logo2.jpg - 20903 Bytes

GEN3 (1996-1999) Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable Modification FAQ

From time to time, I get email or questions about mods for the Taurus and Sable. To help everyone get their questions answered quickly, without the wait, I have put together a FAQ.Some of the things in here are opinion, but there is also a lot of hard facts here. Over the years, I have tried different stuff, some worked and some didn't, so instead of you tryingthese things and getting disappointed, I would share my experiences. I must warn you though, I am not much for stupid, useless mods. If you are going to mod your car, at least do somethinguseful and cool. No rice either, I hate that!

Engine and Transmission

Any kind of Ebay "chips" or resistors

These are commonly referred to IAT resistors and are usually found on ebay. They are supposed to fool your engine's computer into thinking that cooler air is being sucked into the engineand running rich. The computer is supposed to fix this problem by unlocking HP, well, it doesn't. No matter what wacky claims (20 HP!!) the ebay seller claims, it won't work.If its too good to be true, it is!

SCT Tuning and any other kind of custom tuned chips

The custom tuned and "mail order" tunes are the best type of chips out there. If you have the right guy helping you, you will notice a performance increase with a chip. The chips are easyto install, all you do is find the engine computer, prepare the diagnostic port per the instructions, and install it. You can also get the same effect if you buy a hand held tuner, which in my opinion, works better in the GEN3 Taurus/Sable. In order to buy a chip, you need to provide the engine code to the tuner. Do not buy a chip unless he asks for this information!

With a chip, you can change all sorts of settings in your computer. You can make the car run on premium fuel, which allows for timing adjustments. Other options include fan timing, transmission shiftpoints, change tire radius (good for custom rims/tires), remove rev and speed limiters and eliminate spark retard. You can also order a program that will do all of these with regular 87 octane fuel, but the biggest performance increase is with the premium programs. I ordered a fuel saving program that I ran in the winter time, even though it slowed the car up some, I still got a lot of the benefits while saving on fuel. These guys have access to all parameters, you just tell then what you want and they do it.

I recommend SCT tuning by FordChip.com and Northeast SHO. I don't recommend JET. A chip is no good unlessits tuned for the application. JET uses a generic program, which isn't as good.

Aftermarket Intakes

I don't recommend aftermarket intakes because most of them are stupid mods to create noise.

There are two types on intakes on the market, Hot Air and Cold Air. The Hot Air type is just a cone filter thatreplaces the stock air box. It sucks hot air from the engine, right back into it. This type of setup robs horsepower, but it adds a growl sound. For me, I would rather have performance then the noise, so I suggest that people don't do this.

Cold Air intakes use pipes to grab the cold air and sucks it into the engine. It has the same ricey sound that the warm air has. The big problem with these intakes are due to the installation area. Mostpeople put these in the wheel well, which usually gets dirty and wet. Anything that hits that filter could end up in the engine. I have heard of people flooding their engines due to water puddles with thistype of setup.

If you want to do something with your intake, I suggest a K&N Panel filter. These filters are made very well, and you can reuse them over and other again.

Aftermarket UDP Pulleys

UDP Pulleys increase engine horsepower by reducing the amount of power required to drive external engine accessories. For example, the alternator, power steering, water pump, and air conditioner all rob horsepower from the engine. By replacing the factory sized crank with a resized pulley, the accessories are slowed, resulting in more horsepower available to drive the wheels. I haven't had any experience with these (yet) but other models have benefitedfrom a new pulleys. You can buy them at SHO Brothers Garage

Maintenance of the Engine

Nothing is better then a maintained engine. If your plugs, wires and belts are old it would be a good idea to change them. Before doing any engine mods, its a good idea to flush your coolant out, change your transmissionfluid, change the fuel filter, replace the O2 sensors and check the hoses. Without fixing everything, your engine mods could be for nothing.

Transmission Coolers

Every GEN3 car should have an aftermarket transmission cooler. These keep the transmission nice and cool and could extend the life of your fluids. With the transmissions being a weak link, its a good ideato add this cheap part. Typical prices for these are $50-75, which is an amazing bargain compared to a replacement transmission.


Spring Replacement

When its time to replace your suspension, its a good idea to replace the springs as well.

Many people replace worn springs with SHO springs. They have a higher spring rate then the standard Taurus ones, which is a cause for the saggy "butt". Replacing your spring with SHO parts could cause your car to sit slightly higher then before, but you gain a stiffer ride.JAR and KUM spring codes are the most popular models for the rear. The front springs are designed to handle the SHOs heavy engine, so I suggest against buying SHO fronts. Instead, you can buy replacementsprings from the parts store (TRW works ok for me) or go with a lowering spring in the front.

Speaking of lowering springs, there are many to choose from. The Eibach brand is very popular with non-SHO Taurus owners, but they are no longer produced. The same can be said withRoush, which are very rare to find. H&R is the only company at the moment that offers lowering springs for the GEN3 Taurus.

Strut Replacement

Struts should be replaced when they are worn out. If you notice that your ride is bouncy, or you have fluid leaking out, its time to replace them. Just like with the springs, there is many options available.My choice is Monroe Sensitraks, based on cost and quality. Gabriel struts also work fine for people on a budget.

Of the better options available, Koni replacement cartridges work great, as does SHO SARC struts. The SHO SARCs are from SHOs made between 1996-1998, and were designed to give the driver an option for a smoothride, or a "sport" ride by moving a switch. This can be wired to work with any GEN3, by adding power the the struts and installing a switch. If you don't want to do the wiring, you can leave them in "firm" mode.The SARCs are getting harder to find as time goes on, so in the long term, this could be a costly addition.

Sway Bars

Many people want to replace their factory sway bar with a bigger model from the SHO. Based on your choices, you can get a more natural combo or you can get something that is firmer. Most Non-SHO Taurus models have 21mm frontand 19mm rear sway bars.

