Ford started producing the 3.5L EcoBoost engine back in 2009, and hundreds of thousands are on the road today. Ford uses the engine in many of its popular models, like the Ford Explorer, Expedition, Taurus, and the F-150. The Ford F-150 is the best-selling vehicle in America, so there are plenty of these EcoBoost engines out there.
While the EcoBoost seems to be a pretty reliable engine, there are bound to be some problems reported simply due to the fact that there are so many of these engines out there. So, what are the most common problems with the 3.5L EcoBoost? We will give you all the details on the most common issues reported by Ford owners, so just keep reading.
Table of Contents
Most Common 3.5L EcoBoost Engine Problems
Since so many of these engines are used in the Ford F-150, they get lots of use as work vehicles. Most of the time, this means that the engines get run frequently and for long periods of time. Here are some of the problems that you might see if you own a 3.5 EcoBoost.
— Condensation In The Intercooler
One of the biggest problems reported in the early EcoBoost engines is condensation in the intercooler. Remember that these engines have two turbos installed to help increase performance. The intercooler is a crucial part of the turbocharging system. On humid days or rainy days, owners would often experience a buildup of condensation in the intercooler. This condensation led to decreased performance and a loss of power in the engine.
This problem was fixed in the second generation of EcoBoost engines by a redesign of the air deflector on the intercooler. The redesign allowed moisture to vaporize out of the bottom of the intercooler instead of getting trapped inside.
First-generation EcoBoost owners could repair the problem for about $200 to $400 in most cases. Some owners even attempted to drill a drainage hole in the bottom of the intercooler to allow condensation to drain out. While this worked for some owners, it could also lead to unwanted oil leaks and other problems. You should not attempt to drill into your intercooler without the proper knowledge of the repair.
— Timing Chain Wear
Premature timing chain wear is another big complaint from EcoBoost owners. Remember that turbocharged engines usually experience more wear and tear on internal components than naturally aspirated engines. For this reason, it is crucial to perform regular engine oil changes and other maintenance, and you should always use the recommended oil suggested by Ford. Failure to perform the required maintenance will lead to increased friction in your engine, and the timing chains will generally be the first casualty of this increased friction.
Once the timing chains start to wear, the problem will also cause damage to the tensioners, cam phasers, and pulleys in the system. If the problem goes on too long without repair, your engine’s timing might become out of sync. Improper timing could lead to catastrophic engine damage.
Unfortunately, the timing chain replacement cost is not cheap. The replacement requires quite a bit of engine teardown, so the labor costs will be high. You can expect to pay around $2,000 in most cases, and the bill might be higher if you need to replace additional parts. However, replacing the chains will be much cheaper than the cost of an engine rebuild. Since the 3.5 EcoBoost is an interference engine, significant damage will be done if a timing chain breaks.
— Calibration Issues
You probably already know that your car’s computer controls nearly every system on your vehicle. The computer dictates the engine’s timing, the transmission’s shifting, and many other important pieces of your car. In many 2011 Ford models equipped with the EcoBoost, the system’s calibration was not correct. This issue led to a decrease in horsepower, low fuel economy, poor shifts, and engine stalling.
The fix for the calibration problem did not come quickly. In fact, Ford needed to update the software in these 2011 models nine times to get the issue corrected. Thankfully, most owners who received all the software updates report that the issue has been completely fixed. No physical parts are generally necessary, so the dealership will only need to install the latest software on your vehicle’s computer to repair the issue.
— PCV System Not Working
There have been a number of reports of the positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) system not working properly on 2013 to 2015 EcoBoost engines. Strangely enough, the issue rarely appeared in the F-150 models during these years. When the PCV system issue pops up, the owners typically notice excessive blue or white smoke coming from their engine. This could cause you to fail an emissions test. Excessive oil consumption was also reported by many owners.
