9 Common 6.0L Powerstroke Problems & Fixes
2003-2007 Ford SuperDuty Diesel Truck Problems & How to Fix Them
If you’re a diesel nut like me, you probably know that most people will steer clear of buying a 2003 to 2007 model year Ford Superduty Diesel truck. The 6.0L Powerstroke is known for having major problems. Most of these problems originate from the factory design. The new EGR emissions system that was introduced to meet emissions standards at the time, is a big contributor to the 6.0s frequent problems. Head studs provide inadequate clamping force so blown head gaskets are common. Other 6.0L Powerstroke problems include HPOP failure, injector stiction, FICM failure, and clogging oil coolers. Fortunately, once these problems are addressed, the trucks are much more reliable. Some of these problems can be avoided. If you follow a strict 6.0L Powerstroke Service Schedule however, you can drastically reduce the amount of problems you experience.
What Does “Bulletproofing” a 6.0L Powerstroke Mean?
If you’ve ever thought about buying a 6.0L Powerstroke and you’ve made an effort to look online for available trucks, you may have noticed the term, “Bulletproofed” in the description. Bulletproofed 6.0L Powerstroke are trucks that have already had the significant, necessary improvements made to make the trucks more reliable. Bulletproof kits for a 6.0L Powerstroke cost $2,000-$5,000. That doesn’t include labor. Installing a Bulletproof kit is very labor intensive, so expect to pay a couple thousand in labor costs.
While the 6.0L Powerstroke’s problems dissuade many people from ownership, the trucks are a lot of fun to drive and they can be great trucks once the necessary repairs are performed. Our best advice is to look for a late model truck or a 6.0 that has been already bulletproofed. It seems like ’06 and ’07 model year trucks experience less issues than trucks from ’03-’05. Bulletproofed trucks have aftermarket solutions already installed so you won’t need to invest much money in the truck. Many of these problems occur early in these trucks lifetimes, so many of the 6.0s available today already have the improvements needed to make them reliable daily drivers.
Most Common 6.0L Powerstroke Problems
1. Head Gasket Failures & TTY Head Studs
The 6.0L Powerstroke came equipped with TTY, or torque to yield, head studs. If you are considering performance modifications, you need to replace these studs. The addition of a tuner alone can cause cylinder head pressures to rise beyond the capability of the TTY head studs, ultimately causing head gasket failure. TTY studs cannot be re-used and must be replaced after being removed from the engine.
Aftermarket head studs from ARP are a must-have for your 6.0L Powerstroke if you’re seeking to add additional performance modifications. The stock TTY head studs can last a while under factory conditions. Because of the layout under the hood, changing the head studs on the 6.0L Powerstroke is a problem in itself. It can take a long time, even for an experienced diesel mechanic. Expect costs of a couple thousand dollars after parts and labor.
2. FICM: Fuel Injection Control Module Failure
Rough start, no start, and rough running conditions often occur due to the FICM, or Fuel Injection Control Module. The FICM supplies 48 volts to the two solenoids that control oil flow to the fuel injector. Excessive heat from the engine and vibration can cause the FICM to overheat or fail. This occurs because the FICM is located on the side valve cover of the Powerstroke engine. Cold starts impact the FICM negatively by causing excess voltage to be drawn. This can damage the capacitors in the fuel injection control module. To locate a faulty FICM, use a scan tool and take a look at PID Data. It’s important to rule out the glow plugs however, as they can often cause similar no start or hard starts to your Powerstroke.
You should replace factory fuel injection control modules with aftermarket counterparts. They are better at dissipating heat and more reliable. Reputable FICM rebuilding companies also typically offer a warranty on their products. Should an issue arise, they will send you a replacement FICM. Aftermarket FICMs also come available with custom tunes, allowing you to increase horsepower by adjusting fueling. Check out Swamp’s Diesel Performance FICMs.
3. 6.0L Powerstroke Oil Cooler Problems
Many of the problems found on the 6.0L Powerstroke stem from the Oil Cooler. These trucks require the oil to be cooled significantly more than other trucks, resulting in Ford equipping the 6.0L Powerstroke with a liquid-on-liquid engine oil cooler. Over time, sand and other large particles can clog the small passageways of the Oil Cooler, leading to EGR Cooler failure. You can identify faulty oil coolers by comparing engine oil temperature and coolant temperature. An operational oil cooler should keep the difference between the two to less than 14 degrees when driving the truck.
We recommend replacing old factory oil coolers whenever this temperature split becomes apparent. Aftermarket Oil Coolers from companies like PPE or Mishimoto are good options. Do NOT choose a cheap oil cooler. You need a quality product! You can also go purchase another OEM Ford part. We also strongly recommend that you purchase gauges or a digital monitor to keep an eye on your truck’s vitals like the BullyDog BDX! This can help you identify problems early.
