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SCT Livewire TS+ Performance Programmer

More power and performance for our 2013 Ford F-150 Raptor.

Vehicle manufacturers do a really good job of balancing power, performance, comfort, fuel economy, and emissions. To say it's a difficult balancing act would be quite the understatement. Oftentimes this leads to shifts that are comfortable but not quick, or less engine power output than can be reasonably achieved. There are a multitude of reasons for this, but to get into them all would require a novel of its very own.

Thankfully, there are tuning companies such as SCT that are able to tweak a vehicle's engine control module (ECM) to extract greater performance. And this performance isn't always power; for fleets it oftentimes means greater fuel economy. For our 2013 Ford F-150 Raptor project, we were looking for a programmer that supported custom tuning from third-party companies but that also came preloaded with some base files. We also needed the ability to adjust for adding a free-flowing intake and exhaust, and also desired the ability to correct the speedometer for our increased tire size (37-inch vs. 35-inch). Checking all of our desired boxes was the SCT Livewire TS+ performance programmer.

In stock trim the first-generation Raptor's 6.2L V-8 engine pumps out 411 hp and 434 lb-ft of torque. This equates to about 280 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque at the wheels. Engine tuning can improve those number by about 20 hp and 40 lb-ft.

The Livewire TS+ comes loaded with premade tuning options from SCT and also has the option to store up to 10 more custom vehicle tunes. It also works as a monitor for vital engine statistics (which ones are available will vary by vehicle), can read and clear diagnostic trouble codes (that pesky check engine light), and also recalibrate the speedometer for tire size and axle gear ratio.

Before we get too far into the weeds, it's worth noting that on a gasoline engine such as the Raptor's 6.2L V-8, these types of tuning products typically produce an increase of about 10 to 20 hp and 30 to 50 lb-ft of torque. It's enough to feel in the seat of the pants but won't turn your truck into a race car overnight. The biggest felt performance gains come more from the improved throttle response and shift strategy than from actual horsepower.

The Livewire TS+ comes packaged with the tuning module, OBD cable, suction cup mounting bracket, and owner's manual.

From unboxing to having the Livewire TS+ up and running took about 15 minutes, not counting running the software update the device required (or finding a PC to use to update it since the software won't run on a Mac). Tuning is quick, as well, and takes about 10 minutes to install a file. During the process the dash flashes, gauges wiggle, and the sync system resets. However, when all is said and done everything goes back to where it previously was set.

Performance gains are immediately noticeable, with crisper throttle response and firmer shifts being the biggest tell that the truck is running with improved tuning. If we were to have two small complaints about the Livewire TS+, they would be the lack of secondary gauge information, and that the tire size recalibration has never actually worked. However, those are more likely issues with our truck than with the programmer itself.

The SCT Livewire TS+ runs about $600, and sorry Californians, it is not CARB approved.

The Livewire TS+ uses a 4-inch color touchscreen display for both tuning and monitoring duties. This display has a built-in ambient light sensor and can automatically adjust for brightness during both day and night. It also has an automatic on/off/sleep mode, which shuts the device off two minutes after turning off the ignition.
On the OBD II cable is a junction box, which is used for additional accessories. Seen here is the port for attaching an auxiliary camera, be it backup or otherwise.
The Livewire TS+ also has the ability to add secondary sensors to the system, such as EGT probes when used on a diesel application. These sensors plug into the back side of the junction box.
Within the vehicle programming feature there are loads of options. They include different octane ratings, settings for towing, economy, and performance, along with the ability to customize each tune if the vehicle has a free-flowing intake or exhaust system.
Unfortunately, our F-150 Raptor doesn't provide many options for custom gauges. We have our Livewire set up to monitor engine coolant temp, intake air temp, and battery voltage.
The Livewire TS+ can also provide vehicle performance testing, such as quarter-mile speed, 0-60 mph time, and 60-0 mph braking performance.
New to the whole performance thing? Don't worry, the monitor will instruct you on how to perform each test. In addition, helpful hints like these are provided for almost all functions.
In addition to adding and testing power and performance, the Livewire TS+ can also function as a scan tool, reading and clearing diagnostic trouble codes and check engine lights.