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Ford 6.0L Powerstroke Engine

By October 30th, 2021No Comments

The Ford 6.0L Powerstroke engine replaced the 7.3L Powerstroke in 2004. The 6.0 Powerstroke was developed by Ford to better comply with new emissions requirements. The 6.0L Powerstroke was many of the platforms including school buses and medium-duty trucks until 2012.

This Ford 6.0L Powerstroke diesel engine guide is a part of our Diesel Engine Guide series to help with buying a school bus for sale.

This article will dive further into the Ford 6.0L Powerstroke engine including:

  • Engine Overview
  • Engine Specs
  • Towing Capacity
  • Life Expectancy
  • Maintenance Requirements
  • Typically paired transmissions
  • Common engine problems
  • Engine comparisons to the VT365 and 5.9L Cummins

6.0L Powerstroke Engine Overview

Ford Motor Company and Navistar International launched the 6.0L Powerstroke diesel engine in 2003 for Ford Super Duty trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles. The 6.0L Powerstroke diesel engine replaced the 7.3L Powerstroke turbo diesel engine as Ford’s more advanced solution to meet a U.S. federal emissions regulation deadline in 2004. At the time, Ford Super Duty trucks were outselling the competition by huge margins, and the trend continued as the cleaner, more powerful 6.0L Powerstroke came along. 

Navistar International manufactured the engines on behalf of Ford. As part of Navistar International’s VT diesel engine family, the 6.0L Powerstroke engine had the same basic structure as the VT365 but different components to meet emissions requirements, reduce turbo lag and create better throttle response. The diesel engine was equipped in 2003 to 2007 model year Ford Super Duty 250/350/450 trucks, 2003 to 2005 model year Ford Excursion sport utility vehicles, and 2003 to 2012 model year Ford E-Series vans and chassis cabs. With high production numbers, the diesel engines were plentiful in the aftermarket for swapping into different vehicles ranging from trucks to boats.

The 6.0L Powerstroke engine featured an exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system, fuel injection system with hydraulically actuated electronically controlled unit injectors (HEUI), four-valve cylinder heads and a quick-spooling variable geometry turbocharger. Despite the advanced technology, the 6.0L engine was regarded as one of the most problematic engines in the Powerstroke diesel engine brand line, including its predecessor the 7.3L engine. The engine issues escalated over the years and led to high warranty repairs, manufacturer buybacks and civil lawsuits against Ford.

Many of the issues with the 6.0L Powerstroke diesel engine stemmed from the emissions systems and/or lack of maintenance. Common problems included EGR clogging and cooling problems, oil cooler failures, high-pressure oil system failures, numerous electrical issues, and head bolt and head gasket failures. 

Production of the Ford 6.0L Power Stroke engine ended in 2012, but production of the Navistar International VT365 diesel engine continued until 2016.

6.0L Powerstroke Engine Specs

Engine variationsProduction YearsHorsepowerTorque
6.0L Powerstroke2003 to 2007 Ford Super Duty Trucks
2003 to 2005 Ford Excursion SUV
2003 to 2012
Ford E-series vans & chassis cabs
Low: 325 HP @ 3300 RPM
High: 350 hp @ 2600 RPM
Low: 560 lb-ft @ 2000 RPM 
High: 570 lb-ft @ ,000 RPM (2005 to 2007 models)

Typical Paired Transmissions

The 6.0L Power Stroke diesel engine was equipped with the Allison 5-TorqShift 5-speed automatic transmission, featuring a tow-haul mode. Some engines were paired with the ZF Friedrichshafen 6-speed manual transmission.

6.0L Powerstroke Engine Towing Capacity

Ford Super Duty trucks offered the 6.0L Powerstroke with high peak torque for hauling. Tow capacity differs according to model year, cab size, and box length. Tow ratings range from the conventional 12,500 pounds to 19,200 pounds (dually max 5th wheel tow capacity).

6.0L Powerstroke Life Expectancy

The 6.0L Power Stroke diesel engine was warranted for 150,000 miles. Mechanics report that if properly maintained, the engine could run for 350,000 before requiring a major repair or rebuild. The engine also has a low-range dry weight of 1,062 pounds.

6.0L Power Stroke Engine Maintenance Requirements

Maintenance is critical to avoid common failures in the 6.0L Power Stroke diesel engine. 