The best combo, by experience, is the 21mm front and 23mm rear. The 23mm is from a GEN2 Taurus SHO, which makes the rear end more stiffer then the stock 19mm. Other combos that have been tried are24mm front and 26mm rear, which is the stiffest combo you can get. It does create a little "under steer", but for normal and track driving it works good. Another combo is the 21mm front and 26mm rearwith creates a lot fo "over steer" and is not recommended. I ran this combo for a summer, and didn't really like it. The rear of the car was tail happy, which is fine for auto crossing but bad for wet weather.

Subframe Connectors and Subframe Bushings

Subframe bushings isolate the engine vibrations from the car as well as road vibrations. Some say it hurts the steering some, but it does make the car feel more solid. To replace your bushings, you must dropthe subframe and replace the bushings. This can be done during a front swaybar upgrade very easy.

Subframe connectors connect from back "jacking plates" to the forward more center of the body.. This will make your ride even stiffer.

Strut Bars

Most GEN3 Taurus models could benefit from a strut bar. They bolt to the towers to stiffen up the front end. No one makes these strut bars at the moment but sometimes they can be picked


You can upgrade the brakes for more stopping power. Most of the upgrades can be sourced from parts cars from all the other years.

11.6" Front Brake Upgrade

The 11.6" upgrade is a popular choice for Non-SHO cars. The parts are plentiful and really cheap to get. The 11.6" was found on many Ford cars in the 90's and early 00's. The brackets for the caliper was part number FN74, which was found on 1996-1999 SHO and 2001+ Taurus cars. You can also use Mark VIII brackets and possibly others. The onlydifference between the Mark VIII and the FN74 caliper brackets are the Mark's are directional, where the FN74 isn't. They both work equally.

To upgrade to the 11.6" brakes, you only need pads, rotors and the bracket. After this upgrade, you will be required to use 16" rims. The 15" models will not fit after this mod.See the tires section for info on your options.

Rear Disc Conversion

You can upgrade your current drum brakes to rear disc easy. You will need backing plate, caliper bracket, caliper, rotors, hubs, pads and e-brake cable. This upgrade will improve braking and give your car a better look.

Slotted, Dimpled and Drilled Rotors

I got suckered into doing this mod. This actually made my brake distance worse then before. Due to the lower surface area, the pads didn't have a lot to grab on to. This caused increaseddistances. I have learned to compensate for it, so its not a big deal. This kind of mod is for looks only.

There is also a risk involved in using this type of rotor. Most of these rotors are drilled after they are manufactured. This causes the possibly of cracking and stress points, so if you buy one of these, I suggest paying close attention to them, brakes are the most important system on the whole car. Don't be fooled, stay away from these.

Wheels, Tires

One way to improve the ride of your car is replacing your wheels and tires. There are hundreds of products out there, the possibilities are endless. All Taurus models can use 16" wheels. The bolt patterns never changed, only the brakes did over the years.

16" Rims/Tires

The most popular upgrade is 15" to 16" rims/tires. Many people must do this after their brake upgrade. The best side in a 16" tire is P225/55R16, which is what the GEN3 SHO came with. It is a nice wide tire, and would change the handling of your car over night. My advice is to get the best tire for your money. I like Goodyear and General, but there are many newercompanies out there that make a good tire too. Most of the new ones are foreign, so do your research first before you buy them. If you want instant improvement in handling, going with 16" rimswould be the ticket.

I like Ford rims better then aftermarket. The aftermarket rims are usually made in China, and have no crash worthiness data behind them. The popular rims for a GEN3 are GEN4 rims. They go withthe GEN3 very nicely and are cheap to buy. SHO Slicers are also an option, but not everyone likes their style. If you decide to go with slicers, I suggest the 1994-1995 directional models. Theseare designed to cool the brakes as they roll. You can tell if they are directional if they are made in Italy.

Some people worry about tire sizes and their speedometer. As long as you stay within the P225 or the P260 tire sizes, there is nothing to worry about. Even if there is a slight difference in size,it won't be noticeable on your speedometer.

15" Rims/Tires

If you are not wanting to change your tire size, there are many options for better rims/tires. Any Taurus 15" rim will worth with 1986-2000 models. Many people use 15" rims for spares and winter tires.Depending on your wants/needs, you can find a wide variety of options. I have a set of Goodyear Triple Treds that works great. Other popular options include Bridgestone Blizzak for winter treds.

18" and bigger Tires

I just don't see the need for bigger tires then 17s on a Taurus. When you get into the bigger sizes, you lose more sidewall. I have seen 20's on a GEN4 and they look bad. There is very little performancebenefit to having bigger tires, except for looks.


HID Kits

If you want your car to stand out, a good way to do this is to buy a 9007 HID kit. They rate these by bulb temperatures, which causes the colors to vary widely.For the best sight, 6000K is the way to go. It gives off a white/blue light that is usually around 2500 lumen. As you go up in bulb temperature, the darker the light,the lower the lumens. It is important to buy a good quality kit, since many of the replacement parts for these can be expensive. Once you are done, you will see betterand add some style to your car.

Standard 9007 Bulbs

For those who don't want to mess with the HID kit, there are many colored bulbs on the market. One option is the Sylvania Silver Stars, which is very popular with Taurus drivers of all years.They are supposed to allow for better night vision, and have a touch of color in the light. People argue that the color in these lights causes lower vision, but the majority are happy with these lights. Mete also makes a good bulb, but they don't have the distribution in the United States as Sylvania does.

A good rule of thumb is to not go over 7000K for lights. Anything above that will make it hard to see. Stay away from purple lights, those things are like candles!

Back to fordthunderbird.net