There are many reasons to change the lower grille on a Ford F-150 EcoBoost. Looks for one, the plastic bumper inserts on either side of the lower grille look like afterthoughts and are made of plastic. For vehicles that require a front license plate, the dealer will install a license plate frame in the middle of the lower grille, blocking airflow to the intercooler. If you opt to relocate the license plate to the left or right of the bumper, that leaves a large opening for debris to passthrough and destroy your intercooler.
OEM Lower Grille
There are several styles of lower grille inserts available for the F-150 EcoBoost. We installed the Putco Hex Shield Style (Part# PUT-83161) on this F-150. The Hex Shield resembles the OEM grille design and it allows airflow through the center and sides of the grille while deflecting any large debris.
Putco Hex Shield Grille Insert
Before installing the grille, we removed the license plate frame, the existing plastic side bumpers, and the center trim piece using a trim panel remover.
With the trim pieces removed, you will see there are several tabs that will be visible through the new grille. We opted to paint the metal tabs flat black so they would not be noticeable after the grille was installed. To prep for the paint, we lightly sanded the tabs and masked the front of the vehicle.
Bumper Opening - Masked and Painted
We used two light coats of Eastwood flat black spray paint to paint the tabs and let it dry overnight. By the way, the Putco grille has the logo on one side and not on the other, we wanted a clean look without the logo, so we faced the no logo side out. To reduce scuffing the painted bumper and eliminate rattles, we added a thin foam rubber strip on the inside of the grill before installing it. To install the grill, there are four metal clips with nuts that clip onto the tabs, then attach the grille with the screws included in the kit.
Installed Putco Hex Shield Grille Insert
The OEM license plate frame required some modifications. We used a hack saw to cut off the plastic tabs flush to the back of the frame, then used 3M double sided tape (automotive trim tape) to secure rubber bushings to the back of the frame.
OEM License Plate Frame (front)
License Plate Frame (back) with tabs cut off and bushings installed
The top bushings act as spacers so the license plate screws do not hit the grille insert.
Rubber bushings added to back of license plate frame
License Plate Frame Installed
The frame is attached to the grille using thick zip ties.
This was a simple installation that looks far better than stock, offers more protection for the intercooler, and has good airflow.