Troubleshooting Part 3: Ford Power Stroke

Published in the December 2014 Issue December 2014 News Michael Deulley

The final piece in our lineup of troubleshooting centers on the Ford Power Stroke platform. Like Dodge and GM, Ford has created an amazing diesel platform that, if taken care of properly, will last for years to come. Unfortunately, no diesel engine, nor truck for that matter, is without its frustrating failures. Left Coast Diesel has delved into each of the Power Stroke and pre-Power Stroke engines and created a comprehensive survival guide to assist owners in their upkeep and repairs. To get the show started, Erik Lind focuses on the engines that came before the official Power Stroke and the issues that are commonly found in the IDI 6.9L configurations.

Pre-Power Stroke Engines

Lind admits that although the Fords in the early years were tough and nearly bulletproof, the IDI engines within were short on horsepower, making them fairly unexciting and often times outright boring. The 6.9L IDIs have been found to have reliability issues that were later addressed with the introduction of the 7.3L variation, but as pre-Power Stroke owners love their trucks and often repair whatever problems arise in an effort to extend the longevity of their classic Fords, Lind has compiled some useful information to reference for the golden oldies.

Both engine variations use an indirect injection system that tends to suffer from chronic leaking and air issues, so a list has been compiled to give owners a few initial checklist items to pay attention to. Firstly, Lind suggests looking for leaking cloth-covered return lines and injector return-Ts. If these items are found to be wet, they will inevitably have to be replaced. Earlier models have green clamps, while later models utilized red clamps. Lind iterates that if owners are prepared to take this project on by themselves, be sure to identify and buy the correct clamps for the job. Along with leaky lines, fuel filters have been found guilty of the same offense. Filters can easily loosen over time or contain a bad seal. If this happens, the system tends to suck in air when the truck is parked. This problem can easily be fixed with a simple replacement, but owners should do their best to check the filters on a regular basis to see if something is amiss. The early Ford's injector pumps wear out over time, and if drivers notice stalling or deceleration symptoms while on the road, inspection of the pump is the perfect place to start. The last chronic issue in the IDI system relates to the glow plugs.

"The glow plug system just plain stinks. Individual plugs can go bad, but often times the controller fails," said Lind.

The controller comes in at around $300, but Lind suggests that a simple push-button setup is a great solution to the controller failure.

7.3 Power Stroke Engines

The introduction of the 7.3L Power Stroke included the use of direct injection, which utilizes high-pressure oil as the propelling catalyst and converts it to 4000psi pressure to fire the injectors.

"While this system is generally reliable, any oiling issues can mean bad news for the system," said Lind.

Some of the things Lind suggests that owners look for include fuel floating on the coolant in the expansion bottle. This situation indicates that there is a failed injector sleeve. The next thing to do is look for oil in the engine valley. Often times, the oil seeps down at the back of the block, between the block and bell housing. In most cases, this looks suspiciously like a leaking main seal, but Lind says this list of common culprits is more likely the case and can include a leaking ICP sensor, oil filter housing, fuel filter housing, drain valve assembly, turbo pedestal, warm-up valve, oil feed lines or leaking fuel hard lines.

Although there is a seemingly long list of components to check, Lind says that most of these are easily fixed and can be dealt with in a day. Lind continues his checklist of common 7.3L failures with a dusted engine and damaged turbo. Early Power Strokes had notoriously bad air cleaners and would allow dust through. This dust had a tendency to erode turbo blades, destroy rings and drop compression. This may not completely destroy the system, but can eventually cause serious harm and should be checked from time to time.

While the e40D/4r100 transmission configuration is generally solid, Lind has found they struggle to tow heavy loads up hills over time and can suffer from oiling issues, which may starve the converter in extended high RPM/high load situations. While this may be a little expensive to fix, a proper transmission rebuild, including a few oiling modifications, can rectify the problem and keep that Ford on the road doing what it was meant to do. Lind wraps up the oiling system by reinforcing the importance of regular oil changes. Keeping the oil fresh and clean is the best way to avoid a lot of problems further down the road.

Lastly, Lind advises a checkup on the front suspension every once in a while. The four-wheel-drive diesels will wear out ball joints and tie rod ends every 60-100k miles, and examining these for any problems early on will ensure safe operation in the future.

