2009 Ford E350 Van 6L Diesel, Turbocharger Replacement
Mark: Hi, it’s Mark, I'm here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, and we're talking cars. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well. We’re talking trucks today.
Mark: A truck, yes. Well, a van, if we want to be very specific. It's a 2009 Ford E350, pretty heavy duty van. What was going on with this vehicle?
Bernie Pawlik: So, this is a 6-litre diesel van, so yeah, very heavy duty. The owner had a couple of complaints. Sometimes, so an intermittent condition, the engine would idle kind of surging, up-and-down, and occasionally, on very rare occasions, he'd go to accelerate. The vehicle just wouldn't accelerate. There was no power. Those were his two concerns.
Mark: All right. That sounds a little difficult to diagnose. What tests did you do and what did you find?
Bernie: So, we started our testing with a road test and went out for a very extensive road test and, of course, things that often happen, nothing occurred. It actually ran like a dream. So, the check engine light was on.
We connected our scan tool, found only one trouble code stored. P0299, which is a turbo boost, turbo under boost code. That's not the exact definition, but that's the flavour of what that code's all about. Basically, the vehicle's detecting that there's enough boost pressure in the system under the conditions that it's supposed to occur.
So, from that, we were able to do some tests on the vehicle. We were able to do some, they're called bidirectional tests. We can actually run the turbo actuator.
This is a variable geometry turbo. There's an actuator. Sometimes, these actuator blades will stick in these turbos. They get gummed up over time with carbon deposits. They'll stick or they'll just wear out, so we're actually able to do tests. We can change the actuation of the turbo to see if it actually works.
What we found is that there were certain conditions where the actuator would stick. So, the solution was to replace the turbo charger on this vehicle.
Mark: So, you talked about the turbo and mentioned the variable geometry, which is very complicated. What does all that mean?
Bernie: Why don't get just get into some pictures? What I will say, before we just look at the pictures, is the way turbo chargers work is basically it's a turbine. It's driven by the exhaust of the vehicle. The exhaust is basically, it's wasted energy. It just goes out the tailpipe, but if you put a turbine in the exhaust because there's a lot of flow-and-pressure. The turbo charger actually pressurizes the air going into the cylinders, and that gives a lot of extra horsepower. So, it's actually an amazing increase in efficiency and power, so that's why turbo chargers are used. Now, in the olden days, the turbo charger was a basic item. It was basically the blades spin and the compressor, it basically compresses the air, but it would sort of be optimized for one engine speed and usually that was for higher pressure. If you've ever driven an older car, I'll give you an example. I had a client with a 1980 Saab turbo. It's a real neat car. You push your foot down on the gas. The vehicle would kind of accelerate a bit, and then, all of a sudden, about one or two seconds later, it'd be like someone lit a rocket and the car would just take off. That would be basically how turbos used to work a long time ago and that's called turbo lag, because it basically took some time for the turbo to spool up to the speed. What engineers have done and they've found ways around that because really, when you press the gas pedal, you want instant response. So, a variable geometry turbo takes care of that. It changes the shape of the chamber on the exhaust side, so when the engine's idling at low exhaust flow, you'll get a lot of turbo boost. When it's up at high speed, you'll also get a lot of turbo boost. So, overall, you don't really feel the turbo lag. It's still there subtlety. If you ever drive a super charge engine versus a turbo, you'll notice the difference, but normally nowadays, you almost never feel turbo lag in a car. It's pretty much gone, car or truck.
So, that's a little bit about how turbos work, so let's get in some pictures of a variable geometry. I have some pictures of this turbo and then I've also got some pictures of a slightly larger truck turbo where it's actually cut away and you kind of see the inside of it, which is pretty cool.
This is our 6-litre Ford turbo taken apart. This is what creates the variable geometry turbo. This is the turbine blade on the exhaust side, so this is driven by the exhaust and this is the variable geometry portion. These fingers here basically form a different size chamber depending on which way this ring here rotates.
This is kind of the turbo taken apart in two halves. The actual actuator, I think, I believe, is in here somewhere. It's actually controlled on this engine by oil flow. So that's basically what this looks like. You can see there's a lot of soot, carbon deposits, and wear inside this. This is our old turbo.
So, here again is another close-up of the actuator. I'll call them actuator pieces. I know there's a much more technical term for it, but it's early in the morning, so.
This is just a view of the front blades of the turbo charger. You can see there's a little bit of wear here. This is where the air comes in. There's obviously sometimes a little dirt or soot or whatever comes in, so there's a little bit of wear on these turbine blades.
This is the new turbo. You can see there's none whatsoever. It's all clean except for a greasy fingerprint. Then, let's have a look at the cutaway of the actual VGT turbo system. This is actually a cutaway. This is a larger ... This is off of a ...
We have a 14-litre truck. It's a full-sized truck motor. So, this turbo is a bit bigger than what you'd find in a 6-litre Ford, and it works a little differently, but really gives you kind of a good view.