Due to its power-boosting and emissions reduction components, the 6.0L Power Stroke requires more maintenance than its VT365 sibling. Higher mileage engines will likely need component replacements in the aftermarket.

6.0L Power Stroke Engine Oil Capacity: 19 quarts

Engine variationsNormal conditions
6.0L PowerstrokeOil capacity: 19 quarts
Engine oil & air filter: 5,000 miles/3 months
Fuel filter: 10,000 miles/3 months
Engine coolant: 20,000 to 30,000 miles
Transmission fluid & filter: 30,000 miles

6.0L Power Stroke Engine Problems

Mechanics report the 6.0L Power Stroke engine has many performance issues with its power-boosting and emissions reduction components. These issues include:

  • Oil cooler faults – Mechanics report this is the most common issue with the 6.0L Power Stroke. The oil cooler lowers the engine oil temperature, and there are few warning signs for a clogged or restricted oil cooler. Silicone sand in the coolant system can cause restrictions and buildup. If the oil temperature gets too hot, it can cause gaskets and O-rings to fail. Mechanics should always include these checks during regular maintenance schedules.
  • Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) cooler problems – Mechanics report these issues are more prominent in the 2003 model year 6.0L Power Stroke engines. The clean-emissions component is used to cool exhaust gas that is recirculated back into intake manifolds. Both EGR coolers and EGR valves prone to failure, due to soot buildup and clogs. Depending on the severity of the failure, the engine can hydro-lock and cause severe engine damage.
  • Fuel injectors – The 6.0L Power Stroke engine uses split shot hydraulic electronic unit injectors (HEUI) to deliver fuel to the cylinders. The fuel injectors are very sensitive to poor fuel and oil quality. Fuel injector failures could be caused by dirty oil, low fuel pressure, mechanical failure or an electrical issue. Symptoms include hard starts, rough idle and black/gray smoke. Prevent failures by keeping oil clean and maintaining proper fuel.
  • High pressure oil system (HPOS) – The 6.0L Power Stroke fuel injection system operates with very high oil pressure. The HPOS often experiences internal engine oil leaks due to deteriorated O-rings and high pressure. Symptoms often occur when the engine is hot, and they include hard starts, no starts and loss of power.
  • Turbocharger problems – The 6.0L Power Stroke engine utilizes a single vane variable geometry turbocharger, which was designed to reduce turbo lag and create better throttle response. When the turbocharger fails, it has the same symptoms as a bad EGR valve. Carbon or rust can build up in the vanes of the turbocharger and cause an over-boost or no-boost condition. Instead of a replacement, the turbocharger sometimes can be taken out and cleaned.
  • Cylinder head faults – A major problem with the 6.0L Power Stroke engine are the torque-to-yield head bolts, which could lead to blown head gaskets in an over-boost mode, and eventually a cracked cylinder head. A failed EGR system has been known to contribute to engines running hotter than normal. In turn, this may alter the yield point of the head bolts and in some cases even warp the cylinder head.
  • Head gaskets – The 6.0L Power Stroke has four torque to yield (TTY) cylinder head bolts per cylinder, and they have precise clamping force. In certain situations (oil cooler/EGR cooler failures), TTY bolts can be stretched and elongated beyond yield points and lose clamping force. Mechanics report head gaskets also can run into issues when head bolts are modified.

6.0L Powerstroke vs. VT365

International VT365 Engine

The 6.0L Power Stroke diesel engine is a variant of the Navistar International VT365. The engines share the same basic structure, but the 6.0L Power Stroke had different emissions components and power-boosting components to provide more speed and torque. The 6.0L Power Stroke engine powered 2003 to 2007 model year Ford Super Duty 250/350/450 trucks, 2003 to 2005 model year Excursion sport utility vehicles, and 2003 to 2012 model year Ford E-Series vans and chassis cabs.

The Navistar International VT365 was a replacement for the Navistar International T444E, which was built in response to increased emissions standards in the U.S. during the mid-1990s. As emissions regulation increased, Navistar International responded to the market with the all-new 6.0L VT365 diesel engine. It was used in Navistar International school buses, type A-2 bus chassis and medium-duty trucks weighing up to 23,500 pounds in gross vehicle weight. 

Mechanics report that the 6.0L Power Stroke came with many problems associated with various components, including fuel injectors, head gaskets and oil cooling systems. Ford warranties covered the diesel engine up to 150,000 miles, but mechanics report that the issues often appeared after that mileage point. Some mechanics suspect the Ford-version engine had more issues, because the excess power caused more stress than the basic design could tolerate. 

