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.
“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.
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.
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
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.
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.
T&A Performance LLC