In this article, we will look at some common 3.5 EcoBoost problems.
The 3.5 EcoBoost has been with us for over a decade now and can be selected as an option in almost all over Ford’s range. In 2017, the second generation engine was launched, which helped to iron out many of the faults found in the first.
Many of the problems with the 3.5 EcoBoost that we will discuss in this article relate to the first-generation model. If your Ford was made between 2009 and 2017 and has a 3.5 EcoBoost engine, we hope you might find your answer on this page.
The most common truck in the world is the F-150, and the 3.5 EcoBoost is the largest EcoBoost model available. This means that many people, especially those looking for a high level of performance from their truck, have the F-150 with one of these engines.
We hope you find this article useful.
Ford 3.5 EcoBoost Specs
Ford’s 3.5-litre EcoBoost engine was first introduced to the market in 2009. At the time, it was released under the name TwinForce.
Here are some tech specs for you.
- The 3.5 model of the EcoBoost has a displacement of 3496cc (the equivalent of 213 CID).
- The cylinder bore is 92.5 mm (3.64 inches), with the stroke being 86.6 mm (3.41 inches).
- Without oil in it (when dry), the engine weighs in at 203 kg (449 lbs).
- It utilizes a compression ratio of 10.0:1 (and 10.5:1 on the second-generation model).
- All 3.5 EcoBoost V6s come with DOHC (Double Overhead Camshafts) with DAMB (Direct Acting Mechanical Buckets), with variable timing.
There are currently around half a million 3.5 EcoBoost engines out there on the roads today.
Ford 3.5 EcoBoost Engine Applications
The 3.5 EcoBoost is used in a variety of cars, although the most popular of these is undoubtedly the F-150. In 2012, Ford announced that it targeted 90% of its vehicle range to offer an EcoBoost model.
It is used in many popular Ford vehicles across the US market, although the power is limited to varying degrees across these models:
For a complete list, check out this one.
As with the entirety of the automotive market, Ford developed this engine to reduce its environmental impact. You can get the EcoBoost engine with the following displacements.
- 3.5 liter (V6)
- 2.7 liter (V6)
- 2.3 (Inline-4)
- 2.0 (Inline-4)
- 1.6 (Inline-4)
- 1.5 (Inline-4)
- 1.5 (Inline-3)
- 1.0 (Inline-3)
Let’s use Europe as a case study.
For example, in Europe, passenger vehicles are responsible for 60.7% of the total carbon dioxide emissions from road transport. In total, about 21.6% of Europe’s carbon dioxide emissions come from road transport, meaning that passenger vehicles account for about 13.1% of the total pollution in this area. Reducing this amount will help to reduce levels of pollution across the continent.
The transport industry is still seeing increases in the amounts of CO2 being released, despite declines in all other sections. The irony is, that if more people were able to share car rides, modern cars would be one of the cleanest transportation methods currently available.
The US is no different.
Click here to read the Clean Air Act.
This all points to the need for cleaner transportation and is why the world is heading towards the power of electricity. Although these cars could be worse for the environment in terms of production and disposal unless the electricity is generated from a renewable source (such as solar, wind, tidal, etc), whereby they end up being considerably kinder.
In the meantime, engines must become as clean as possible. This minimizes the effect that we have on the planet, whilst also saving you on your fuel bill.
So, with all this in mind, Ford developed the EcoBoost V6 to be a more environmentally friendly alternative to its traditional V8 engines. Although these are by no means the ultimate answer, Ford is currently interested in developing this technology, as opposed to hybrid or diesel engines.
The EcoBoost engines are designed to operate at the same levels of power and torque expected from a naturally-aspirated V8, but with other benefits. Compared to a larger-displacement engine, you can expect the same performance, but with 15% fewer emissions and 30% better fuel economy.
The 3.5 EcoBoost V6 easily compares, performance-wise, with a Ford naturally-aspirated 6.0-liter V8.
3.5 EcoBoost Pros & Cons
- Excellent economy – you’ll get many more miles per dollar than you would in the standard naturally-aspirated models.
- Good power output – as we’ve just mentioned, the 3.5 EcoBoost produces about the same amount of power and torque output as a naturally-aspirated 6.0-liter V8.
- Good ratio of displacement to power – this is one of the most powerful engines available per unit displacement. This means that, if power is your ultimate goal, it’s one of the best value engines you can get.
