By Nick Spinelli
Whether you own the 7.3L or 6.0L Powerstroke, making the needed or desired horsepower and maintaining the factory warranty is the challenge facing everyone.
In this article we will examine the reasons someone might want to add performance aftermarket products and the tricks to making them as safe as possible. Not sure why certain products are needed? Then why the product alone may create a need for others? We'll clear these issues up in simple terms.
How you approach the Ford dealer when looking for warranty work is an important part of what we'll cover. The issue of law, verses how and what you really face. Knowing the law is great, and we will show everyone on Ford-Trucks.com the best place to source this information. Be sure the law can protect you, but the manner in which you deal with a dealer, as well as the dealer you choose makes as much, or more, difference then the law. These issues are all important to your long term relationship with your Ford dealer.
Additional horsepower and torque for more throttle response, better towing capability, much improved fuel economy or just the fun of kicking the crap out of punks in Japanese cars, can be managed in many fashions; we'll cover the most common, popular modifications in the market.
Flash Programmers are with out a doubt the leading performance adding product in the Diesel aftermarket. You can find many makes, with many different features, from basic pick a tune and flash, to one that installs the calibration in less the 60 seconds, offers data monitoring and logging. Some have basic, and even sophisticated diagnostic capabilities.
Generally multi-tune programmers making from 40 to 120+ horsepower are common and relatively in-expensive. For example towing up to 8000lbs, always check each manufacturer's specific calibration limits, with an additional 65 RWHP and 120 ft/lb or torque will have you asking why Ford leaves so much power on the table and the potential for an additional 30% plus gain in fuel economy makes re-cooping the cost of this product easy.
The next question is how much power can I run safely?
Most manufacturers, or the ones who care about your vehicle, will say anything over 65 RWHP is a performance calibration, and not meant for towing.
The amount of weight, conditions, incline and modifications must be a factored in, more on this later.
Larger Diameter Exhaust Systems
Larger Diameter Exhaust systems from back half to down pipe back systems are very popular for the esthetic and cosmetic effect they have on a vehicle. The horsepower rating is a little less clear, and with everything from 3 ½" to 5" stainless steel and aluminized systems out there we could never cover all the possible combinations.
The goal in adding these systems is to remove heat efficiently, with quality sound, and look. Bottled up heat is a major issue with turbocharged vehicles of any kind. Making the exhaust system more efficient and capable of flowing more, to match up to the additional air and fuel added by tuning devices and other aftermarket parts, is a no brainier. Exhaust systems will mean lower turbo temperatures and longer life, thus fewer warranty concerns.
Air Intake Systems
The variety of cold air intake kits, and just high performance filters in the market is growing daily. Having looked at many I feel this decision is sometimes best made based on preference of fit, modification requirements to the vehicle and cost. Even a filter alone is a solid increase to a Diesel truck. Allowing the turbo to feed on cooler, unrestricted, air is going to mean gains from top to bottom. If you're looking for increased towing capability or street power this simple modification is an important part of bringing the whole package together and keeping it safe.
These products should require very little modification, generally plug and play. Different manufacturers may have different modification requirements, from splicing the wiring harness to hard wiring the fuel pumps or ECM. It is your responsibility to review the manufacturer's installation instructions, many of which can be found on their websites, to determine what is required. Keep in mind the less modification, hard wiring or cutting of any harness or seal, the more warranty friendly these items will be. Power levels vary from basic 50-65 RWHP units to 150+ horsepower adding devices. Many offer shift on the fly capability, meaning you can change to different power levels on the go. And the idea of stacking with flash programming has been on the rise, making for combinations of horsepower and torque to suit any need or desire. Keep in mind the high horsepower devices are generally going to require hardwire modifications, and stacking performance levels are not friendly to your factory warranty.
In the end a simple Pyrometer, exhaust temperature gauge, will make everything easier to deal with. Monitoring the turbo internal temperature is the key to making power and maintaining long life. Many dispute the proper way to monitor turbo exhaust gas temperature, pre or post turbo. My feeling is your looking for the internal temperature of the turbo so measure what is exiting the turbo. In looking at pre turbo temperature you're seeing engine manifold and internal cylinder temperatures, the heat that produces energy and thus boost. The bottom line is how ever you choose to set up your vehicle the gauge is critical to safety and making power with out wondering if you've pushed to hard. When the gauge reads 1200 degrees and this is another subject of much discussion, adding up to 300 degrees for pre-turbo readings, its time to take your foot out of it and allow the turbo temperature to come down. Towing or not, 40 horsepower or 120 horsepower you can not go wrong when you can tap into the critical data needed to keep your vehicle safe, and in warranty.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (15 U.S.C. 2302(C)) is the warranty law in place to protect vehicle owners who choose to use aftermarket performance parts. Your best bet for detailed information on this, as well as all manufacturer contact information can be found on the SEMA website.
The basic explanation of this law and how it works is, a warranty claim can not be denied by a dealer or the factory simply because the vehicle has aftermarket parts installed, and in fact warranty can only be denied if the aftermarket part or the labor to install this part has caused the damage or malfunction for which warranty is sought. These issues usually come down to technical opinions rather then issues of law.
The first rule when experiencing a potential warranty issue on a modified vehicle should always be to seek assistance from the business you purchased your performance products from. Going to Ford should generally be an option only when a professional deems it the right move. Some prefer the play it safe option of removing aftermarket modifications before visiting their dealer for service. This is a viable option, although not "legally" necessary. You should discuss the cost of this with your performance shop, or installer, upon purchasing products for your vehicle.
The important thing to remember in this situation is to always start with the right attitude. The Ford service writer or manager holds the power to make some decisions you may not like should you push the wrong angle or become combative.
First find a dealer who knows and understands the law for aftermarket modification of a vehicle. When a dealer jumps to the conclusion that warranty is going to be voided simply from looking under the hood, or less, just discussing the issue with you, leave.
Be polite and take you vehicle else where as a first response to this type of approach by the dealer. Many Ford dealers sell and install aftermarket products and so they understand the law and how to properly apply it.
When given no choice, because you have access too few dealers based on where you live or where you have experienced the warranty issue, keep cool, and explain the situation, and the law, with no expectation of service that you're not completely qualified to receive.
In the end going to the dealer with a "just fix it" attitude or making rash statements, right or wrong, can get you in warranty trouble. Once a dealer voids warranty the next course of action is to retain legal counsel (MORE MONEY). Discuss getting the dealer to settle on some middle ground. In many cases cooler heads and discussion work quite well. Warranty is always possible when properly handled and even partial compensation can be had when warranty was not in the cards due to abuse, neglect or wear and tear.