Ford Escort Tuning

"We'll Escort you off the premises?"

The Escort is one of Fords most successful and certainly the longest running Ford model around. The Mark 1 Escort included a super powerful rally derived Mexico model.

We shall look at the options for tuning the entire Escort range right up to when they ceased production. With modern performance parts you can really create a special car indeed.

The mark 1s around today usually have had the later sierra 2.0 engines installed which works really well through the rear drive transmission.

Although some owners have managed to wire and plumb in a Cosworth unit.

The XR3 one of the first hot hatches and this evolved into the XR3i with the addition of fuel injection. The RS turbo came along with a turbo charged version of the original engine.

See our video which provides a complete introduction to Ford Tuning, it contains some tips on performance and handling modifications.

Tuning tips and articles

Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums

Ford tapped into the 1980's need for a hot hatch with the XR2 and XR3 and haven't looked back since.

Later incarnations of the escort include the RS2000 based on the smoother 2.0 engine putting down 150bhp. A Cosworth unit powered the pinnacle of Escorts with way out in your face styling and four wheel drive. This was sadly the last of the performance escorts, as the range has been superseded by the Focus.

Although the Escort was replaced by the Focus, you will still find some die hard Escort fans around. There are still plenty of Escort tuning mods around for pretty much any engine size.

Engine tuning modifications.

Peak power is all well and good but if you want a truly driveable car it will need a wide power band and lots of low down torque. One of the most significant with the best cost to power gain, engine mods you can do is to fit a fast road cam.

Adding a turbo is hard but gives large power gains. Source a turbo engine and do a transplant if you want an easy cost effective track day car.  It is harder to map a turbo as the boost comes on exponentially with engine speed. The nice steady boost to rpm characteristics of the supercharger make them easier to map. Adding forced induction will usually require a lower compression ratio or water injection.

If your car is making 40-50% more power than standard then it will need more air and fuel so fuelling upgrades are important mods if you are serious about power.Look to aftermarket parts suppliers for uprated injectors and fuel pumps and in some cases you'll find that your manufacturer offers uprated options as fitted to later performance models.

The following modifications are usually performed by our members, decide how far you want to go before you begin.

Getting the right mods for your planned usage of the car is vital. Stage 3 (competition) mods just don't work well on the road.

Please watch our video which covers the 5 principles of tuning your car. Be sure to keep up with our latest YouTube content and subscribe.

Best mods for your Escort

  1. ECU Tunes - Escort engine tuning/remapping provides the biggest gains compared to your outlay, aftermarket ECUs, and Tuning boxes are all alternatives.
  2. Intake and Exhaust - Please note that on their own these mods will NOT ADD HP on most cars, but they enable you to lift power after other mods by lessening the restrictive flow.
  3. Escort Suspension Upgrades - Replacing worn bushings and shocks dramatically improves Escort handling Coilovers and Bushings are the usual go to mods
  4. Braking Mods - Stopping your Escort needs to be near the top of your Mods list.
  5. Lightened Flywheels - a lower weight flywheel will noticably improve the engines free revving nature. Not a great mod for all Escort engines.
  6. Fast road Camshafts are generally the biggest mechanical mod upgrade, but they must be setup by someone familiar with setting them up on your car and it is often hard to find a suitable cam near you but there is usually a local firm to regrind a stock cam .
  7. Flowing and porting the engine head - for larger gains, you will get better flow and make a more efficient engine if you do this to support your other mods.
  8. Turbo upgrades - forced induction is the most significant way to raise the intake air supply, this means you are able to use more fuel and make higher power. It is one of the most challenging mods you'll see massive gains.

Escort Tuning Stages

Typical stage 1 mods often include: Exhaust, Panel air filter, Engine Tunes/Remapping, lighter flywheel

Typical stage 2 mods often include: Ported and polished head, Fast road cam, fuel injector & fuel pump upgrades,power clutch

Typical stage 3 mods: Engine balancing, adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves), competition cam, sports gearbox.

Escort Performance air intake and exhaust.

Before you start doing engine mods you have to get the breathing right and remove any restrictions in the system that could inhibit air flow.

Derestricting the airflow into the engine is the primary part of tuning so get a better flowing air filter. Induction kits sound great with the induction roar they create but due to the warm air in the engine bay they will not add noticeable power and actually rob you of power.