This is the exhaust side of the turbo and this is the intake side, so the air comes in here. It's compressed by this blade as it spins really fast and actually comes in this way and gets blown out this direction.
This is an air intake temperature sensor. There's also, on this vehicle, a sensor. I believe that's a turbine shaft speed sensor, so it'll actually measure the speed of how fast the turbo's going, so the vehicle computer can make adjustments.
This is where the variable geometry control is on this. This is the actual actuator for the variable geometry turbo, one of the parts of it anyways. This would be where the exhaust flows in and out.
Mark: How fast does this turbine spin?
Bernie: Some of these are like 30 or 40,000, maybe even 50,000 RPMs. I mean, they're really, really fast. Yeah, maybe even a bit faster. I mean, it's going like insane speeds. I'm going to look at a couple of other cutaway views here.
So, this is again, this is on the intake side of the turbo. Again, the air is sucked in here and pushed out in that direction. You can see the air intake sensor and then the exhaust end of the turbo there. Then, as our final photo, this is a close kind of view of, again, you can see these variable geometry pieces. There are a little different then what was on the 6-litre. This one works slightly differently, but the effect is the same, so they'll change the size of this chamber, so depending on how much exhaust pressure there is, it'll make the turbo more effective boosting the intake side and that is our picture show.
Mark: So, you replaced the turbo because the variable geometry wasn't working properly?
Bernie: Yeah, exactly. The actuator blades would stick. So, interestingly enough, I think the next question we have is, how did it work? The answer is, it worked great. We re-tested it. The actuator was all operating exactly like it was supposed to. Road tested, it was great, but a few days' later, the owner came back and the issue was, there was still a similar issue going on with the surging idle and lack of power and we spent the better part of a week and a bit, really looking over it, testing fuel pressures. Sometimes, these codes, like, unless the issue is happening while we're looking at the car, it's hard to exactly say what's going on and we need to fix the obvious things first. In this case, the turbo was bad, but there were a few other issues.The EGR valve had a lot of soot. The intake was plugged. We cleaned that. The issues still continued after that and we road tested it for quite a long time, and I think it was probably some carbon deposits in the engine that were causing it to misbehave, from time-to-time. Anyways, to make a long story short, at this point in time, it's working fine. So, the turbo's good. The intake's clean. We tested the low pressure side fuel system because that's another cause of this issue and it was good all the way through. Interesting thing with this truck, it's very low mileage, about 85,000 kilometres on a ... It's an '09. That makes it a nine-year-old vehicle. It's not a lot of mileage. It's a tradesman's vehicle. He'll drive his office to a job site, work all day and come back, so it doesn't really get the heat that it could use. As I mentioned before, for diesels, it's really important to get out and get these things hot and cooking hot, otherwise, it ends up creating things like plugged EGRs, turbo, actuator failure, things like that.
Mark: From carbon deposits from …
Bernie: Yeah, carbon.
Mark: Not the heat, not being hot enough, basically.
Bernie: Yeah. Yeah, heat and long ... Driving cycles and driving it hard is actually really good for a diesel. It's what they're meant for. They're meant for ... That's why they're in train locomotives. You can run it at full power for an hour and then the engine ... Or, an hour or two, hauling cars up a mountain, tons-and-tons of train, loads up mountainsides or trucks. It's meant to be worked hard, so a diesel that isn't worked hard, tends to have problems.
Mark: So, didn't Ford stop making the 6-litre a few years ago?
Bernie: Yeah. Like 2007 was the last year they put them in the pickup trucks, but they still used them in vans up to the 2010 model year. So, yeah, they used them a little longer in the vans.
Mark: And, do these engines in vans still have all the problems that they had in pickup trucks?
Bernie: Well, they pretty much do have the same issues, but I have noticed that the vans seem to be a little less problematic. That's just my own experience. I think it's because they don't get used quite as hard as they do ... Here I'm saying, get a diesel and work it hard, but also with these 6-litres, the interesting thing is a lot of head gasket failures and things. A lot of those have happened too because I think they can't quite handle the hard work that they're supposed to. Again, I'm kind of speculating, but I think, we've never done a head gasket job on a van yet. Now, I know they still go, but I think they just don't get quite worked as hard. People don't quite haul the heavy loads that they do in pickup trucks. That's just my own interpretation. There's probably someone out there, who'd say otherwise, but they seem to be just a little more reliable, which is a good thing because it's a lot more work to do and a lot of the operations on a van are a lot worse than they are on a pickup truck, especially head gaskets.
Mark: It's not as easy to take the body off.
Bernie: No, lifting the body off is a little more work than a pickup cab, but not a huge amount. It's just a bigger beast.
Mark: So, there you go. If you have a diesel vehicle in Vancouver that you need maintenance or repair for, the guys to call are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. They're diesel experts or you can check out their website, pawlikautomotive.com. YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair. Hundreds of videos including many about diesel repairs as well as thank you so much for listening to our podcast and thank you, Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks, Mark. Thank you for watching and listening. We appreciate it.