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 outstandingly 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.
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.
Table of Contents
- 5.0 Coyote Mustang GT Tuner Basics
- Ford 5.0 Coyote Mustang GT Tune Benefits
- Ford 5.0 Coyote Mustang GT Tuning Summary
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 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 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 Tuning
There are generally two types of 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. Tuners can dial in your car to ensure it’s as safe as possible while making the most horsepower.
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.
- +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. It gives it more low-end torque and power that stays sustained until redline.
However, power gains are not the only benefit of a 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. 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.
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 the longevity of the 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 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 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.
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.
Top 5.0 Coyote Mustang Tuner – Livernois Motorsports
Our top 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.
Tuning Is The Best Way To Unlock Performance From Your Ford 5.0 Coyote Mustang GT
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!