The Upgrade Guide for the F-150 3.5 EcoBoost Intercooler. We believe the Ford F-150 3.5 EcoBoost engine is great from start to finish. Of course, the 3.5L V6’s dual turbo architecture means it reacts nicely to performance improvements. We already discussed the finest 3.5 EcoBoost enhancements. Intercooler modifications made the list for a reason. FMICs provide adequate power improvements, ensure constant performance, and provide various other advantages. This post goes through the top F-150 3.5 EcoBoost intercooler upgrades, benefits, horsepower improvements, and more.
Designs for Ford F-150 3.5 Intercoolers
Intercooler upgrades are quite simple on the surface. Because they are driven by exhaust gases, turbochargers generate a lot of heat. As the turbos compress the air, it warms up. The intercooler’s sole function is to cool the charge air. As a result, an intercooler improvement is intended to provide more effective and efficient cooling. However, there are a few critical design issues to address.
An air-to-air intercooler system is used in the F-150 3.5 EcoBoost. Outside air is routed via the intercooler to cool the charge air. It serves a similar function to a radiator, except that a radiator cools the water/coolant mixture whereas an intercooler cools the charge air. The front-mount intercooler (FMIC) for the 3.5L V6 EcoBoost is placed near the front of the engine bay.
Anyway, an intercooler is lined inside and externally with tiny metal fins (these fins are connected). The interior fins are naturally cooled when air passes over the outward fins. Charge air is then cooled as it flows through the intercooler core and over these fins. That’s a brief rundown. We could write thousands of words about how intercoolers work, but that isn’t the main point of this paper. However, it does highlight a few key points: intercooler bar and plate designs vs tube and fin designs, surface area, and volume.
3.5 EcoBoost – Tube & Fin vs. Bar & Plate
The two most common FMIC designs are bar and plate intercoolers and tube and fin intercoolers. The air passageways of a tube and fin intercooler have curved edges. This increases efficiency by lowering air resistance as ambient air travels through the fins. However, it lowers the number of fins that may be accommodated in the intercooler.
A rectangular-like air gallery is used by a bar and plate 3.5 EcoBoost intercooler. This design allows for a greater number of fins, which boosts cooling capacity. In addition, bar and plate FMICs are often tougher and can withstand higher boost and abuse (such as rocks and other debris striking the external surface).
A bar and plate configuration is used in the majority of F-150 3.5 EcoBoost intercooler improvements. They are less effective and heavier, but they are more prevalent due of their superior cooling capacity and strength. Some manufacturers, such as Mishimoto, adopt a more efficient tube and fin design. We do not believe that there is always a correct response as to which is actually superior. Having said that, we’ve always had terrific luck with bar and plate FMIC improvements.
F-150 EcoBoost FMIC Dimensions
Volume and surface area are the next two important factors in 3.5 EcoBoost FMICs. A larger surface area simply captures more ambient air, increasing cooling capacity. Larger intercooler surface areas are generally beneficial to performance and charge air cooling.
The FMIC core volume is also crucial. A bigger core volume, like a larger surface area, will boost cooling capacity. Many Ford F-150 intercooler upgrades increase core volume by 40-100% over the OEM FMIC. Where things get a bit murky is that when it comes to core volume, you CAN go too much.
Because there is more capacity for the charge air to expand in a larger core, the pressure drop is greater. More volume to fill can further exacerbate the sensation of turbo lag. If you want to keep the stock turbos, an F-150 intercooler with around 50% extra volume should suffice. Larger FMICs may be considered for substantial power or turbo increases.
Benefits of the F-150 3.5L V6 FMIC Upgrade
Let’s get some background information out of the way before we get into the meat of this post. What are the advantages of upgrading the F-150 3.5 EcoBoost intercooler? Who should consider upgrading their FMIC? Let’s have these questions answered in the following parts before diving into some of the top 3.5L twin turbo intercooler improvements.
The following are some of the advantages of Ford F-150 EcoBoost intercooler upgrades:
- 5-10whp (equivalent torque)
- Performance that is consistent (no power loss)
- Reduce the intake air temperature (IAT).
- improved ignition timing
- Engine knocking is less likely.
The power increases from a 3.5 EcoBoost FMIC are questionable. If you take a brief WOT pull on a colder day, an intercooler modification is unlikely to provide much peak power or torque. You’ll most likely get 5-10whp around the top of the power band. On hotter days, during back-to-back multi-gear pulls, or while towing, an F-150 performance FMIC really shines.
In certain cases, the OEM intercooler becomes overloaded and begins to soak up heat. When intake air temperatures go too high, the engine begins to reduce boost and ignition timing to keep the engine safe. Hotter air is also less dense, which reduces power.
In some cases, intercooler heat soak might result in a loss of 10-20whp. A 3.5 EcoBoost intercooler upgrade reduces heat absorption and maintains consistent performance. Cooler air is also better for the engine because it minimizes the possibility of knocking/pre-detonation.
Who Should Replace Their Ford F-150 Intercooler?
We’ll be brief on this subject, but it’ll be useful to review the information provided above. The stock 3.5 EcoBoost intercooler performs admirably for its intended purpose. However, as you start tuning or altering your F-150, you will naturally generate more heat. As boost is increased, air temperatures rise dramatically, and the factory intercooler becomes overloaded.
