3.5 EcoBoost Problems

3.5 EcoBoost Problems – Is Ford’s F-150 Engine Reliable?

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.

What Is The 3.5 EcoBoost Engine?

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.

The 3.5 EcoBoost is a direct-injection gasoline V6 and, importantly, is turbocharged.

Here are some tech specs for you.

  • The 3.5 model of the EcoBoost has a displacement of 3496 cc (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.

What Cars Use The 3.5 EcoBoost Engine?

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:

  • F-150.
  • F-150 Raptor.
  • GT.
  • Transit.
  • Flex.
  • Police Interceptor Sedan.
  • Police Interceptor Utility.
  • Expedition.

For a complete list, check out this one.

Why Did Ford Develop It?

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 with the amounts of CO2 being released, despite declines in all other sections. The irony is, 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.

Ford 150 3.5 EcoBoost Problems

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 are actually worse for the environment in terms of production and disposal, if the electricity is generated from a renewable source (such as solar, wind, tidal, etc) 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-litre V8.

Pros and Cons of the 3.5 EcoBoost

3.5 EcoBoost Pros

  • 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-litre 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.

3.5 EcoBoost Cons

  • 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.

What Are Some Common 3.5 EcoBoost Problems?

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 being 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.

Condensation In The Intercooler – 3.5 EcoBoost Problems

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 working 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 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.

Timing Chain – 3.5 EcoBoost Problems

Replacing a timing chain is just one of those jobs that everyone hates, but is necessary on 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 on 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.

Induction Cleaning Mistakes – 3.5 EcoBoost Problems

It is common for DIYers to try cleaning out your 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.

In the meantime, Ford has released new parts and calibrations for the PCV system so that fewer crankcase vapors are sucked into the intake, meaning less cleaning is needed.

Coolant Leaks – 3.5 EcoBoost Problems

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.

Ignition System – 3.5 EcoBoost Problems

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 is to do with carbon buildup. Some engines often suffer from this, and the 3.5 EcoBoost is no exception.

It’s easiest to recognize this from your spark plugs. You will also probably feel a decrease in power and/or the development of misfires.

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.

Positive Crankcase Ventilation – 3.5 EcoBoost Problems

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.

Some Issues With Calibration – 3.5 EcoBoost Problems

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.

The Verdict

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.

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