Step By Step
It was like meeting a new friend. We couldnt spend enough time at the wheel of the Ultimate Super Duty. We played in the dirt until Mom called us in. The 02 Ford Super Duty F-250 does everything a heavy-duty pickup is supposed to: It hauls incredible payloads, the Power Stroke diesel will move buildings, and it rides and drives like, well, a truck.
One shortcoming of a Super Duty is its short stature. There are plenty of ways to fix this. We chose a 6-inch Tuff Country kit and went to a Les Schwab store in Centerville, Utah, to have it installed. Once you experience the quality service at a Les Schwab, youll find it hard to go anywhere else. Here, Jeff Beba starts work on the Super Duty by removing the stock springs and shocks.
Shane Jones from Tuff Country lent a hand installing the kit. The front spring bolts are a challenge to get to and Jones has found it easiest to just remove the bumper. Tuff Country relocates the brake-line mount on the frame rather than replacing the lines. Jones recommends removing the leaf-spring bushings before the leaf springs are installed and lubing them with a lithium-based grease. This will make them last and move freely.
We chose a Tuff Country kit because of the quality of components the company produces. Its base 6-inch kit for a Super Duty comes with front springs and rear blocks. Ford uses a variety of rear spring packs and Tuff Country offers a variety of solutions to make sure you end up with the lift and load-carrying capacity that you want.
Using a little heat on the bottom of the track-bar bolts releases the thread locker that Ford uses during assembly. If you dont do this, theres a really good chance the nut plates inside the frame will break and spin. Then it will be a really long day.
Tuff Country supplies a track-bar drop-down bracket to replace the factory mount. This helps with bumpsteer (which these trucks have a bit of stock) when used with a Tuff Country dropped pitman arm. This bracket is massivetheres little fear of breaking this even with heavy wheels and tires. To help control the heavy tires well eventually install, we opted for Tuff Countrys front multishock system. This mounts three Tuff Country SX8000 shocks at both ends of the front axle by replacing the stock upper shock mount.
Most Super Duty trucks come with the heavy track bar (top). Our 02 model, however, came with a weenie track bar (bottom). We replaced it with a larger factory unit from Ford. Tuff Country will soon have an adjustable track bar to further compensate for various suspension conditions, and well probably add this when its available. We used Tuff Countrys dual stabilizer up front to help dampen steering input from the road.
Were more concerned about suspension flex and ride comfort (relative) than load-carrying capacity, so we went with Tuff Country tapered 5 1/4-inch lift blocks and retained the factory Ford leaf springs. Kelly Davis at Tuff Country tells us that his company is the only one to offer 3-inch-wide blocks to correctly match the axle pads and springs on Super Duty trucks. We used a Tuff Country add-a-leaf in an attempt to combat axlewrap.
The final two steps of the installation were a precise front-end alignment and testdrive. We retained the stock tires so we could really evaluate the lift and installation during the next 700 miles of our road trip. The front end was a bit stiffer than stock (expected with multishocks and arched springs), but the truck essentially rode and drove like it did stock. Tuff Country recommends 35-inch-tall tires with a 6-inch lift. Well be going well over that, but thought wed give Tuff Country the legal nod by mentioning its recommendation. We did not need to lengthen the trucks driveshafts with this lift, and we got a full 6-inch lift at the front and 4 1/4-inch in the rear for a level ride.
Our next stop drew our attention to the gas pedal, or is it a diesel pedal? Dave Cornaby at ATS handled all of the installation work. Just as you should, he started with the exhaust. The ATS system replaces everything behind the turbo with 4-inch mandrel-bent tubing. It fits the truck snugly, but theres still sufficient room around the tubing for heat dissipation.
The muffler is a work of art. Its made from polished stainless steel and features a pass-through core for minimal restriction to flow. The complete system for 99-02 Power Stroke engines is made from 409 stainless tubing and 304 stainless muffler and exhaust tips. The company offers a single-exit system (like stock) and a dual-exit system for an impressive appearance.
