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7 Common Ford F-150 2.7 and 3.5 EcoBoost Problems

What kind of problems does an American-made Ford F150 Ecoboost usually have? In this blog, we’ve outlined the most important things you should watch for when you’re in the market for an F150 with a 2.7L or 3.5L Ecoboost. However, let’s first start with a quick answer:

The first generation Ford F-150 EcoBoost engines had problems with a timing chain that stretched too much and carbon buildup on the intake valves because of direct injection. Furthermore, 3.5L Ecoboost had issues with condensation in the intercooler and coolant leaks, whereas 2018 – 2019, 2.7 Ecoboost had a leaking oil pan.

However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. In the rest of the article, we’ll discuss every single problem in detail. Furthermore, we’ll let you know how to identify it, fix it and how much it costs to fix. Read on!

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1. Stretching Of The Timing Chain (2011 – 2015)

The Ecoboost in the Ford F150 is commonly affected by problematic timing chains. This issue is specifically restricted to the 1st generation 3.5L EcoBoost from 2011 to 2015. Common symptoms of this problem are rattling noises during a cold start and a check engine light accompanied with a diagnostic trouble code of P0016. Watch the video below to understand what this rattling noise sounds like.

The problem in the F150 Ecoboost is not restricted to the timing chain. Many owners have reported issues with the 3.5L Ecoboost tensioner, timing chain guides, and cam phasers. So, if any of these issues pop up, replacing the timing chain assembly is highly recommended.

Fortunately, Ford has issued two service bulletins for these complications in which they stated the following explaining the issue:

Some 2011-2014 F-150 vehicles equipped with a 3.5L Gasoline Turbocharged Direct Injection (GTDI) engine and built on or before 10/10/2014 may exhibit a malfunction indicator lamp (MIL) illuminated with diagnostic trouble code (DTC) P0016. Other DTCs and driveability concerns may also be present. This concern may be due to a worn primary timing chain.

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As you can see, the first technical service bulletin only applied to the 2011 – 2014 models, but this TSB also included the 2015 model year.

Replacing the timing chain and other related components is necessary to fix this problem. Ford specifically advised dealers to ‘replace all four variable camshaft timing units and the primary timing chain’. The process is quite simple and easy, but it is a labor-intensive job. If Ford did the job for you, it was free of charge. However, if you aren’t included in the TSB, replacing the timing chain on your F150 Ecoboost costs $1,000-$1,200 in the United States.  

2. Carbon Buildup on Intake Valves (2011 – 2016)

Carbon buildup is a common problem on a large part of the 1st generation 2.7 and 3.5L Ecoboost, which uses direct injection (DI), implying fuel is sprayed straight into the cylinders. This direct fuel injection causes carbon to build upon the intake valves over time.

Like other engines, the Ecoboost experiences a certain degree of oil blow-by. Thus, the oil finds its way into the intake tract, ultimately depositing onto the intake valves. In engines with port injection, this deposited oil is washed off from the intake ports and valves by the fuel.

carbon buildup on intake valves, ford f150
Carbon buildup on intake valves of Ecoboost engine, image courtesy

But in Ecoboost, which uses DI (direct injection), there is nothing to help clean the valves and ports. Therefore, over time the carbon deposited restricts the airflow into the engine. From 2017 onwards, Ford re-designed the Ecoboost and added port injection to the Ecoboost to prevent this carbon build-up.

Although this might not be a significant problem that needs immediate attention since most engines spend their lives without any valve cleaning, it could lead to power loss and many other drivability issues. 

The carbon buildup causes varying amounts of air to enter the cylinders. This messes the air-fuel mixture causing the Ecoboost to misfire on your Ford F150. This misfiring of the Ecoboost leads to rough idling, stuttering, and fault codes.

It is hard to detect the carbon buildup on the intake valve and ports. Since, most of the time, this carbon buildup occurs over a prolonged period. So, the possibilities are you won’t notice any symptoms that occur gradually over several years.

Cleaning the deposited carbon becomes necessary once it becomes excessive in amount. This job requires taking your Ford F150 to a service station. As cleaning the intake, ports are done using the walnut blasting process. The approximate cost of resolving this issue would be around $500-600 in the United States. See the video below to get an idea of what walnut blasting involves.

3. Leaking Oil Pan (2018 – 2019)

2018 – 2019 Ford F-150 with a 2.7L Ecoboost were recalled because of a leaking oil pan. This was because Ford had opted for a plastic oil pan, which isn’t a great choice of material for a part that has to contain boiling oil for extended periods. They did issue a technical service bulletin in which they stated the following:

Some 2018-2019 F-150 vehicles equipped with a 2.7L EcoBoost engine built on or before 21-May2019 may exhibit an oil leak from the engine oil pan RTV seal.

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The solution involved having dealers replace the oil pan and the oil pan seal free of charge. If you’re lucky, your oil pan was replaced under warranty. If you have to have it done without a warranty, expect to pay $500 for parts and labor. In the image below, you can see what a leaking oil pan does. To find the oil pan, check the bottom of the engine.

leaking oil pan ford f150 2.7 ecoboost 2018 - 2019
Results of a leaking oil pan, Image courtesy

4. Wear Of The Spark Plugs And Ignition Coils (2011 – Present)

First, it’s worth mentioning that all model years of the 2.7L and 3.5L Ecoboost will have higher wear and tear (more on that later). However, the 2011 – 2013 model years did have a technical service bulletin because the 3.5L Ecoboost were equipped with faulty spark plugs and spark plug coil boots.