A good high performance sports exhaust is an essential to balance your engines need for free flowing air, just adding an induction kit on it's own will do little to increase your power.

See our article on performance exhausts for details of the issue around large bore exhausts and how to choose the right size for your engine.

Getting the head ported and polished will further help more air into each cylinder. This is definitely a job for a professional with a flow bench. As you increase power in your Escort you may find that the clutch will start to slip and this needs to be uprated - read our article on clutches for more information.

escort tuning

Stick to the later fuel injected 1.6 and greater engines for the best base to work from. Most owners add a sports exhaust and induction kit.

Bigger power gains come from engine swaps with the RS2000 and Cosworth engines providing the ultimate conversion donors.

FSE fuel boost valves will improve the throttle response. Fast road cams will also unleash some power from even the most docile of Escort engines.

Handling is often criticised, especially on the earlier models. Get some adjustable suspension and you will have a really fun track day car on your hands.

Escort Handling/Suspension upgrades

Handling modifications are at the top of your mod list for the Escort (or they should be).

We would go to a maximum drop of 26 - 43 on most models. You risk handling compromises if you go lower than this.

Adjusting the handling is often the first step in using the Escort.Adjusting the Escort's handling is often the first step in modifying it.

Handling upgrades are often the initial step for the Escort.

We would choose a set of Good Quality coilovers that allow adjust the suspension height to adjust your handling to suit your needs

What considerations must you make when setting up and selecting your suspension if your Escort serves as a daily car as well?

Uprated Bushes

What factors should you consider when setting up and selecting your suspension bushings if your Escort is also used as a daily driver?

Bushings, which are rubber mounts, allow the Escort's suspension components to be fixed to the car's chassis. The rubber ones will wear out with time.

By replacing new OEM rubber bushings, you may greatly improve your vehicle's performance.

Because the polyurethane bushes are firmer, the ride may be a bit firmer, but they will last longer and maintain the handling.

Worn bushings may also quicken the stress of other suspension components due to the increased vibration and play.

A new set of poly bushes will assist in mitigate the excessive play associated with rubber bushes.

Some polyeyurothane bushings are hard to locate, but most will find the primary mounts readily available in their local stores You may be able to have custom poly bushings created to suit your needs.

A frequent misconception is that the best setup would be a non-adjustable suspension system that lowers the vehicle by 70mm purchased from a franchised component shop.

Vendors may claim that their Escort suspension kits are compatible with any or all model year Escorts.

To adequately support a diverse variety of vehicles, the "one-size-fits-all" approach is obviously a mistake as engine weights and equipment trim levels all affect the cars handling characteristics.

How low should you go on the Escort?

When it comes to road vehicles, the maximum suspension drop is 26 - 43 mm, but when it comes to cars that are factory fitted with lowered springs, the maximum suspension drop is 19 mm, according to TorqueCars.

These tolerances may be drastically reduced if the wheel size is changed. Even with 16 or 17-inch wheels and conventional suspension, lowering the vehicle may create a a slew of new problems.

Stability may be improved by lowering the Escort, but the ultimate goal should always be to enhance handling. It is critical to use the right shocks when employing lower springs.

Good suspension tweaks that greatly improve handling for the Escort include a couple of degrees negative camber and 1-1.5 degrees of toe (set out to improve cornering or in for better stability) on the front wheels.

Escort Brake Upgrades

For greatly enhanced stopping fit better quality pads and match this with bigger discs.

Please note that some performance friction pads can grind and will need to be really hot before they bite.

In every day driving the brakes are occasionally used, therefore won't be all that effective so specify friction pads which don't need to be really hot.

Escort Alloy wheel upgrades.

The benefits of alloy wheels include a lower unsprung weight and more efficient brake cooling via the extra air flow they allow. Get a good directional tread pattern tire to improve your handling and help improve traction on your Escort. The downside to large rims on your Escort is that you're altering your effective final drive ratio so this will have a detrimental effect on acceleration.

With this in mind try to keep the overall rolling diameter of the wheel the standard factory sizes. In all cases we do not recommend going over 16 inches.

For more information on Tuning your car please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss Escort options in more detail with our Escort owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Ford tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

Please help us improve these tips by sending us your feedback in the comments box below.

We love to hear what our visitors have got up to and which mods work best for them on each model of car. We use your comments and feedback to improve the accuracy of these tuning guides which get regular updates and revisions.

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