Most of the tech questions I get every week are from 6.0 Powerstroke owners or potential owners asking about the reliability of these engines. There are so many horror stories out there about them along with a pile of misinformation from an aftermarket industry constantly coming up with the next big fix to cash in on those worries. In this article we will try to explain these issues and give you some insight on the 6.0 Powerstroke engine. techpiled
First things first, in this article we are going to assume that you are using this truck for regular activities that a person would buy a diesel truck for. Hauling, towing, work, or just commuting. Understand that the information and recommendations below may be different if you are a drag racer, sled pulling king, or dyno competition killer. The average truck owner does a turbo back exhaust, a cold air intake, and usually some sort of programmer. We are talking about stock or slightly modified vehicles. While most of this information still applies, some things you would do differently if you are going for ultra high horsepower. This information is for the 95% of us 6.0 owners that just use our trucks for trucks. realisticmag
The big question is: Are the 6.0 Powerstrokes really that bad? To be honest, the answer is absolutely not. They are a great running motor that can be made to be durable if maintained properly. Most of the horror stories you hear are coming from owners who do not maintain their vehicle properly and/or those who are unfortunate enough to have someone who doesn’t know what they are doing repairing it. We have had so many of these trucks hauled to our shop after having an amazing list of expensive parts thrown at it trying to get it to run right. So if you are going to own one of these trucks, you need to find a really good shop who understands them or arm yourself with the knowledge and tools to do the work yourself.
On the top of your list if you are going to own one of these trucks should be regular maintenance. I cannot stress how important it is. Please make sure you use a 15W40 quality diesel oil and change the oil and filter religiously at 5,000 miles. The engine uses the oil in several ways. Turbo position is control by oil, injector pressure is controlled by oil, and of course engine lubrication. The oil is asked to work really hard and will wear out quick. Proper oil changes will benefit you more than you can imagine. Synthetic oil is fine to use and does help tremendously when cold starting the truck. But it still needs changed regularly. Fuel filters should be changed every 10,000 miles period. Low fuel pressure is a major killer of injectors. Do yourself a favor and change both fuel filters every other oil change. urbanclutch
The first problem people hear about with a 6.0 Powerstroke is head gaskets, head gaskets, head gaskets. Are the head gaskets a real issue on these trucks? Sorta. The early years had a different design for the head bolts which lead to heads lifting and causing problems. The 6.0 only has four bolts holding down each cylinder and two of them are shared with the next cylinder. It just isn’t as robust of a design as the 7.3 before them. The first couple years the 6.0 was out is where the bad name for the head gaskets really started. Like I stated they had some problem head bolts, but also the aftermarket had not exactly figured the tuning on these trucks yet. It was not uncommon for someone to put a programmer in and immediately see head gasket failure on the hotter tunes. Every one blamed the weak bolts and bad head design, but in the end we came to find out tuners were running too much timing. This created too much cylinder pressure which caused the heads to lift immediately. Of course any owner still under warranty took their brand new truck back to the dealer for service after removing the programmer. And the dealer who just got a $7,000 job dropped in their lap that had a guaranteed paycheck from Ford was all to eager to do the job. And so the stories get started about how bad these engines are and how bad the head gaskets are. thekayelist
I am a firm believer that there are many head gaskets that get changed that have absolutely nothing wrong with them. Of course as many know the solution to keep the heads clamped to the block is new gaskets and ARP head studs. Most owners who are confronted with a possible head gasket issue usually just bite the bullet and install new gaskets and head studs to be done with the problem once and for all. If you are buying or own one of these trucks, my advice would be to keep it in the back of your mind that you may be putting head gaskets in it sooner or later. But do not just resign to the fact that the head gaskets are bad every time you take it into the shop. We have seen bad head gaskets be diagnosed when the real problem was a bad degas bottle cap, plugged heater core, unrelated coolant leak, plugged oil cooler, or our next topic: the infamous egr cooler. More so, there is absolutely no reason to replace the head gaskets unless you have a leaking one. We see many trucks go a couple of hundred thousand miles easy with the stock head gaskets without a failure. If you are in the engine for some other reason already and it makes sense to do studs and gaskets I would, But I wouldn’t make a special job of it unless you are building a high horsepower truck or know for certain you have a blown gasket.
The next thing you may have read or heard about is the egr system. This system is just a nightmare on these trucks. For emission purposes the engineers designed a system to reintroduce exhaust gases into the intake manifold to be reburnt. Exhaust Gas Recirculation. While I suppose it must have met whatever standard for emissions that they had to meet, it is a nightmare for any one who owns these trucks. At the very least sooner or later your egr valve will either become completely clogged up with soot and quit working or just plain fail. Which leads to terrible running that commonly gets misdiagnosed as bad injectors, faulty FICMs, bad turbos, or a host of other shade tree guesses. How the egr system works is as follows. The hot exhaust gas is let into the egr cooler from a pipe between the exhaust manifold and the turbo. This exhaust has a temperature anywhere between 400-1400 degrees. In order to cool the gas before introducing it into the intake, they have coolant running through the egr cooler to exchange the heat. On the other end of the egr cooler is the egr valve. This valve opens to let exhaust gas into the intake manifold when the pcm decides conditions are proper to do so. The major problems with this system are two fold. First, dirty sooty exhaust gas is being blasted into your intake tract. The soot covers everything in it’s path.
It is not unusual for us to tear down a motor that has had it’s egr system intact it’s whole life and find the intake ports into the head to be coked up to half their diameter. The intake manifold becomes restricted from this coking as well. But that is not the worst problem. The extreme heat acts the cooler and breaks it down. Sooner or later it will rupture either letting coolant into the exhaust or intake. (lot’s of misdiagnosed head gaskets here since fluid can run into the cylinder once you shut the engine off and hyrdolock it up) Really bad leaks let exhaust pressure into the coolant system. Which if not taken care of quickly can and will result in blown head gaskets. But wait there’s more. The extreme heat that the coolant is trying to scrub away in a normal functioning egr system breaks down the coolant. Some of the components of the coolant start turning into a goo like substance that does a really nice job of clogging up all sorts of coolant related parts. If you have been doing any research about these engines you have no doubt heard about replacing the oil cooler. These need replaced because this goo will clog them up. Oil temps will then be elevated causing quick overheating when the engine is worked. Also, the coolant leaves the oil cooler and continues to the egr cooler next. If the oil cooler is restricted, your egr cooler will not get enough coolant flow to keep it cool. Next thing you know, blown egr cooler. Then of course a shop diagnoses the bad egr cooler, replaces it, and the customer comes back in a month with another blown egr cooler. It is not unusual for us to get trucks that have had six or seven egr coolers replaced in their lifetime and never an oil cooler. This is the kind of stuff that gives these engines a bad name and it stems from the people working on them misdiagnosing them and not doing complete repairs. My advice to you would be to delete the egr cooler out as soon as possible and replace the oil cooler if you have more than 50,000 miles on the truck when you do it. At the very least, if you have to have the egr system functioning, replace the cooler with a bullet proof one that has a very robust center section that will not rupture. Adding a coolant filter to every engine is also a great way to combat coolant contamination and is a must.