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The Best 6.4 Powerstroke Performance Upgrades

About Zach Mayock - DieselIQ

Meet Zach

Zach is one of the founders of 8020 Media and a lead writer for DieselIQ. He’s been in the automotive industry for over a decade and has published more than 400 articles for DieselIQ, TuningPro, BMWTuning, & more. His blend of automotive knowledge, writing & research skills, and passion make him an excellent resource for fellow diesel owners. His expertise goes beyond writing and includes a deep knowledge of Cummins and Powerstroke engines, as well as nearly 10 years of DIY experience. Zach is also experienced with tuning and has a wealth of technical knowledge that he brings to every article he writes.

Despite the mediocre reputation it has, the 6.4 Powerstroke is among the most tuner and mod friendly diesels. A few simple upgrades like tuning, an intake, and exhaust system can take the engine to around 550whp for as little as $1,500.

Once you start surpassing these power levels, things start to get a bit expensive as you will need to look into turbocharger upgrades and other supporting modifications. In this guide we’re going to cover some of the best bolt-on mods for the 6.4 Powerstroke, including ECM tuning, cold air intakes, exhausts, and turbocharger upgrades.

Best 6.4 PowerStroke Performance Upgrades

Best 6.4 Powerstroke Performance Upgrades

  1. Tuner
  2. Cold Air Intake
  3. Exhaust / DPF Delete
  4. Turbo Upgrades

Below we will discuss each of the above performance upgrades along with benefits, hp gains, and cost. However, it’s important to add a few quick notes before jumping into 6.4 diesel mods. The 6.4 Powerstroke is a very capable engine, but it’s also known to have some reliability problems. Many of the issues revolve around emissions systems like the EGR and DPF – the latter of which we will discuss in this guide.

Consider addressing common maintenance and problem areas before spending on upgrades. Otherwise, the Ford 6.4 Powerstroke is a stout engine that can nearly double its stock power and torque without the need for major upgrades like internals, transmission, etc.

1) ECM Tuning

This list isn’t in any particular order but tunes are first for good reason. A 6.4 Powerstroke tuner is the foundation to making more power. Not only can a tune add 150-200+ horsepower and 300+ lb-ft of torque, but it also helps maximize the performance gains from additional mods. Those hp gains are tough to beat for a ~$500 tune.

The SCT X4 and Livewire TS+ are widely regarded as the best programmers for the 6.4 diesel. With the tuner you’ll receive a few off-the-shelf (OTS) maps good for up to 160 horsepower and 300 lb-ft. Even bigger gains can be had with custom tuning. However, custom tuning costs more on top of the tuning device and additional mods will require tuning revisions. As such, it’s generally best to start with the OTS tunes and move to custom tuning later.

Benefits of Tuning

  • 150-200+ horsepower gains
  • 300+ torque gains
  • Improved throttle response
  • Better fuel economy
  • Data-logging and monitoring

Of course, highlights of diesel programmers are the massive performance and power gains. Benefits extend much further, though. Powerstroke tuners can also offer better throttle response and fuel economy. Additionally, tuning devices allow you to data-log and monitor key engine parameters such as boost, AFR, ignition timing, and much more.

Ultimately, a tuner is the single best upgrade for the 6.4L Powerstroke diesel. Whether you’re looking for just a single performance mod or dozens a tuner is undoubtedly the best starting point.

2) Cold Air Intake Upgrades

Intake upgrades (commonly known as cold air intakes) are another excellent modification. The term cold air intake doesn’t truly apply to a turbodiesel engine, though. Air enters the intake before travelling thru incredibly hot turbocharger where the air is then cooled by the intercooler. Temperature at the filter has no impact on the intercoolers ability to cool the air.

Nonetheless, a performance intake can increase power and torque via better air-flow. The 6.4 Powerstroke picks up about 5-15whp and 10-25wtq with an intake upgrade. Solid gains for an upgrade that’s inexpensive, easy to install, and looks great.

The Boosted Performance 4″ high-flow open intake is a great choice for the 6.4L diesel. The open design allows for maximum air-flow, and uses a high-quality S&B filter made in the United States. For only $299 (and free shipping) an intake makes for a good all-around upgrade.

Check out our 6.4 Powerstroke Cold Air Intake guide for more info on intake upgrades and product recommendations.

