7.3L Power Stroke

Published in the April 2009 Issue April 2009 Build, Injectors, PowerStroke, Turbos

We introduced you to this buildup project last issue, but for those of you who haven't had a chance to see what it's all about, here's a little refresher. We picked this truck up from a tire store for just $3,500, with hopes of turning it into a nice little daily-driven street truck. We needed to get it out of its blue collar working attire, get it dressed up a little bit and put a little horsepower under the hood. The goal is to show our readers some of the options that are still out there to turn your 7.3L Power Stroke into a reliable hotrod diesel pickup.

We started off the build with a new grille and bumper, some window tint and a new set of OEM aluminum wheels and tires, which really affected its appearance. We then installed a high-flowing, 5-inch turbo back Hypermax exhaust system, a full set of Autometer gauges and an AFE Stage II intake. This time around we'll be adding a set of performance injectors, some aftermarket tuning and even a larger replacement turbocharger.

Just after our last issue hit newsstands we stumbled across a screaming deal on a factory take-off grille and bumper from a 2006 F250. It took just an hour or two to swap out the nice chrome grille and bumper we had installed not two months previous. The 2005 and up front-end just has a better look to it and for the price we paid, we couldn't resist. With the new, bolder look up front and hopes to be a mean little street truck, we dropped some coin down at the local Les Schwab on some new 20-inch Rev black and chrome wheels with 305/50r20 Cooper tires wrapped around them. We've also swapped out the factory rear shackles for a 2-inch drop shackle kit from DJM Suspensions. It was a pretty inexpensive and easy swap that again, just helped get the look and attitude we were going for.


With the basic intake, exhaust and gauge mods already taken care of, it's finally time to get into the exciting world of high performance horsepower bolt-ons. A good aftermarket chip on an otherwise basically stock truck could produce around 325 hp to the wheels-pretty respectable numbers-but with more than 225,000 miles on the clock this truck was pretty tired. The factory injectors in this early `99 truck had definitely seen better days. With that many miles on the original injectors it was a pretty safe bet the external o-rings were shot and more than likely the injector internals would be showing signs of wear and tear.

We called Hypermax Engineering hoping they could help us out as an injector rebuild was in order. After talking with them and discussing what would be replaced in the injectors we could see that having them install some simple upgraded pieces wouldn't really cost much more than using factory stock parts, so it was an easy decision when Hypermax asked if we wanted to go bigger.

Hypermax is one of the oldest Power Stroke performance companies in the business-it has been doing it longer than anybody. And injector upgrades just happen to be one of its specialties. After speaking with Max Lagood of Hypermax about our horsepower goals and what the truck would be used for, he suggested a set of his company's Stage II single shot injectors. We would be bumping the flow from the stock 120cc up to the 200cc range and replacing the factory nozzles with some that have a little bigger holes in them. We disassembled the truck and got our old, worn-out injectors shipped off to Hypermax so it could spend an afternoon rebuilding them for us to its new Stage II specs. We had the injectors pulled and shipped on a Saturday and they were back in our hands completely rebuilt with the new and improved pieces by the following Friday. It's tough to beat that kind of service.

Hypermax has done extensive testing and with the proper injector tools, and years of experience, the company has got this down to a fine science. Lagood told us these new Stage IIs with the right turbocharger and tuning would easily surpass the 400 hp mark. That's perfect for what we're looking for and in a truck this light should put up some pretty decent times at the track. It might even surprise a few Mustangs on Main Street as well.

To make the best of these new injectors we needed some new tuning for the truck as well. The factory pcm programming won't work with the new single shot injector design. There are also quite a few adjustments that could be made on the factory tuning tables to get the best results out of these injectors as well. Again with Hypermax being in the game for so long and countless hours of dyno testing under its belt we figured they'd be the best option for chip tuning as well. Who better to build tunes for a set of aftermarket injectors than the guys that put them together?

The company built a tune for our truck, burned it into one of its single bank chips and sent it to us when the injectors came back. That way, we would have the correct tuning already in the truck when the injectors were installed.


