5.0 Coyote Mustang GT 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.

The S550 Ford Mustang GT is one of the most popular and potent racing machines on the market today. Out of the box, Ford gives it more than 400 horsepower, courtesy of the 5.0 Coyote V8 engine. It performs outstanding in stock form, but to really wake it up you need to think about tuning. Getting a good Mustang GT tuner is a top mod for the 5.0 Coyote.

Tuning unlocks more horsepower everywhere. The throttle becomes more responsive, the top-end is more powerful, and the power band becomes much smoother. Mustang GTs can add 15-25 horsepower/torque just through tuning alone. In addition, if you have any other bolt-on mods, tuning becomes a must for both safety and performance.

This guide will cover everything you need to know about getting the right Mustang GT tuner for your build. We’ll start with the basics and cover everything from the terminology to the benefits and risks. Finally, we’ll end with the top Mustang GT tuners on the market.

Mustang GT Tuner car
Credit: Vauxford/Wikipedia

Table of Contents

5.0 Coyote Mustang GT Tuner Basics

While a Mustang GT tune might sound intimidating and ominous, as we’ll show you it’s pretty straightforward – and necessary. It doesn’t often get a lot of attention outside of enthusiast circles, but engine tuning is actually one of the best performance mods for almost any car. A tune can offer increased horsepower, a larger powerband, compensate for other mods, and improve fuel economy.

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

A common tactic is for tuners to lean out AFRs to achieve more power. While it is different for every setup, on pump gas most Mustang GTs’ are going to target around a 11.9:1 AFR  (.81 lambda) at WOT. If the car 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.

Out of the box, Ford already made the stock Mustang GT tune pretty formidable, so there aren’t quite as significant gains as some other cars. But a tune is definitely still a good upgrade for the Mustang Gt.

Custom vs Canned 5.0 Mustang GT Tuning

There are generally two types of Mustang GT 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 Mustang GT.

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 car 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 car. 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 Mustang GT performance, rather than your specific car. Not all cars respond the same way to mods and tuning, so if your car 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 car responds to specific adjustments. Mustang GT tuners can dial in your car to ensure it’s as safe as possible while making the most horsepower.

5.0 Coyote Mustang GT Tuning Devices

There are several different handheld tuning devices available for the Mustang GT. 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 car 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.

5.0 Mustang GT Tuner Terminology

One thing we should probably clarify before going any further: tuning terminology. The terms “tune,” “tuning,” “tuning,” and “tuned” are sometimes used interchangeably with each other but they describe slightly different things. Additionally, E-tuning is a blanket term that is also widely used.

  • Tune/Map – The file or software that is flashed to your ECU
  • Tuner – 1) The person/company setting the engine parameters in the tune file
    •     2) The handheld device used to flash or piggyback your ECU
  • Tuning – The process of adjusting the engine’s parameters
  • Tuned – A car that has been updated with a custom or canned tune
  • Custom Tuning – Also known as e-tuning, it’s the process of having one’s car tuned by a tuner through email correspondence

It’s easy to mix these up when you first start learning about the process, so don’t be discouraged. If you ever have a question as to what something means you can always double check here.

Ford 5.0 Coyote Mustang GT Tune Benefits

Some of the benefits of a Mustang GT tune include:

  • +20-40 Horsepower/torque (with just tuning)
  • 100+ Horsepower/torque (with other mods)
  • Improved Power band
  • Ability to Data Log
  • DTC Code Viewing and Clearing
  • Real-time Engine Monitoring
  • Maximizing Gains from Mods

The most important gains from a Mustang GT tuner are going to be in the horsepower and torque department. With just a tune alone, the 5.0 Mustang picks up about 20-40 hp/tq. Tuning also increases the entire powerband on the 5.0 Coyote V8. It gives it more low end torque and power that stays sustained until redline.

However, power gains are not the only benefit from a Mustang GT 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 Mustang GT 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. Your Mustang GT tuner can tell you what you should be monitoring.

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 Mustang GT is to go flex fuel, and tuners can provide specific E85 maps that have leaner AFRs and more ignition/cam timing for increased power.

5.0 Coyote Mustang GT Tuning Risks

Now that we’ve talked about the benefits of a Mustang GT 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 longevity on 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 Mustang GT 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 a Mustang GT tune has to do with dealerships and warranty work. Generally, it’s accepted that if you flash tune your car 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 Mustang GT tuner who blows up your engine with bad calibrations. If you plan on tuning your car 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.

5.0 Mustang GT Tuning and Mods

A big benefit from a Ford Mustang GT tuner is that if your car is not stock and has other 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.

Mustang GT Tuner engine
Credit: Malchick743 (ALJMW)/Wikipedia

Top 5.0 Coyote Mustang GT Tuners

Here are our top 5 Mustang GT tuners:

  • Livernois Motorsports
  • Lund Racing
  • Palm Beach Dyno
  • OZ Tuning
  • Wengerd Performance

Here are the top 5 Mustang GT tuners based on price, performance, customer service, and reliability. This is not an exhaustive list of 5.0 Coyote tuners, as there are dozens and dozens, but represents the top choices. Our price estimates add in the cost of the device as well as the tune itself.

1) Livernois Motorsports 5.0 Coyote Tuning

Price: $599.00

Buy Link: 2011-2014 Livernois Motorsports Mustang GT Tuning; 2015-2017 Livernois Motorsports Mustang GT Tuning; 2018+ Livernois Motorsports Mustang GT Tuning

Our first recommendation for a Mustang GT tuner is Livernois Motorsports from Dearborn Heights, Michigan. Located just miles away from the Ford factory in Dearborn, Livernois Motorsports is one of the best Mustang GT tuners on the market. They offer custom tuning for all 2015+ Mustang GTs with the 5.0 Coyote.

