7 Common Ford F-150 3.5L EcoBoost Problems And How to Fix Them

3.5L EcoBoost Reliability

Ford F-150 trucks with the 3.5L Ecoboost V6 turbocharged engine are very popular for a reason. Despite their sophistication compared to naturally-aspirated powertrains, the Ford F-150 3.5L Ecoboost has proven itself to be quite reliable. This is especially true in regards to second generation 3.5L EcoBoost engines as they seemed to have worked the kinks out. 1st Generation Ford F-150s with the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 Engine experience more problems that are commonly associated with any new engine platform. They just had to work out the initial problems, many of which could be solved by simple software problems.

Just because the 3.5L EcoBoost engines are overall great, reliable trucks, that doesn’t mean that problems don’t exist. In this post, we’ll go over the most common 3.5L EcoBoost engine problems, along with how to prevent them, and how to fix them.

Photo taken from the Ford Media Website.

1st Generation 3.5L EcoBoost Carbon Build-Up Problems

Carbon build-up is primarily found on 1st Generations of the 3.5L EcoBoost engine. 1st Gen 3.5L EcoBoost engines only use a direct fuel injection, where fuel is directly injected into the cylinders. The result is carbon accumulation, as there is no fuel being washed over the intake valves. Eventually, the carbon deposits can accumulate to the point that they effectively choke your engine and reduce performance.

The second generation 3.5L EcoBoost uses port fuel injection in addition to direct fuel injection, which does a good job at significantly removing carbon accumulation from your truck. That’s why this problem is pretty much isolated to first generation 3.5L EcoBoost engines.

Once excessive carbon accumulation occurs, Air flow going into the cylinders is restricted. It’s common to experience power loss, rough idling, or sometimes even engine misfiring. Thankfully, there are ways to deal with this issue and even prevent it.

How To Fix and Prevent Carbon Accumulation on your 3.5L EcoBoost

The best course of action in addressing the Carbon Accumulation problem is preventing it altogether. The aftermarket came out with Catch Can Kits for dealing with blow-by and carbon accumulation. Basically, mounted catch cans route blow-by away from your intake and valves and accumulate it in a “Catch Can” in all conditions. Catch Cans need to be emptied periodically, so make sure you establish a base line to establish your emptying intervals.

Mishimoto Oil Catch Can Kit

Mishimoto Baffled Oil Catch Can

Mishimoto’s 2011-2014 Ford F-150 3.5L EcoBoost Catch Can Kit addresses the First Generation 3.5L EcoBoost Carbon Accumulation problem and keeps your intake and valves clean.

If it’s too late and your 3.5L EcoBoost is already experience carbon accumulation issues, walnut blasting can clean everything up. It’s best to leave this repair to a shop though. Stay away from aftermarket DIY induction cleaners. They can cause more damage than good and can actually damage turbocharger components.

3.5L EcoBoost PCV Problems

Another problem with 1st Generation 3.5L EcoBoost engine occurs predominantly in 2013-2015 models and is due to the design of the positive crankcase ventilation hose valve cover adaptor. This problem often causes blue or white smoke coming from the exhaust, especially after periods of extended idling.

How to Fix It

Fixing this common PCV problem is as simple as removing the old positive crankcase ventilation hose valve cover adaptor with Ford’s redesigned one.

Ford Redesigned PCV Hose Valve Cover Adaptor:HL2Z-6762-A 

Timing Chain Issues

A side effect of turbocharging is the extreme stress it puts on engine oil. If you neglect maintenance on your F-150, you can experience timing chain wear on your 3.5L EcoBoost pretty early. The chain tensioner and pulleys can also wear out. When this occurs, a malfunction indicator lamp may become visible with trouble diagnostic code P0016. Other codes could also be present as well. Another indicator of timing chain wear is a rattle occurring during cold starts.

When this problem is present, it has to be fixed right away. Otherwise, it can lead to other problems.

How to Fix It And Prevent It

Timing Chain wear is one of the most expensive 3.5L EcoBoost Problems to fix, as it takes a good amount of labor to complete properly. If you can extend the time before you have to complete this repair on your truck, that would be ideal for your wallet. We recommend being extremely strict about your 3.5L EcoBoost Maintenance. Change your oil and oil filter early. If you use your truck for heavy towing, off-roading, or for commercial purposes follow the OEM recommended severe service intervals.

Also, you need to use good quality engine oil and oil filters. Using aftermarket engine oil or oil that doesn’t meet Ford’s specifications for these engines can also lead to premature failure.

