The "Cool" Aftermarket Addition Your 6.0L Power Stroke Can’t Live Without
Every internal combustion engine has a shortcoming or two. In the diesel world and in the case of the 6.0L Power Stroke, it’s got a long list of flaws. However, none its pitfalls are as important to address as the oil cooler—the heart of an engine that relies on a hydraulically activated fuel injection system. When the oil cooler’s coolant passages plug up, the engine oil becomes super-heated—the same oil that’s required to fill up the high-pressure oil pump, fire off the injectors, cool the turbo and lubricate the engine. Worse yet, oil cooler failure is behind nine out of 10 EGR cooler failures on the 6.0L Power Stroke, not to mention how hard 220+ degree oil temps are on bearings, injectors and everything else that depends on it.
So how do you prevent it? Install a coolant filtration system. By filtering small amounts of engine coolant at a time, these aftermarket systems eventually remove the factory casting sand, sediment fall-out, suspended solids and other debris—all of which contribute to a plugged oil cooler—from the cooling system. With less than $200 invested in a coolant filtration system you can literally save your 6.0L Power Stroke’s life.
What An Oil Cooler Failure Looks Like
When the miniscule coolant passages in the stacked plate heat exchanger module within the 6.0L Power Stroke’s OEM oil cooler plug up enough to block flow, this is soon the result. Located in the lifter valley of the engine, its replacement (or more commonly, its rebuild) is a very laborious and messy task. An oil cooler doesn’t plug up overnight, but rather over a period of thousands of miles. However, once sufficient coolant flow is stopped, engine oil temperature can skyrocket, sometimes even higher than 230 degrees.
How To Spot A Plugged Oil Cooler
Anyone driving a service truck, van or any 6.0L-powered vehicle without the ability to view accurate real-time engine coolant temperature and engine oil temperature is practically playing with fire. The two parameters should always be within 15 degrees F of each other. In the photo above, you can see that EOT is much higher than ECT—a telltale sign that the oil cooler is plugged and trouble is on its way. Aftermarket gauges, by way of digital or analog, are highly recommended in any 6.0L Power Stroke application exclusively for this reason. That’s how common oil cooler failure is…
Effective and affordable, coolant filtration systems have long been a popular way of removing oil cooler-plugging contaminants from the 6.0L’s cooling system. In doing so, they preserve the life of the 6.0L’s oil cooler tremendously. Most systems, such as the RCD Performance kit pictured above, retail for less than $180 and come with everything you need to install it. That includes a spin-on, replaceable coolant filter, filter base/distribution block, filter base mounting plate (which mounts directly to the radiator core support), silicone hoses, hose clamps and all required hardware. Some systems even come with supply and return side ball valves, so there’s no mess when you change coolant filters.
How The System Works
These bypass-style coolant filtration systems function by filtering a small volume of coolant at a time. The system’s presence doesn’t affect or hinder the functionality of the factory cooling system in any way. Over time, the filter traps the casting sand, sediment fall-out and any other type of debris that’s loose and circulating throughout the cooling system. For grins, some buyers end up cutting open the coolant filter when they go to replace it. What they discover is a whole host of debris that otherwise would’ve been sent through the oil cooler, eventually gumming up the passageways within the stacked plate assembly.
How To Install It
With nothing laborious required, a few basic hand tools and 30 to 45 minutes of your time, installing a coolant filtration system on a 6.0L Power Stroke is a job any driveway warrior can perform. It calls for tapping into the heater core line and using a supplied T fitting, but everything (from A to Z) is as straightforward as it gets. The supplied coolant hoses will need to be routed cleanly and away from heat sources, and some installers may even cut down the hose lengths for cosmetic preference. As mentioned, most coolant filtration systems locate the coolant filter on the passenger side of the radiator, with the filter base’s mounting plate attaching to the radiator core support.
What It Looks Like Installed
Installed, a coolant filtration system obstructs virtually nothing other than access to where the 6.0L’s hot-side pipe connects to the intercooler. As for filter changes, interval recommendations vary, but as a general rule you should change it after the first month of use, then every three months for the next two filters, followed by annual changes after that. Beyond the obvious benefit of saving the oil cooler, removing contaminants from the engine coolant will also extend the life of water pump seals, radiator hoses and even the radiator itself. Full disclosure: a coolant filtration system can’t undo any damage that’s previously been done, but without question it will prevent things from getting worse. Any time a fresh oil cooler goes into a 6.0L, a well-versed 6.0L mechanic will recommend a coolant filtration system.
Proper cooling system maintenance goes a long way with the 6.0L and it starts with using the correct coolant. Run Motorcraft Gold (what Ford recommends) or an approved (and compatible) extended life coolant (ELC). It’s also important to observe Ford’s coolant flush schedule. The engine should see its first flush at 100,000 miles/5 years and then every 45,000 miles or three years after that. Coolant flushes are especially vital if you own a 6.0L equipped with an exhaust gas recirculation system, as the job of cooling exhaust gasses is extremely hard on engine coolant.
A Cool-Running 6.0L Is A Happy-Running 6.0L
An OEM oil cooler can plug up and fail within 50,000 miles…with a coolant filtration system installed this will never happen. A fully functioning oil cooler means cooler engine oil temp, which will also facilitate a long service life from the engine’s high-pressure oil pump, fuel injectors, turbocharger and main, cam and rod bearings. Add to that the fact that the EGR cooler will never be starved of coolant supply again and you’ve just solved two of the 6.0L’s most common failure points (EGR cooler and oil cooler). For less than $200 shipped to your door, it’s the cheapest investment in reliability you’ll ever make for your 6.0L Power Stroke.
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