Thoughts on carb vs aftermarket EFI on Ford 302

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themoneypit

member
Jul 30, 2018
145
68
28
Missouri
I swapped a 1997 Explorer 5.0 and ECU into my 1998 Ranger just over a year ago. Basically a plug and play swap, but the 5.0 Explorer ECU is basically a dead end. The last major 5.0 Explorer tuner, Henson Performance, has gotten out of the business. Basically none of the other major tuners will touch Expos with a 10 foot pole from what I've found. For not a whole lot more money than buying an SCT tuner+software and learning to tune myself, I can ditch the OEM wiring mess and get the clean truck I've wanted all along via carb or aftermarket EFI.

I've also been chasing intermittent misfire issues, and I'm getting sick of the complete lack of information from the Explorer ECU. It is OBD2, but it sure doesn't feel like it. Throws zero codes even when the engine is running like shit, and the mode 6 logging is pitiful. This Ranger started as a cheap project, but I'm tired of dicking with the engine. Time to throw some money at the problem and fix it for good.

I'm trying to decide between a basic throttle body injection system like the fitech, or a manual choke, mechanical secondary Holley. $500 MSD ignition setup (distributor, coil, box, wires), $600 carb/$800 FI-Tech throttle body EFI, and a ~$250 carb intake. Either will allow me to delete all of the emissions crap and reduce the engine bay to the bare essentials. I absolutely hate the spaghetti mess under an OEM hood. Plus, I'll be able to properly tune for a new cam and custom headers.

Thoughts on throttle body EFI vs the tried and true Holley?
 

sirhk100

Racer
Feb 24, 2003
16,293
171
63
Las Vegas
Can't speak for offroad but on my 67 mustang I went from a 4 barrel holly to the MSD throttle body setup and have zero regrets. My ONLY issue with the efi is it still does run a little rough for about the first 30 seconds on a cold start up. It'll sometimes stall even in that initial 30 seconds or so. Then for maybe the first minute or two there's a noticeable dead spot... But after a minute or two once it's semi warmed up it runs absolutely flawless.

I went a bit overkill though and set my system up so that the EFI is controlling the engine timing as well. I locked out the distributor and bought the MSD box to accompany it so that it's all one self talking/running system basically.

I'm assuming you already have an external intank electric fuel pump so that's not an added cost to worry about. Install of the MSD system and supposedly the others like FiTech is simple. Bolted right on like a carb, like 5-8 wires, fuel lines, drive it...

Me personally... I"d go with the aftermarket EFI system. I daily drove the car for about 8 months thru an entire Vegas summer and zero issues. Plus the EFI will control your radiator fans if electric and has some other nice features too. Basically in short, my setup was a bit pricey after factoring in a full fuel system basically, the MSD box, the MSD distributor and the EFI but in all honesty I'd do it again! And yours won't be that much cause you likely won't need all of that stuff. If you don't care about the EFI doing the timing it should be all you actually need beyond the manifold.

Oh... Make sure if you go EFI do a bit of research... Unless things have changed none of them used to work really well with dual plane intake manifolds. If that's still the case make sure you do a single plane. I ended up using a phenalic spacer that I cut the center out of to mimic a single plane basically. Night and day difference in how my car ran once I did that!!! Before it would like to stall when say coming down an offramp to a red light from a cruising RPM to clutch in and trying to drop to idle. Since that change it hasn't stalled once. (after initial warmup...)
 

dsrtrcr01

Well-known member
Jan 31, 2005
3,806
226
63
On my 22r... I had carbed and I had EFI. For off-road I am all about the EFI. No more cutting out in the whoops. My inlaws Manx has a carb and after years of messing with it we finally got it so it could go through whoops without issue and the freaking carb is wore out and we need a new one.
 

Drayke

Always Baja Bound
Jan 29, 2007
898
97
28
Torrance
i'm not going to read everything Khris said, so hopefully I don't repeat him here.

I'm pro-carb, personally. I have a 750 holley feeding my 460 in my prerunner and it's been fantastic. I had to learn a few things about how to tune them, but i'm happy to have added that skill to my toolbox anyway. Dead simple, no extra wires in my engine bay. Happy happy happy.

That being said, to make the carb reliable offroad, i ended up dropping it off at C&J in santa fe springs and they reworked a few parts to keep it from stuttering in the whoops. Crossover vent tube, nitro or poly (cant remember) floats, & spring loaded needles.
 

themoneypit

member
Jul 30, 2018
145
68
28
Missouri
That's what I was thinking about the fueling. The stock style pump supposedly runs at ~65 PSI, and the FITech stuff requires 58, so that seems perfect. I can even get Ford quick-disconnect to AN adapters and stick with factory lines for my mild build.

There's something alluring about the pure simplicity of a carb, but these aftermarket EFI systems really don't come with that much extra wiring these days. Basically just an extra run for the wideband O2 sensor, and the ECU connector itself.
 

themoneypit

member
Jul 30, 2018
145
68
28
Missouri
Another question is legality. I know I'll have no issues in hickville Missouri with inspections, but what about Arizona? That's where I'll likely end up in the next year or two, and I want to keep this thing plated. What's the situation like for inspecting completely de-smogged vehicles there?
 

themoneypit

member
Jul 30, 2018
145
68
28
Missouri
I just realized that I've been missing a major red flag on this engine. I was three quarts of oil low after 3000 miles. In my head, I said, "Jeez that's bad, I really need to fix that oil leak". The key issue here, is that this engine doesn't leak. The 2.5 did, but this one sure doesn't. The 5.0 got intake, valve cover, oil pan, and front/rear main seals before the engine swap.

Pulled all the plugs, and 4, 3, and 1 were absolutely caked in oil (There's the misfire you dumbass). Rest were healthy.

With that much oil consumption, it has to either be valve stem seals in those three cylinders, or rings. The engine only has ~140k on it, and doesn't smoke at all. Startup, decel, acceleration, cold, hot, and nada for smoke. I feel like it HAS to smoke with that kind of consumption though, so this one confuses me.
 

themoneypit

member
Jul 30, 2018
145
68
28
Missouri
Glad to hear emissions is no biggie. Simple is the name of the game.

The shitty harbor freight compression tester adapters are too large to fit into GT40P head plug holes, so I'll have to rent a setup from O'Reillys tomorrow and test the engine. If compression tests well, then it's likely the valve stem seals, which are easy enough to replace. If compression in 4, 3, and 1 is low, then I'm looking at a short block rebuild/replace.


Thoughts on stock replacement 302 shortblock vs saying fuck it and 4.8/5.s LS swapping? I've only got ~$500 total in my Lima to 5.0 swap at this point, so changing directions isn't a big loss. Going aftermarket EFI either way, so no need to worry about ignition/fueling costs in a swap scenario.

Looking at ~$1.2k for a basic short block replacement/302 refresh if that's needed. Will know for sure tomorrow.
 

themoneypit

member
Jul 30, 2018
145
68
28
Missouri
After sleeping on it, I'm overcomplicating things. 347 shortblock build would be about $2k. GT40P headed and mild cammed 347s make roughly 360 HP and 410 lb ft with basic port matching on the heads. Slightly choked but torquey engine. Plenty by my standards.

$2k short block,
$350 head work (Basic cleanup and upgraded valve springs), porting is free
~$1600 aftermarket EFI conversion
Total= $4-4.5k.
I'm happy with that

Plenty of power for a Ranger, and I don't have to make any major changes to the rest of the vehicle this way. LS swap itself is cheap, but it adds up once you add all the ancillary stuff.
 
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