January 30

2013 Ford F150 Radiator Fan Issue



Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Remarkable Speaking. I'm here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver's best auto service experience, 24 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver. We're talking cars. How you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So today's victim is a 2013 Ford F-150 that had a radiator fan issue. What was going on with this vehicle? 

Bernie: Yeah, so this vehicle, when the defrost or the air conditioning was turned on, and it's actually cold, we're in Vancouver. It's wintertime. So turning the air conditioning on would really only come on when you turn the defroster on, on this vehicle. It would basically cause the radiator fan to run. It's an electric fan, to run on high speed and it wouldn't shut off until you actually shut the key of the vehicle off and kind of reset it. So it's kind of annoying because you can hear a very loud warring noise coming from the front of the vehicle and it does waste a lot of electrical energy to run the fan on full speed.

Mark: So what kind of testing and diagnosis do you start with to try and find out what's going on? 

Bernie: Yeah, we normally start with a scan tool plugin. So we plug a scan tool into the vehicle, look for any stored trouble codes, analyze the data and doing that process, what we found was the air conditioning system pressure was very high.

When the air conditioning would come on, it was, I believe it was somewhere around 350 PSI on the high side of the air conditioning system. There's actually a number on the scan tool that shows that. So we figured, okay, there's a problem there. Either the air conditioning has a blockage or else there's an electrical problem where maybe there's a sensor that's giving the wrong signal to the computer because 350 PSI is very high. Something you'd only really experience on a super hot day. And where you'd need that radiator fan to be running on full speed to you know, to actually cool the condenser.

Mark: So again, what blockages, electrical issues, is there any other causes for that high pressure? 

Bernie: That's really it. There's either blockage in the system or an electrical issue. So the next part of our diagnosis was to figure out, okay, is that actually a sensor issue or is in the system. So the next thing with an air conditioning system, we hook up gauges. There's a high and low pressure side, do an air conditioning system. We hook up the gauges, start the vehicle, run it, and we can see that the high pressure side was in fact reading the same number as on the scan tool approximately, which is about 350 PSI. Way too high for a cool winter day. I don't say cold because some places are really cold. Vancouver's not. Just cool. 

So anyways, it should have been probably like about a hundred, you know, that would've been probably a good high side running temperature with the temperatures we have these days, maybe 150. So clearly there's a blockage in the system. Now the question is how do we find the blockage? There are a few components but we suspected the expansion valve was the issue.

There's a picture of the expansion valve.

2013 Ford F150 Radiator Fan Issue

So how this piece works is the high pressure liquid refrigerant is basically forced through this area by the compressor. It's liquid, and there's a very small orifice in that area. And as the refrigerant passes through there, it expands into a gas. I hope I'm doing this all right. I think I am. It expands into a gas, that's what allows the cooling to take place in the evaporator core. So if there's any slight amount of blockage here, it'll cause that pressure to go really high, which is what we suspected here. So that's basically the top of the expansion valve. 

This is the low pressure side. So this is sort of the exit of the condenser that goes back to the suction side of the compressor to be recompressed. There's a little valve in here that basically changes the size of the opening. So we never actually found anything wrong with it. You can't really see anything, but there's definitely a blockage because that's where the problem lies.

Mark: So why would the high pressure cause the radiator fan to run on high speed? 

Bernie: I think I was saying earlier, it thinks that it's very hot out because of the high pressure. It thinks it's very hot out. We need to, you know, dissipate the heat into the atmosphere. That's usually the only time it happens. So it causes the fan to come on to high speed. So it's basically a result of the pressure readings in the system. 

Mark: So you replaced the expansion valve. How did it all work once it was replaced and everything was recharged? 

Bernie: It was good. The system back to normal. So I know it was a little vague, kind of finished off my comments on the expansion valve in a little vague manner because I did wanna address it. You know, even though we didn't actually visually see anything wrong with the valve, we replaced it because it seemed to be the most likely component. I mean, we know the compressor's working cause it's putting out the right amount of pressure.

It could be that the condenser had a blockage. That's a possibility, but that's a very unusual situation. And the expansion valve is a cheaper, easier fix. So sometimes we've gotta take the best educated guess on repairs. Also, this is actually a common problem for this kind of issue on these vehicles. So again, we go with what's common and go from there. 

Mark: And you guys have access to reports worldwide, basically repair information that tells you, okay, this is on a Ford F-150 2013 version. In this particular make and model, et cetera. This is what's been happening over time. 

Bernie: Exactly. Yeah. We have that. It's invaluable. I mean, cars are complicated. Even with our level of experience, there's no mechanic out there who's a genius at stuff. The genius is in access to repair information. 

I remember when I was young and tuning up cars, I could remember all the specifications. You can adjust things and turn 'em and tune 'em, and you can memorize those things. But nowadays, without vast amounts of specifications, data repair information, you're not gonna figure anything out. Or you gonna be guessing at the wrong stuff. 

Mark: Just buy a new one.

Bernie: Buy a new car. Yeah. Expensive proposition. Almost always cheaper to fix the car you have. 

Mark: So how are 2013 F150s for reliability? 

Bernie: Yeah, they're pretty good. I think Ford figured out a lot of it, you know, they're V8s. They used to have a lot of issues with spark plugs either blowing out of the cylinder heads or breaking off when you go to change the spark plugs. And they kind of solved all that long before the 2013 model year. So these are generally pretty reliable engines. We don't run into huge amount of problems with them. I'd say they're a definite improvement and overall the trucks are pretty good.

Mark: If you're looking for service for your Ford pickup in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can book online at pawlikautomotive.com or you can give them a call (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead cuz they're always busy. They're very popular. This is a good place to get your vehicle fixed. Thank you so much for watching and listening. We appreciate it. And thanks Bernie. 

Bernie: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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