6.0L EGR/Oil Cooler Upgrade

by Rob Gaskell, Jr. and Rob Gaskell, Sr.

The Bulletproof EGR Cooler and Engine Oil Cooler were developed by Bulletproof Diesel to address two of the most significant reliability problems from with the 6.0L Powerstroke suffers. Aside from head gasket failure, leaking EGR coolers and clogged or leaking engine oil coolers are the most dreaded as well as the most predictable failures every 6.0L will suffer at some point in its service life. These failures and the high, recurring costs that result from repeat failures of Original Equipment replacement parts, cause many 6L owners to consider replacing their Super Duty trucks. This is typically not the most economical choice since the 6.0L resale value has depreciated significantly due to these and other reliability concerns. The availability of the Bulletproof Engine Oil and EGR Cooler upgrades, along with ARP Head Stud Installation, have provided a more economical option as well as the opportunity to eliminate repeat failures for the rest of the engine's service life.

Bulletproof Diesel products are available for installation or purchase at factory-direct prices from Fleet Service Northwest, Inc.

Check out our Ford Diesel Store for details.

The Issues

The original 6.0L Powerstroke engine oil cooler and EGR cooler suffer from a variety of failures and performance issues. In addition to the failure of the coolers themselves, there are several issues which often result from poor cooler performance or failure.

Engine Oil Cooler Issues

The two most common failures of this cooler include clogging of the coolant passages and due to deposits, which form as a result of contaminated or unmaintained coolant, and internal leakage between the coolant and oil passages. The first of these issues, clogging of the coolant passages, results in a higher than normal engine oil temperature. The best way to prevent damage due to unnoticed engine oil cooler clogging is to have the vehicle maintained by a qualified repair facility that inspects engine oil operating temperatures regularly and is qualified to recognize signs of trouble, as well as performing cooling system flushes approximately every two years, depending on usage.

This failure can lead to premature engine wear, fuel injector failure, and localized overheating of engine components. Engine oil in the 6L is used not only as a lubricant but also as a high-pressure hydraulic fluid in fuel injector operation. Engine oil is also used as a method of cooling engine components such as pistons, adding to the threat of localized overheating. This localized overheating is typically not indicated by the engine coolant temperature gauge and may go unnoticed by the driver, increasing the importance of proper maintenance by a qualified facility. The latest software updates for the 6.0L contain enhanced cooling system monitoring. This is why it is important to keep your truck's control module software up to date. This new programs will better alert you to an overheating condition by changes in the temperature gauge if high engine oil temperatures are present. This condition will also set a trouble code, and turn on the amber wrench light on the instrument cluster.

The second of the common oil cooler failures, leakage between the coolant and oil passages, is more serious and can lead to severe engine damage. The best way to prevent this failure is to eliminate the stock engine oil cooler and replace it with a Bulletproof Engine Oil Cooler, which is an air-to-oil rather than coolant-to-oil cooler. This eliminates the possibility that oil will leak into the cooling system since there is no longer a vulnerable connection between the two systems.

The most apparent symptom of a leaking engine oil cooler is the presence of oil in the coolant expansion bottle, as well as a milky appearance and consistency of engine oil or coolant. Since engine oil is under greater pressure than engine coolant, more oil typically enters the cooling system than coolant enters the engine crankcase. This oil contamination can cause sludge to build up in the cooling system, reducing cooling to critical engine parts, leading to localized overheating and premature failure of these parts. If left unnoticed, it can also reduce engine oil level and cause engine failure. Also, if enough coolant does enter the crankcase, it can contaminate and dilute the engine oil, removing its ability to lubricate engine components, leading to severe engine damage such as camshaft and crankshaft bearing failures and valve train damage.

EGR Cooler Issues

The 6.0Liter Powerstroke EGR cooler is mounted below the intake manifold on the right-hand side of the engine. This cooler is prone to rupturing, allowing coolant to leak into the exhaust system. This is often referred to as a "blown EGR cooler." The best way to prevent damage due to EGR cooler failure is to properly maintain or eliminate the stock engine oil cooler, as explained above, as well as to upgrade the EGR system with a Bulletproof EGR Cooler, which to date has never had a reported failure and features a lifetime warranty.

