5.0 Coyote F150 Tuner Guide

Chandler Stark

Meet Chandler

Chandler is an automotive expert with over a decade of experience working on and modifying cars. A couple of his favorites were his heavily modded 2016 Subaru WRX and his current 2020 VW Golf GTI. He’s also a big fan of American Muscle and automotive history. Chandler’s passion and knowledge of the automotive industry help him deliver high-quality, insightful content to TuningPro readers.

Since 2011, Ford has had the 5.0 Coyote V8 engine as an option for the F150, and it is a beast of an engine. Currently, the engine makes 400 horsepower and 410 ft-lbs of torque, but power used to be down at just 360 horsepower and 380 ft-lbs of torque.

While those numbers aren’t bad, the 4,000-5,700 lb curb weight of the Ford F150 can make it feel a bit underpowered. Luckily there is a solution, Ford F150 tuning! Getting a good F150 tuner to calibrate the truck can really wake up the 5.0 Coyote and let it perform how you would expect a V8 to perform. This guide will cover everything you need to know about getting the right Ford F150 tuner for your build.

F150 Tuner Truck
Credit: Kevauto/Wikipedia

Table of Contents

Tuner Basics

While Ford F150 tuning might sound like a complicated task, as we’ll show you it’s actually pretty straightforward – and necessary. A tune can offer increased horsepower, a larger powerband, compensate for other mods, and improve towing capacity.

Ford F150 tuners change parameters in the engine’s Electronic Control Unit (ECU), which controls how the engine functions. The most common changes that tuners make to naturally aspirated engines are to air-to-fuel ratios (AFRs), ignition timing, camshaft timing, and fuel pressure.

A common tactic for tuners is to lean out AFRs to achieve more power. While it is different for every setup, on pump gas most F150’s are going to target around an 11.9:1 AFR  (.81 lambda) at WOT. If the truck is supercharged, that becomes richer to about 11.5:1 (.78 lambda) at WOT. The 5.0 Coyote prefers to run richer than many other engines, as it is prone to knocking.

A few degrees of ignition timing advance are also usually added at WOT to increase horsepower. The stock Coyote timing is already pretty advanced, so tuners can really only add a few degrees before encountering knock. Camshaft timing can also be advanced a few degrees for more top-end power. Fuel pressure is also usually turned up to add more fuel into the cylinders, which equates to more power.

Custom vs Canned Tunes

There are generally two types of F150 tunes: either custom tunes or canned tunes. In reality, both of them are custom tunes to a degree, but canned tunes are much less desirable. As we’ll explain, we highly recommend going with custom tuning over any canned tunes for the F150.

Custom tuning involves purchasing a handheld tuning device and working with a custom tuner. Generally, the tuner provides a “base map” with basic calibrations. The customer takes the base map, installs it onto their truck with the handheld tuner, and uses that to “datalog” some of the engine’s parameters when driving. The customer then downloads the datalog from their device to their computer and emails the file to their tuner.

The tuner then takes the datalog information into consideration, develops a new tune which he emails to the customer, and the process starts again until the tune is deemed finished – usually after a few revisions.

Canned tuning involves only the first step. A customer purchases a handheld tuning device with a canned tune on it, and they install that tune onto their truck. There is no revision process, and the map on the device is a finished map rather than a base map.

As you can probably see, custom tuning is far superior to canned tuning. Canned tunes are developed based on average F150 performance, rather than your specific truck. Not all trucks respond the same way to mods and tuning, so if your truck responds poorly to a canned tune you are out of luck.

Custom tuning on the other hand allows for a reputable tuner to see how your truck responds to specific adjustments. Tuners can dial in your truck to ensure it’s safe while making the most horsepower and torque.

Tuning Devices

There are several different handheld tuning devices available for the Ford F150. The most popular are the BullyDog, SCT, and BAMA tuners. Different tuners use different programmers, and most of them only use specific ones. Make sure you verify which handheld device your tuner uses before purchasing one. Most tuners sell the devices they use themselves, so you can probably get it from their website.

Another very popular option is a program called HP Tuners. HP Tuners is a full system rather than just a handheld device. You purchase a device that plugs into your truck that you can communicate with, and you use the HP Tuners software to tune. You also have to buy credits from them for your specific vehicle. Many tuners will have you buy a HP Tuners system instead of a handheld tuner, as they generally offer more functionality. Again, check with your tuner before purchasing anything.

Some tuners also offer their own proprietary tuning devices. Usually, these devices only work with your specific make and model and with your specific tuner. This is different from the other handheld devices, which are usually applicable to a larger variety of vehicles and tuners.

Tune Benefits

  • +20-40 Horsepower/torque (with just tuning)
  • 100+ Horsepower/torque (with other mods)
  • Improved Power band and Throttle Response
  • Ability to Data Log/Monitor the Engine in Real Time
  • DTC Code Viewing and Clearing
  • Maximizing Gains from Mods
  • Improved Towing Capacity

The most important gains from a Ford F150 tuner are going to be in the horsepower and torque department. With just a tune alone, the 5.0 F150 picks up about 20-40 hp/tq. Tuning also increases the entire powerband of the engine. It gives it more low-end torque and power that stays sustained until redline.

Another key aspect of tuning is that it allows you to maximize the gains from other mods. Installing mods like a cold air intake or headers add some power by themselves, but to truly maximize the gains you need tuning to take advantage of the increased airflow and reduced backpressure. A popular mod for the F150 is to go flex fuel, and tuners can provide specific E85 maps that have leaner AFRs and more ignition/cam timing for increased power.