While Ford stopped equipping its consumer trucks with the 6.0L Power Stroke engine in 2012, Navistar International continued to produce the VT365 for use in school buses and medium-duty industrial trucks until 2016.

[Note: Navistar International had another diesel engine variant, called the MaxxForce, which were used in Ford Super Duty trucks. Mechanics reported many issues with the injectors, head gaskets, water pumps and oil coolers in the variant Ford engines that ran at higher power levels. Production on the MaxxForce ended in 2010, which was long before the production run ended for the basic VT365 and 6.0L Power Stroke.]
Feature comparisonFord 6.0L Power StrokeVT365 
Production years2003 to 2007 Ford Super Duty Trucks
2003 to 2005 Ford Excursion SUV
2003 to 2012 Ford E-series vans & chassis cabs
2003 to 2016
HorsepowerLow: 325 HP @ 3300 RPM High: 350 hp @ 2600 RPM175 hp @ 2600 RPM
TorqueLow: 560 lb-ft @ 2000 RPM
High: 570 lb-ft @ ,000 RPM  (2005 to 2007 models)
460 lb-ft @ 1400 RPM

Ford (Navistar International) 6.0L Powerstroke vs. Cummins 5.9L 

5.9L Cummins Engine in a School Bus

The Cummins 5.9L (or B Series diesel engines) went into production in 1984, long before Navistar International started producing the 6.0L Power Stroke engine for Ford vehicles. A variant of the Cummins 5.9L had strong brand associations with Dodge RAM pickup trucks. 

Both the 6.0L Power Stroke and Cummins 5.9L diesel engines were designed in response to increased emissions regulations. Cummins’ first-generation diesel engine model, known as the 6BT or Cummins 12-valve 5.9L, became a popular alternative to the large gasoline V8 engines normally found in full-size pickup trucks. Despite its smaller size, the turbocharged Cummins diesel engine could produce significant power with decent torque at low engine speeds. In 1998, Cummins replaced the 6BT with the 24-valve 5.9L ISB (Interact System B), which was designed for improved fuel economy and emissions.

Mechanics report that the 6.0L Power Stroke and Cummins 5.9L 24-valve ISB engines are very similar when it comes to performance, horsepower and torque. Picking one over the other may come down to loyalty to the Dodge RAM and Ford brands. The Ford F-Series trucks were among the best-selling vehicles in North America for years. 

Mechanics report the Cummins 5.9L has enough durability to outlive multiple transmissions throughout the course of its life. With a life expectancy of 350,000 miles, the Cummins engine can go a long way without catastrophic failure.

While the Cummins 5.9L diesel has good overall reviews, mechanics have reported issues with components and power, especially when in a school bus. Some mechanics believe that a Cummins 5.9L diesel is well suited for consumer trucks, but too small and underpowered for full-size school buses. Others believe the 24-valve model has more issues due to the additional equipment installed to meet higher emissions standards. Issues include exhaust manifold leaks, engine block cracks and leaky fuel injectors.

The 6.0L Power Stroke diesel engine was warranted for 150,000 miles. Mechanics report that if properly maintained, the engine could run for 350,000 before requiring a major repair or rebuild.

However, the 6.0L Power Stroke has a longer list of issues with its power-boosting and emissions reduction components. Issues include oil cooler faults, cylinder head faults, EGR cooler problems, high-pressure oil system failures, fuel injector failures, turbocharger problems, and head gasket breakage.

Feature comparisonFord 6.0L Power StrokeCummins 5.9L 
Production years2003 to 2007 Ford Super Duty Trucks
2003 to 2005 Ford Excursion SUV
2003 to 2012 Ford E-series vans & chassis cabs
1989 to 1998 5.9L 12-valve
1998 to 2007 5.9L 24-valve ISB
HorsepowerLow: 325 HP @ 3300 RPM
High: 350 hp @ 2600 RPM
5.9L 12-valve: 215 hp @ 2,500 RPM
5.9L 24-valve ISB: 325 hp @ 2,900 RPM
TorqueLow: 560 lb-ft @ 2000 RPM
High: 570 lb-ft @ ,000 RPM  (2005 to 2007 models)
5.9L 12-valve: 440 lb-ft @ 1,600 RPM
5.9L 24-valve ISB: 600 lb-ft @ 1,600 RPM
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