Quick Power & Economy Tips
There are some easy quick and reasonabily inexpensive modifications that can be done to most cars to improve power and fuel economy. These should be done first on any build-up and is a good way to make you car run better without getting into the inside of the engine.
You should always use premium grade fuel. Any detonation is bad for the engine. All 1998 or later Escort and Focus vehicles have a knock sensor. The computer retards the ignition timing whenever it detects any spark knock or detonation, long before you can hear it. This has a very negative effect on both power and fuel economy. By using a high octane fuel, you're guaranteed that your engine is running as efficiently as possible.
Check to make sure your throttle blade is opening all the way This is overlooked by a lot of people. With the engine off, remove the air induction hose from the throttle body and then have someone push the accelerator pedal to the floor and hold it there. Look at the throttle balde in the throttle body. It should be rotated to 90 degrees from the direction of the airflow. If not it may be a fault of the operating cable or the manual stop on the throttle body itself. If it doesn't open fully, then you aren't getting full throttle power. Take whatever steps necessary to correct this problem if it exists.
The first and easiest is an underdrive crankshaft
pulley (UDP). These turn the engine driven accessories slower to allow more of the engine's power to be used at the drive wheels. The 50% UDP can reduce quarter mile accelerations times up to 3/10 second and make a substantial increase in your fuel economy. It's especially useful while using the air conditioning. You no longer will feel the car slow down every time the a/c compressor cycles. There are no real dowside to using a UDP. They will pay for themselves in fuel savings alone.
The next step is to change the air filter to a high flowing one. Aftermarket washable oiled cotton/gause filters have double the flow capacity of new paper filters, and will outflow a new paper filter even when dirty. Most vehicles have a silencer built into the air box someplace. This is usually a restriction along with some expansion chambers. These fit and work very well in the nearest trash can. There is minimal noise reduction at full throttle but the air restriction kills power and acceleration.
For instance, a 1991 1.9L has a tube that comes in from the driver's side fender. How it pulls much air from there is anyone's guess. Then it goes through a very small restriction, much smaller than the throttle body or air flow meter passage. The size of this restriction limits the maximum airflow of the engine. No wonder the engine is only rated at 88 hp. By removing this plumbing and replacing the air filter, the power will be more like 100 hp. There is a big difference in the rate off acceleration as the engine revs. Look for any restriction to airflow into the air filter and remove it or open it up one way or another.
Factory ignition systems are lacking in design. The coil packs aren't bad but the stock resistor sparkplug wires are. A spiral-core design has only about 14% of the electrical resistance of the older carbon wires. The spiral core are also superssive to radio signals so don't have any effect on the vehicle electronics or radio reception. These allow much more voltage to reach and fire the sparkplugs.
There is much to be gained by the sparkplugs. Years ago we experimented with side-gapped plugs. They worked better than anything else by allowing a free path for the spark into the combustion chamber. Even widenig the gaps on regular plugs helps as long as there is enough power in the ignition system to fire them. Our dual gap plugs are gapped wider than stock for a larger spark. They also are of a side-gap design and much less spark shrouding. More electrodes don't mean more sparks. The plug will fire only once each cycle and then usually from the coolestm sharpest surface. More grounding electrodes just add to the shrouding of the spark but will make the plugs last longer since the wear is distributed between more electrodes.
Better lubricants are necessary in any performance vehicle. Synthetic lubricants are far better than most mineral based lubes. They provide better cold weather flow qualities, much less friction, and don't break down from excessive engine heat nearly as much. Thinner oils reduce pumping losses and reduce drag in the engine. They are fine in most cases. For economy, a 5w20 synthetic will work well. For engines run hard or that have a lot of miles and wear, you may need something a little heavier like a 5w40 grade. Always use a premium oil filter. Ford filters are very high quality and that's all we ever use.
The transmission oil should also be changed over to synthetics. This aids friction loss and shift quality in manual shift cars and automatics alike. Automatic transaxles need to be flushed to remove all the old fluid from the entire system. Only draining it, even with the pan removed, only removes about half. The pan should be removed anyway before flushing to clean it and the filter/screen out. There are 2 magnets in the bottom that trap metal particles. These will be heavily coated in higher mileage cars where thay haven't been cleaned.
The factory automatics shift much too slow. This generates heat in the fluid breaking it down and causing varnish to form. It also promotes wear of the clutches and all that wear material gets pumped through the transmission further clogging everything up. With the 1991-97 cars, you can adjust the cable on the bottom of the throttle body. This controls line pressure in the transmission and when adjusted will firm up the shifts quite a bit. The computer controls the shifts in the 1998 and later Escorts and Focus, We offer a electronic shift improver to accomplish the same thing.
For the 2.0L Split-Port Induction cars, we have a controller unit that will open the secondaries in 2-3 tenths of a second. The factory computer controlled setup takes a full 5 seconds to open completely, and doesn't start until the engine is above 3,500 rpm. In low gear, you'll never experience full acceleration because the transmission will shift before the high-speed / secondary runners open in the intake system. Our system used a switch that opens the secordary runners as soon as you go "full throttle". Any other time, they will be shut aiding fuel economy and low rpm driveability.
A cooler thermostat can add a little power in most vehicles. Do go any lower than 180 degrees or it will not work well with the electronics. Same with a change of the muffler. Some cars respond very well and others do not. For instance, our old 1991 test car picked up a full 1/2 second from 0-60 mph just by this change. This car was in nearly stock condition.
A way to increase airflow as long as the electronics work with everything is to change a few pieces to later model ones. The 1991-1996 1.9L Escorts can gain some addidional power by just bolting on a later throttle body and/or air flow meter. The early 90's Escort 1.9L's had a very restrictive air flow meter. It has a center port that measures only 1.500" diameter. Later models (1993-96) have a much larger air flow meter. The way to tell is look at it from the end. If it has a small round port in the center and a screen, it's the early model. The later model has a vertical divider in the center and has no screen.
You will also need to remove all the ductwork from underneath it the air filter box. This is a major restriction. Just unbolt everything under the air box and pull it out. Also use a high flow air filter like a K&N. Here is the combination that will fit:
The air flow sensor is much larger and will flow better even if it has the cross tube. We cut those out when we port them as in the picture. You need the air tube because the air flow meter is larger on that end. You will also need the end of the wiring since it is slightly different. Then just cut & splice the wiring. It will bolt to your air box.
The throttle bodies from 1991-96 are all 40mm. The 1997-up are 44mm. This doesn't sound like much but is about a 24% increase in flow area. The throttle body is an easy bolt-on. If you have an automatic transmission use only the 1997 throttle body from an automatic. It's the only one that has the provisions for the transmission throttle linkage, the lower cable.
* Air tube from a 1994-96 1.9L Escort
* Air flow meter from a 1994-95 (OBDI) (1996 was OBDII compliant)
* Throttle body from a 1997-up (1997 only with auto trans