A Solution To Oil Cooler/EGR Issues?

The Ford 6.0 Power Stroke is a great diesel powerplant when everything’s working as designed. However, the 6.0L has a history of issues that keep diesel mechanics busy. The list of problems usually includes failed factory oil coolers, failed EGR coolers and in some cases head gasket failures which were initially blamed on an insufficient number of head bolts, and the torque to yield bolts which can stretch under high boost levels.

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“The Ford 6.0 Power Stroke is a great diesel powerplant when everything’s working as designed. However, the 6.0L has a history of issues that keep diesel mechanics busy.”

The good news is there are fixes for all these issues that when done properly can improve the reliability and performance of the 6.0L Power Stroke. The addition of head studs, better oil and EGR coolers are the short-term solutions and yield the best results. But what about a long-term solution to a problem that’s common to all cooling systems?

Through the process of corrosion from combining aluminum and steel parts on an engine, debris can find its way into the cooling system. And on the 6.0L, whose oil cooler has minute water and oil passages, this can spell death to the cooler and EGR cooler downstream.

The coolant filter system from T&A Performance is simple to connect, requiring less than a couple hours of labor. It includes a billet coolant filter housing, mounting bracket, pipe plug, two stainless steel ball valves, a pair of coolant lines, and installation hardware. The ball valves make it easy to replace the filter with a minimum of drips. You can use just about any brand of standard coolant filter on the market, such as from NAPA or the IE WIX, but only with a minimum amount of additive (part number 24070 has no additive, and 24071 has the lowest amount of conditioner inside the filter). Don’t run any number higher than a 24072, because you can actually put too much conditioner in the system, which will also cause fallout of casting sand from the block.

These two coolant reservoirs from a Duramax show how contaminated coolant can get over time, and why it needs to be checked regularly. At right is a new tank, at left is a used one, showing discoloration. The point here is that just because you have 100K-mile coolant in a vehicle, if it’s more than three years old, it’s no longer 100K coolant.

Here’s a stock 6.0 Power Stroke, viewed from the location where the coolant filter will be installed. But we found a few other items in the coolant system that required some attention as well.

After disassembling a number of failed heat exchangers (for both the EGR and oil system), and also noting a significant difference between oil and coolant temperatures, the source of the affliction become apparent: sludge and debris. When this murky coolant was drained and allowed to sit still for a time, a fine silt settled to the bottom.

Where was this muck coming from? Evidently sand particles from the casting of the 6.0L engine blocks can leach out of the metal and into the water jacket, according to the experts. (Yet oddly enough, this debris doesn’t seem to be a common problem with other Ford diesels, nor other brands, so some of the mystery remains.) The sediment plugs up the oil cooler, and since less coolant flows through the EGR cooler as well, the engine runs hot, and then the fluid begins to break down and doesn’t do its job. Note, too, that 260-degree coolant will peg the temp gauge, and once the fluid hits 300 degrees, it melts just about every plastic part under the hood.

So what’s the ounce of prevention? Installing a coolant filter system (along with following a few other simple maintenance tips; see sidebar). Several aftermarket companies now offer coolant filter systems for the Ford 6.0L Power Stroke, and commercial trucks have been using them for several years to protect their hard-working, high-mileage rigs.

The setup we’ll show here is from T&A Performance, a diesel repair shop in Sparks, Nevada, that also offers a range of products for diesel pickups. Priced at $145, this firm’s coolant kit is affordable and easy to install. T&A Performance founder Tim Anderson says that the best time to install a kit is right after a coolant flush, to remove as much debris as possible. (The install can be done without a prior flush, but for best results and minimizing debris, he recommends the flush first.)

Once installed, Anderson says that the filter not only removes those clogging particles, but also can extend the life of the coolant, water pump, seals and any other parts that rely on coolant flow. In addition, coolant conditioner (a necessary additive for diesels in particular) can be introduced from a tablet inside the coolant filter, which will supplement having to pour in additive every 15,000 miles.

First wrap plumber’s tape around the threads of the hose fittings for proper sealing from leaks.

5 & 6 The filter housing has more than one port, so install a block-off plug in the unused one.

Attach the ball valves in the locations that are best suited to your application.