6.0L Power Stroke Engines

With large amounts of power and all-around smoother operation, the 6.0L Power Stroke gives owners a great ride and an amazing truck. But like the 7.3L, this newer variation isn't without its problems. The introduction of the variable geometry turbo and newer emissions equipment has brought a whole new set of issues owners may have to face during the life of their truck.

"These new systems have brought all kinds of problems to the table," Lind continued. "The good news is, the engine can be made nearly bulletproof and it will easily deliver 300k plus miles with regular maintenance."

Lind's compilation of issues for the 6.0L Ford first addresses the turbo. EGR gasses in concert with moisture flowing through the turbo can gum up the housing. With EGR/head gasket issues, the moisture can pit the inside of the turbo, making it likely that the vanes will stick. This phenomenon can cause a popping sound, low power and add to higher exhaust temperatures. Witnessing these problems can be a tell-tale sign that the turbo is under attack and in need of repair or replacement. The EGR/oil cooler combo is another issue that causes visible symptoms when damaged. Oil coolers may eventually clog, overheating the EGR cooler, causing the solder to overheat and break away. At this point, the engine will begin to use up coolant, causing white smoke and steam to appear in the exhaust on startup. Another issue to watch for is bad head gaskets. The bolts used to secure the head in place stretch over time. Under heavy load/boost situations, the heads begin to rise, compromising the head gasket. Luckily, this issue can be visibly documented and if white, crusty material is found around the expansion bottle cap, the head gasket is undoubtedly bad and has to be replaced.

The next problem commonly found in the 6.0L Ford deals with the FICM, or Fuel Injection Control Module. The FICM converts battery voltage to 48 volts, which is then used to properly run the injectors. The resistors found inside the FICM are glued in place, and when the glue's integrity is lost and begins to break away, there is also a loss of power and drivers may experience rough driving conditions. The replacement FICM comes in at around $1000, but Lind has found a way to repair it, effectively making it stronger than stock and only costing around half the price.

The HPOP, or High Pressure Oil Pump, is more complex and intricate than what is found in its predecessor, the 7.3L. The HPOP uses a snap-to-connect fitting at the back of the pump that tends to crack over time, leaving the truck dead on the road. The pump can also seep over time, but tends to show itself when the truck has been started when the engine is already warm.

Lind encourages owners to put a little love and money into their engines by introducing better aftermarket parts. The use of tuners, head studs and other upgraded parts will undoubtedly cost in the short-term, but save a whole lot of time, trouble and money in the future and keep that 6.0L on the road for a long time to come.

6.4L Power Stroke Engines

The introduction of the 6.4L Power Stroke has set the bar for comfort and beauty. The engine is strong and powerful, and the interior and exterior redesign has made the 6.4L Ford a sight to behold. The issues that Lind has experienced with this Power Stroke became apparent with poor fuel economy, due to a more complicated and troublesome emissions system and chronic issues found in the cooling system. The water pumps in the massive 6.4L Fords have a tendency to erode the front cover housing and aerate the system. This issue can ultimately lead to failures in both the radiator and EGR cooler. The stock thermostats are also frequently problematic, and Ford offers an updated unit that should be promptly installed. The use of updated and stronger aftermarket parts is highly recommended to stop future problems from occurring.

Although the next issue is still being observed, Lind has witnessed a few rocker arm failures at around 120k miles, and in some cases, the rocker arm has damaged the engine so profoundly that a replacement from Ford has been the most cost-effective solution.

"Everything you do in the 6.4L is a 'big job,'" said Lind. "The engine bay is incredibly crowded; many wiring harness issues take place under the turbos, requiring the removal of the cab. Most of these big jobs start with removing the cab, and this is an expensive proposition."

While each new generation of Power Stroke has been able to answer some of the problems of their predecessors, newer problems have arisen in their place. Each newer engine has been redesigned to create a better, stronger and more efficient driving experience, but none of them are completely free of inherent issues. Using these tips is the first step to keeping your Ford safe, powerful and on the road and keeping your troubleshooting to a minimum.


Editor’s Note: The Troubleshooting feature is a three-part series that focuses on the top three diesel truck manufacturers. Part one in our September issue covered Duramax engines and our November issue highlighted the Cummins engine. 

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