With our improved injectors and chip installed, it took just a few days to realize we had nowhere near enough air to keep this little motor happy. That stock turbo was way too small to support that kind of fuel and horsepower. Our egts were through the roof and at 30 psi of boost, a charger rated for just 25 psi isn't long for the world, especially one that's already seen more than 220,000 miles.

Since our truck is an early '99 model it came equipped with a relatively small turbo and intake plenums-pieces that were all upgraded by Ford when it released the late '99 model Power Strokes. There are quite a few bolt-in turbo replacements for the late '99 and newer 7.3L trucks, but not many bolt-on options for this early '99. So a complete turbo system was in order.

Again, Hypermax to the rescue. Its H2E turbocharger and mounting kit was just what we needed and would be the perfect turbo setup for our current injector and tuning combo. This turbo system is perfect for the daily driver, towing and weekend hot-rod: good spooling characteristics, great towing manners and enough air for you guys who like to be hard on the throttle. Hypermax claims its new H2E kit will outflow a stock charger by more than 40 percent and is more than capable of supporting 400 plus horsepower. The charger is also easily upgradeable, should you ever need even more airflow.

The kit is supplied with everything needed for the swap, including a new pedestal, up-pipes, collector, y-pipe, intercooler pipes, down pipe and, of course, the turbo. The H2E charger system is offered in two versions: one for the 1994-early '99 models and one for the late '99-2003 model trucks. Since it doesn't take much to upgrade the early '99 to the late model specs, we opted to install the newer version of the kit. All it took to install the new version was swapping out our factory plenums for the newer 3-inch plenum design. We picked those up from the dealer and made the swap after we had the factory turbo system removed.

Hypermax included all the hardware needed and provided a great set of instructions. While the swap is pretty straightforward, it is time-consuming. It took us the better part of a full Saturday in the garage to get it done, but in the end, it was well worth it. Just take your time and make sure to follow each step closely, it really isn't that tough.

Just as a heads up, the Hypermax H2E kit is supplied with new intake ducting to connect the new turbo to your factory air box. Since we'd already replaced our restrictive, closed air box system with the higher-flowing AFE system, some changes would need to be made. After speaking with Dennis Schroeder of ITP Diesel in Glendale, AZ, about our little dilemma (we were sure others had run into this same thing before), it turns out a customer of ITP had met that crossroads before and built a new intake pipe to connect the H2E charger to the AFE Stage II. After seeing the new piece, ITP promptly got permission to have a bunch made and coated with a Jet-Hot ceramic coating. ITP now offers the replacement pipe along with the other pieces needed to make this H2E to AFE system work. The fit was perfect and that shiny ceramic coating looks great.

Once the new turbocharger system and intake plenums were installed, our first test drive resulted in a permanent grin. What an awesome little combo. Who would have thought 400 hp in a $3500 truck could be so much fun? The turbo spools up great, even at our higher elevation here in Idaho, smoke is nearly non-existent and egts are in a much safer range. We should also add our peak boost jumped to 34 psi, a boost range that should still be safe for an engine still running stock head bolts.

We did, however, need to install an ITP Diesel Overboost Annihilator kit to keep our factory map sensor from sending an overboost code to the pcm. The map sensor is designed to send out a signal to the pcm to go into a defuel mode if boost rises above the 24-25 psi range. The Overboost Annihilator from ITP mounts between the y-pipe inlet and the map sensor and basically regulates what boost the map sees. We no longer get a check engine light and defuel mode. The truck is making in excess of 30 psi boost, but the map sensor never sees more than 20 psi.

With this part of the build complete, next time we'll look at upgrades to the factory fuel system. Fuel pressure from our factory system drops dramatically under a full load acceleration run, so that needs to be addressed. We'll also look at upgrades for the stock automatic transmission that has already started disagreeing with our new horsepower output. We'll soon be making some changes to the rear end, as traction in this 2wd has become an issue.


Hypermax Engineering

ITP Diesel

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