EGR valves cause many concerns on Ford 6L diesel engines: the most common one being that the valves stick due to excessive soot deposits. While there are few simple services that can be done on these complex engines, cleaning your EGR valve just happens to be one of those rare simple ones.
The EGR valve service involves removing the valve and cleaning it with combustion chamber or carburetor cleaner. With the valve removed the intake ports where the valve is installed are also cleaned. Doing this service will prevent many an EGR related driveability concern due to a sticking or plugged valve.
Perform this service every time you replace fuel filters and it will only add to the reliability of your truck.
When it’s possible and we can be certain of doing a lasting repair we will choose to repair something instead of replacing it.
Here’s an example from a recent repair on a 2002 Acura MDX.
Our client’s concern was that the right headlamps were not working. During our diagnosis we found that the low beam bulb just installed by the client was defective and worked fine after we put in one of our own. The right high beam however did not work and I also noted that the DRL lamp on the dash was on and that the DRLs (Daytime Running Lamps) did not work. Diagnostic testing found that these concerns were caused by a defective DRL module. We were able to open up the module and while inspecting inside found a couple of dried up solder joints connecting a relay to the circuit board.
At this point repairs could go 2 ways:
1. Replace the DRL module; or 2. Solder the bad connections.
Our client opted for the 2nd option and saved over $100. That’s just one way that we save you money whenever we have the option.
Diesel engines and diesel fuel injectors have changed remarkably in the past decade: gone are the rattly, smoky, stinky, low performance engines from the past.
Today we have the modern diesel: powerful and quick to accelerate, smoke free and quiet, with the added benefit of low exhaust emissions, and often times amazing fuel efficiency. 60+ mpg in a VW Jetta TDI is common!
There have been many changes that have allowed this remarkable transformation and one of the major contributors is the fuel injector which has undergone an enormous revolution.
On older engines all components within the injector were mechanical. The injection pump, again a purely mechanical device, precisely controlled the quantity of fuel to be injected.
Fast forward to today: the fuel injector’s controls are now electronic and the mechanical injection pump is gone. In its place is the common rail system. What common rail means is that all fuel injectors get their fuel from the same fuel rail under the same pressure. There a two types of common rail system: one with very high fuel pressure and another with low pressure fuel that uses high pressure engine oil to boost fuel to a very high pressure inside the injector.
While solenoids have been used inside the injectors the pinnacle of modern fuel injector technology is the piezoelectric crystal which, when electrically energized minutely changes the shape of the crystal and switches a small fuel chamber on and off. The on/off flow in the small fuel chamber triggers the top of the fuel injector to open and close and in turn spray fuel into the engine. The miracle of this injector is that it allows precise injection control to the millisecond.
Old diesels received only one shot of fuel during their combustion stroke while modern diesels receive several injections at precisely timed intervals and this has created the amazing engines that we have today. Through these timed injections more power is produced and the knocking sound, so common to diesel engines is virtually eliminated.
Well they have their concerns and quite honestly many are problematic. However much of this may be due to recent changes in diesel fuel refining.
In the late 2000s, ultra low sulfur diesel fuels were introduced in North America. Minimal sulfur emission is great for the environment but unfortunately for the diesel fuel injector, the refining process removes some lubricants that are crucial to long injector life. All diesel engines built 2008 and newer have upgraded injectors but those prior will likely suffer early failures.
Injector failures show up in a number of ways such as long crank times or no starts, smoky exhaust (usually black) and rough running.
With the expensive components in a diesel engine, performing oil and filter changes and fuel filter changes at or before the prescribed interval is essential.
Replacing modern injectors is very expensive, typically costing several hundred dollars per unit along with a very labour intensive operation. So you may wonder, what can I do to prolong the life of my injectors and avoid expensive repairs? There are several things:
Change engine oil and filter regularly and replace fuel filters regularly.
These additives will restore the lubricants missing from modern ultra low sulfur diesel and prolong the life of your injectors. While there is addition cost, some of these additives will boost the cetane rating of your fuel and pay for themselves with improved fuel mileage and performance.
The cost of replacing a fuel pump on Domestic vehicles (GM, Ford & Chrysler) has risen dramatically over the years. While this seems like a bad thing there is good news also!
There was a time, in the early years of domestic fuel injected vehicles, that most fuel pumps would be dead within a 100,000 kilometers: not a very long life. Pumps were not extremely expensive but were installed inside the fuel tank making the job labour intensive. In the mid 1990s fuel pumps became part of an assembly which included the fuel tank sending unit, the strainer, wiring, all mounting hardware and evap sensors (if equipped). Replacing the pump still required the labour intensive fuel tank removal but the pump assembly was just slipped in and out of the tank.
As you might guess making it more complex costs more: where once a fuel pump replacement may have been a $500.00 job, it is now often over $1000.00 to replace.
Quality is way up: usually these pumps last well into the 200,000 to 300,000 kilometer range so replacement is less often. An added benefit to the pump being included in an assembly is that everything gets replaced including the fuel guage sender so it leaves less chance of something else inside the fuel tank failing and requiring future costly repairs.
