Best Budget 7.3 Powerstroke Performance Mods - 4 Mods for $1,100
If you're looking to add more power to your 7.3 Powerstroke on a budget then these are the 4 mods you'll need: tuning, intake, exhaust, and a boost fooler. For right around $1,100 you can add over 100hp and 200tq to your diesel with these basic bolt-on performance upgrades.
We're going to cover all of the modifications you need to build a budget-friendly yet powerful 7.3 Powerstroke.
The 300whp-350whp Target
Going all out on power modifications can get expensive quickly. The factory injectors on the 7.3 need to be upgraded around 350whp, the turbo can only handle approx. 400whp, and the transmission is only good for about 400whp without building it.
So if you want to build a 7.3 Powerstroke on a budget then 350whp is the maximum goal. After that you will need to spend more than a few grand on a built transmission, turbo upgrade, fueling, cooling, and more.
All of these mods we cover can get you right up to this 350whp power level - but I don't necessarily recommend pushing right up to this barrier without upgraded injectors. I'll discuss this further down in the tuning section but you'll need to run a really aggressive tune which we don't recommend.
With all that being said 350whp is the max but 300-325whp is the target.
4 Budget 7.3 Powerstroke Performance Upgrades
- Cold air intake
- 4" exhaust system
- Boost Fooler
All of these upgrades will cost you $1,107.98 based on the products I recommend - not bad at all for the >100whp we're going to get from it. All-in-all we're looking around $10 per whp which is pretty good in the modification world.
1. Tuning: PHP Hydra
The best tuning option for the 7.3 Powerstroke is actually a chip - and not a traditional handheld programmer. PowerHungryPerformance's Hydra chip is the best on the market and our top recommendation for tuning. Tuning is the base of all modifications and will maximize the performance gains from all the other mods I talk about.
The chip comes pre-loaded with 6 tunes with power levels ranging from +25hp to +140hp. You can also get custom tuning done via the Hydra device - we recommend this once you upgrade your turbo and injectors. But for the purpose of a budget build I recommend buying the standard device with some tunes loaded onto it by someone like Full Force Diesel.
There are a number of other options on the market but the Hydra is really the only one that comes with good pre-loaded tunes. And it's supporter by pretty much every custom tuner if you decide to go that route in the future.
2. Cold Air Intake: Boosted Performance
The second best modification is an upgraded intake system. Tuning increases power by turning up boost levels which puts more stress on the turbo. More power also requires more air - so bringing more air to the turbo is important to improve its efficiency, increase power gains, and support the tuning.
Not to toot our own horn too much, but our 7.3 Powerstroke cold air intake offers the best combination of price, performance, and quality. There is never a reason an intake should be $400+ (not to point any fingers...) but you also don't want the crappy China intakes that use really poor filters that let way too much dirt into your engine.
We only use the best filters on the market, from S&B and Elite Filtration, but also understand an intake is a piece of aluminum piping so we keep ours at a very reasonable price of $249. Overall, I think it's the best option on the market when you consider budget and quality. Plus it is an open intake which we recommend over closed intakes for performance reasons.
3. Exhaust System: MBRP 4" Aluminum
An exhaust system is the next most important upgrade. With more boost via tuning and more air coming into the engine via an intake we now need to help all of that air get out of the engine. When exhaust gases don't exit the engine quickly enough it creates exhaust backpressure. This pressure works against the turbo, putting additional stress on it, restricting the turbine wheel from spinning, and slowing down spool.
Upgrading to a larger and more free flowing exhaust system is great for improving turbo efficiency and reliability while also significantly reducing EGTs by up to 200 degrees. Overall, an exhaust is extremely important for both power and performance and also for reliability and engine health.
4" is plenty big if you are on the stock turbo and you'll want to avoid a muffler as that adds restriction. Aluminum is the cheapest material so the best exhaust is going to be a 4" turbo-back aluminum exhaust without a muffler. MBRP is the only exhaust brand we sell and our top recommendation.
Buy Here: 7.3 Powerstroke MBRP 4" Aluminum Exhaust
4. Boost Fooler: ATS
On factory settings the 7.3 Powerstroke can only handle a maximum of 24psi. Somewhere between 22-24psi the MAP sensor will trigger an overboost code that will cause the PCM to start pulling fuel - leading to decreased performance. More boost = more power so we need to prevent overboosting and decreased fueling.
A lot of tuning devices, like the PHP Hydra, can work around these boost limitations - but it does so at a price. A lot of tuners and forum guys will tell you that you don't need a boost fooler because they tune around it. But the problem is tuning around it causes you to lose your low boost fueling tables which results in your truck running a lot worse when it's not a WOT (wide-open-throttle).
For these reasons we always recommend a boost fooler. They cost less than $70 and will make sure the MAP sensor always reads a maximum of 22psi to prevent defueling and overboosting. Your truck will run so much better with a boost fooler even if your told you don't need one. They're cheap and easy to install so there is no reason not to.
ATS and Atlas have electronic boost foolers that range from $40 to $70. Just be cautious of which ones work with the tuner you are using. You can DIY one from Home Depot for like $25 but I recommend electronic ones as they tend to work a bit better than valve or mechanical boost foolers.
These four modifications are the best starting upgrades for any 7.3 Powerstroke. Whether you are trying to do it on a budget or go for a high power build these are going to be the best first modifications. Without pushing things too far, you can add about 100whp from these upgrades for just over a thousand bucks.
Going beyond these levels requires a lot of money in upgrades like a built trans, turbo, fueling, and more. Ultimately, if you just want to toss a bit more power into the mix and do it without breaking the bank then tuning, an intake, exhaust, and boost fooler are the only mods you need.