Livernois Motorsports 5.3 EcoTec3 V8 Camshaft
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The 5 Best 5.3 EcoTec3 Performance Upgrades

Jake Mayock

Meet Chandler

Chandler is a leading content writer for 8020 Media. Outside of writing truck related GM content for Chevy Trucks he creates a lot of articles around LS engines over on TuningPro. Chandler is a gearhead with tons of hands-on experience. Furthermore, he has a masters degree in history that makes him invaluable in crafting high-quality, well-researched articles on both classic and modern Chevy trucks.

Wish you bought a 6.2 EcoTec3 instead? Just kidding, the 5.3 is an awesome platform that can be even better with the addition of some performance upgrades. Some tuning and E85 fueling can get the 5.3 EcoTec3 close to the power of a stock 6.2. Toss a few other bolt-ons in there and next thing you know, you’ve got more power.

My personal preference is the 5.3 with a few mods instead of the 6.2. In this guide I’m going to teach you how to add some extra power with some bolt-on mods like: intakes, headers, tuning and E85, and disabling of AFM. Additionally, we’ll cover camshaft upgrades, a less basic mod but one that offers big power gains. Let’s jump into it.

5.3 EcoTec3 Performance Upgrades

  • Cold Air Intake
  • Long-Tube Headers
  • ECU Tuning & Flex-Fuel
  • Camshaft
  • DoD/AFM Disabling

1) Cold Air Intake Upgrades

S&B Cold Air Intake for 5.3 EcoTec3 V8
S&B Cold Air Intake for 5.3 EcoTec3 V8

The first of our recommended 5.3 EcoTec3 performance parts is a cold air intake. An upgraded intake helps by increasing airflow by decreasing restriction and weight. 

By using a larger, lighter, and less restrictive air filter and tubing, your engine will be able to suck in more air at a higher velocity. This is one of the best ways to increase horsepower and torque on the engine, by allowing it to essentially breathe easier. In addition, usually aftermarket intakes are made of heat resistant and lightweight material. This helps shed unwanted weight and keeps temperatures down. They also make the engine bay much more appealing, as they look very sleek. 

2) Long-Tube Headers

Now that you have upgraded your intake, the next step is to think about opening up the exhaust, too. Just like an intake, a larger and less restrictive exhaust helps the engine breathe better and suck-in more air at a faster rate. Less restriction and less back pressure means more horsepower and torque, and also a considerable amount more volume out of your exhaust, too. 

The most important part of the exhaust to upgrade on a naturally aspirated V8 like the 5.3 EcoTec3 is the exhaust manifold. These are also known as headers. The headers connect directly to the cylinder heads on the 5.3. Their job is to help direct the flow of the exhaust gasses into the cat-back. By upgrading the headers, you’re reducing restriction as close to the engine as possible. That allows the effects to be as substantial as possible and creates the most amount of power. 

There are two primary types of header upgrades: long-tube and short-tube headers. Long-tube headers will offer more performance than short-tube headers, because they replace more of the exhaust manifold. These either remove or replace the catalytic converters with high-flow versions, which is where a lot of the restriction in the exhaust comes from. Long-tubes will usually add 15-25 horsepower and torque. In contrast, short-tubes will be closer to 5-15 horsepower and torque. 

3) Tuning & E85 Flex-Fuel

Now that you have really opened up the exhaust and intake, your next upgrade should be a flex-fuel sensor and ECU tuning.

Combining ECU tuning with flex-fuel takes the gains to a whole new level. Flex-fuel, or E85 ethanol, is much better for performance than traditional pump gasoline. Full E85 has an octane rating of around ~105, which is substantially higher than your normal 87-91 octane from pump gas. Additionally, ethanol also has superior cooling properties and combusts at a lower temperature vs pump gas. This also helps to reduce detonation and pre-ignition. 

By installing a new tune to your engine, things like the ignition timing, camshaft timing, fuel pressure, and variable valve timing can be optimized to increase the engine’s horsepower and torque output. In addition, if you have other mods — like an upgraded intake or headers — flash tuning will allow you to get even more gains. Usually, with tuning, you can expect to add 5-20% horsepower and torque over stock. 

Livernois Tuner

For the 5.3 EcoTec3, the top custom tuning option is from Livernois Motorsports. The Livernois Motorsports 2014–2020 5.3 EcoTec3 tuner is one of the most popular tuners for the Chevy 5.3, and they use a proprietary MyCal flash tuning device. They can handle either otherwise stock vehicles or those that have been modified. On a completely stock vehicle with the Livernois Motorsports tune, gains can be up to 29 wheel-horsepower and 34 wheel-torque on pump gas. 

4) Performance Camshafts

Livernois Motorsports 5.3 EcoTec3 V8 Camshaft
Livernois Motorsports 5.3 EcoTec3 V8 Camshaft

The EcoTec3 uses a single in-block camshaft, and while it works great stock it’s a great candidate to be upgraded. The purpose of the camshaft is to actuate the engine’s valves opening and closing. Upgrading means getting a camshaft with a longer duration and/or a larger lift. But what does that mean?

A camshaft that has a longer duration will allow the valves to stay open for longer, letting them suck-in more air. Camshafts that have a larger lift will open the valves more, allowing for more air to be ingested into the engine. These contribute a significant amount of airflow and air velocity for the engine, which really increases horsepower and torque. Depending on the size of your cam specs, you can easily add more than 50+ horsepower with the right cam. 

5) DoD Delete Kits / Disabling

Price: $149
Buy here: Boost AFM/DFM Disabler

While it won’t add any horsepower, a very popular modification to make to the EcoTec3 is a DoD delete kit. DoD means “Displacement on Demand,” and refers to the Active Fuel Management (AFM) system the engine uses to boost fuel economy and reduce emissions. 

Many people do not like the feeling of AFM/DoD when driving. It sucks power and can make the truck/SUV feel very sluggish. In addition, the DoD also limits the lift of potential camshaft upgrades. This makes it a necessary modification depending on how big of cam you are going with (see recommendations below). 

We recommend disabling AFM/DFM with the BOOST AFM Disabler. It’s the best device on the market as it has the lowest battery drain and is manufactured in the USA.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much horsepower can you get out of a 5.3 EcoTec3?

Depending on the model and fuel used, a stock 5.3 EcoTec3 produces 355-380 horsepower and 383-416 lb-ft of torque. With the right mods, you can easily make more than 425 horsepower and torque on the 5.3 EcoTec3 V8. 

How much power can a stock 5.3 EcoTec3 make?

Depending on the model and fuel used, a stock 5.3 EcoTec3 produces 355-380 horsepower and 383-416 lb-ft of torque. With the right mods, you can easily make more than 425 horsepower and torque on the 5.3 EcoTec3 V8. 

What are the best 5.3 EcoTec3 mods?

The best 5.3 EcoTec3 mods are cold air intake, long-tube headers, ECU flex-fuel tuning, and a performance camshaft. With the right mods, you can easily make more than 425 horsepower and torque on the 5.3 EcoTec3 V8. 

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