What about fuel pumps in Japanese or European cars? They have always made very durable fuel pumps that last a long time. I can’t remember the last fuel pump we replaced on a Japanese or European car, however we do replace them. Often (but not always) these pumps are expensive but labour is simpler as many of the import vehicles provide access holes through the trunk or inside the car to remove the fuel pump from the tank.
The silver lining with the new designed pumps is durability, for when a fuel pump fails it is usually without warning: your car dies and needs to be towed for repairs. The less often this happens the better!
However that is what we found recently when a 2004 Ford Freestar was towed to our shop. Upon removing the axle shaft, taking off the CV boot and investigating the failure – we found the cage, which holds the 6 balls in position had split in half, allowing the balls to slip out of place.
Never before had we seen this sort of failure!
We speculated that the cage may have been damaged by a previous accident as there was evidence to suggest that the control arm had been replaced with a used part: a classic sign of a collision repair.
Possibly the vehicle had been hit on the right side or been driven hard into a curb. Any of these stresses could have damaged the CV joint though there was no visible evidence or symptom noted when driving. This is one of the liabilities of having a vehicle repaired from a collision.
There are many components that are hidden and cannot be inspected that could be weakened by a collision.
We think this CV joint shows just such an eventuality.
Some further notes to our story: the owner of this vehicle did not have any knowledge of such an accident and was not the original owner. This damage though, based on the evidence: the replaced control arm and the unusual nature of the failure and that the failure could be caused by severe inward impact… seems to overwhelmingly suggest a collision caused this.
Unfortunately not much, for even a thorough independent inspection after repairs will not likely find any concerns. When an insurance company repairs collision damage they will repair and replace all noticeable damage and anything that affects the vehicle’s driving operation which was clearly caused by the collision.
The hidden things remain so and may unfortunately show up one day just like this broken CV joint did.
Proper diagnosis is essential before repairs. It sounds simple and makes sense but it is amazing that some folks would rather avoid this critical step. The same holds true for many auto repair shops who would rather guess at what is wrong and waste your money on unneeded repairs.
We recently serviced a 2000 Dodge Truck that had a check engine lamp on and a slightly rough running engine. The vehicle had been at another shop where they replaced spark plugs, ignition wires and a fuel injector in #8 cylinder. We found that the check engine lamp was on for a code P0308 which indicates a misfire detected in #8 cylinder. While the previous shop must have found this code, the fact that a number of parts were replaced and the concern remained indicates that diagnosis was not done. In all fairness the spark plugs and ignition wires may have been old and been due for replacement but it looks like the fuel injector was just a guess.
We took the time to do a proper diagnosis and found the concern was caused by poor compression in #8 cylinder. After the cylinder head was removed and tested, a crack between the intake & exhaust valve seats was found to be the culprit. With a new cylinder head installed the truck ran great, as it should have if proper diagnosis was done the first time.
We recently serviced this almost new 2011 Ford E350 Van with only 17,000 kilometers and found this oil leak from the left rear axle seal. It is quite a substantial leak and somewhat unexpected on a new new vehicle. However there it is and the great news is it’s covered by their manufacturer’s warranty and will be fixed for free!
We recently did a rear brake job on 2004 Chevy Tahoe and I realized two things: this is a great vehicle, and routine maintenance makes it even better.
This truck was getting its first rear brake job: new pads and rotors at an astonishing distance of 144,000 kilometers. What is amazing is that the front brake pads still have 5mm remaining and will likely last at least another year.
While this is a huge amount of life to get out of a set of brakes, some of the longevity is due to our client following our maintenance recommendations and especially having the brakes serviced. A brake service involves taking the brakes apart, removing rust corrosion from the pad and caliper sliders and lubricating these parts. Doing so prevents the pads from seizing up and wearing out prematurely.
So there you have it: the winning combination of routine maintenance and a high quality vehicle! By the way all of the Chevy/GMC trucks from the early 2000s and on are great.
While Diesel engines are remarkably tough they are not indestructible and can be expensively damaged when abused. Take a look at these pistons from a Dodge Cummins Diesel. The vehicle owner had installed a performance chip in the computer and taking advantage of the extra horsepower hauled a trailer at high speed up the Coquihalla Highway.
It was undoubtably an impressive site, watching a truck and trailer maintaining the speed limit uphill through the steep mountain grades. However a severe price was paid when a knocking noise developed in the engine. After tearing down the engine the damage was found: a partially melted piston caused by the relentless uphill quest for speed. This is an expensive diesel repair.
If you own such a vehicle take care when driving, especially after making performance upgrades or modifications: all engines are built to take a set amount of strain and overdoing it could cost you big money.
We love doing inspections and maintenance services on vehicles because we often find a concern as it is starting and can advise the client to repair it before it becomes a more costly repair. Case in point was a recent service on a 1994 Ford F250 pick up.
While performing a comprehensive inspection we came upon this rear axle seal just starting to leak. Fortunately we caught it before it had leaked gear oil onto the brake shoes and destroyed them. Our client wisely chose to repair the seal immediately and by doing so he saved several hundred dollars in brake work. Paying for an inspection saved our client money!