- If they’re looked after, they can last for hundreds of thousands of miles. But then, that’s often the case with most engines. They need maintenance. They need care.
- A high level of maintenance is recommended – if you get one of these, you’ll need to maintain it regularly. It’s a very powerful engine and thus needs to be cared for. If the engine gets neglected, you’ll find everything starts to go wrong…
- Like many engines, the 3.5 EcoBoost is an interference engine. If the timing jumps, you’ll require some serious engine repairs.
3.5 Ecoboost Reliability
Rumors began to spread far and wide that the 3.5 EcoBoost was unreliable.
There have indeed been several known common issues throughout the years, depending on the model. However, these rumors have been blown somewhat out of proportion.
All mechanical devices have drawbacks. Unfortunately, that’s just the nature of reality. Even things that are hailed as all-time engineering greats, like Concorde or the first tanks, had huge drawbacks. Time was needed to work through all these issues.
It is the nature of this industry that things are always improving. For continual improvement, there must be faults – otherwise, there is nothing to improve.
Thankfully, many of the problems you’re going to read about were considered and successfully addressed in the second generation of the 3.5 EcoBoost.
So, while this engine isn’t perfect, it is one of the most-used engines around at the moment and deserves recognition. While not necessarily groundbreaking or unique, it’s a solid, reliable piece of kit.
Despite this, there are still a few common problems associated with the 3.5 EcoBoost.
Here are some of the most commonly reported ones and what to do about them.
3.5 EcoBoost Problems #1: Condensation In The Intercooler
The EcoBoost was first used in the Ford F-150 between 2011 and 2012. In these models, the following problem was occasionally reported.
On damp, humid, and/or rainy days, during hard acceleration, or at highway speeds, the 3.5 EcoBoost sometimes developed a temporary misfire. This would lead to problems with idling and acceleration.
This was statistically much more likely to happen in humid areas (such as Florida) compared to dryer areas.
Developing a misfire during damp conditions is hardly a never-seen-before problem – many cars suffer from this in some way, shape, or form.
In the F-150, the cause of this misfire was condensation in the intercooler. This is part of the turbocharger system in the 3.5 EcoBoost.
As the moisture got trapped in the intercooler, it led to it not work properly. Click here to go to Under Hood Service, where there is an excellent, short video to give you a brief overview of moisture in the intercooler, and the steps manufacturers take to avoid it.
The quick fix for this common EcoBoost problem is to drill a 1/16″ hole at the base of the intercooler. This quite literally allows the moisture to drip out, and many people do it. It’s best to thread a screw or small bolt into this hole. This enables you to drain the intercooler whenever you choose to, instead of it being a constant leak.
This isn’t recommended by the manufacturer though, as there is a catch.
If you go down this route, you may also cause an oil leak. The oil is a vital part of the turbocharger system, as metal parts are moving very quickly and very closely to each other. Creating an oil leak is the last thing you want to do.
You could also install a catch can, if you were so inclined. There is a wide range of aftermarket options for the 3.5 EcoBoost.
To fix the issue, you should run several approved tests to confirm that the issue occurs once over 2,500 rpm and at 100% load. The air deflector from the top of the intercooler should then be moved to the bottom, helping to vaporize the build-up of condensation more effectively.
3.5 EcoBoost Problems #2: Timing Chain
Replacing a timing chain is just one of those jobs that everyone hates, but is necessary for all cars eventually.
Unfortunately, the timing chain in a 3.5 EcoBoost is particularly sensitive to the condition of the oil. If you’ve left it too long between oil changes, this may have harmed the timing chain. Either the chain, the guides, or the tensioners could begin to fail.
This issue is much more common in the first generation of the 3.5 EcoBoost – that is, before 2017. The newer version, the second generation, has a timing chain system that is much less dependent on the oil’s state.
Replacing the timing chain is a big job, and will take a long time. For this reason, it can be quite expensive if you take it to an auto shop. However, the consequences of slipping up here can be disastrous and could render your engine completely useless, if it’s done wrong.
For this reason, we suggest it’s worth facing the cost full-on, in this situation. Make sure that any work you get is warrantied.
If you do decide to go at this yourself, feel free – but we strongly recommend only doing this if you know what you’re doing. There are plenty of online tutorials and YouTube clips that will walk you through it if you need any assistance.
3.5 EcoBoost Problems #3: Induction Cleaning Mistakes
It is common for DIYers to try cleaning out their engine with induction cleaners. These are done by injecting them into the intake.
