We've Got Power!

7.3L Gets an Overhaul

Published in the August 2012 Issue August 2012 Build Brady L. Kay

The 2002 Ford F-250 Super Duty project is all about taking this strong 7.3L engine and creating a fuel-efficient towing machine. With so many 7.3L engines still running strong, we wanted to show that with a few specific upgrades you could take an older Ford and breathe new life into her. What we found was this Super Duty, which we quickly dubbed Big Blue, based on its raised look and color. The first installment of this series started in the October 2011 issue and we're just about where we want to be with this truck.


In the June issue we took care of a few cosmetic upgrades with the help from the guys at Powerlabs Diesel in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The biggest and most noticeable was the Royalty Core grille that now gives our project truck its own distinctive look and feel. And because the frame, mesh, studs, logos and hardware are all made from 100 percent stainless steel, we're confident this grille is going to continue looking good for a very long time.

We also installed PPE's HID Headlight kit that is three times brighter than the stock halogens. Plus we upgraded to a set of YellowTop deep cycle batteries from OPTIMA to ensure we'll always have the power we need and this includes future upgrades.

From The Start

To get you all caught up, our project started when we added a boost gauge as well as an EGT gauge from Prosport's Premium series, gave Big Blue new Hankook tires from its Dynapro series as well as added the Off-Road, 326 Gloss Black Machined Face wheels that are part of the V-TEC line from Vision Wheel.

Other quick upgrades included a Diversi-Tech locking hitch, as well as the BedStep and BedStep 2 from AMP Research. Next we added a beefier starter and alternator from Mean Green Industries, an aFe Power intake and exhaust, plus a performance chip from Wide Open Performance.

In the April issue we worked with Powerlabs Diesel to install some great products from BD Diesel Performance, including the addition of the Boost Fooler and the Crankcase Ventilation Kit. We also tossed the stock boots and upgraded to BD Power's Boot & Clamp Kit.

And in May we hooked up with Adrenaline Performance in Shelley, Idaho, for a transmission rebuild. Our vision for this 7.3L has us taking Big Blue to the next level and we knew we couldn't get there with a stock transmission. While we had it on the lift we also installed a new rear differential cover from aFe Power.

Jeff Campbell tears through truck Part Six

When we first got started on this build we mapped out a general outline of what we wanted to do to this truck and the number of steps it was going to take to get there. But of all the upgrades and modifications that we planned, it was this one that we were the most excited for. Adding a new turbo, bigger injectors, an upgraded high pressure oil pump, an intake manifold, as well as a new tuner was the big step we've been waiting for since the project began.

Prior to this install we wanted to run our 7.3L on the dyno to see where we were prior to the install. After putting up some "too low to publish" type numbers we discovered a boost leak was behind our grief. But to solve our boost leak problem we needed to tear into the truck, which didn't make sense to do twice just to get pre-dyno numbers when we already planned on these major upgrades to the engine. So we never did get our pre-dyno numbers, but we do have post numbers, but we'll get to that in a minute.


Powerlabs Diesel has been involved with this build from day one and in fact, seems just as anxious as we are to modify and improve our project truck considering all the time that they've invested in it. Brent Willsey assisted on this install, with tech Jeff Campbell doing most of the heavy lifting.

First we needed to do a little addition by subtraction by removing a lot of the other parts to get to where we needed to be including removing the intake manifold, boots and clamps, crankcase ventilation kit and of course the turbo that is located deep in the back of the engine compartment.

Stage One Injectors

With the truck being a 2002 and having powder metal connecting rods in the motor, we wanted to shoot for about 400hp with this build. Any more than that and we'd risk breaking a rod and sending it shooting through the side of the engine block. So to keep our motor safe, Stage One single shot injectors were really our only option, which we estimated would give us a solid 50 to 75hp increase.

We went with Full Force Diesel for the injectors because of their dependable reputation, plus they're very competitively priced. These injectors from Full Force Diesel make up roughly 75 percent of their business, which keeps the company busy with the demand.

When removing the injectors, be sure to check and make sure all the O-rings are accounted for and haven't fallen in.

The 7.3L fuel injector is a unique piece of equipment. While the technology is now referred to as old and outdated, it was a very solid and reliable design. Before installing the rebuilt injectors you need to lube the new O-rings with motor oil to make sure they'll slip down into place without any problems. This will also help create a better seal, once installed into the cylinder heads.

If you're having a problem threading the injector, make sure a plastic zip tie from the gasket under the valve cover didn't accidently fall in. The nice thing about engines this old is that enough people have worked on them so we now know what to look for instead of discovering these possible problems ourselves.

With over 160,000 miles on what we assume are the original glow plugs, we did a quick replacement and included a round of Diesel RX glow plugs while we were doing the injectors.

