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Old Guys Rule (When we're up to it)
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I don't know what your budget is but here goes.
I have Hypertech III, a 180 degree thermostat (my truck engine now runs about 190-195 degrees), Gibson 3" cat back exaust (Gibson is quietest I have found) and a K & N air intake system. Also get a trans cooler or maintain your tranny when it is time (or before).
If you want to go a cheaper way I would just get a K & N air filter for stock air filter replacement and a 3" cat back exaust (or equal). The exaust made the most dramatic difference freeing up my 5.3, Especially the low to mid torque. Dramatic difference pulling my boat. Make sure to get a muffler quiet enough to live with as most high flow mufflers are way too loud for me.
The K & N air intake system did not give the perfomance gains I had hoped for but much improvement over stock. The air filter by themselves are available as stock replacements.
The Hypertech III Power reprogrammer is nice too. It allows to reset the thermostat to a lower setting (when installed), firmer automatic transmission shift with less clutch slip and shift points can be reset. Speedometer corrections for oversized tires is great. And spark advance choice for regular or premium gas.
Overall my truck runs like a spotted arsed ape without too much money spent on the extra horsepower. Not bad for the cheapest bolt-ons.
If I were to go to the next level (and I doubt I will) I would pull off the fan on my water pump and go with a double electric fan replacement. A lot of power gain there and premium cooling. Then a performance throttle body.
After that it gets pretty expensive and labor intense.
I offer a tip. If you go with a cat back sysyem, have a muffler shop install it for you for the $65 or so that they charge. The cat back systems are supposed to be pre-fitted but in shipping (or whatever) the round pipe ends turn out to be not so round. The muffler shop has tools, tricks and maching to get them round again to fit it together. Money well spent.
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