Common symptoms include steam from the exhaust while driving, as well as coolant loss with no evidence of external leakage. It is essential that possible head gasket leakage is ruled out if these symptoms are present, as either can be a sign of head gasket failure. The EGR Cooler uses engine coolant to cool exhaust gases which are reintroduced into the engine's intake to cool combustion temperatures and reduce nitrous oxide emissions. The EGR Cooler commonly fails due to overheating and boiling of the coolant inside it, rupturing it and causing coolant to leak into the exhaust manifold. This overheating in the cooler is sometimes caused by low coolant flow to the cooler since coolant must pass first through the stock engine oil cooler before it is delivered to the EGR cooler. As the engine oil cooler begins to clog, the EGR cooler is starved for coolant. If the cooler leaks while the engine is not running, the coolant can enter engine cylinders through open exhaust valves. Attempting to start the engine after the coolant has entered a cylinder can lead to hydro locking, where the incompressible coolant in the cylinder stops the engine from turning. The affected cylinder's connecting rod may bend as a result, requiring significant internal engine repairs or engine replacement to correct.

Resultant Failures and Concerns

Failure or poor performance of the 6Liter Powerstroke EGR and engine oil coolers can lead to failure of other engine components and other engine reliability concerns. The best way to prevent additional damage due to the failure of these coolers is to upgrade them or maintain them properly, and immediately address problems that arise. As explained above, a clogged engine oil cooler is often a cause of EGR cooler failure due to low coolant flow to the EGR cooler. Additionally, low coolant levels due to EGR cooler leakage is often a factor in head gasket failure , also known as "blown head gaskets," as is high engine oil temperatures caused by clogged engine oil coolers. Localized overheating at the cylinder heads can result from both these conditions, contributing to the head bolt stretch which frequently causes head gasket failure. It is essential that machining of the cylinder head surfaces is performed when replacing head gaskets, despite Ford's stance that the heads cannot be machined.

High engine oil operating temperatures can also lead to fuel injector damage. The fuel injectors on a 6.0L Powerstroke are operated by high-pressure engine oil, as described in our article, Powerstroke Diesel Injection. Improperly cooled engine oil can reach temperatures of more than 40 degrees F above normal operating temperature during typical driving conditions. When towing or pulling steep hills, this temperature can become significantly higher. This overheated engine oil is then pressurized by the high-pressure oil pump (HPOP), adding additional heat in the process before being delivered to the fuel injectors. Overheating of the fuel injectors then leads to premature wear and failure of the precision mechanical and electrical components found within the injectors.

The Answers

Owners of the 6.0L Powerstroke often express a desire to replace their trucks with an earlier model Ford or another make, either due to a history of problems with their own truck or because of worry over potential problems that they have yet to experience. Because this is such a widespread attitude, the 6.0L-powered Super Duty has depreciated significantly in value, offering resale values which are relatively low compared to the very high purchase price the trucks originally demanded, leading to losses which are greater than the cost of maintenance and upgrades which significantly improve the reliability of the 6.0L. The upgrades and maintenance procedures related to the EGR and engine oil coolers recommended by Fleet Service Northwest, Inc. are the subject of this section.

Engine Oil Cooler Answers

As explained above, the engine oil cooler is a significant reliability issue with the 6.0L PSD. Fortunately, there is a permanent solution which has been developed by Bulletproof Diesel. The Bulletproof Diesel Engine Oil Cooler system for the 6.0L has proven to be a great improvement over the stock cooler, not only in its proven reliability but also in its improved cooling of engine oil.

The Bulletproof Engine Oil Cooler is an air-to-oil cooler which mounts to the rear of the air conditioning condenser. This mounting location allows optimal cooling of engine oil without reducing the performance of the vehicle's air conditioning system. Installation of this cooler helps reduce engine oil temperatures, especially when towing heavy loads and eliminates the recurring problems for which the stock engine oil cooler is notorious.