Cold Air Intake Benefits

  • 5-15whp gains
  • 10-25wtq gains
  • Awesome turbo & induction sounds
  • Improved fuel economy
  • Easy maintenance, clean look

Intake power and torque gains primarily come from better air-flow. However, on stock trucks, there isn’t a real need for additional air. Once you add a tune and other mods then the air-flow requirements become more demanding. That’s where you’ll begin to see power gains of 5-15whp and 10-25wtq from an upgraded intake. Bigger gains are even possible on heavily modified 6.4 Powerstroke’s.

6.4 Powerstroke Cold Air Intake Upgrade

Price: $299

An open design, like the Boosted Performance 4″ high-flow intake, also delivers intoxicating turbo and induction sounds. Fuel economy benefits from intakes are up for debate, but it’s possible to see small improvements to MPG. Lastly, re-usable filters make maintenance simple and an intake upgrade offers a nice, clean look for the engine bay.

3) Exhaust Mods & DPF Delete

The layout of the 6.4 Powerstroke exhaust system after the turbocharger is the downpipe, DOC, DPF, and then the muffler. As such, exhaust mods and diesel particulate filter (DPF) deletes go hand-in-hand. We’ll be pretty quick in this section as we have a full guide on Ford 6.4 diesel DPF deletes.

You can opt for a simple DPF & cat delete pipe like this one from The Diesel Dudes and leave the rest of the exhaust stock. However, removing the muffler and going to a full 4″ or 5″ exhaust will offer the best power gains. That’s especially true on higher power trucks as the restriction from the DPF, DOC, and muffler become significant at higher power and boost.

It’s important to note that it’s not compliant with emissions regulations to delete the DPF and DOC, so this should only be done on off-road trucks. To keep your truck emissions complaint, you can opt for a DPF-back 4″ or 5″ exhaust with no muffler. The DPF and DOC are the biggest restrictions, though. Without deleting those the power gains and performance potential are minimal.

If you plan on keeping the emissions equipment then we recommend getting a 4″ cat-back exhaust with a 3″ downpipe combo.

Exhaust & DPF Benefits

  • 5-15whp gains
  • 10-25wtq gains
  • Lower exhaust backpressure
  • Lower EGT’s
  • Better turbo efficiency
  • Reliability

Most of the benefits from exhaust mods come from the DPF and DOC deletes as they’re the biggest restrictions. While power gains aren’t massive, a DPF delete does increase performance potential, maximize power gains from other mods, and improve reliability.

Exhaust and DPF mods also help reduce backpressure, lower EGT’s, and better turbocharger efficiency. All these things lead to a much healthier and safer engine when pushing for bigger power numbers. Ultimately, exhaust mods are an important piece of the puzzle whether you’re looking for a “modest” 500whp or a crazy 700+whp build.

4) Turbo Upgrades

Ford 6.4L PowerStroke Diesel Single Turbo

A 6.4 Powerstroke with a tune, intake, and exhaust can deliver about 525-575rwhp – nearly double its factory output of roughly 290rwhp. Those are incredible gains for three simple bolt-on upgrades and likely enough power for most owners. However, for those looking for more power, 6.4 Powerstroke turbo upgrades are the next major mod on the list.

The compound turbo design was a unique setup for the 6.4L engine as all other Powerstroke’s simply use a single turbo. There are plenty of single turbo conversions available though, so you can either switch to single or go with drop in compound turbo upgrades.

We’re big fans of the simplicity and cleaner look of the single turbo setups. They also make excellent power for very little cost, but tend to spool slightly slower than the compound turbos. One setup isn’t always better than the other, so it really depends on your personal preferences and goals.

Ultimately, 6.4 Powerstroke turbo upgrades can push the diesel to 600-700+whp. Depending on your goals it can be an expensive endeavor, though. When you upgrade your turbo(s) it’s likely time to start considering fueling mods, a built transmission, head studs, and more.

Summary

The Ford 6.4L Powerstroke doesn’t have an excellent reputation for reliability or longevity. However, it is one of the most capable modern diesel engines when it comes to tuning and modifications. A custom tune, intake, and exhaust upgrades can push the engine upwards of 550-575whp. That’s nearly double the factory numbers of 290whp and incredible power gains for three simple mods.

Mix in some other upgrades and it’s possible to inch above 600whp on the stock compound turbos. However, to push much further it’s time to look into single turbo conversions or drop in compound turbo upgrades. A 6.4 Powerstroke with upgraded turbo can eclipse 700whp and well beyond 1,000 lb-ft of torque. This starts getting expensive, though, as it’s time to consider serious upgrades like internals, head studs, a built transmission, and much more.

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