2011-2014 Mustang GTs will see gains of 24 horsepower and 22 ft-lbs of torque. For the 2015-2017 Mustang GTs, Livernois’ custom tune will net 50 wheel-horsepower and 43 wheel-ft-lbs of torque. On the 2018+ Mustang GTs – which make more horsepower stock than the older years – Livernois’ tune adds 40 wheel-horsepower and 37 wheel-ft-lbs of torque. Both of these are assuming 93 octane fuel. These are pretty significant upgrades from just a tune, and the entire power band is massively improved.

Livernois Motorsports uses their own proprietary tuning device called the “MyCalibrator.” They are one of the top options in the Mustang 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.

2) Lund Racing 5.0 Coyote Tuning

Price: $699.00 – $1,199.00

Buy Link: Lund Racing Mustang GT Tuning

Our second option for Mustang GT tuners is the tried and true Lund Racing. Lund has been a longtime staple of the Mustang GT tuning community, and their work on the 5.0 Coyotes is fantastic. They do not have their own proprietary device, but instead utilize only the HP Tuners tuning devices.

Lund Mustang GT tunes can compensate for any number of mods, including larger cams, ethanol fuel, intakes, and injectors. They are great options for any build level, from just a basic tune all the way up to cammed out ethanol monsters. They can even handle supercharged/turbocharged and nitrous applications.

The price is more expensive with Lund than a few of the others — and its a $500 increase for boosted cars — as they require the purchase of HP Tuners credits and devices. However, Lund offers solid performance, so the price can definitely be justified if you’re serious about tuning. Especially if you have a large mod list, Lund Racing should be at the top of your list.

Comparison pricewise, they are right in the middle for our list. Part of this comes from the additional cost of the tuning device, and overall they are quite reasonable – especially for their reputation.

3) Palm Beach Dyno 5.0 Coyote Tuning

Price: $655.00 – $2,049.00

Buy Link: Palm Beach Dyno Mustang GT Tuning

Our third suggestion is probably the most popular Mustang GT tuner on the list, Palm Beach Dyno. PBD has been offering Mustang GT tunes for years and they are very highly reviewed. Customers highlight the massive performance increase and smooth drivability of PBD tuned 5.0 Coyotes.

Palm Beach Dyno offers tuning for pretty much any Mustang GT setup you can have. Cams, ethanol, forced induction, intakes – they’ll tune most mod-lists. They also offer flexibility with their tuning devices. PBD utilizes both SCT and HP Tuners, leaving the option up to the customer for whichever they like best.

They offer multiple levels of tuning for both naturally aspirated or boosted engines. The first level is the lowest modifications, whereas the top level has support for almost any mods on the car. No matter what level your build is, Palm Beach Dyno is a solid option as a Mustang GT tuner.

Pricewise, PBD is somewhat all over the map. Basic naturally aspirated tunes are pretty in-line with our other options, but their forced induction tuning is pretty pricey. Part of this comes from the additional cost of the tuning device, but it’s also just more expensive. Their name and reputation can justify this, but it’s important to keep in mind.

4) OZ Tuning 5.0 Coyote Tuning

Price: $699.00 – $1,249.99

Buy Link: OZ Tuning Mustang GT Tuning

OZ Tuning is another reputable name in the Mustang GT tuner community. They use HP Tuners exclusively, and can handle all kinds of modifications. Their basic Alpha tune will be good for bolt-ons like headers and intakes, whereas their Alpha Advanced tune is more for cammed and ethanol builds. OZ Tuning also handles forced induction tuning, and has specific tunes for Roush superchargers.

Their tunes prioritize both racing and daily driving, giving you the best of both worlds. You can also get tunes specifically for racing, if that’s what your goals need. They are very well known in the Mustang GT tuning community, and come very highly reviewed by most of their customers. Power-wise, OZ Tuning is one of the top tuners on the market for delivering excellent performance.

In terms of price, OZ Tuning is on the lower end for our list. They do require the purchase of HP Tuners credits and tuner, but that is included in the tune’s price. We wouldn’t call them a budget option, as they offer a solid product, and their forced induction tuning is pretty reasonable. OZ Tuning is only available for 2018+ Coyote Mustangs.

5) Wengerd Performance 5.0 Coyote Tuning

Price: $598.00 – $998.00

Buy Link: Wengerd Performance Mustang GT Tuning

Our final suggestion for Mustang GT tuners is Wengerd Performance. Wengerd exclusively tunes Mustang GTs and Mach 1s that use the 5.0 Coyote motor, so you know they are well versed in it. They are highly reviewed and have been a part of some incredible Mustang GT builds.

Like the others, Wengerd can tune for setups with additional bolt-on mods, though they do charge more for some of them. They can also do supercharged setups, and have a massive list of superchargers they have tuned before. Wengerd is only available for 2015+ Coyote Mustang GTs.

As far as price goes, Wengerd is tied with Livernois as the cheapest option for naturally aspirated tuning. Unlike Livernois, they do not have a proprietary tuner and instead use/sell HP Tuners devices. Still, this doesn’t really add too much to the price since their tunes themselves are so reasonable. Yet, don’t let the price deceive you. Wengerd is still a top Mustang GT tuner, and your car is in good hands with them.

Ford 5.0 Coyote Mustang GT Tuning Summary

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

Our top choices for Mustang GT tuners are Livernois Motorsports, Lund Racing, Palm Beach Dyno, OZ Tuning, and Wengerd Performance. All of them offer similar performance to each other and are all highly respected in the Mustang GT 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 Mustang GT 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 Mustang GT builds in the comments below!

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