However, some of these induction cleaners can damage the turbocharger system, including bearings, seals, and turbines. Therefore they are not recommended by Ford.
Instead of using these induction cleaners, you should just stick to high-quality fuel. Although it’s tempting to always select the cheapest one available, the more expensive fuels contain additives that help keep your engine healthy. The healthier the engine is, the greater its useful life is likely to be.
In fact, you’ll probably end up spending less on maintenance if you spend a little more on fuel.
People often alternate between cheap fuels and expensive ones each time they fill up. This is a good way to see many of the benefits while keeping the cost down.
3.5 EcoBoost Problems #4: Coolant Leaks
This is a common problem from the 2011 or newer Ford F-150.
If you have an issue with your coolant, you may notice your engine getting much hotter than usual. Opening your hood and checking the coolant level directly is your best bet for correctly diagnosing this issue. You might also find a small puddle of coolant underneath your car, especially if you leave it running while it’s stationary.
The turbo fittings are well-known coolant leak spots as well. This could well be the cause of your leak.
Be warned. Getting these turbo fittings replaced could cost a lot of money.
Although this leak often looks like it’s coming from the turbo fittings, this isn’t always the case.
Check the lower hose from the degas bottle. This has been designed with a quick-connect fitting – giving some indication as to why it sometimes doesn’t last. Since the hose and fitting are at an angle, you may not be able to see any leaks, just a little moisture around the area.
However, if you wipe your hand (wear gloves) around the back of the joint here, you may find a leak.
This leak can often appear to be coming from the turbo housing because the coolant drips down the outside of the pipes and ends up puddling on it.
So, before you get your turbo coolant line fittings changed, make sure the leak isn’t coming from there.
3.5 EcoBoost Problems #5: Ignition System
The ignition system isn’t just about starting the car, despite the common conception. It contains everything up to and including the spark plugs. The coil packs, key, battery, and so on, are all part of this system too.
One of the most common 3.5 EcoBoost problems has to do with carbon buildup. Some engines often suffer from this, and the 3.5 EcoBoost is no exception.
When you notice these symptoms, the first things you should check are your spark plugs. Once you’ve removed them, check for any carbon deposits on them. Basically, the more black, sooty stuff they’re covered with, the more carbon is building up inside the engine.
This indicates a rich fuel mixture – there is too much fuel compared to air. Most often, this is caused by an issue with the fuel injection system, although it could be indicative of not enough air getting in, too.
To get it fixed, we recommend taking your car to a local mechanic where the issue can be correctly diagnosed. Alternatively, cleaning them up and putting them back in – or getting a new set – may solve the issue for you. Every case is different.
If you check the spark plugs and they all turn out to look fine, you should then check the ignition coils. These are what send the charge down to the plug itself. You can check them yourself using a multi-meter, making sure to follow all safety advice.
3.5 EcoBoost Problems #6: Positive Crankcase Ventilation
This problem arose in vehicles made with 3.5 EcoBoost engines between 2013 and 2015, although not on the F-150. The hose valve cover adapter leaked slightly and led to the PCV system not working properly.
When this is happening, you will notice excessive smoke coming from the engine. This could be either white or blue. You will also notice excessive oil consumption – check your motor oil level using the dipstick.
If you notice some of these systems, you may need to replace the PCV hose valve cover adapter.
Disconnect the PCV hose from the valve cover adapter. When you remove the valve cover adapter, you will probably damage the locking mechanism. You should ensure that no broken pieces fall into the valve cover port, which will of course be open. Remove the adapter from the valve cover by twisting it.
Ford did change the design eventually and the leaking problem became far less common. Use one of these new versions to replace the part you removed. Look for the following part: P/N HL2Z-6762-A.
It’s a fairly easy fix. You should be able to do it yourself with little-to-no help needed. Just be careful to not drop anything into the open valve cover port.
If you do run into some difficulties, don’t be afraid to call someone out to give you a hand.
3.5 EcoBoost Problems #7: Some Issues With Calibration
In early models, when the 3.5 EcoBoost was first released, there were several reported calibration issues. This was most commonly reported on 2011 F-150s.
These included symptoms such as stalling, a loss of power, shifting issues, and many more.
In fact, the software had to be updated nine times before the issues were eliminated.