The cause of the problem was related to the hose valve cover on the PCV valve. The faulty valve leaked and caused the system to function improperly. Replacement of the valve usually fixes the problem, and Ford ultimately redesigned the valve cover in later years. Fortunately, this is a pretty cheap repair. Most people are able to perform the repair on their own, and the part typically only costs about $20.
— Ignition System Problems
The EcoBoost engine has had many reports of problems with the ignition system. Remember that the ignition system is not simply the car key. The ignition system includes the key, battery, spark plugs, and ignition coil packs. It comprises everything that causes the engine to fire at the right time. Most of the ignition problems with the EcoBoost V6 seem to be caused by carbon buildup.
When excess carbon buildup occurs, drivers might experience a decrease in performance, loss of power, engine misfires, a check engine light, and other issues. You can usually remove a spark plug to determine whether the carbon buildup is excessive. If the spark plug is black with soot, then carbon buildup is becoming a problem. When carbon builds up, it can also affect your intake valves, pistons, and other internal engine components. In many cases, replacing the spark plugs will fix the performance issues. The cost to replace spark plugs is usually around a couple of hundred dollars.
Typically, carbon buildup is caused by too much fuel in the combustion chamber. This could signal a problem with the fuel injection system, although a dirty air filter could be causing a lack of airflow in the intake system. Since this is a known issue in the Ford 3.5L EcoBoost engine, you might consider using a gasoline additive that helps reduce buildup. You should likely also have a mechanic diagnose the problem so that it can be corrected before any serious damage is done.
— Coolant Leaks
A problem with coolant leaks has plagued many of the EcoBoost V6 engines since 2011. The coolant leak does not usually affect drivability in most cases, as long as you keep a regular check on your coolant level. However, when the coolant gets low, your engine could overheat and cause serious damage.
The turbo fittings are one of the most common culprits for a coolant leak. You might not even notice drips of coolant from the fittings. They might simply be moist to the touch. The coolant hose fittings are also common causes of the leak. Replacing the fitting on the lower coolant hose is not that expensive, although replacing turbo fittings can be quite expensive. Make sure that you properly diagnose the problem before attempting to make the repair. Otherwise, you might waste money replacing a part that is not really broken.
— Carbon Buildup
Carbon buildup is a big issue with the EcoBoost engines, and the problem applies to the F-150 EcoBoost, F-150 Raptor EcoBoost, and other vehicles with the engine. This buildup is usually caused by too much fuel in the combustion chamber, and it can lead to fouled spark plugs, misfires, increased fuel consumption, and other problems.
There are induction cleaning products on the market that will help clean carbon deposits from your engine. These products are injected directly into the intake, but these products are not usually suggested for the EcoBoost engine! Most of these induction cleaning products are not safe to use with the EcoBoost turbocharger, and you could do serious damage to the turbines, seals, and bearings in the turbo by using an induction cleaner.
Ford’s solution to the problem is a recommendation to use high-quality fuel. In addition, Ford redesigned part of the PCV system and released new calibrations in later years. These fixes help alleviate the carbon buildup problem, so most of the newer EcoBoost engines no longer have this issue.
History Of The Ford 3.5L EcoBoost Engine
Car manufacturers are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of large-displacement engines. With that in mind, Ford designed the EcoBoost engine to help reduce emissions. The EcoBoost is a twin-turbo, direct injection V6 engine. The engine was designed to produce a similar level of horsepower and torque as larger V-8 engines. However, the EcoBoost V6 can produce those horsepower and torque specs while reducing emissions by around 15% and getting improved fuel economy. For example, towing with your F-150 is not a problem with the EcoBoost since it produces similar power and torque numbers as the prior V-8 engines in those trucks.
Ford traditionally used a V-8 engine in many of its popular models, including the F-150, Explorer, Expedition, and others. The engines in most of these models have been replaced by the EcoBoost. There have been a few different variations of the EcoBoost, and Ford has corrected many of the early problems with the engine.
