How to Improve Engine Performance on a First-Generation F-150 Raptor
Routine Maintenance And Performance Upgrades Collide!
When we set out in search of the perfect first-generation Ford F-150 Raptor, we knew that with a budget of about $35,000 we'd be looking at a higher-mileage unit. What we ended up with was a very solid 2013 model. However, just as we thought, it came with almost 90,000 miles on the odometer. According to the vehicle history report, our truck had only one previous owner and all of its routine maintenance had been performed at a Ford dealer.
Even still, as the truck approached the century mark, it would be coming up on a few things that had yet to be performed. One of these was a spark-plug change, which is recommended for the 6.2L V-8 engine at 100,000 miles. Desiring to only do the job once, we reached to the ignition pros at NGK and picked up a set of 16 of the company's top-of-the-line Ruthenium HX spark plugs along with 8 new coil packs.
Why 16 spark plugs, you ask? Well, the Ford 6.2L V-8 uses a "wasted spark" type ignition system, with two spark plugs per cylinder. The main spark plug is located in the top of the cylinder, where you'd typically find a spark plug. The second one is lower on the cylinder head, right above the exhaust valve. This second plug fires slightly behind the main ignition and is used ignite any leftover fuel before it enters the exhaust system. So, they aren't for power, but rather emissions control. And on an F-150 Raptor they are incredibly difficult to access, as two of the plugs are located directly behind the shock tower.
At the same time, since they needed to be removed anyway, we also chose to replace the coil-on-plug coil packs. NGK is the OEM Ford supplier for this part, as we found out during the install, so we can rest assured that we should never have an issue with the ignition system in the time that we'll own this truck. We also hit up RockAuto.com and picked up a new set of plug wires that connect the coil pack to the second "wasted spark" plug.
Not being able to leave well enough alone, we didn't stop at just the ignition system. We also replaced the battery, air filter, coolant, transmission fluid, exhaust system, and tuned the whole thing. It seems the only thing we didn't do was change the oil—go figure.
Ford's 6.2L V-8 engine is stout. It was built with HD trucks in mind and was used in just the F-150 Raptor and F-250/F-250 Super Duty pickups. While it had a relatively short run, it has been nothing but reliable.
To gain access to the spark plugs, we first needed to remove the intake system, including the air tube and resonator. Once removed the 8 coil packs become visible. Unlike a traditional single-spark-plug engine, the 6.2L V-8 uses two. The main plug is located on the top of the cylinder head near and fires near the intake valve, while the secondary plug is located on the bottom and fires near the exhaust valve.
While we weren't noticing any specific performance degradation, at nearly 100,000 miles the plugs were due for a change. It's easy to see from this angle just how much the spark plug electrode had worn down increasing the gap size.
With the first eight plugs removed we noticed very little fouling and just a hint of carbon buildup, which was all good news. You can learn a lot about how an engine is running by looking at the spark plugs.
The 6.2L engine specifications call for a platinum spark plug, so we went one better and ordered up a set of NGK Ruthenium HX plugs. NGK makes a lot of big claims about the Ruthenium plug, including better durability at high-temperature, high-ignitability for better cold starts, better stability under pressure, and even increased performance and 0-60 times.
Looking at the new NGK spark plug, it's easy to see the superfine ruthenium-allow electrode. The electrode is so hard that we actually had it leave groves in one of our gapping tools. The ground strap on the Ruthenium HX plug is platinum.
The coil-on-plug coil pack is a pretty large unit and not inexpensive. At the very least the rubber isolator boot should be replaced with each spark plug change, if not the entire unit. Looking at the top you can see the additional connection used for the wire that connects to the lower secondary plug.
While not advertised as such, NGK is the original equipment supplier for coil packs on the Ford 6.2L V-8. How do we know this? The markings on the parts give it away, including part numbers, supplier numbers, FoMoCo scraped off the NGK parts—oh, and the one NGK coil pack that left it in place.
A dab of dielectric grease is cheap insurance against having a spark plug boot seize in place. We used it on the cable connecting the coil pack to the secondary plug along with on the main coil pack and plug. Antiseize lubricant on the spark plug threads is also a good idea.