The tips are 5 inches in diameter and 24 inches long. Using the ATS dual-exhaust system requires you to add a hanger to the driver-side framerail near the spare tire. The system uses a Ford hanger so the look and quality of your truck remains intact, and it allows you to retain your factory spare in the stock location. The complete system is extremely easy to install and adds about 30 hp on an otherwise stock 7.3L engine.
The ATS computer model for the Power Stroke has three positions: stock, towing, and extreme. Stock is self-explanatory. Towing gives you about 70 more horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque (with the ATS exhaust system). This makes the engine very responsive and provides plenty of power for almost all situations. The extreme mode gives you 100 more horses (30 over towing), and 190 lb-ft of torque. But you really have to drive by pyrometer to keep the engine-gas temperatures within reason. The module also raises auto-tranny line pressure for firmer and quicker shifts, and it raises the speed limiter to 120 mph.
The final power-product from ATS is the TorquePro 2000 propane fumigation kit. Propane acts as a catalyst to help burn up to 95 percent of the diesel in the cylinders compared to about 75 percent stock. This becomes even more important in the towing and extreme modes in which more fuel is injected into the engine. An option we chose on the TorquePro 2000 system is an adjustable orifice, which allows you to adjust from the cab the amount of propane injected into the engine.
All ATS components are 50-state legal. The EO number on the propane system is pending. Cornaby says that we should get about 2,000 miles from a tank, depending on our driving style. The Torque Pro 2000 system keeps the LPG in liquid form until it is injected into the air tube at the engine. This allows better control and precision. There is a vapor port on the tank so you can even connect your BBQ grill.
In stock form, you will notice a little flutter in your turbo at certain speeds, and with a few power-adding products, youll probably notice it a lot. To cure this, ATS has designed a new compressor housing (top) for the turbo which smoothes the airflow and completely eliminates the turbo surge. All of the ATS products shown in this article were installed in less than eight hours and made an unbelievable difference in performance. We actually went looking for Mustangs to play with on our drive from Salt Lake to Denver.
With just about any turbodiesel upgrades, youre wise to install a pyrometer so you can watch the exhaust-gas temperature and keep your engine out of the danger zone. This three-gauge pod is available from ATS and houses an accurate trans temp gauge, EGT gauge, and boost gauge. For a very new engine like ours, 1,300 degrees on the EGT gauge is when you let out of the throttle. Youll want to let the temperature come down to 400 degrees before shutting the engine off to keep from burning the oil in the turbo and shortening its life.
Ah, the smell of a new truck. Almost as good as the smell of a Sawzall blade slicing through the sheetmetal of a new truck. Introducing this years double-whammy project truck from 4-Wheel & Off-Road. This time were starting with a zero-mile, new-in-every-way truck, not a rusty and abused basket case. Can we stand to whack sheetmetal thats never been washed or waxed? Toss shocks in the trash that arent even broken in? Replace engine parts that dont have a layer of oil on them? With a smile!
4-Wheel & Off-Roads Ultimate Adventure is the ultimate test of trail vehicles. Four ultra-tough trails strung together by roughly 1,000 miles of asphalt. Most participants have dedicated off-road vehicles on the trip, so the road miles are the toughest for the vehicles to handle. This year, 4-Wheel & Off-Roads official Ultimate Adventure project vehicle will take a different approach. Well start with a work truck that is quite at home on the pavement, and make upgrades to make it more capable off road. We didnt choose weenie trails this year to accommodate our extra-large vehicle, so well pay careful attention to off-road performance and protection throughout this buildup. The beauty is that this project vehicle will hit home with Ford Super Duty owners, whether youre dreaming of an ultimate tow vehicle or an awesome off-road fullsize.
We picked up our Super Duty from Mullahey Ford in Arroyo Grande, California, with just the road wear that occurs driving the truck off the assembly line and into the transport, and a few trips around the dealership. We ordered the truck as a Super Cab shortbed for a number of reasons. A short wheelbase is helpful off-road, but you cant get a standard cab shortbed Super Duty. You can order a standard-cab longbed with a wheelbase of 137 inches, but for a couple of extra inches in wheelbase (141.8) you can have so much more room in the cab.
