5300ft above sea level, car runs like crap.


Founding Member
Nov 4, 2002
Augsta GA
I just got stationed at Kirtland AFB here in Albuquerque NM and my friggin car runs like crap. Well, I guess its technically runs "good" its just sluggish and feels its got no ass. I know carbed motors need a different tune for altitude changes, but shouldn't the map sensor make the alt adj every time I start the car? This is a SD car but If i remember correctly the MAP should act as a BARO for the half a second it takes to go from "start" to "Crank" correct? Any tips you boys from a mile high have would be helpful. Hell, I'm having hard enough time breathing up here myself (I'm from Aug GA only 350ft above sea level heh) so I'm sure the cars catching hell...

  • Sponsors (?)

Dump the codes and see what the computer says is wrong…Codes may be present in the computer even if the Check Engine light isn’t on.

Here's the link to dump the computer codes with only a jumper wire or paper clip and the check engine light, or test light or voltmeter. I’ve used it for years, and it works great. You watch the flashing test lamp or Check Engine Light and count the flashes.

See http://www.troublecodes.net/Ford/



IF your car is an 86-88 stang, you'll have to use the test lamp or voltmeter method. There is no functional check engine light on the 86-88's except possibly the Cali Mass Air cars.


89 through 95 cars have a working Check Engine light. Watch it instead of a test lamp.


Codes have different answers if the engine is running from the answers that it has when the engine isn't running. It helps a lot to know if you had the engine running when you ran the test.

Trouble codes are either 2 digit or 3 digit, there are no cars that use both 2 digit codes and 3 digit codes.

For those who are intimidated by all the wires & connections, see http://www.actron.com/product_detail.php?pid=16153 for what a typical hand scanner looks like. Normal retail price is about $30 or so at AutoZone or Wal-Mart.

Or for a nicer scanner see http://www.midwayautosupply.com/pc-7208-90-equus-digital-ford-code-reader-3145.aspx – It has a 3 digit LCD display so that you don’t have to count flashes or beeps.. Cost is $30.
You are right about the MAP sensor acting as a baro during crank-before-start. Where i think you may be missing is that there is just less air up there. Thats the nature of high altitude.

Not only does the altitude affect air density...it will also affect your ignition system (spark plugs) At 5000+ ft. you can alleviate the issue to some degree by running a plug that is at least one step hotter. remember though if you run the vehicle a lower alts...you can run into detonation/preignition.

Air density decreases by roughly 3% per 1000ft above sea level. This means at 5300ft you've lost 16% air density. Nevermind the losses in the ignition system...you've lost a significant amount of power just from the air density.

Slap a turbo on that SOB...they create their own atmosphere!
sorry, not to hijack but i don't really want to start a new thread...
but i've never really thought about altitude affecting performance much before this, and i'd like to know more...
i only drive at 4000+ ft around here, so is that why i can run 18* timing? i've never found any reason why my car can take so much advance... also, how much power loss comes from high altitude?
Thanks for the replies Fellas. I was an auto tech for about three years before I joined the USAF but hell in GA we never had this problem, LoL. I was wondering about the percentage difference in the air up here, thanks. Friggin 16%, that explains why my PT score sucks. We get 90 days to adjust for the air up here, or to get "climated" to pass our PT and we still get a curve, heh, ugh.

I was thinking about a turbo because all I have is time on my hands, but I just put on a set of sweet Ford Racing headers that just look so good, I guess I'll see what the supercharger dept has to offer. The block is stock aside from bolt ons (no a/c, no p/s, no egr, headers, bbk intake through the fender, 3.55 gears, ford B springs, koni reds, mosier axles, sub frame connectors, full tube rear control arms....hell i cant remember what else). Its an ex four banger notch that was swapped the "right" way. Anyways I'm bored and babbling.

What my next question is... what supercharger? And also how much advance do you guys think I can run at this alt? I think (have to re check) i have it at 15advance.

Thanks again Fellas!