EcoBoost ushered in a new era of powerful, fuel-efficient engines for nearly all Ford vehicles. However, it is not without problems.
For many, the notion of a Mustang or an F-150 Raptor powered by anything other than a big V8 was pure heresy. Can you imagine four or six-cylinder power? Well, that’s exactly what Ford has done, and the new EcoBoost series of turbocharged engines is now literally across the lineup.
Ford ranger? Yes. Ford explorer? Absolutely. The Transit Connect work van? It’s there too. It was even used in the Lincoln lineup on vehicles like Aviator, Corsair, etc.
Ford has invested heavily in its new series of turbocharged engines. The EcoBoost is available in three basic configurations, including inline-three, inline-four, and V6. They are all DOHC and turbocharged.
Let’s explore each engine type and look at the potential problems you should consider before purchasing a vehicle with an EcoBoost engine.
Is the 3.5-liter EcoBoost a good engine?
Ford’s smallest EcoBoost is available in a variety of sizes, including 1.0L (2012–present), 1.1L (2017-present), and 1.5L (2018-present). You’ll usually find the small three-cylinder engine in Ford’s small cars like the Focus, Fiesta, and EcoSport.
Ford’s smaller engines were not without some problems. Nearly 45,000 1.0L three-cylinder EcoBoost engines manufactured between 2011 and 2013 have been recalled. The problem was with a nylon coolant hose that could fail at high temperatures.
Additionally, although it is not really an “EcoBoost” problem, 2016 to 2018 Ford Focus models with three-cylinder engines and manual transmission may experience clutch failure, which can cause transmission fluid leaks. This fluid near a hot, running engine can increase the risk of fire. Again, while it’s not an engine issue, it’s definitely something to consider if you’re buying a Ford with a three-cylinder EcoBoost engine.
Preview of the inline four-cylinder EcoBoost
The four-cylinder EcoBoost is considerably more common than the three-cylinder and finds its way into almost everything Ford makes. Ford’s four-cylinder is available in 1.5L, 1.6L, 2.0L, and 2.3L configurations.
The 1.6L EcoBoost has made its way under several hoods, including the Focus, Fusion, and Escape, as well as a variety of VOLVO cars including the V40, V60, V70, S60, S80, and others.
The 1.5L engine is basically a downsized version of the 1.6L and was created partly to circumvent a displacement-based Chinese engine tax, but also to address issues that arose with the slightly larger 1.6L EcoBoost. More on that below! It can be found in the usual suspects for a smaller engine, including the 2015 Focus and 2015 C-Max. Ford also sold it as an entry-level engine for the 2014 Fusion sedan and the 2017-2019 Escape crossover as well.
Similarly, the first iteration of the 2.0L EcoBoost (used between 2010 and 2015) was used in most of these same vehicles, but also in the Ford Taurus, Edge and Explorer, Volvo XC60, Range Rover Evoque, Land Rover Freelander, and Discovery . . Sport, as well as the Lincoln MKC. The redesigned 2.0L debuted in 2015 and featured a new twin-scroll turbocharger. Finally, a high-performance 2.3L EcoBoost was used in the Mustang, Focus RS, Ranger, and even the new Bronco.
Inline Four EcoBoost Problems
Every four-cylinder EcoBoost has its share of reported problems. The 1.6-liter EcoBoost had its fair share of issues, both here in the US and in Europe. It was prone to oil leaks due to pressure irregularities as the oil passed through the engine. There were problems with overheating and the ignition of the oil.
Additional problems with cylinder coolant leaks were a widespread problem, and nearly 230,000 vehicles were recalled during the 2013-2015 model years. Not surprisingly, Ford replaced the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine with the 1.5-liter engine. So far, the 1.5 L EcoBoost seems to have solved many of the problems found in the 1.6 L.
Upon upgrading to the 2.0L EcoBoost engine, cracks in the exhaust manifold were reported, along with turbocharger control valve failure. Each problem can lead to a loss of engine power if not detected in time. Additionally, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Ford in 2020, focusing on most four-cylinder engines produced since 2010.
The allegation is that these EcoBoost engines have a critical flaw that causes coolant to leak into the cylinders. This can cause misfires, engine failure, or corrosion. Problems also appeared in the 2.0L EcoBoost engine due to low pressure in the fuel pump. Basically, the fuel filter could clog more easily than normal, which would negatively affect performance.
The performance-focused 2.3L engine reported bad head gaskets, overheating engines, and coolant in the exhaust. The use of an incorrect head gasket is believed to be the culprit. Additionally, some owners have reported carbon buildup on the intake valves, which can restrict airflow and also affect performance.
Introducing the EcoBoost V6
Ford’s largest set of EcoBoost engines comes in 2.7L, 3.0L, and 3.5L, and they are also fairly common in the modern Ford and Lincoln lineup. Bigger engines power bigger vehicles. The most popular is undoubtedly the F-150, and Ford sells many of them. It was a big gamble to put a smaller turbocharged engine in their best-selling vehicle, but it was a success.
You’ll find both the 2.7L EcoBoost engine and the 3.5L EcoBoost engine in Ford’s full-size truck. The 2.7L is also found in the Ford Fusion Sport and Ford Edge ST, as well as Lincoln’s Nautilus, MKX, and Continental.
The 2.7L engine was updated for 2018 and found its way to the F-150 and new Bronco. Between 2017 and 2020, Ford also sold a 3.0L EcoBoost for a variety of full- and midsize Ford and Lincoln models.
Back in 2007, Ford began selling a version of the larger EcoBoost, the 3.5L, initially called TwinForce. The first-generation 3.5L was not only found in the F-150 but also in larger Ford SUVs such as the Explorer, Flex, Expedition, and Lincoln Navigator.
An updated version of the 3.5L EcoBoost was launched in 2017 in an unlikely place: under the rear window of a Ford GT supercar. It was a big risk, but it paid off in the end, with the GT being the literal poster child of the EcoBoost. Since then, Ford has powered a ton of high-performance vehicles with versions of EcoBoost.
The newer 3.5L is a beast, naturally still appearing in the F-150 and larger Ford and Lincoln SUVs, but also in the latest version of the off-road-focused F-150 Raptor.
Problems with EcoBoost V6
The V6 EcoBoost engine series is not without its problems. The last generation 2.7L EcoBoost had some issues with a blown head gasket, but overall it seems like a pretty solid engine. Similarly, the 3.5L EcoBoost received very good reviews from a reliability standpoint.
Some initial reports of timing chain problems appear to be primarily attributed to a lack of routine maintenance. If the vehicle does not have regular oil changes, the timing chain can become misaligned.
Watch for carbon buildup around the spark plugs. It is usually caused by fuel or exhaust manifold leaks or excessive engine heat. The solution is quite simple: a spark plug replacement. Excessive smoke around the exhaust may be caused by a failure of the crankcase breather valve cover adapter.
Throughout the rest of the airflow system, there are reports of moisture buildup and moisture condensation within the EcoBoost’s intercooler, which can cause decreased performance.
Additionally, some aftermarket intake cleaners have been shown to have a real impact on airflow, so always use EcoBoost-approved products.
Generally speaking, it turns out that the smaller the EcoBoost is, the fewer things can go wrong. In reality, however, the more recent the EcoBoost, the more reliable it is likely to be.
Each of the various engine options, from the smallest 1.0L to the largest 3.5L, has multiple generations to troubleshoot. Do your homework and research when engines have been updated; Ford has likely fixed some known issues.
As always, check open reminders before purchasing, and if you can, do a pre-purchase inspection at a reputable store.