We also needed the Power Stroke engine. We havent had an opportunity to tweak on one of these in a number of years and were dying to see what we can do with the 7.3L turbodiesel. We accidentally got the Lariat package, which netted us every power convenience you could imagine, including rich, Corinthian leather. Guess there are worse screw-ups to make. Toss on the telescoping mirrors, premium in-dash six-disc stereo, chrome steps bars, and a limited slip and we were pushing a $40,000 MSRP. But what a swingin truck.
We lit the diesel and hit the highway to head back to the office. Were just as spoiled as the rest of the world when it comes to modern trucks, and the bouncy ride of the empty F-250 took a while to get used to. We were also reminded of how big this truck was any time we tried to make a U-turn or pull into a tight parking spot.
But thats not what a Super Duty is all about. Its about having the ultimate tow vehicle and utility truck, and it does those things just fine. The 444ci diesel pumps out 250 hp at 2,600 rpm (275 hp with the six-speed) and 505 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 (520 with the six-speed). Even though there are inches of gas-pedal travel (were not exaggerating) before the motor comes to life, once youve planted your foot, a stock Power Stroke is capable of getting the 6,000-pound (empty) truck moving pretty well. We made it downright scary, but youll read about that in a little while.
Weve had the truck about a month and have a definite list of likes and not likes. We dig Fords straightforward definition of truck: Its heavy-duty, relatively simple, and crude in all the right places. It has a great foundation: solid axles front and rear, leaf spring suspension, and an awesome engine. We were surprised how much we liked the adjustable pedals, which allowed us to get more comfortable in this truck than in any other Super Duty weve driven. What didnt we like? The turning radius, the billet-blah hard-plastic dashboard, and seat heaters with switches and lights where you cant see them. To make matters worse, they automatically turn off after about 10 minutes. Whats with that? We plan on fixing the other shortcomings (lack of height, departure angle, limited traction) in the coming months.
We drove the truck from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City to hit a couple of Ultimate Adventure product sponsors. This trip and some local miles were just starting to knock the knobbies off the tires when we pulled into the Les Schwab in Centerville, Utah. If you live in the Northwest, you know Les Schwab as the place to get tires, but it also carries the full line of Tuff Country suspension products. We were met in the parking lot with the typical Les Schwab greeting (young man running up to the window welcoming us and asking how he can help today), which frankly just scares a good-old boy from Los Angeles. Jeff Beba from Les Schwab and Shane Jones from Tuff Country knocked out the installation of a complete 6-inch Tuff Country lift in about five hours. That included a precision alignment and a testdrive after all the work was done. The Tuff Country lift for these trucks is simple and bulletproof. It comes with all the brackets and parts youll need, and there are several options to ensure your truck will best meet your needs with the kit installed. We left the stock tires in place for now, but well be fitting this thing with beastly Michelin tires eventually.
Far from having the engine broken in, we pulled into Advanced Turbo Systems (ATS) to break the seal on the 7.3L. The crew at ATS knows how to squeak maximum power out of diesel burners of all types. They have a lot of experience with the Power Stroke and have a simple multistep program for improving the output of these engines. The first step is replacing the factory exhaust with a true 4-inch mandrel-bent stainless system and a high-performance muffler. Step two is a multistage computer module that gives you a stock setting, towing mode, and high-performance stage. The icing on the cake is a propane-injection system that works with the diesel fuel to improve power and fuel economy. What more could a tow-freak ask for? Even if youre not towing, these parts combine to make this Super Duty a 6,000-pound cruise missile. They also tossed on a trio of Auto Meter gauges for precise engine management, and an ATS compressor housing to overcome the common turbo stutter that becomes very noticeable when you start making killer power. Well have to dyno and dragstrip this thing once the engine is fully broken in.
The final destination for this month was Avalanche Engineering where the Super Duty will be fitted with rock sliders to protect the acres of shiny sheetmetal. Well bring you details on this stop next month, but for now its time for us to hop a plane home.