Increased towing capacity is another huge reason to get a tuner. For new F150s, the towing capacity from the factory is already a pretty hefty 11,000 pounds. But F150 tuners can jack up the torque – especially on the low end – to make towing much easier and quicker. Drivers will find it much easier to get going from a stop and take hills, and many vendors offer specific tow tunes.

Monitoring Benefits

However, power gains are not the only benefit from a F150 tuner by a longshot. You can also check DTC codes and usually clear them if you want. The other crucial benefit to tuning is the ability to log and monitor your engine. Most tuners have a feature known as “data logging,” which allows you to take a snapshot of your engine’s performance when driving.

You can check to see if everything is working together as it should to detect problems as early as possible. For example, if you notice your AFR is off it might indicate you have a leak in your system. Or you might notice engine knocking that would indicate a problem with your gas. Your tuner can tell you what you should be monitoring.

Tuning Risks

Now that we’ve talked about the benefits of an F150 tuner, it’s important to also acknowledge the risks. One of them is somewhat obvious, but the more power you add to your engine the shorter lifespan it has. Adding just a few basic mods like a tune or headers probably won’t do a ton to hurt the longevity of the 5.0 Coyote engine. But, when you get above ~50-60 horsepower/torque over stock it starts to get more risky.

In addition, having a “bad” tune can also hurt your engine – and potentially even blow it up. If inexperienced tuners add too much ignition/cam timing, make AFRs too lean, or don’t properly diagnose leaks and problems, your truck can be a very expensive paperweight in short order. That’s why it’s imperative to make sure you are only getting tunes from reputable and experienced tuners – like those on our list.

The final risk of an F150 tune has to do with dealerships and warranty work. Generally, it’s accepted that if you flash-tune your truck the dealership can tell that you have done so. Many dealerships will use the existence of aftermarket tuning software to deny warranty claims on engines. And to be fair, they have some justification for doing so.

It’s not Ford’s fault if you get an inexperienced tuner who blows up your engine with bad calibrations. If you plan on tuning your truck you should be prepared to accept all risks, which might potentially mean a new engine. It’s not a big concern for small builds, but when you really jack up the power you also increase the risk.

Tuning and Mods

A big benefit from a Ford F150 tuner is that if your truck is not otherwise stock and has more mods, tuning can compensate for them and maximize their power output. Mods like cold air intakes, headers, or an exhaust add a little horsepower by themselves, but combined with tuning you can see an even bigger power bump.

In addition, tuning will also help you make sure your mods are performing correctly. When you make adjustments to airflow, like adding an intake or headers, your AFRs also change. In order to make sure they are still in the safe range, you really need custom tuning.

Tuners can take advantage of mods that increase airflow and fueling, to do things like add more ignition timing, which means more power. If you truly want to get the most out of your bolt-on mods, tuning is a necessity.

2017 F150 Tuner Truck

Top F150 5.0 Coyote Tuning Device – Livernois Motorsports

Price: $599.00

Buy Link: 2011-2014 Livernois Motorsports F150 Tuning; 2015-2017 Livernois Motorsports F150 Tuning; 2018-2020 Livernois Motorsports F150 Tuning; 2021-2023 Livernois Motorsports F150 Tuning

Our primary recommendation for an F150 tuner is Livernois Motorsports from Dearborn Heights, Michigan. Livernois Motorsports is one of the best F150 tuners available, and they have an excellent reputation in the F150 community. They are very highly regarded for their performance/tow tunes as well as their customer service. Livernois Motorsports offers custom tuning for all 2011+ F150s with the 5.0 Coyote.

For the 2011-2014 F150s, Livernois’ custom tune will net 24 wheel-horsepower and 26 wheel-torque. On the 2015-2017 F150s, Livernois’ tune adds 20 wheel-horsepower and 13 wheel-torque on 87 octane, or 30 wheel-horsepower and 32 wheel-torque on 93 octane. For the 2018-2020 F15s, the gains are 31 wheel-horsepower and 42 wheel-torque, and for 2021+ it’s 37 wheel-horsepower and 45 wheel-torque – all on 93 octane.

Livernois Motorsports offers both performance and tow tunes, depending on what your truck needs. Tow tunes will focus more on low-end torque rather than top-end power, whereas performance tunes will focus more on horsepower. Some of their tunes are also Stage 1 and Stage 2 Whipple Supercharger compatible. Livernois Motorsports is also the only option for tuning the 2021+ F150s. None of the other tuners have figured out the PCM like Livernois has, so if you have a 14th Gen F150, they are your only option.

Livernois Motorsports uses their own proprietary tuning device called the “MyCalibrator.” They are one of the top options in the F150 community and have been in the performance game for a long time. They are also one of the cheaper options on our list, as they do not require the separate purchase of an additional tuner. The MyCalibrator is included in the initial price.

Tuning Is A Great Way to Get the Most Out of Your Ford F150

Overall, tuning the F150 is a great way to increase performance and power from the factory. Adding a tune will make the truck much more responsive while adding horsepower and torque everywhere. Ford F150 tuners will add around 20-40 hp, and it can bring much, much more with other supporting mods.

Our top choices for F150 tuners are Livernois Motorsports, Lund Racing, All Motor Research Labs, and OZ Tuning. All of them offer similar performance to each other and are all highly respected in the F150 tuning community. Livernois Motorsports is the only option that has their own proprietary tuning devices, and all the others require the additional purchase of one. Pricewise, they are all somewhat similar, with the final bill really depending on your mod-list.

We recommend the Livernois Motorsports tuning option of the bunch. They offer the best custom tuning price while making solid improvements to power output and drivability. The process with Livernois is incredibly quick, and they can help adjust for other performance modifications, too.

Are you considering tuning your F150 for some more horsepower and torque? Have you already had your 5.0 Coyote tuned and are you making good power?

Let us know about your F150 builds in the comments below!

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