Modding upgrading and tuning the Ford Zetec engine!

Tuners tips on "Zetec Modifications"

How to modify and upgrade the Ford Zetec

"Comprehensive guide to performance parts and tuning the Ford Zetec engine!"

Popular tuning sites like TorqueCars are frequently getting posts requesting info on how to improve the Zetec from people inquiring about getting more power from the Zetec and wanting to know what are the premier Zetec power upgrades. So let us look into Ford Zetec upgrades and outline the best upgrades on this great engine and point out some problems along the way.

The Ford Zetec are awesome to work on and with carefully chosen performance upgrades like remapping, turbo kits and camshafts you will positively improve your driving experience.

Here we provide a guide to Zetec tuning and highlight the best mods that work.

Just because particular parts are appear in lots of Zetec projects it doesn't mean you should fit it, instead we will focus on the best parts that will give your Zetec the best power gain for you spend.

Without us subscribing to the popular mentality of 'if it's shiny and makes more noise it must be good' you seem to get in many tuning magazines and on car forums'.

Zetec induction kits

Improving air intake on the Zetec

You need fuel and air for an engine to work. If there is not enough fuel then it will run lean, if there is insufficient air it runs rich losing power which risks damage to the Zetec. We'll pick up on fuelling later in this article but for now we shall look at air supply.

So the primary aim to any engine upgrade project to feed air into each cylinder but this has a knock on effect with the air flow sensor.

You'll commonly see there's a limitation in the air flow sensor (AFM/MAF/MAP) on the Zetec when considerably more air is being fed into the engine.

We see 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor was restricting power at a much lower level.

Air Intake manifolds flow the during the engines suck phase from the air cleaner and allow it to be drawn into the engine cylinders with fuel for the squish phase.

Design and rate of flow of the air Intake manifold can make a substantial change to fuel atomisation on the Zetec.

It's not uncommon that headers are in dire need of performance upgrades, although a few manufacturers provide reasonably good headers.

Adding a Zetec larger valve kit, doing a bit of 3 or 5 angle valve jobs and porting and head flowing will also raise performance, the fantastic side effect is it will give you increasing the performance increase on other tuning mods.

Zetec performance cam tips.

Some Zetec engines respond better to extreme cam durations than others.

The engine timing and fuel pump and injectors also have a large bearing on the bhp gains you'll hit.

A longer valve duration can alter the bhp band and on most engines the exhaust and intake durations do not need to match, although most cams and tuners use matched pairs there are some advantages to extending the intake or exhaust durations.

Altering your Zetec camshaft will make a dramatic difference to the engine bhp. Choosing a higher performance camshaft profile raises the bhp accordingly.

NB: Fast road cams usually boost the power throughout the rpm band, you may sacrifice a little low down power but the higher rpm power will be better.

Competition cams, boost the higher rpm power band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers.

For a typical daily driver you should ideally to optimize your engines power to your typical driving style.

I'd be surprised if you have ever thought a Zetec Race camshaft is a pleasure to live with when on the daily commute.

Stage 1, 2 and 3 mods for the Zetec

Before we break the best tuning upgrades down into stages of tune, let's list the most effective tuning upgrades for you.

  1. Suspension Upgrades - always improve your cars handling
  2. Brake Upgrades - Even before adding power improve those brakes
  3. Intake - make sure the intake is not restricted, use filters and intake upgrades to improve this
  4. Exhaust - as with 3 ensure there is not restriction in the exhaust, cats are the usual bottleneck
  5. Tunes - remapping, piggyback ECU's and aftermarket ECU's can all make decent gains
  6. Fuelling - when you've increased power you'll need to match this with more fuel
  7. Turbo upgrades - Improving the intake with a large turbo and better flowing intercooler will be the biggest power gain you'll see (but one of the most complex).

This video guide to tuning cars is a great starting point to work from in your project.

Stage 1 Zetec parts:

Remaps/piggy back ECU, Fast road camshaft, Sports exhaust manifold, Panel air filters, Drilled & smoothed airbox, Intake headers.

