2011 Ford F350 6.7 Litre, Electric Fan Clutch
Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast, and we're here with Mr. Bernard "Auto" Pawlik, the big bopper himself of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, and we're talking cars. How you doing, Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: So we're talking about a 2011 Ford 350 super-duty 6.7 litre diesel that had a problem with its electric fan. What was going on with this vehicle?
Bernie: So the owner of the vehicle was driving on a long trip up to the interior of British Columbia, which involves some pretty serious mountain drives. He had a long trailer on the back, drove fine to Hope. If you're familiar with the geography here, it's about 100 miles from Vancouver, drove fine, it's pretty flat road once you hit the mountain. Start hitting the mountains, the vehicle all of a sudden went into reduced power mode, there was warning lights on the dash and he really couldn't pull the trailer up the hills. And also, the temperature gauge was reading pretty high on the vehicle. So he came back down to Hope and made arrangements to have his trailer moved on, and came back to Vancouver where we had a look at the vehicle.
Mark: So what did you find? Why was it going into reduced power mode?
Bernie: Well, basically it was going to reduced power mode because the engine was overheating or running too hot. So it's a protective measure, which is a smart thing because a lot of people, as he mentioned, he goes, "I didn't even look at my temperature gauge until it started happening," and most of us don't tend to look at those kind of things although you should. You should glance at it every once in a while, but especially if you're going up a steep mountain hill and you're towing something, that's a smart thing though, is to be looking at that. And few of us who drive do, and a lot of cars have temperature gauges, but nonetheless, Ford just built that into the vehicle, so it prevents the engine from being damaged if it runs too hot.
Mark: And we've seen that before with some other diesels, what happens, it melts pistons and stuff. So again, why was it going into reduced power mode?
Bernie: Yeah. Okay. So it was going to reduced power mode, the engine was overheating. We did some diagnostic and testing. The coolant was full, there's no leaks in this truck, it only has 116,000 kilometres, still not the high mileage or there was some trouble code stored for the radiator fan, the electric radiator fan clutch. And we did some testing and found some broken wiring to the radiator fan.
Mark: So an electric fan clutch, what does that actually do and how does it work?
Bernie: So basically, the radiator, there's a gigantic fan that sucks air through the radiator, and in the olden days, the fan just be running all the time, but that draws a lot of power from the engine. So what they do is they put an electric, it's not needed all the time, they put an electric fan clutch in, so it engages and disengages the fan and that's set by the engine computer. So when it reaches a certain temperature, the solenoid engages the fan, and the fan will run and draw more air through the radiator. So essentially that fan was not working, and that's what was causing the engine to overheat. And of course, these vehicles have an extremely large cooling system, they're meant to handle a lot of heat. And especially when you're towing something up a hill, and that's when the problem showed up. The fan isn't really used all that much until you're really, it's a hot day and you're going up a steep hill and there's a heavy load.
Mark: And what caused the fan clutch to not operate?
Bernie: Well, I would say I chalk it up to a kind of a not a very well manufactured part. And let's just get into some pictures right now. We can have a look at the truck.
There's our F-350 2011. This is a, this is not just a super duty, this is like a super, super duty in my opinion. It's eight foot box full crew cab. It's a super long, big truck. You can haul just about anything and everything with this vehicle. Anyways, there's the truck. This is a sample of the two fan clutches. You see this okay, Mark?
Bernie: Okay. So this is a brand new fan clutch assembly. You can see it's got a wiring connector, a little bolt bolt on bracket, and this is the old piece. And this is what we found was broken. I'll show a little more, another closeup. We disassembled this connector off the fan clutch, but right here, there's a plastic bracket that holds this wiring harness, and somehow the plastic had deteriorated and broken, caused this to start rubbing on the serpentine belt and broke the wires apart. So the actual fan clutch itself is great. It's really just the wiring connector, and of course the stubby piece that held it in place, it broke. So let's just look at a couple more closeup shots here. There's a little broken off nub here. Well, you can't actually see it, it's gone. And there's the new assembly, you can see this piece here with a little insulator that allows this to rotate and float freely from the fan clutch, and we have one final shot, there's our wiring connector. So you can see this. As the thing broke apart, this popped out, it was rubbing against the serpentine belt and caused the wire to stretch and break out of the fan clutch connector.
Mark: So it kind of looks like the wiring connector is a separate part where you, can't you just replace that part?
Bernie: Well, you certainly think they would sell that part because it is separate. But the answer is no. You have to buy as a complete assembly, and actually, come to think of it, because of the way it broke, the mounting tab on the fan clutch itself broke off. So as I was thinking about it in hindsight, why don't they just sell the wiring connector? Actually, it would only partially have helped because the actual mounting stub on the fan clutch was gone anyway. So I guess they anticipated that somehow it's going to break and be defective.
Mark: And again, is this more of a plastic part in maybe a high temperature change environment that's not really lasting as long as it could?
Bernie: Absolutely. It's interesting, it's exactly what it is. Again, another piece of plastic that failed.
Mark: So this truck has a 6.7 litre diesel, and that Ford's been using for a while, but I hope, I assume this is better and more reliable than some of the previous ones that we've done videos about.
Bernie: Yeah, these are much better. There's a few issues with them, but really, comparative to the a 6.4 litre and then the 6 litre before it, far superior engine. I was just thinking about when I was doing this, writing up this podcast thinking I've been doing this engine for seven, eight years now, and there's really very little trouble with it, you know, the 6 litre, within a year they were making revisions, and changing things, and they knew right off the bat that was a bad engine and they did use it 'til about 2010 and in the vans. But really, these are great. We've serviced this since it's almost new. It's got about 116,000 kilometres. This is the first thing that's gone wrong, and it's nothing really in the engine itself. So really good. Definitely. If I was going to buy a Ford truck, this will be the engine, the diesel to buy.
Mark: So going back to that fan clutch, is there anything like 116,000 kilometres, that's pretty early failure for this vehicle that could easily do 500,000 or more kilometres. Is there anything that an owner might do to not have this fail?
Bernie: I really can't see what you could do because this part is sort of buried down. It's hard to get. It's reasonably hard to access, so it's not like you could even reach down and break it. There's nothing really you can do. It's just manufactured that way. And maybe this is a one off, it's a fluke, but I'd say that the answer to your question is there's really nothing you can do. It's just going to fail when it fails.
Mark: So maybe if you have one of these and you' re towing stuff, keep one eye on the temperature gauge or it'll be obvious because it'll go into low power mode?
Bernie: Exactly. And that's kind of the key. But it's interesting, on average city driving and on flat roads, it really isn't sometimes a lot of indication that your fan clutch isn't working. Sometimes the check engine light will come on to indicate there's a problem. And in the case of this vehicle, there wasn't. There was a stored code, but nothing to actually turn the check engine light on. But yeah, keep an eye on the temperature gauge is really the takeaway too, always have a look at that and keep an eye on it, especially if whatever age your vehicle is, especially if you're going up a steep mountain grade. Any car, truck, whether you're hauling a load or whether you're driving, because that's really where engines get cooked.
Mark: So there you go. If you need some service on your Ford diesel, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to book ahead. They're busy or check out their website, pawlikautomotive.com. There's hundreds of, literally hundreds of videos and articles about all makes and models on vehicles, repairs or our YouTube channel - Pawlik Auto Repair. Again, hundreds of videos over the last five years, or of course, hopefully you're enjoying our new podcast, and thank you for listening.
Bernie: Thank you for watching. Thanks, Mark.