Vehicles Where You Will Find The Ford 3.5 EcoBoost Engine
Given the popularity and reliability of the Ford EcoBoost engine, Ford has gone all in with this motor. The engine is used in many different models across the Ford brand. Ford even places the engine in some of its Lincoln vehicles as well. Here is a list of all the vehicles where you can find the EcoBoost engine.
- Ford F-150
- Ford F-150 Raptor
- Ford Explorer
- Ford Expedition
- Ford Flex
- Ford GT
- Ford Taurus
- Ford Transit
- Ford Police Interceptor Utility Vehicle
- Ford Police Interceptor Sedan
- Lincoln Navigator
- Lincoln MKS
- Lincoln MKT
Reliability Of The Ford F-150 EcoBoost Engine
With so many of these engines on the road, you might be wondering how reliable these motors are. The 3.5 EcoBoost reliability seems to be quite high. It is not uncommon for some EcoBoost engines to have over 200,000 miles on them. They have proven that they can last for many years and many miles. Although they have a few common problems, none of these problems are detrimental to the engine in most cases.
There is one important note about the reliability of the EcoBoost engine that you should know. Since the engine is turbocharged, proper maintenance is crucial. While maintenance is critical to the longevity of any engine, it is even more important with the EcoBoost. The engine is subjected to high temperatures and high compression because of the turbochargers. With that in mind, regular oil changes and other maintenance items are a must. You should always use the oil and fluids recommended by Ford as well when performing maintenance.
The Bottom Line
There are hundreds of thousands of 3.5L EcoBoost engines on the road today, and Ford puts them in many of their vehicles. The engine produces roughly the same power and torque as much larger V-8 engines, although it uses far less fuel and produces fewer emissions. While the EcoBoost engine has proven to be quite reliable, there are a few common problems. Carbon buildup is one of the most common problems across almost all year models, and PCV system issues and coolant leaks plague a few models. Overall, the EcoBoost is a great engine that will likely be around for many more years.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the life expectancy of the 3.5 EcoBoost?
You can expect a 3.5 EcoBoost to last well over 100,000 miles when properly maintained. There are many EcoBoost engines out there with over 200,000 miles on them. Regular maintenance is critical to the lifespan of the EcoBoost since it is turbocharged. Turbocharged engines experience more wear and tear, so you must be vigilant in performing regular oil changes and other recommended maintenance.
How does the 3.5 EcoBoost compare to other engines?
The 3.5 EcoBoost stacks up well against other engines. The EcoBoost has proven to be an extremely reliable engine, and the specs cannot be argued. The engine produces horsepower and torque numbers similar to the 5.0L V-8 engine that it usually replaces. In addition, the fuel economy of the EcoBoost is much higher than larger engines, and the number of problems with the motor is pretty low.
What are the causes of 3.5 EcoBoost problems?
One of the most significant Ford Ecoboost problems is carbon buildup. This buildup can lead to spark plug issues, ignition system problems, and other consequences. The specific cause of the problem can be hard to diagnose in some cases, although it is usually the result of too much fuel or too little airflow. In some cases, a leaky PCV valve might cause the issue. Ford redesigned a few components in later model years, and the issue seems to have improved significantly.
Other than carbon buildup, there are a few other Ford EcoBoost engine problems reported. Turbo fittings can be the cause of coolant leaks. Similarly, the faulty PCV valve can also cause high emissions or smoke from the engine. Lastly, a software problem led to calibration issues that resulted in a loss of power, misfires, and a few other problems.
Is the 3.5 EcoBoost engine a good engine?
Yes, most everyone agrees that the 3.5 EcoBoost is a good engine. The engine has high reliability, and the fuel economy is great for an engine that produces as much power as the EcoBoost. Towing with this engine is not a problem, and the engine also works well for sedans just cruising around town. The 3.5 EcoBoost is a great overall engine that will likely stick around for many more years.