Stage 2 Zetec parts:

Ported and polished head, induction kit, Fast road cam, fuel pump upgrades, high flow fuel injectors, Sports catalyst & performance exhaust.

Tuning tips and articles Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums

Stage 3 Zetec parts:

Internal engine upgrades (head flowing porting/bigger valves), Adding or Upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Engine balancing & blueprinting, Twin charging conversions, Crank and Piston upgrades to alter compression, Competition cam.

The Zetec engines respond well to upgrades and we're happy to report there is a lot of parts and tuning parts out there.

A remap allows a tuner to unlock the full potential of all the tuning parts you've done to your Zetec.

You will typically expect to see gains of approximately 20-30% more power on turbocharged vehicles and you can expect to see around 15% on NASP engines, but power output usually rely on the tuning parts you've fitted and the condition of your engine.

Turbo modifications on the Zetec

To get a turbo working on a NASP engine there is a lot involved, from lowering compression ratio to improved fuel supply and mapping, so we have found a great guide to helpavoid the common pitfalls or end up with an unfinished project because you were not told what you were getting into by doing this on the Zetec.

The more air you can get into an engine, the more fuel it can burn and uprating the induction with a turbocharger upgrade makes significant power gains.

When your motor is fitted with a turbocharger parts are going to net you a larger power gain and most turbocharged engines are built with strengthened components.

There are weak spots for every engine, with some being over specified and some only just able to handle stock power

It is important to find these restrictions and install better quality components to handle the power.

We see many tuners spending a lot of money on turbo upgrades on the Zetec only to suffer the humiliation of seeing the engine explode on it's first outing after it's been finished.

Larger upgraded turbo units will usually suffer no power at low rpm, and small turbo units spool up much more quickly but won't have the top end engines power gains.

Thanks to progress the market of turbochargers is always moving on and we are seeing variable vane turbochargers, allowing the vane profile is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end bhp and torque.

Twin scroll turbochargers divert the exhaust gases into a couple of channels and flow these at differently profiled vanes in the turbo charger. They also increase the scavenging effect of the engine.

Beefing up the air intake by adding a supercharger or additional turbo will help you achieve very large performance gains, although harder to configure. We have this feature on twinchargers if you want to read more.

Tips about fuel supply on the Zetec

When you boost the bhp you will need to look at to the fuel delivery.

More bhp needs more fuel. Experienced mechanics will tell you to be generous with your injectors flow rate.

The rule of thumb is to add another 20% when buying an injector, this accounts for injector deterioration and affords you some spare capacity should the engine require more fuel.

Don't forget that different fuel grades will usually require different settings, a high octane fuel will burn more efficiently than lower octane fuel for example. A car will trim fuel supply to keep within the ideal air fuel mix but at the extreme ends you may need to adjust your injector capacity, or the mapping or you'll get flat spots and potential lean or rich fuel issues..

Recommended Zetec performance exhaust upgrades

We'd only recommend you look to boost your exhaust system with an upgraded one is if the current exhaust is actually creating a flow problem.

On most factory exhausts you'll see your flow rate is still fine even on modest power gains, but on a serious tuning project with a big boost in power you will certainly need to get a better flowing exhaust.

Please dont run with the largest exhaust you can source you'll reduce the exhaust flow rate - the best for power gains are usually between one and a half to two and half inches. Your exhaust design, the bend angles and construction are what have more effect on flow rates than your pipe width to a certain extent. So the exhaust design is a big factor.

Usual exhaust restrictions are in the catalyst and filters installed, so adding a faster flowing sports alternative will help avoid this restriction.

Decat pipes (NB:catalysts reduce harmful engine emissions) is illegal in most countries and regions.

Faults issues and things to look out for on the Zetec

Like most engines an Zetec, should have few issues if it gets properly serviced and looked after.

We cannot stress enough the need for oil changes with the correct grade of oil on the Zetec, failure to do this will exacerbate engine wear, on a tuned Zetec this is more important than ever and close attention should be paid to your maintenance schedule.

If you are interested in learning more or getting impartial tuning advice for your Zetec why not pop over to the forums at TorqueCars where you can chat about Zetec tuning options and read about others projects who may be planning to do similar modifications on their Zetec.

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