clip over the plug properly before moving on. When they felt right, they were bolted down.
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23. The injectors came next. When they were popped into place, the connectors helped stabilize them while the fuel rail was reattached.
Photo 25/26   |   Project Totyl Resurrection Part One 026
24. With the fuel rail bolted back down on the injectors and all the coils reconnected, the right bank was complete. We chose to photograph the passenger side because there were a lot less obstacles in the way.
Photo 26/26   |   Project Totyl Resurrection Part One 027
25. The driver's side was slightly more daunting. But with the power steering pump moved aside, along with several hoses and wires, the job became much more manageable. In fact, only the rearmost set was a real pain at that point.


K&N Engineering
Riverside, CA
Lucas Oil
Corona, CA
Summit Racing