If you have an F-150 from about this time, this could be the problem you’re looking at. You should check that the necessary software updates have been completed. This may involve taking it to a local mechanic if the service history etc. is unclear. To be absolutely sure, take it to a licensed Ford auto shop.
If all the updates have been performed, this is unlikely to be the problem. However, if you’re sure that the problem stems from the ECU, it could well be worth taking your car to an electrical automotive engineer. Any problems with your ECU are most likely to be diagnosed here.
3.5 EcoBoost Problems #8: Carbon Build-Up on Intake Valves
Direct injection engines, including the 3.5 EcoBoost, often face an issue related to carbon build-up on the intake valves. This happens because there isn’t any fuel spraying on the valves to wash away the contaminants, as is the case with port injection engines.
Symptoms often include rough idling, reduced fuel efficiency, and a decrease in overall performance. Long term, it could lead to more severe engine problems if not addressed.
To combat this, regular inspections and cleaning of the intake valves are recommended. While some owners opt for aftermarket catch cans to prevent the build-up, occasional manual cleaning remains the best way to tackle the problem.
3.5 EcoBoost Problems #9: Failed Water Pumps
A notable issue with the 3.5 EcoBoost is a potential water pump failure. This pump is internal, and driven by the timing chain. If the water pump fails and starts to leak, it might introduce coolant into the oil. Over time, this can lead to catastrophic engine failure if undetected.
A rise in engine temperature or a decrease in coolant levels might signal a failing water pump. Given the severe consequences, immediate inspection is crucial if any such symptoms arise.
3.5 EcoBoost Problems #10: Turbocharger Failures
Turbocharger failures, though not extremely common, have been reported with the 3.5 EcoBoost. Symptoms include loss of power, increased exhaust smoke, and a distinct siren noise from the engine.
A turbocharger’s lifespan can be reduced due to factors such as poor maintenance, infrequent oil changes, or the use of low-quality oil. Keeping up with regular maintenance and monitoring the engine for early warning signs can help prevent this costly repair.
3.5 EcoBoost Problems #11: Wastegate Rattle
Some owners have reported a rattle coming from the engine, often traced back to the wastegate. The wastegate, a part of the turbo system, helps regulate the turbocharger’s boost pressure. When it malfunctions, you may hear a distinct rattle, especially during acceleration.
Addressing the wastegate rattle sooner rather than later is essential. If left unchecked, it can lead to further turbocharger issues.
3.5 EcoBoost Problems #12: Fuel Injector Failures
The 3.5 EcoBoost, like other direct-injection engines, can occasionally experience fuel injector failures. Clogged or malfunctioning injectors can lead to misfires, rough idling, and a significant drop in performance.
Regular maintenance, using high-quality fuel, and adding fuel injector cleaners to your maintenance routine can help extend the injectors’ lifespan.
3.5 EcoBoost Problems #13: Brake Vacuum Pump Failures
Another issue, though not widespread, is the brake vacuum pump’s failure. If the pump fails, it can reduce the power assistance to the braking system, making the pedal harder to press.
Owners may notice a sudden change in brake pedal feel. If this occurs, an immediate inspection is advised for safety reasons.
In conclusion, while the Ford 3.5 EcoBoost engine offers impressive power and efficiency, like all engines, it comes with its share of problems. Regular maintenance, using high-quality parts and fluids, and promptly addressing issues can ensure your engine remains reliable for the long haul.
Facts & Essential Knowledge
- The Ford 3.5 L EcoBoost engine can last over 100,000 miles with regular maintenance, including timely oil changes.
- The engine can deliver up to 400 horsepower and has a displacement of 3.5 liters.
- Direct injection, which increased fuel efficiency, resulted in several issues, including carbon deposits building up in the combustion chamber and valves, leading to reduced power output.
- The most common problem with the engine is hesitations, engine misfires, and poor fuel economy, which can cause the check engine light to come on.
- The turbo intercooler can fail due to moisture buildup in high-humidity climates, causing the engine misfire and check engine light to come on.
- The PCV system can cause oil-burning issues that require valve cover replacement.
- Worn timing chains can cause engine rattling and check engine lights to come on.
- The pre-2017 3.5L EcoBoost engine had several issues ranging from engine misfires to timing chain issues, while the second-generation engine introduced in 2017 had improvements in timing components and fuel injection.
- The Ford 3.5L EcoBoost engine can power several models, including the Ford F-150 and the Lincoln Navigator.
- The engine has a configuration of 60° V-6, and the cylinder block and head are made of aluminum.