4. EGR Cooler Problems
EGR Coolers on the 6.0L Powerstroke cool the exhaust gases before they are reintroduced the the engine. This reduces NOx emissions. As with all early emissions devices, they frequently cause problems. Higher operating temperatures are a typical symptom of a clogged EGR cooler. These higher temperatures commonly cause head gasket failures. The EGR coolers commonly leak coolant into the exhaust, resulting in white smoke (Steam) exiting the tail pipe. The Engine oil cooler is commonly the cause of EGR Cooler issues. When the oil cooler becomes clogged, less coolant enters the EGR Cooler, causing higher temperatures, boiling coolant, and potential damage.
Aftermarket EGR Coolers feature a stronger construction, and many have numerous improvements that make them both more reliable, and better performing than Ford’s OEM model. Bulletproof diesel offers “bulletproof” EGR Coolers that come with a lifetime warranty. Be careful when ordering this replacement part, as there are two different style EGR coolers for the 6.0L Powerstroke.
5. EGR Valve Problems
The EGR Valve on the 6.0L Powerstroke regulates the amount of exhaust gases that are reintroduced to the engine. Just like the EGR Cooler, the EGR Valve is suspect to clogging issues from excess soot.
The valve can stick open, causing poor performance. Often times this occurs due to excessive idling or poor fuel quality. We recommend frequently cleaning the EGR Valve to keep it from accumulating soot. If you need a new EGR valve, check out some of the links below! Be wary of aftermarket equivalents, I’ve heard the O-rings won’t fit on several kits. I’m including a link to an OEM EGR Valve Gasket set too.
6. 6.0L Powerstroke Turbocharger Problems
The 6.0L Powerstroke contains a variable geometry turbo (VGT). The VGT increases power and greatly lowers spool times. These new VGT turbochargers were very susceptible to soot build up. This excessive soot can cause the VGT vanes to stick open. When that occurs, throttle response suffers and turbo spooling times increase. The turbocharger can sometimes be cleaned by running the truck hard, otherwise, the turbocharger needs to be removed and cleaned thoroughly.
Early 6.0L Powerstroke trucks also suffer from a poor oil drain tube. The collection of oil in the turbocharger can result in the oil cooking. This has been the root cause of many all-out turbocharger failures in the 6.0L Powerstrokes. Ford gave ’06 and ’07 models an improved oil drain tube, resulting in drastically less turbo failures.
Want recommendations on an aftermarket turbocharger upgrade for your 6.0? Check out our post, “Best 6.0L Powerstroke Performance Upgrades”.
7. 6.0L Powerstroke HEUI Injector Problems
Ford’s 6.0L Powerstroke came with Hydraulically actuated electronically controlled unit injectors (HEUI), similar to the 7.3L Powerstroke. These injectors are prone to static friction, or stiction, which is the result of carbon and sludge build up within the HEUI injectors’ spool valves. Stiction can cause a number of problems including hard starts, and the truck running rough when cold. The HEUI injectors are very sensitive to poor fuel and oil quality. Proper maintenance can go a long way, and the use of certain additives like Hot Shot’s Secret Stiction Eliminator seem to prolong injector life. Aftermarket fuel products like a FASS or Air Dog may also be a good idea.
8. High Pressure Oil Pump Failure (HPOP)
The high pressure oil pump pressurizes the engine oil. Then, the injectors use this oil to compress fuel. These high pressure oil pumps are known for complete failures and leaking seals on the 6.0L Powerstrokes. When repairing an HPOP on your Powerstroke it’s important to check the HPOP screen found underneath the oil cooler. You may need to replace it too.
9. Plastic Degas Bottle Leaks/Cracking
The factory Degas bottle in 6.0L Powerstroke trucks is made of plastic and is prone to cracking or leaking over time. This occurs because they are made of plastic and aren’t one plastic tanks. They crack at the seams and it can result in loss of coolant! Invest in a solid aluminum Degas bottle like the Mishimoto Degas Bottle pictured below. If you don’t want to spend the money, you can also go for an OEM Ford Degas bottle. It just won’t last you as long. Make sure you get a new factory cap too!
How can you reduce the amount of problems on your 6.0?
What can you do to improve longevity on your 6.0L Powerstroke? For starters, consider not upgrading to performance parts unless it is a product that provides a solution to one of the above problems. Don’t tune your truck until you have the money for new head studs/gaskets. Replace problem parts early, before you start having issues! Be religious when it comes to your trucks maintenance. Change the oil every 5,000 miles. Use high quality oil and consider using additives. Make sure you buy diesel from quality gas stations that have quality fuel. Invest in gauges like an Edge CTS2 Insight or Bully Dog GTX and keep an eye on your trucks vitals as soon as possible! You can often identify the start of a problem early.
More 6.0L Powerstroke Resources
For more information on the 2003-2007 Ford SuperDuty Diesel trucks with the 6.0L Powerstroke, check out the following links.
- 6.0L Powerstroke Specifications
- Comprehensive 6.0L Powerstroke Maintenance Guide & Service schedule
- Best 6.0L Powerstroke Performance Upgrades