We had the top 8 spark plugs and coil packs replaced in about an hour. The lower plugs were a whole different story, with two of the plugs requiring extensive work to remove and replace. And we're not alone, combing the forums turns up the same report from nearly every owner who attempted to change the lower plugs, along with reports of nearly $600 dealer labor charges to replace the plugs. Good job, Ford.
Odyssey Extreme Series AGM Battery
Not knowing the full history of the truck's battery scared us. Because we'd be frequently venturing well off the beaten path, we decided to swap out the factory battery for the largest Odyssey AGM battery that would fit in the factory location. The winner turned out to be the Odyssey PC-1500T Extreme series battery. This battery features 1,500 hot cranking amps, 850 cold cranking amps, and 135 minutes of reserve capacity. Though it's a little more expensive (well, about three times more expensive) than a factory battery, we think that it's money well spent.
Mishimoto Transmission Cooler
Another maintenance item that comes due at around 100,000 miles is a transmission fluid service. Ford claims that the stout 6R80 transmission is "lubed-for-life" and don't even provide a dipstick to check the fluid. That is, unless you fall into the "severe duty" category, which our Raptor certainly is. While we let the local Ford dealer handle the fluid and filter change (a special machine is needed to hot-flush the transmission because of its thermostatically controlled cooling system) we decided this would be the perfect time to upgrade the transmission cooler as well.
Mishimoto's new 14-row tube-and-fin cooler provides an increase of 93 percent in core volume and 197 percent greater fluid capacity over the factory transmission cooler. And best of all, it's a direct replacement.
Mishimoto Aluminum Radiator
Replacing the engine's coolant is yet another service item that falls right at the 100,000-mile mark on the service chart. And again, we couldn't leave well enough alone. Instead of just replacing the coolant, we opted to change the radiator while we were at it. The Mishimoto radiator that we installed comes with some impressive specifications. It's fully TIG welded aluminum, offers a 150-percent increase in coolant volume, 102-percent increase in surface area, and 60-percent increase in core volume. And this is over the already heavy-duty radiator that Ford puts in the Raptor. In Mishimoto's testing, its radiator was able to drop coolant temperatures by up to 70 degrees and returned coolant back to the engine up to 40 degrees cooler than the factory radiator.
For coolant we opted to use Mishimoto's Liquid Chill synthetic antifreeze. Liquid Chill has a freezing point of -26 degrees Fahrenheit and an impressive boiling point of 265 degrees. It also offers all of the normal corrosion protections for engines with both iron and aluminum parts (such as our iron block aluminum head 6.2L), and even claims the ability to seal pinhole leaks.
Volant Air Intake & Donaldson Filter
Adding power was less important for us than durability when it comes to our off-road dirt, dust, silt, and mud loving Raptor. For this project we decided to use a Volant intake for one main reason: the availability of a Donaldson filter element.
Donaldson filters are among the best when it comes to filtering out fine dust particles. These filters were original equipment on Power Stroke engines for a long time and are used most often in heavy equipment and over-the-road trucks. While the filter doesn't improve air flow, it does greatly improve filtration. We love that Volant uses a closed air box, as well, instead of an open element "filter on a stick."
Magnaflow Stainless Steel Exhaust
This one was just for us, as there really was no maintenance issue with the Raptor's exhaust system. While we loved the tone of the SVT-tuned exhaust, we wanted just a touch more sound a flow. So, after much research, we turned to the exhaust experts at Magnaflow and ordered up one of the company's stainless-steel exhaust systems. This cat-back system is constructed of 3-inch tubing and features the same dual-tip side-exit design as factory (which we desired). The new exhaust system sounds great and looks fabulous. Magnaflow claims a "dyno-proven power increase" but fails to state how much, so we'll leave things at it sounds good with no interior drone, for now.
SCT Livewire TS+
When we were looking for a tuner for our Raptor's 6.2L engine, there were a few things we desired. We wanted a device that came with pre-programed tuning but that also had the ability to hold custom tunes. We also wanted to be able to monitor engine parameters not available on the dash, and color touch screen would be a bonus. All of this led us to the tuning experts at SCT and the company's Livewire TS+ product. The Livewire TS+ does all of this and so much more, it's a really powerful tool right out of the box. Having this allowed us to recalibrate for the freer flowing exhaust and larger tires. Down the road, we'll tackle custom tuning to bring out all the power potential of the engine.