The Bulletproof Engine Oil Cooler kit includes everything which is necessary to install the engine oil cooler, including the oil transfer block, and remote-mounted engine oil filter system. The Full Bulletproof Kit also includes a Bulletproof EGR Cooler at a discounted price compared to buying the coolers separately.

EGR Cooler Answers

The EGR Cooler is another significant source of Powerstroke trouble which Bulletproof Diesel has addressed for both the 6.0L and 6.4L engines. The Bulletproof EGR Coolers for both engines feature lifetime warranties and have already proven to be a great way to permanently solve an otherwise recurring problem with these engines. The Bulletproof coolers accomplish this through much more robust construction than the stock coolers, and by holding a higher volume of coolant, reducing the likelihood of coolant boiling within the cooler. This is done without taking up additional space in the engine compartment, as the Bulletproof EGR coolers are actually made by replacing the internal components in a stock cooler.

The Full Bulletproof Package

The Full Bulletproof Package is the most economical way to upgrade all of the 6.0L's most serious reliability issues, and includes ARP Head Stud installation combined with Bulletproof EGR and Engine Oil Cooler installation, all at once. The economy of this service comes from the elimination of significant repeated labor which would be required if performing each of these upgrades separately. Replacing the EGR cooler and replacing or upgrading the engine oil cooler both require removal of the intake manifold. The labor for these services accounts for approximately 1/3 of the labor required for head gasket replacement. This is one important reason that we recommend trucks receiving EGR and oil cooler replacement also receive and ARP Head Stud installation in combination with these repairs.

It has been our experience that many trucks which experience stock EGR cooler failure and do not receive ARP Head Stud installation at the same time, will experience head gasket failure in a short period of time following EGR cooler failure. This may be attributed to the EGR cooler failure itself, as described above, as well as to the general problem of 6.0L head gasket failure. Even if EGR cooler failure has not contributed in a significant way to head gasket failure, it is a predictable and preventable failure which is more economical to address preventively in combination with, rather than separate from, EGR and engine oil cooler upgrade and repair.

The Decision

Remember a day in America when the local auto parts store, hardware store, and other local businesses sold products they believed in, and the person at the counter recommended products not by reading a computer screen telling them what to sell, and not based on the commission they make, but on their expertise and experience? People whose desire to run a profitable business came after the love of their Country, and their desire to do what is right? If not, do you at least remember your dad or grandpa talking about such a day? A day before the big chain stores sold rows and rows of Chinese products that the manager and sales people know nothing about? Its been said that those days are gone, never to return, but these are exactly the principles that we have founded our business on, and we aim to do our part in restoring the America that we all long to live in.

Now that we've gone through the 6.0L's EGR and engine oil cooler problems, and the recommended repairs, it may seem to some owners that these trucks aren't worth keeping due to high maintenance costs, especially if you're facing one of these issues at this time. It is important to take all factors into account when considering replacing a truck since even major repairs are usually a more economical choice. The biggest factor is, of course, the purchase price of a new or used truck compared to the trade-in value of a 6.0L-powered truck. As mentioned before, the value of these trucks has depreciated due to their widespread problems, and the resulting desire of many owners to replace them with Duramax and Cummins-powered trucks, or other Ford trucks, has helped keep the resale value of these other trucks high. A new truck payment may be $700 or more and still requires periodic preventive maintenance, meaning that a new truck may cost $10,000 a year just in payments and maintenance for the first few years.

Most 6.0L trucks are paid for by now or are nearly paid for, and even in some worst-case scenarios, average yearly maintenance will not come close to the cost of a new truck. Add this to the fact that the Ford Super Duty chassis is more robust and more capable than any other chassis in the light truck market. The powertrains on other trucks may lack the major reliability issues, but the trucks themselves just don't measure up to the legendary Super Duty platform.

If repairs and upgrades are performed correctly, and the preventive maintenance procedures recommended in this article and by the manufacturer are performed, the 6.0L Powerstroke can serve its owners economically for years to come. This means that the only reason to get rid of most 6.0L-powered trucks is that you are willing to pay more to have something different, or because you no longer need a truck and won't be replacing it. As the saying goes, it's usually worth more to you, than it is to anyone else.

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