500,000-Mile 6.0L Power Stroke: How To Make The Impossible Possible
In the world of diesel trucks, the 6.0L Power Stroke is seldom remembered for enjoying a long service life. Per its manufacturer, Navistar International, the 6.0L Power Stroke’s lower horsepower brother, the VT365, carries a B50 life of 350,000 to 375,000 miles. Obviously, the higher horsepower and torquier 6.0L Power Stroke built specifically for Ford would’ve had a lower B50 life. However, a shorter life expectancy combined with its hideous reputation for EGR, head gasket, oil cooler, turbo and injection system failures makes finding a high-mile 6.0L Power Stroke all the more impressive. While rare, it isn’t unheard of to see half a million miles on an ’03-’07 Super Duty’s odometer. Here’s why.
With proper maintenance, regular use and EGR system and oil cooler remedies, a 6.0L Power Stroke can be made to blow past the 300,000-mile mark with few, if any issues. The engine might need an injector or two along the way, or an EGR valve, but it can done. Whether you’re holding onto your 6.0L for the foreseeable future because you want to or you’re keeping it due to the low resale value the ’03-’07 Super Duty’s bring, the following is intended to give you the absolute best chance of seeing 300,000, 400,000 and even 500,000 miles rack up on your odometer.
Rigorous Maintenance Regimen
If there is one thing the 6.0L Power Stroke doesn’t tolerate, it’s lack of maintenance. Clean fuel, especially clean oil and regular, up-to-date care is mandatory—not a suggestion. For best filter performance and longevity, stick with factory, Motorcraft replacement parts—and don’t forget that there are two fuel filters. Replace them both every 15,000 miles, if not sooner.
Engine oil is the only area we would allow anything other than OEM-spec Motorcraft to be used in a 6.0L—so long as it’s a high-quality oil (such as Amsoil’s pictured 5W-40 synthetic) and the correct weight. In colder climates, 5W-40 will yield better injector and injection system performance (remember, the 6.0L relies on highly pressurized engine oil to activate the fuel injectors) while southern trucks can typically get away with running 15W-40, even in the winter months.
Follow The Severe Service Oil Change Interval
For lighter use, Ford recommends 7,500-mile (or 6-month) oil changes for the 6.0L Power Stroke. However, being that the 6.0L’s engine oil is pressurized as high as 3,600 psi within the HEUI injection system, observing the “severe service” interval of 5,000 miles is recommended by anyone that knows a thing or two about these engines. When an engine oil is subjected to the kinds of high pressure stress present in the 6.0L, its shear stability is paramount—and it’s rumored that the 6.0L essentially turns 40W rated oil into 30W oil within the first 1,000 miles. This is why running a high-quality engine oil is so important. But on top of the shearing effect, an active EGR system effectively contaminates the engine oil with soot deposits—all the more reason to change the engine oil sooner rather than later.
Cooling System Maintenance & Added Filtration
Beyond engine oil, running the correct coolant is vital for any 6.0L Power Stroke. If you deviate away from Motorcraft Gold, make sure your replacement antifreeze is superior. And just as important, make sure you observe all coolant flush intervals (100,000 miles or 5 years, then every 45,000 miles or 3 years after that.). The 6.0L’s cooling system is highly taxed by its EGR system, which calls on coolant to drop exhaust gas temps from 1,200 degrees F to a mere 300 degrees F before some of that exhaust can be routed back into the intake tract. The external filter you see here (behind the oil bypass filter, another aftermarket addition) is part of a contraption that should be added to every 6.0L engine. It’s a coolant filtration system, which slowly removes suspended contaminants, casting sand and other debris from the cooling system—contaminants that would otherwise plug up the coolant passages within the oil cooler, eventually lead to super heating of the engine oil and cause a myriad of problems (including the notorious EGR cooler failure).
EGR Valve Cleaning
In many cases, the EGR valve is more problematic than the EGR cooler. The issue is carbon buildup hindering the valve’s ability to function properly. Although it’s not talked about in circles where emissions equipment has been removed, fully-compliant 6.0L engines should be treated to an EGR valve cleaning at least every 20,000 miles, but preferably every other oil change. Luckily, the EGR valve is located at the front of the intake manifold, making it fairly easy to access when it’s time for a cleaning.
Keep Tabs On Your Batteries
You won’t find this in the owner’s manual, but keeping tab on your 6.0L’s charging system is vital to ensuring the engine continues to operate at its peak. Say what? Long story short, a dying battery means a dying fuel injection control module (FICM)—the module in charge of sending the 48-volt signal to the injector solenoids telling them precisely when to fire. A slowly dying battery gradually damages the power board side of the FICM, which eventually exposes itself in the form of poor starting, injector misfire codes and a rough running engine. For preventative maintenance, have both batteries tested each fall to ensure their voltage is good and also have the alternator checked out every other season.
The Best $70 You Ever Spent: The Blue Spring Upgrade
With regularly-changed, high quality oil running through the oil side of the 6.0L’s HEUI injectors, the fuel side of them can benefit from a factory upgrade that costs less than $70. Ford’s blue spring kit (PN 3C3Z-9T517-AG) consists of a longer fuel pressure regulator spring that’s blue in color (hence the name), which replaces the factory spring. The longer spring allows more fuel pressure to be created at the regulator, which means higher fuel pressure is supplied to the injectors. Most stock 6.0L’s see 40 to 48 psi worth of fuel pressure—but for optimum lubrication and cooling the injectors need to see at least 45 psi at all times. Performing the blue spring upgrade raises pressure 10 to 15 psi for a little extra breathing room. Most engines see a very desirable 65 psi at idle once the blue spring has been installed, and sufficient fuel pressure equals longer injector life.
To Stud Or Not To Stud?
For 6.0L Power Strokes that are kept at the factory power level (i.e. not aggressively tuned via an aftermarket programmer), blowing a head gasket isn’t a big worry until higher miles or heavy towing is a regular part of the engine’s workload. We’ve seen highly-used, bone-stock 6.0L’s have very few issues when left at the factory 325hp rating, but we’ve also seen several bone-stock 6.0L’s lift a head after being repeatedly asked to tow well beyond the truck’s gross combined weight rating. If you do manage to pop a head gasket, fixing the problem with factory replacement gaskets and anchoring everything back down with head studs is the best way to make sure it never happens again. In summation, don’t go out of your way to install head studs until you have head gasket trouble. Many head gaskets survive just fine at the factory power rating.
High Mileage Isn’t Guaranteed—But It Is Most Definitely Possible
None of the maintenance tips included here guarantee a 6.0L will enjoy a trouble-free journey to 500,000 miles, but rather that superior care is paramount in making it happen. To be clear, a high-mile 6.0L has likely received a set of new injectors, an EGR valve and maybe even received a fresh oil cooler at some point, but the same can be said of plenty of other high-mile diesels. Some go the distance while others do not. A strict maintenance regimen is all about increasing the odds of an engine lasting as long as possible. Full disclaimer: the odometer photo at the beginning of this article is for real. The 500,000-mile 6.0L Super Duty belongs to one (of several) long-time customers of PSP Diesel in South Houston, Texas.
More From Driving Line
- Ready for a comprehensive list on how to solve every 6.0L problem for good? Get started with Part 1 of our “6.0L Power Stroke Problems” series right here.