Buying a Used Ford F350 and Getting Back to Basics
Text and Photos by Jacob White
When we picked up this one owner 2000 Ford F350 for our latest project build, the intentions were never to turn it into some SEMA worthy $100,000 build with massive horsepower goals. This one is strictly about getting back to the basics and helping readers better understand the inner workings of the 7.3L Power Stroke, what are its downfalls, what simple tweaks can bring one back from the dead and turn it into a solid daily driver with the ability to do some hard work on occasion. It’s getting nearly impossible to find these 1999-2003 Ford F350 7.3L Super Duty trucks with under 200k on the odometer and straight body panels all around. The Ford F350 Project My2k came about to prove, that with a little love and the right list of parts, even a worn-out truck can make a great truck again.
As we mentioned, we have no plans to shoot for the moon power-wise for this Ford F350 truck, but that doesn’t mean we’ll leave it completely stock either. For this big displacement diesel engine, some simple bolt-on parts can go a long way, no one has ever said they couldn’t use a little more torque for towing. But our angle here is that no parts will be installed that don’t serve an actual purpose to improve the truck’s overall drivability, durability, or comfortability. Starting on the reliability side of things, the first task at hand is an oil leak that’s ruining driveways and parking stalls all over the Northern Utah region on a daily basis.
Major Oil Leak
Anyone that has ever owned a Ford F350 7.3L Power Stroke and claims it’s never leaked a drop of oil is either lying or driving one without oil in it. These big old motors are solid, but they leak oil. Plain and simple. Whether it’s a turbo pedestal leaking, a high-pressure oil fitting, or more commonly the oil dipstick tube in the oil pan. In our case, it’s the latter, the factory dipstick tube adapter uses an O-ring on the inside of the pan to seal itself, which honestly just doesn’t work that well. Over the years, we’ve seen just about every fix in the book from just slathering a bunch of silicone around the outside praying it’ll seal to even removing the pan and welding in a fitting. Neither of which are easy or simple installations. The other often issue is owners or mechanics will just assume the outer nut isn’t tight enough and crank down on it to the point they warp the adapter and make the leak even worse.
The best aftermarket cure we’ve found for this issue is the billet dipstick adapter from Strictly Diesel of Phoenix, AZ. Their unique design uses a dual O-ring seal on the outside of the pan that’s proven to offer the ultimate sealing surface with an easy install to boot. The install is done with the oil pan still on the engine, with the engine still in the truck. This install is mess-free and can be done during a normal oil change with just a few extra steps. Once the engine oil is drained, you’ll remove the start for easier access to the adapter. Loosen up the factory external nut, use a pair of locking pliers to hold the adapter from falling while you remove the internal O-ring, then just let the factory adapter fall into the lower sump of the pan. The new adapter installs in a matter of minutes, bolt on the starter, fill the engine oil, and you’re off. That factory adapter will live out its life swimming in engine oil at the bottom of the pan, far away from any engine internals. Strictly Diesel has been selling this Ford F350 adapter kit for over 10-years with hundreds of success stories. It’s the end-all, cure-all for dipstick leaks.
Moving on to the next order of business is tending to a broken airbox lid we noticed after purchasing the truck. At some point in its 20-year-old career, the tabs that hold the factory intake lid onto the box had broken off and some self-tapping screws had been used to resolve this problem. While it may have been a cheap and easy repair at the time, there are definite signs it didn’t work quite right, and this lid has been allowing unfiltered air to enter the engine for who knows how long. Lucky for us, after further inspection, the turbo compressor wheel appears to be in decent shape, and we have hopes that the intake runners and pistons haven’t been too abused by debris and dust particles entering the engine.
At this point, our next upgrade will be for both durability and performance. The Edge Products Jammer intake system is a simple bolt-in replacement airbox that offers both a sealed plastic box (keeping air inlet temps down) and a high-flowing re-usable filter element. Anytime we can improve airflow into the engine, we can expect to improve overall engine efficiency and reduce exhaust gas temperatures. The Ford F350 Jammer kit is a complete replacement box, so we won’t have to worry about reusing any part of our broken factory unit. The Jammer has a molded inlet tube that will draw air from the grille and an opening at the inner fender area to draw cool air from there as well. The massive, oiled filter will allow more air to pass through it while keeping even the smallest particles out of the intake tract. With the addition of their optional pre-filter, you can also help keep the main filter cleaner by keeping large debris from jamming up the pleats and restricting flow. The filters are reusable with a simple clean and rinse from a garden hose as well. The other advantage Jammer has over some of the other intakes for this application is the use of a sealed plastic injection molded box. This design helps keep hot underhood temperatures out and inlet temperatures lower when compared to an open metal box.
To complement the high flow intake, we also wanted to upgrade the factory exhaust system. A replacement Ford F350 4” exhaust kit has long been one of the most common first mods a diesel owner makes. In most cases, this offers two advantages, reduced backpressure for lower EGTs and of course a better sound. For this truck, the new 4” Jammer exhaust we also sourced from Edge Products was going to replace the original 20-year-old rusted system. The factory muffler had a few spots that had rotted and were leaking, and the tailpipe was looking pretty shabby. With plenty of room to work with, the new mandrel bent 4” downpipe will really help with EGT control while towing. Edge spent a lot of time perfecting their muffler design to offer excellent flow characteristics and sound without creating a bunch of drones inside the cab. Jammer exhaust kits are constructed of stainless steel tubing and will most likely outlast the truck at this point. Fit and finish are perfect, with the tailpipe exit kept up tight against the body offering a clean classic look with a little pop of style from a 5” polished tip.
In some follow-up issues, we’ll investigate some popping from the front end and some strange tire wear problems. The ripped and worn seats will get an upgrade and of course, we’ll start looking at some performance modifications and maybe even some dyno testing. We’re just getting started with Ford F350 Project My2K, so stay tuned.