How Excess Moisture is to Blame for the 3.5L EcoBoost Engine's Shuddering Problem

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#engine #lawsuit
Black arrow pointing to charge air cooler system

Charge air cooler from TSB 13-8-1

Noticing a shudder in your 3.5L EcoBoost engine? Shortly after Ford started using the engine in the 2011-2013 F-150 and Expedition owners started noticing the engine shaking, misifirng, stalling, or entering "limp home" mode.

The problem is most noticeable in humid conditions and while driving at highway speeds.

What's Causing the 3.5L EcoBoost to Shudder and Stall?

The problem is likely due to excess moisture building up in the charge air cooler (CAC). The CAC takes intake air from the turbocharger and cools it down before sending it off to the engine.

During that cooling process, condensation is building up within the air intake tube. This problem can be made worse by:

  1. Humidity or rain, because it increases the amount of moisture in the air.
  2. Highway driving, where the air flow rate into engine is relatively slow.

Excess moisture is drawn into the engine

When there's a change in acceleration, the CAC's intake airflow rate changes and additional air is drawn into the engine. Unfortunately so is all that water.

As the water mixes with gas and enters the combustion chamber, it can cause the engine to shudder or misfire. If the amount of water is substantial enough it can actually cause the engine to stall out or enter limp home mode.

These problems usually trigger diagnostic trouble codes P0304, P0305, P0306, and P0430.

Lawsuits and Service Bulletins

In May, 2013 three Ohio Ford owners filed a lawsuit claiming the 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine "can shudder, shake and then rapidly lose power while drivers are accelerating."

The lawsuit says more than 100 drivers have complained to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about the V6 EcoBoost rattling or losing power. Although there have been no federal investigations or recalls about the V-6 EcoBoost, the lawsuit alleges that Ford has known about the problem and informed their dealers, but they left the public out of the conversation.

Ford releases bulletin about "Intermittent Stumble and Misfire" in the EcoBoost engine

A few months later, Ford released technical service bulletin #13-8-1 describing these acceleration problems on the highway in humid or damp conditions.

Depending on the version of CAC, technicians were advised to install a revised bottom air deflector onto the charge cooler, presumably to help with the moisture accumulation.

The bulletin applied to the 2011-2012 F-150 3.5L GTDI.

Generations Where This Problem Has Been Reported

This problem has popped up in the following Ford generations.

Most years within a generation share the same parts and manufacturing process. You can also expect them to share the same problems. So while it may not be a problem in every year yet, it's worth looking out for.

OK, Now What?

Maybe you've experienced this problem. Maybe you're concerned you will soon. Whatever the reason, here's a handful of things you can do to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

  1. File Your Complaint is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases.

    Add a Complaint
  2. Notify CAS

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits.

    Notify The CAS
  3. Report a Safety Concern

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues.

    Report to NHTSA