There is one tip on the oil-driven injector install that will save you some time. The oil is on the outside of the injector so when you pull it, oil will seep through the hole and go into the cylinder. You could take the oil plug out and drain the oil, but that's time-consuming. The fastest way is to just take out the glow plug and turn the engine over a few times to clear it out.

"Pull the glow plug, put the valve cover back on and crank the engine a couple of times," says tech Campbell. "The pressure from the piston inside the cylinder will push all the oil and fuel out through the glow plug hole and it won't drip back."

When you have a lot fluid in the cylinder and you put the glow plug in, that fluid inside may not have enough compression to push it out and can hydrolock the motor. If there is no room for the fluid to go it can bend a rod or break a piston, so you don't want to skip this step.

Bosch T500

Constant white smoke at idle is a telltale sign of injector and high-pressure oil pump troubles. After taking care of the injectors, it was time to hook up with Terminator Engineering for a new oil pump.

With these Fords, a project like this can really be time-consuming, especially when it comes to removing the high pressure oil pump that is located below the fuel filter and on the top of the V and not really easy to get to. We were careful and used a disconnect tool to pop off the oil lines for the quick disconnect fittings. In order to get our core charge back we didn't want to break the seal on the fittings. The T500 by Terminator retails at around $460 with a $200 core charge and when installing, "You want to make sure the gear is on the teeth instead of just shoving it in," warned Campbell. "If you don't check this, you could end up cranking and cranking and not know why it won't start when you get done."

Terminator Engineering remanufactures and tests, one by one, all of its pumps by hand. With this kind of quality control, no wonder all T500 pumps come with a no-questions-asked, two-year warranty. The difference in the stock high pressure oil pump and the T500 is the modifications that allow for better oil volume and flow, which in turn mean higher injector control pressures with less work being done by the pump. Better volume means higher injection pressure; and higher injection pressures mean better atomization, which means better power, performance and mileage.

The T500 is basically a modified stock high-pressure oil pump and it is designed to be a direct bolt-in replacement to your stock pump, which is always nice.

Bean's Turbo

We had some ideas on which drop-in turbo would be best for Blue, but when it came down to it we wanted to go with a company who really knows Fords. Beans Diesel Performance in Tennessee recommended its Dominator 66 turbo, which features a 66mm comp wheel and machined comp cover. It also has an upgraded turbine wheel (69mm exducer) and a 1.15 non-wastegated turbine housing.

With the noticeably larger wheel, we knew this turbo would be perfect for our truck and the Stage One injectors. If

we were going for 500hp or rebuilding the engine, not having a wastegate might be a concern. But for our needs this is a non-issue and the right call for this truck.

It went in just as easily as the old one went out and there's just something about the shiny-looking rebuilt turbo that made us giddy with excitement as we were getting closer to being complete with this build.

Intake Manifold

Dealing with the boost leak prior to this install, we speculated that it might be coming from the stock intake manifold. So we went ahead and contacted CFM Plus. The system separates the hot turbo-charged air elbow from the air return intake manifold. The two-piece system eliminates the effect of heat transfer back into your cool air flow. A cooler system means lower EGTs.

It's available in a more conservative color, but we like the red and the splash of color it brought to the engine compartment. Plus this red color inspired us to powder-coat the valve covers the same color. It's really hard to see once everything goes back together and covers it up, but we figured since we had it out we might as well put our own touch to it.

To do the powder-coat work we called up Raleigh Houpt, a local guy who runs Rals Powder Coating in eastern Idaho. He perfectly matched the color of the CFM Plus intake manifold so the valve covers would be identical. He did such a great job we hated to cover up his work, but we were more excited about just getting the truck back and running again.

Blue Tuner

A custom chip from DP Tuner was installed to help fine tune and get the last little bit of performance out of our engine. The F5 chip is capable of holding up to 16 programs with push-button, switch-on-the-fly controls with an LED screen.

The install is simple, especially compared to everything else that was done during this part of the build. The only modification that needed to be made was we had to make the hole on the dash larger to accommodate the larger control switch, but it's still small in size and doesn't take up a lot of space. Powerlabs tech Tukker Beckstead assisted on this part of the install and made sure we were all hooked up and good to go.

One new feature that we didn't have with the old chip is the "no start" tune, which is a nice safety feature. It's not foolproof by any means, but it is nice to have when you park your truck at the airport for a week.

Test Run

Turns out one clamp is slightly smaller and is made for a specific boot that we never noticed before. Frankly we never noticed because we never had enough power to check them. But we do now and we found out we had the wrong clamp in the wrong place after we blew the boots off not 30 yards from the shop. We got them swapped and this truck has never run better.

It took some time to get to this point in the install, but it was worth the wait and every dime that went into it. We now have power that you can truly feel and even the deep rumble sitting at a stoplight is enough to intimidate most. As for the dyno, we were able to reach our goal of 400hp. But this is more than just a sweet truck to be run for numbers on a dyno; it's becoming a truck with its own distinctive look with the power to back it up.

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