Installing an MSD 2-Step on our 2011 Mustang GT Project


You can’t help it. Your heart is pounding. You’re staged and waiting for the tree to light up. You know that you need to start slipping the clutch when the last amber lights up. Your focus narrows to just that bulb…

If you’re running a new 5.0-liter Mustang, or most other mod-motor ponies, help is here. Two-step technology for launch control isn’t new, but getting it to work easily on modular motors with their coil-on-plug ignition system is. MSD Ignition has released two new 2-Step modules and getting them working is pretty easy, so we’re going to install one on our 2011 GT project car.

According to Kyle Niesen at MSD Ignition, the new module “…is a unique product designed to get the most out of a new Mustang and the best light every time.” Well, that’s a pretty tall order, so we’re going to install the 5.0-liter specific part, which just started shipping just recently. There is another version for other modular motors, such as the 4.6 and 5.4-liters.

Two rotary switches on the housing are used to set the launch rpm.

A 2-Step module is designed to limit engine speed, when activated, to optimum launch RPM. Once at the starting line, you can activate the 2-Step and then floor the gas pedal. The module acts as a secondary  limiter and you’ll hear the effect quite distinctly.

Inching Towards our 10-Second Goal

Our 2011 Mustang project car has a couple of high level objectives – to remain daily driven, but with the ability to beat 1G on the skidpad as well as consistently logging 10-second runs in the quarter mile. The 5.0-liter engine has shown to be fast right out of the box, but as much as we all think we can shift gears with the best, a little help never hurts.

The GT has seen a few upgrades now and is putting out over 400 rwhp. New Mickey Thompson 18-inch drag radial tires help keep things under control at the strip, but there are bigger plans ahead for power, as well as track time and testing. Improving launch control will solve the issue of consistency and will help us evaluate subsequent changes more accurately.

Installing the 2011 GT MSD 2-Step Module and Harness

MSD 2-Step Ford 5.0L Mod Motor 2011 P/N 8731

• For Coil-On-Plug ignitions only
• Connects to factory coils for easy install
• Adjustable from 1,800-9,900 RPM  in 100  steps
• Improves launches, 60 foot times
• Can be triggered by the clutch switch or manually
• LED shows when the module is active

You'll be pleasantly surprised when you open the box. Aside from the 2-Step module itself, you'll just find a wiring harness and a small parts bag. This isn't going to take long. Regardless, a little prep work is going to make things even faster, so the first thing to do is open the hood and remove the coil covers. This will expose the wiring that you need access to.

Lay out the wiring harness, so you can see where there may be a good point to mount the module. We used the factory intake heat shield bolt to secure one side of the module and a short self-tapper to hold the other side to the plastic. Make sure that the harness with the grey and black wires can reach all the coils and the module. The rotary switches that you'll use to set up the rev limiter are on the same side as the wiring harness, so make sure you can access these easily.

Make sure that the ignition is off, ground strap on the battery is disconnected, and then unplug the car's wiring to the individual ignition coils. Plug the eight individual connectors from the MSD wiring harness to each of the coils.

The factory harness is secured to the jumper and the new female connector from the MSD harness is installed onto the coil pack.

Do NOT plug the factory wiring back in at this time. Instead, plug the module connector that has just a single red wire, into the harness connector with all the black wires. You're going to run a quick test now. Turn the ignition key to the "on" position, but do not try to start the car. Look for an illuminated LED on the MSD module. If it’s lit up, then you're ready to carry on. If the LED did not light up, swap the harness plugs and re-verify.

The last connector coming out of the module has three wires in it. The black wire needs to go to ground. The other two wires are for activation, one blue (ground switch) and one white with a blue stripe (12v switch). We chose a simple, momentary contact switch that was wired between the blue wire and a solid body ground. The easiest way to access a hole through the firewall is where the intake sound tube comes into the car. We made a simple slit in the bottom of the grommet to run our ground switch wire through.

We'll have to run the activation wire in through the firewall and under the console. When not in use, the switch can be tucked out of the way between the seat and console for the time being.

If there is any trouble starting or running the engine, you may need to switch the two 8-pin connectors from the module into the harness. Once the engine is running correctly, activate the module. You should see the LED illuminate. Now, try increasing the engine speed to more than what you set on the module. You should now hear the engine sputtering at that speed. Don't run like that for too long, as it could trigger a Check Engine Light, or damage your catalytic converters.

If all that looks good, you’re ready for the next weekend at the track. Just remember to reset the module switches for the launch RPM you’ll want there. Some trial and error may be needed to find the best setting, but before you know it, you’ll be launching consistently… just like a pro.

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About the author

Don Roy

Don's background includes 14 years in the OEM and Tier2 domestic auto industry, as well as three years as Technical Editor of a muscle car enthusiast print magazine. He is a mechanical engineer by trade and completed his first project car when he was 16 years old - after rebuilding the engine in his bedroom. His hobbies include photography, film making and building the odd robot from time to time.
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