Does Your EcoBoost Shudder? Here's The Problem.
Are you having shuddering issues with your 2011-2014 3.5L EcoBoost engine? Are you suddenly losing power? Ford has issued some fixes over the years with mixed results. Read on to learn about the root cause of this issue, and how Ford has addressed it.
What Is The Problem?
Many 2011-2014 Ford F-150 pickups with the 3.5L EcoBoost engine have a condition where excessive condensation builds up in the Charge Air Cooler (CAC). The vehicle can shudder or stall during everyday use. In severe cases, the truck will go into "limp mode" causing the engine to lose all power.
This condition commonly occurs in humid climates, like the Southeast U.S., from Texas and Florida to the Carolinas. Damp weather conditions can also contribute to the problem. Several TSBs were issued over the years, but none seemed to be the magic bullet.
What Causes Shuddering?
After researching with Ford employees and auto technicians, and reading through various forums, the cause seems to be that the Charge Air Cooler (CAC) is working too well. The function of the CAC is to cool the intake air as it goes through the turbocharger. This cooled air then travels into the engine. The problem is that the CAC is too efficient, causing condensation to build up inside the air intake tube. Here is the sequence of events that contribute to condensation:
- Moisture collects inside the intake tubing as air is drawn through the CAC. This often happens when traveling down the interstate, while airflow into the engine is relatively slow.
- Sudden acceleration by the driver changes the intake air flow rate through the CAC, which causes the engine to pull in more air. The high vacuum draws accumulated moisture from the intake tube into the engine.
- Symptoms can vary depending on the amount of water sucked into the engine. A small amount causes shuddering by interfering with fuel combustion. A large amount causes the truck to go into limp mode to protect it from a damaging hydrolock condition.
- Long-term problems include coil pack and spark plug failures.
What does this have to do with humid weather coditions? These drivers live in a place where the dew point is equal to the ambient temperature most of the time. This means moist air, in combination with the CAC over efficiency, increases the frequency and likelihood of an engine shudder or limp mode condition.
What Is The Fix?
Ford’s original solution was to relocate the air deflector from the top of the CAC to the bottom. The intent was to help evaporate the condensation collected at the bottom of the charge air intercooler. Multiple TSBs and ECU calibrations were also issued to alleviate the problem. Some owners took it upon themselves to minimize condensation with quick fixes for this and other turbocharger problems that are not endorsed by Ford. While condensation issues were never entirely resolved on the 2011-2014 Ecoboost 3.5L, the problem appears to have been fixed with engineering refinements in later model years.
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