Part 1: What It Takes To Make A 6.0L Reliable
More than one million 6.0L Ford Power Stroke vehicles are on the road today. Despite an exceptional torque curve, an impressive power-to-weight ratio, and a surprisingly compact package size, the 365ci Navistar International-built V-8 suffered from a series of reliability and warranty issues during its short lifespan. In response, Navistar redesigned, tooled up and built the improved 6.4L version of the Power Stroke for '08-'10 Ford HD trucks. As a result, pre-owned 6.0L Ford pickups are in abundant supply, and are often a few thousand dollars less than a similarly equipped diesel pickup of the same vintage from Dodge or GM. For those of us diesel enthusiasts with mechanical aptitude, the 6.0L Power Stroke is possibly the best late-model pre-owned truck value going today.
Upgrades and troubleshooting strategies for this truck are numerous. One company that specializes in all things Power Stroke is Bulletproof Diesel of Mesa, Arizona. The company's owners, brothers Ken and Gene Neal, have invested a ton of time and money into resolving problems associated with the 6.0L. As the name implies, Bulletproof Diesel products circumvent expensive repairs and costly downtime while providing the reliability that Super Duty owners expect from their trucks. We put their upgrades to the test recently on a friend's '04 F-350 dually. Check out what we discovered.
Diagnosing the Patient
In almost every case, 6.0L engine failures can be attributed to shortcomings in the oil cooling system. In this section, we will cover the how and why of these failures and showcase a proven solution.
The 6.0L Power Stroke engine has a unique oil temperature regulation system that relies on engine coolant to raise or lower oil temperature within a given operational range. The system utilizes a compact aluminum heat exchanger that is located in the front of the engine, just under the oil filter assembly. The 6.0L engine block features a void that allows the cooler to mount inside the "V" of the engine. The self-contained stacked-plate heat exchanger is highly effective when the engine is new. However, over time the narrow interior passageways can become restricted by corrosion, debris in the coolant, and casting sand left over from the manufacturing process. This picture shows a cooler that Bulletproof Diesel cut in half with a bandsaw. Despite having roughly 45,000 miles on it, this unit was compromised. Notice the discolored areas in the passageways between the fins; this is the material that creates the restriction. When this happens, coolant flow is significantly impacted. If left unchecked, this lack of coolant flow creates a domino effect that eventually leads to catastrophic engine failure.
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The EGR Cooler and the Domino Effect
The illustration details how coolant moves through the 6.0L Power Stroke engine. Notice that after coolant leaves the oil cooler, it flows to the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) cooler. The EGR cooler uses engine coolant to remove heat from a portion of the spent exhaust gases as they're directed back to the vehicle's intake to help reduce the creation of NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions. The EGR system is a vital component of the emissions control system. Some companies sell EGR block-off devices that eliminate the functionality of the EGR system altogether, though these kits are for off-road use only and typically cause the "check engine" light to illuminate. The better solution is a Bulletproof EGR cooler with an improved core structure for better flow characteristics.
Inside The Egr Cooler: Two Common Problems
If you have owned a Ford Super Duty pickup with the 6.0L engine, chances are you have experienced an EGR cooler failure. Ford released several technical service bulletins to its dealer network in an attempt to resolve these problems. However, none of them address the root cause of the problem, and though the dealership may replace faulty EGR coolers under warranty, the issues will continue to persist. Once you've seen the inside of one of these EGR coolers as we have, it's easy to understand their shortcomings.