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Pulling Power Part 2 - Making A Half Ton Truck Tow Capable

Posted in Project Vehicles on June 12, 2016
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In last months issue, we followed along a Curtis Zamora of Rite Performance began transforming and upgrading the capabilities of this Ford F-150. It has the 5.4-liter engine and already had an Airaid cold air intake and a Magnaflow cat back exhaust system when the owner bought it. It also has nearly 80,000 miles on it, so it was in need of some basic maintenance as well as some upgrades to its basic operation.

The owner wanted the truck ready for this season’s off-roading, but also wants to do some occasional towing. Last month, Zamora upgraded the transmission with a Flex-a-Lite cooler and Mag-Hytec deep sump pan. A Mag-Hytec differential cover was also installed. It holds more fluid than stock, so should help keep the pumpkin cool. That was last month.

This month, Zamora will coax as much power out of the Ford as possible, and finish up by adding EBC brakes to get it to slow down well too. These mods were strictly for engine and transmission performance sake; A Hypertech Max Energy 2.0 controller, Performance Distributors “Sultans of Spark” on-plug coils, new plugs (since the ones in it were the stockers) an Optima Yellow Top battery, and that’s really about it. Sure, a supercharger would make the thing fly up Cajon Pass, but this was about making the most of what there is and being realistic about the half-ton’s capabilities.

With the exception of welding the fittings for the transmission cooler lines, these are mods anyone can do in their driveway. Basic maintenance needs to be done anyway, so it’s the best time to add reliability as well. More horsepower, coolers, larger capacity pans, deeper cycle batteries and better brakes are just smart to have when either blasting down a dirt trail or pulling a toy hauler up a mountain pass.

So follow along as this Ford gets what it needs to go another 80,000 like a boss.

Here are the parts that will be added to the F-150.

An Optima Yellow Top battery was chosen, as again, the stock unit is now 7 years old. The Yellow Top is more of a deep cycle battery (the Optima Red Top is better for turning over high compression engines) and will allow for lights and things to be run even when the engine is not running.

The upgrade begins with the removal of the stock on-battery coil packs.

The plugs are then removed. They were the original units.

Here’s what an 80,000-mile plug looks like. The electrode was nothing but a fine point.

A healthy swab of anti-seize should always be applied to the threads prior to installing plugs, especially into an aluminum head.

A few squirts of WD40 makes the boot on the Performance Ignition “Sultan of Spark” coil pack nice and slick.

The pack is slipped into the hole and onto the new plug. Luckily, getting to all of the coil packs and plugs wasn’t too difficult, but know that some engines are a bear to work on. It’s worth it though in both performance and reliability.

The Optima Yellow Top is a big, heavy battery, so have everything ready before you try to muscle the stock unit out or the Optima in. Note that it was installed prior to the next step, installing the new tune with the Hypertech controller.

Adding horsepower and improved shifting is easy thanks to the Hypertech Max Energy 2.0. It’s fairly simple to work too. First, make sure that everything electrical is shut off (dome lights, radio, ac/heater, ect), then plug the unit in.

The Hypertech unit will boot itself up and read the VIN to make sure that everything is a go.

There’s a lot of turning the key to the “on” position and then back off again.

Once the engine icon appeared, it was time for the upgrade.

By choosing the “Customize Tune” prompt, the unit then goes to the various settings. Horsepower, transmission firmness and other perimeters can be changed or enhanced.

There is a period where the Max Energy 2.0 unit is writing the program and then verifying that takes a while, but eventually it will say that everything’s done and to remove the main connection.

Now that there’s more power, the last step is to upgrade the brakes. EBC’s drilled and slotted rotors are mated with EBC’s performance pads.

This is a straight replacement of the rotors and pads, so the stock rotors are removed.

Never let the caliper hang from the rubber brake hose, always use a hanger to hang the calipers.

The rotors are removed. Know that WD40 had been sprayed onto the lugs and even then it took a lot of tugging and more than a few whacks with a poly hammer to get the stock rotors off.

A large C clamp is used to gently collapse the pistons.

The stock pads are removed.

The front system varies from the rear in that there is a bracket that the caliper mounts to. This bracket is removed and cleaned thoroughly.

EBC supplies grease for the pins. It’s squeezed into the bracket.

After being thoroughly cleaned and inspected, the pins are installed.

Zamora uses Permetex Ultra Copper gasket material on the areas where the pads meet up on the caliper.

More Ultra Copper is placed on the pad that will be mounted into the bracket, but only on the spots that will rub.

Ford uses springs to hold the pads apart from the rotor, which is great, but they are a pain to install.

The EBC rotors are slotted and dimpled. That is, they’re not drilled through but they are directional, so note that there is an “L” sticker on it, which of course, means it goes of the LEFT side.

Red Loctite should be used on the caliper mounting bolts, as this is one piece that you really don’t want coming loose.

With the caliper being bolted on, the front brake assembly is done. Know that EBC says to take it easy on the brakes for the first 1000 miles. Also note that the coating will wear off from where the pads hit

It seems that the rear rotors are always harder to get off, so a liberal amount of WD40 is sprayed onto the lugs and mating surface and allowed to penetrate.

The rear brake caliper assembly is also cleaned thoroughly, but as the E-brake is inside the new EBC rotor, that assembly was closely inspected.

With the mounting of the wheels and tires, the job is done.


Fife, WA 98424
Bartlett, TN 38133
Van Nuys, CA 91402
Performance Distributors
Memphis, TN 38132
EBC Brakes
Sylmar, CA 91342
Rite Performance

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