Best 3.5L EcoBoost Engine Oil

Motorcraft SAE 5W-30 Synthetic Blend Motor Oil

Probably the best engine oil to use in your 3.5L EcoBoost is Motorcraft SAE 5w-30 Premium Synthetic Blend.

Best 3.5L EcoBoost Engine Oil Filter

Motorcraft FL-500-S

The best 3.5L EcoBoost Engine Oil Filter to assure quality is the Motorcraft FL-500S engine oil filter.

If you are unlucky enough to have this problem occur on your truck, get it taken care of right away. Take it to a quality mechanic or a good dealership. You’re also better off changing the timing chain along with the other worn-out parts at the same time.

Intercooler Condensation

Intercooler condensation is one of the 3.5L EcoBoost problems that’s found in First Generation 3.5L EcoBoost engines, specifically for the 2011-2012 model years. Common symptoms of Intercooler condensation include intermittent stumbling, misfiring, or trouble codes. It predominantly occurs in humid environments like Florida after hard acceleration, extended drives at highway speeds, or heavy towing.

Ford rectified this by re-designing the intercooler, or charge air cooler, in later models. But if you are the proud owner of a 2011-2012 Ford F-150, this is something you could experience in humid climates. Ford released a TSB for fixing this problem. Which we’ll go over in the section below. There are other ways to solve this problem than OEM recommendations as well.

How to Fix It

Before doing anything, Ford requires the technician to take multiple precautions and truly isolate the problem to the intercooler. Misfire Freeze Frame data should show the truck operating at above 2,500 rpms with a 100% load. You will also need to make sure your truck isn’t equipped with the newer, re-designed intercooler. If it’s not, then you are likely experiencing trapped moisture in the intercooler, or intercooler condensation.

2011-2012 Ford F-150 3.5L EcoBoost Intercooling Condensation Problem
Original Intercooler/Deflector Design on 2011-2012 Ford F-150 trucks with the 3.5L EcoBoost Engine. Picture taken from Ford TSB 13-8-1.

After taking these necessary precautions and isolating the problem to the intercooler, Ford recommends removing the existing air deflector from the top of the intercooler. Then, you will need to install a re-designed air deflector on the bottom of the intercooler and re-program the PCM.

3.5L EcoBoost Problems - Intercooling Condensation
Updated Air Deflector plate installed on old 2011 Ford F-150 3.5L EcoBoost. Picture taken from Ford TSB 13-8-1.

Other Solutions For Condensation being trapped in the intercooler include replacing the intercooler altogether or drilling a 1/16″ hole in the bottom of the intercooler. We recommend Intercooler replacement as you not only fix the problem, but its also a great 3.5L Ecoboost Ford F-150 upgrade. If you choose to simply drill a hole in the bottom of the intercooler, you can create a leak in the system which can lead to other issues.

Upgraded 2011-2014 3.5L EcoBoost Intercoolers

2011-2014 Ford F-150 3.5L EcoBoost Mishimoto Intercooler Kit

Mishimoto Performance InterCooler Kit

Cool down charge air temperatures and get rid of condensation in your intercooler with Mishimoto’s Intercooler and Pipe kit for the 2011-2014 Ford F-150 3.5L EcoBoost. This kit was designed specifically for 2011-2014 trucks with the 3.5L EcoBoost engine and it offers better performance than the factory Intercooler by a long shot! This intercooler has an 88% increased core size, 66% greater interval core volume and a 40% increase in external fin surface area. Also included is silicone piping to replace that restrictive factory piping for improved performance.

2011-2014 Ford F-150 3.5L EcoBoost Performance Intercooler

Mishimoto Performance Intercooler

Just looking to replace your intercooler? Mishimoto’s Performance Intercooler offers greater internal and external core sizes. It also includes a 1/4″ NPT drain plug incorporated in the bottom mount.

For more upgrades, visit our 3.5L EcoBoost Performance Upgrades Post.

3.5L EcoBoost Ignition System Problems

The 3.5L EcoBoost V6 Engine provides incredible performance and fuel economy for a gasoline-powered engine, especially when it was introduced in the 2011 Ford F-150. The twin-turbocharger system is a key contributor, and while it definitely provides huge advantages over the F-150s naturally aspirated powertrains, it requires more frequent maintenance, specifically with the ignition system. One of the most common 3.5L EcoBoost Problems is Carbon Accumulation in the Ignition system.