Getting back to the coolant filter, it’s not possible for it to plug up the vehicle’s fluid passages since it’s a passive system that pulls only small amounts of coolant at a time. The feed line is from a T-fitting off the heater system and the line to the degas (fluid reservoir) bottle. Also in the works from T&A Performance is a filter for the 6.4L Power Stroke. While it doesn’t seem to have as many issues as the 6.0L, Anderson points out that coolant care is extremely important to a vehicle’s longevity and ultimately minimizing repair costs—which is a way cool approach to keeping your diesel pickup on the road. DW

Then attach the hoses to the valves. The black hose color has a factory look.

Insert the mounting bracket next to the radiator. Note the notch that locks the bracket onto the vehicle’s frame.

Use thread-locking compound to ensure any mounting brackets stay secure.

Bolt the filter housing onto the mounting bracket installed next to the radiator.

To ensure proper clearance without any kinks in the coolant hose, mark the section to be cut out with tape. This portion is the heater hose, next to the firewall.

After cutting out a small section of the hose (the width of the green tape), install a T-fitting with hose clamps.

Repeat this process on the hose that leads to the degas bottle for coolant.

Secure the hoses leading to the coolant filter with zip ties away from any hot metal parts. (You might need to drill mounting holes in the plastic fan shroud.)

Apply white grease to the gasket of the spin-on coolant filter.

After installing the filter, mark the date and mileage on the cartridge so you know when to replace it.

Here’s how the coolant filter system fits in neatly, without any clearance issues.

Coolant System Diagnostics

If you didn’t already know, the standard green radiator fluid you get at the auto parts store doesn’t include an important additive that’s used in diesel cooling systems, especially on the 6.0L. It’s anti-corrosive and longer lasting, and also prevents cavitation (bubbles that can pit the outside of the cylinder walls and eventually erode into the combustion chamber). Just be sure to use the right amount, as noted in the captions. Plus Ford recommends only its coolant for the 6.0L and mixing the green stuff into a system with original coolant has been know to cause sludge as well.

How can you tell if there’s enough conditioner in the coolant? Only by determining the nitrate and pH level of the coolant with coolant test strips do you know what’s going on at a chemical level. As further evidence of the need for checking coolant fluid, Ford’s TSB #09-8-5 advises on the importance of the coolant system to the 6.0L and 6.4L engines.

The 6.0L nitrate level is supposed to be checked and added every 15K miles or 600 hours, and physically flushed and changed at 45K miles and/or 1,800 hours. As for the 6.4L, Ford recommends every 20K miles and/or 800 hours and physically flushed 60K miles. Out of an abundance of caution, T&A Performance uses the 6.0L spec for both the 6.0 and 6.4L, and checks the coolant’s nitrate, pH and freeze point at every service interval. Of course, you don’t want to ignore visual signs as well, Anderson says. The coolant might pass the test but look awful, which is also another indication that it’s time to service the system.

Cooling System Maintenance Tips

What else can you do to keep your coolant flowing steadily? Start by using the right type for diesel engines, which includes a conditioner that regular green coolant doesn’t. Test strips indicate the proper level of conditioner, and other aspects. In addition, replace the filter, along with draining and flushing the coolant system, at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals, if not sooner when operating in extreme conditions.

Degas bottle caps on the 6.0L often become defective, and a bad cap that’s venting a white, milky fluid can be mistaken for a blown head gasket. Replace it with a new cap with a better design.

Note the difference in the readout of the pressure gauge between the old and new caps. A leaky cap that doesn’t hold pressure keeps the cooling system from doing its job, so it needs to be replaced.

Acustrip provides simple instructions and a color scale for evaluating the condition of your coolant.

The darker the pink color, the higher the level of nitrates.

Insert a test strip into the coolant reservoir to check the nitrate and pH level, and also the freeze point.

Freeze point is indicated by an orange to brown tint, while a higher pH by a dark green.

You can also add gauges to monitor the difference between the oil and coolant temps. If it’s more than 13 degrees, the heat exchanger might not be functioning properly. Lastly, if you spot sediment in your coolant, shorten your service intervals and flush the system more often. It’s no guarantee that sludge won’t form, but it’s certainly better than ignoring those troubling symptoms.

SOURCE
T&A Performance LLC
775-358-5549
www.tandaperformance.com