Finally, there isn’t much reason to update your FMIC on a standard truck. However, there are some circumstances in which you should consider upgrading the intercooler. Those who routinely haul big loads or live in hot regions may benefit greatly from an intercooler improvement as well.
Intercooler Intake Air Temperatures Have Been Improved
The OEM intercooler indicates a 42°F jump in air temperature in the above image. By the end of this multi-gear haul, the engine was almost certainly pulling boost and timing to keep things safe. Power and performance suffer as a result.
The CVF Titan FMIC boosted intake temperatures by only 2°F. Significantly better than the OEM intercooler. Maintaining IATs at this level ensures very consistent performance and power – even during multi-gear pulls.
Upgrades for the Ford F-150 3.5 EcoBoost Intercooler
Okay, perhaps the information above has helped readers grasp the purpose, design, and benefits of intercooler mods. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s look at some of the top Ford F-150 3.5 EcoBoost intercooler modifications. Please keep in mind that this is far from an exhaustive list. We just do not have the time or space to cover every excellent 3.5L V6 FMIC.
Instead, we’ll concentrate on a few intercooler upgrades that we believe offer the best value for money in terms of pricing, quality, and performance.
1) CVF Atlas Intercooler Upgrade (3.5L F-150 2011-2014)
When it comes to bolt-on performance enhancements for Ford EcoBoost engines, CVF is our preferred brand. They provide some outstanding, high-quality things at extremely reasonable prices. This also applies to their F-150 3.5 EcoBoost intercooler modifications. This large Atlas intercooler with a 120% higher core volume is available for 2011-2014 trucks.
The intercooler is a TIG welded bar and plate construction that comes with a lifetime warranty from CVF. High-flow cast end tanks also contribute to this intercooler’s high performance and cooling capacity. This is a high-quality F-150 3.5 intercooler that will do the job. At $724.99, it’s difficult to go wrong with the CVF Atlas FMIC.
2) 2015-2022+ F-150 3.5 EcoBoost CVF Titan FMIC
CV Fabrication (CVF) follows with another intercooler. Again, we appreciate their products because they provide an excellent combination of price, quality, and performance. The CVF Titan is designed to equip F-150 3.5 EcoBoost engines from 2015 to 2020. It will also fit 2021+ models with minor modifications.
In any case, the CVF Titan F-150 3.5 EcoBoost FMIC has a core volume that is more than 50% greater than the OEM. This intercooler, like the Atlas, is TIG welded, features cast end tanks, and comes with CVF’s lifetime warranty. It’s much less expensive, costing only $599.99. Finally, if you’re looking for an intercooler for a 2015+ F-150, go no further.
3) F-150 3.5L EcoBoost FMIC Upgrade Livernois
We’ve already featured Livernois Motorsports in several Ford, Mopar, and GM articles. They’ve been in business since 1949, create and produce their high-quality products in the United States, and offer very competitive pricing. The same is true with these Livernois intercooler improvements for the F-150 3.5 EcoBoost.
The intercooler for the 2015+ F-150 is over 1.5′′ thicker than OEM and has 80% greater surface area and cooling area. The exact details for the intercooler modification for 2011-2014 aren’t available online. However, it is far larger than the OEM intercooler and has significantly more cooling capacity. Both FMICs can handle 800+whp.
Finally, the Livernois intercooler for the 3.5L V6 EcoBoost is a great choice. They are a reputable firm that manufactures high-quality products in the United States. Livernois’ competitive price of $699 for 2015+ models is difficult to beat.
Price: $1,099.99 (2011-2014)
4) Ford Whipple Mega Cooler Intercooler 3.5 EcoBoost
When it comes to performance modifications for American vehicles, Whipple is a household name. They’re most known for their supercharger kits. In any case, they also provide an excellent intercooler upgrade for the F-150 3.5 EcoBoost. Their Mega Cooler Intercooler has 54% more volume and 8% more surface area than the competition.
It’s also a bar and plate design with an easy bolt-on installation. Because of Whipple’s reputation and brand awareness, the Whipple intercooler does come at a premium. It’s a little pricy at $899.99, but it’s still a good deal compared to many other high-quality FMICs on the market.
Summary of the Ford F-150 3.5 FMIC
The Ford F-150 3.5 EcoBoost engine is a fantastic engine that reacts nicely to aftermarket performance upgrades. An intercooler for the 3.5L twin turbo V6 is one of the better modifications. The standard Ford intercooler serves its duty well, but it rapidly becomes overworked once you start modifying and tinkering.
On short, fast pulls, an intercooler may not provide substantial peak power or torque gains. However, you’ll most likely gain 5-10whp on the top end. Above all, an intercooler provides constant performance while preventing heat absorption and power loss.
CVF has several great 3.5 EcoBoost intercoolers at extremely reasonable prices. Their Atlas intercooler is suitable for 2011-2014 F-150 trucks, while the Titan FMIC is suitable for 2015+ vehicles. Whipple also offers an enticing, high-quality intercooler for the F-150’s 3.5L V6. There are plenty other excellent possibilities. Whatever intercooler you choose, it will undoubtedly be a superb addition to take your F-150 to the next level.