Carbon build-up is common in the ignition systems of 3.5L EcoBoost engines compared to naturally aspirated models like the 5.0L V8 engine or 3.3L V6, resulting in more frequent need for changing spark plugs and ignition coils.

2019 Ford F-150 Limited 3.5L EcoBoost
2019 Ford F-150 Limited with the 3.5L EcoBoost High-Output V-6 Engine. Picture Taken from Ford Media.

How to Fix It

If your truck begins to run rough, misfire, or power and fuel economy begins to suffer, check your spark plugs and boots for signs of carbon tracks. If any signs are present, replace all of the spark plugs and boots. This will often solve the problem. Another good preventative measure is to change your spark plugs every 40,000-50,000 miles. It seems excessive, but it will keep your truck operating well for years to come.

The ignition coils will also fail earlier compared to naturally aspirated powertrains, but not usually at the same intervals as the Spark Plugs. They will last longer. If you’re approaching 70,000-80,000 miles on your 3.5L EcoBoost, just keep them in mind because you will be changing them soon. Check out other tips for longevity and servicing these trucks on our 3.5L EcoBoost V6 Engine Maintenance Guide.

Ford F-150 3.5L EcoBoost V6 Engine Spark Plugs

Model YearPartPart Name/Number
2011-2016Spark PlugsMotorcraft SP-580
2017-2021Spark PlugsMotorcraft SP-594
2022+Spark PlugsMotorcraft SP-596

Ford F-150 3.5L EcoBoost V6 Engine Ignition Coils

Model YearPartPart Name/Number
2011-2016Ignition CoilsMotorcraft DG-549
2017-2020Ignition CoilsMotorcraft DG-585
2021-2022Ignition CoilsMotorcraft DG-584

Calibration Problems

Another problem commonly associated with the First Generation 3.5L EcoBoost Engines is calibration issues. Ford issued numerous calibration and software updates to fix problems with Ignition, Shifting, and Vacuum. At this point in 2022, most older F-150s on the road likely have the latest updates to their PCM to resolve these issues. If you are experiencing strange operation of your truck, especially if mileage is low and the truck is in good shape, make sure the PCM has the latest calibrations.

How to Fix Calibration Issues

If you are experiencing issues that could be related to the vehicles existing PCM calibrations, take your truck to the dealer. They can make sure your PCM is up-to-date and if it’s not, they can recalibrate your truck. If the issue is not calibration, then you can rule it out and either trouble shoot the truck yourself, or they can diagnose your truck for you.

3.5L EcoBoost Coolant Leak Problems

Ford F-150s with the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 engine are also known to have a few common coolant leaking problems. This is why it’s so important to check your coolant levels periodically. Otherwise, you may experience overheating as a sign indicating a coolant leak. If left unresolved, coolant shortages and excessive overheating can cause very expensive problems. So be sure to be aware of what leaks on your 3.5L EcoBoost and stay on top of maintenance.

Quick-Connect Fitting Leak

The first, and more inexpensive coolant leak is found on the heater hose that connects to the Degas Bottle. 2011-2014 trucks came from the factory using quick-connect fitting with one o-ring. This design over time causes an often mis-diagnosed coolant leak because this fitting will leak coolant on components belonging to the turbocharger. Many technicians will then say the turbo fittings (the other common 3.5L EcoBoost coolant leak) need to be changed out when it is really just the quick connect fitting that is causing the leak.

An easy way to check is to run your hand underneath the quick-connect fitting and feel for coolant. If this part is leaking, it will be moist to the touch.

How to Fix It

To fix this problem you have two possible solutions. You can either replace the hose with a new one from Ford (Motorcraft PART # KH576) or you can utilize an aftermarket product from Pegasus racing products (Pegasus SHK-FORD-001-BLACK).

Turbocharger Fitting Leak

The more dreaded coolant leak found on the 3.5L EcoBoost engine is found on the Turbocharger fittings. This can be pin-pointed by a visual inspection of the lines going to the turbocharger and their appropriate fittings. Because of the location of these fittings, this repair is particularly laborious and can take almost 10 hours to complete.

How to Fix It

It’s best to leave this repair to either a dealer or a professional and experienced shop. Make sure you properly identify the turbo fitting leak. These leaks are often misdiagnosed and instead the quick-connect fitting is the actual culprit.

Learn More About the 3.5L EcoBoost

Visit some of our 3.5L EcoBoost Informative Posts by clicking on the links below.

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