Ford described these problems as follows:

Some 2011-2013 F-150 vehicles built on or before 6/15/2013 and equipped with a 3.5L Gasoline Turbocharged Direct Injection (GTDI) engine may exhibit various engine misfire symptoms accompanied by diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) P0300, P0301, P0302, P0303, P0304, P0305 and/or P0306 stored in the powertrain control module (PCM).

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However, besides this technical service bulletin, there’s something to be aware of with the 2.7L and 3.5L Ecoboost (even though we wouldn’t call it a problem, instead, it’s just the way it’s designed).

These engines are twin-turbo, direct-injected engines (all generations have direct injection, although the 2017 and onwards ones also have port injection). Nevertheless, turbos ask much more from the spark plugs and ignition coils than naturally-aspirated engines.

To give you a reference, spark plugs on a naturally aspirated engine typically last between 80,000 – 100,000 miles, whereas ignition coils will last 160,000 – 200,000 miles. However, in the Ecoboost engines, the spark plugs will last 40,000 – 50,000 miles, and the ignition coils will end up at 80,000 – 100,000 miles.

The most common symptom of failing spark plugs or ignition coils is misfiring (because that’s the one thing these parts are responsible for). Misfiring then results in a rough idle and higher fuel consumption.

To detect the main culprit – check the fault codes with an OBD2 scanner to identify which cylinder(s) is misfiring. Then pull the ignition coil from that cylinder and switch it with another cylinder that is NOT misfiring. If the problem with the misfiring persists, then you have located the issue.

If it does not, you can try the same with the spark plugs. But in any case, you can consider replacing the spark plugs anyway, since it is inexpensive and easy to replace. Check the video below to see what replacing spark plugs on the 3.5 Ecoboost F150 entails.

5. Intercooler Condensation (2011 – 2012, But Still Present)

Another common Ford F150 Ecoboost issue involves the intercooler. This was primarily a problem in the 2011 – 2012 Ford F-150 equipped with a 3.5L Ecoboost but remains to this day.

The primary function of the intercooler on the Ford F150 Ecoboost is to enhance the volumetric efficiency by increasing the intake air charge density. In simple words, intercoolers decrease the temperature in the engine.

At times, the high air intake causes condensation in the intercooler. The intensity of the condensation might increase if you live in a humid region. Ford issued a technical service bulletin for the 2011 – 2012 F-150 in which they stated the following:

Some 2011 – 2012 F-150 vehicles equipped with a 3.5L gasoline turbocharged direct injection EcoBoost engine may exhibit an intermittent engine surge during moderate to light loads at cruise, stumble and/or misfire on hard acceleration after an texted drive at highway speeds during humid or damp conditions.

This could result in a malfunction indicator lamp with diagnostic trouble codes P0300, P0304, P0305, P0430, and P0299.

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The solution to this problem involved installing a new intercooler and a new air deflector plate which helped prevent condensation. However, as many owners will tell you, this did not fix the problem. It’s unclear until what model year the F-150s had severe issues with the intercooler.

However, many owners did find that drilling a 1/16-inch hole in the intercooler inlet did fix the problem. In the video below, you can see what this entails. Given that it’s an inexpensive and quick fix that works for many owners, it’s worth a shot. However, as you can see in the video, this means oil and water will be leaking out noticeably.

6. Coolant Leaks (2011 – 2014)

This is another common problem that occurs in the 2011 – 2014 of the 3.5L Ecoboost. If there’s an issue with the coolant in your F150, you might notice the engine getting hotter than usual. Besides that, you can find puddles or traces of coolant underneath your Ford F150, especially if your car is running while stationary.

The turbo fittings are a well-known spot for coolant leakage. In most cases, this could be the cause of the leak. But before reaching any conclusion. Be cautioned. Replacing the turbo fitting is an expensive affair.

It might appear the leak is coming for the turbo fittings, but many times this isn’t the case.

Furthermore, the coolant often appears to be leaking from the turbo housing since the coolant drips down from the outside of the pipes and ends up accumulating on it. So, before changing the turbo coolant line, ensure that the leak isn’t coming from there.

coolant reservoir leak on 2011 - 2014 3.5l ecoboost engines
Location of the hidden leak on the coolant reservoir, image courtesy

Lastly, check the lower hose from the coolant reservoir (degas bottle). This component of the F150 is designed with a fast connect fitting – suggesting why it sometimes couldn’t last. Also, since the fitting and hose are at an angle, you may not be able to spot any leaks, only a little moisture around that area.

However, by wiping your hands from one place to another around the back of the joints, you might find a leak as it is the most common leakage area. Don’t forget to wear your gloves while doing this.

7. Problems with the Positive Crankcase Ventilation (2013 – 2015)

The problem with the PCV pops up more commonly in the Ford F150 Ecoboost from 2013 to 2015. In this problem, the main culprit is the hose valve cover adapter covering the PCV (positive crankcase ventilation). 

A common symptom of this problem is blue/white smoke from the exhaust, which means your F150 produces more pollution than it should. You can replace the valve cover adapter to fix the problem. Ford later realized the mistake and redesigned the valve cover adapter to stop the leak causing the fumes to escape from the exhaust. 

Watch the video below to see how to replace a PCV on a 3.5L Ecoboost.

Want to read about more problems of the Ford F-150?