The 3.5 EcoBoost has problems, no doubt about it. But so does everything.
Despite everything we’ve just gone through, the 3.5 EcoBoost is a steady, reliable engine. Although there are many complaints out there, when you compare this number with the amount of these engines out on the roads across the world, it’s not too many.
While it’s perhaps nothing too special (as we mentioned at the start), the EcoBoost engines represent the beginning of a path to sustainability, while maintaining performance. This is something that, surely, everyone can get behind.
If you’ve had or are currently experiencing any other 3.5 EcoBoost problems, let us know in the comments below.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
If you still have some unanswered questions, our FAQs here on 3.5 Ecoboost problems might help…
What Is Ecoboost
Ford’s EcoBoost engines are a new generation of small, lightweight, economical, (relatively) low emissions, yet powerful engines. Compared to their old-school V8s, the EcoBoost V6s, inline-4s, and inline-3s are much more environmentally friendly. It’s regarded as one small step before Ford’s full transition towards hybrid and electrified powertrains. Despite the lower emissions and fuel consumption, however, Ford’s EcoBoost engines are designed to match the horsepower and torque outputs of big old V8s. But, with 15% fewer emissions and 30% better fuel economy.
What Does Ecoboost Mean
The name EcoBoost is an amalgamation of the words Eco (for fuel economy) and Boost (for performance). Thus, it perfectly describes the characteristics of Ford’s new generation of engines. Primarily, it has to match or beat the horsepower and torque figures of Ford’s outgoing V8s. Yet, be more fuel-efficient (by up to 30%) and emit fewer emissions (15% less). Ford’s EcoBoost engines range from 1.0-liters in capacity, to as large as 3.5-liters. Depending on the vehicle and displacement, you could find EcoBoost engines configured as inline-3s, inline-4s, or a V6.
3.5 Ecoboost Oil Capacity
For the largest EcoBoost engine, a 3.5-liter V6, it can hold at most 6 quarts of motor oil. Or, around 5.7-liters. It’s crucial to stay on top of your oil changes and maintenance to prevent 3.5 EcoBoost problems from appearing.
3.5 Ecoboost Crate Engine
Currently, you can buy a 3.5 EcoBoost as a crate motor if you’re interested in engine swaps or a replacement, although not officially from Ford. Companies such as Performance Products sell a complete swap kit, priced at $9,400. This includes the engine itself, a 3.5-liter V6 with 365hp and 420lb-ft of torque. This crate kit also includes a set of tuned intake manifolds, starter, alternator, belts, and a flywheel.
3.5 Ecoboost Life Expectancy
Despite all the 3.5 EcoBoost problems that we’ve mentioned thus far, as a whole, they’re quite robust. Ford engines are typically durable and long-lasting, and the EcoBoost is no different. Most estimates for a 3.5 EcoBoost V6’s life expectancy should be around 250,000 miles (or around 402,000 kilometers). Once that threshold is passed, you’ll need some serious engine work and rebuilding. Although, owners are more than able to extend this lifespan by being diligent about maintenance and servicing.
3.5 Ecoboost Vs 5.0 Reliability
Currently, much of Ford’s line-up is powered either by an EcoBoost motor (in this instance, a 3.5-liter V6). Or, a 5.0 Coyote V8, which you’ll find in vehicles like the Mustang and F-150. Typical of Ford, both engines have been noted for robustness. Though, having discussed the 3.5 EcoBoost problems earlier, both engines have been known to suffer from select reliability issues. Most agree that it’s an even split, as both the 3.5 and 5.0 engines can have reliability concerns, but are generally decently dependable. For the most part, it’s a matter of preference as to which engine you’d want.
Best Oil For 3.5 Ecoboost
If you’re thinking about an oil change, the 3.5 EcoBoost uses 5w30-grade motor oil. In particular, Ford recommends using either a synthetic or synthetic blend (aka semi-synthetic) motor oil matching this grade. Castrol, Valvoline, and Mobil 1 are the most popular brands of engine oil for a 3.5 EcoBoost.
Best Spark Plugs For 3.5 Ecoboost
For a good set of spark plugs, the best kit for the 3.5 EcoBoost is either the Motorcraft SP-550 or the NGK Iridium IX 6509. NPBoosted also has a pack on Amazon that includes 6 ignition coils and 6 spark plugs, which is suitable for the 3.5, as well.