The right way to bullet proof a 6.0 Power Stroke

Why should you bullet proof?

If you own a 6.0 Power Stroke, bullet proofing it should be in your play book. The 6.0 Power Stroke’s head gasket and oil cooler issues above are not an “if it happens” issue, but a “when it happens” issue. When things do go wrong, you want to do it right so you never have to repeat the repair, or worse, damage your engine. The main purpose of performing a bullet proof on your truck, is make sure it lasts. A long weekend, basic tools, Silica-free coolant, a torque wrench and machine shop is all you really need to get the job done, the right way. Doing it the right way, can secure your truck for the journey to 200,000 miles and beyond easily. You will still need to keep up basic maintenance and replace or repair other engine parts that fail. Such as injectors, turbo, body mounts, wheel bearings, seals and so on. The real benefit though is the main failure points of the truck, will be taken care of with a proper bullet proofing.

What is bullet proofing?

Let’s start this simple, what is a 6.0 bullet proof, and what fails on the 6.0 Power Stroke engines?

Bullet proofing a 6.0 Power Stroke engines in it’s simplest form, is swapping out the weak factory head bolts for quality head studs, such as ARP Head Studs, upgrading the EGR and replacing the factory oil cooler with a new Motorcraft Part. ARP head studs are our personal stud of choice, they are insanely strong and extremely stretch resistant. One of the main failure points in the 6.0 diesel, the factory head bolts will physically stretch, causing head lift, which ultimately results in a blown head gasket. When the head lifts from the block, even though it is only thousands of an inch, it’s enough to cause hot spots, combustion chamber leaks, coolant consumption and stress points on the head gasket which leads to the failure all 6.0 owners fear. The engine relies on the head bolts to resist the massive combustion pressures generated by the engines 18:1 compression ratio, coupled with up to 25 pounds of boost pressure on stock trucks.

The second failure point on the 6.0’s is the EGR cooler. The EGR cooler on the trucks are one of the most talked about problems, but it’s failure isn’t because of a poorly designed part. The cooler generally fails because of the oil cooler becoming plugged with silica. The EGR Cooler rarely fails on it’s own, it’s failure is almost always caused by something else, such as the oil cooler being packed full of silica. A failed, or failing EGR cooler should be taken as a sign that something else is failing, most commonly in the cooling system.

Which brings us to the third common failure, the Oil Cooler. Silica is a compound Ford used in it’s coolants for the Power Stroke’s up until 2011. Silica coolants where used to help fight electrolysis that can occur between the various metals used in the engine cooling system. The down side to Silica, over time it will break down and “fall out” of the coolant, clogging the oil cooler which leads to the EGR failure. Ford’s spec is that the Engine Oil Temperature and Engine Coolant Temperature should not have a delta greater than 15 degrees Fahrenheit while driving at a steady speed, on flat ground. Seeing temperatures out of this range, is a common tell tale sign that you have oil cooler problems.


Example; if your EOT is 205 and ECT is 198, that is within Ford spec. If your EOT is 225 and ECT is 198, you are out of Ford’s spec, you could have a clogged oil cooler.


The fourth common failure point is the water pump, which in our opinion and experience, isn’t that much of a failure point. We have personally only seen a handful of pump failures. Ford has revised the pump, to the new 100mm pump to help alleviate some of the issues with the smaller pump. The new 100mm pump comes with the new front cover kits, and we have yet to see one fail. There is a reason Motorcraft warranties all their parts for 2 years and unlimited miles, they believe in their parts and we do too.

The fifth and final most common failure point, is the Fuel Injection Control Module’s (FICM) power supply unit. Ford OEM Spec is 48v output, which over time drops due to age, heat cycles, and electrical fatigue. This failure is very common, but with modern re-manufactured units from Alliant power, the issue of the failing power supply is diminishing. We personally use an Alliant Power unit when the power supply failure occurs, and we haven’t had a truck return yet.

A common misconception of the 6.0 Bullet proof, is when you have it done, it’s completely fine to beat the truck every single day, all day on your hottest tune file. Engine’s have limits, and while these are some of the toughest engines Ford has produced, they still have limits. The limits are high, these engines are not made of glass, but running the truck with your foot to the floor all day, has a risk to reward ratio that you can’t avoid. The parts upgraded or changed in the Bullet Proofing process will be fine, but there is a lot more in an engine that can be changed or upgraded if needed when things go sideways.


The Proven Way to Bullet Proof

We have a very specific, and proven way to perform a 6.0 bullet proof here, and this section we will explain just how we do it.

The main key ingredient to the process, is prep work. We can not stress prep work enough for these trucks, it can be the downfall of the truck or the key to years and years of reliability. We start with a basic engine bay cleaning, to knock off all the large debris and engine grime. Once that is complete, the truck is brought into the shop and our Lead tech begins his work. The basic process is as follows;

Removal of the Cab, Inspection and Tear Down

Once the cab is in the air, we can really see what we are working with, and begin tearing down the engine. This includes removing valve covers, rocker covers, rocker arms, push rods, oil cooler, fuel filter housing and so on.

Initial Inspection to Determine the Failure Point, and to Identify Other Potential Problems

Once we have the engine torn down, we inspect the head gaskets, injectors, oil cooler, everything removed from the truck to try and identify the initial concerns, point of failure and general condition of the parts. Once parts are inspected and checked, they go into a hot tank bath. All nuts, bolts, intake and exhaust manifolds and Y pipe are cleaned, and scrubbed. If a part comes off the truck and is going back onto the truck, it receives a cleaning before re-installation.

Both Cylinder Heads are Sent to Our Local Machine Shop

The heads are received by the machine shop and receive a hot tank bath, then have a Magnaflux crack detection test performed on them. After the heads pass the test, they are disassembled for machining. The head surface is cut down to make it true again, our machinist uses a specialty mill for this process. We never have, and never will use scotch bright pads, or “whiz wheels” for this. Using them will actually damage the surface of the head, but not it a way you think. Those devices will actually make the head surface too smooth, Ford spec calls for a machined surface as to allow the head gasket to “grip” the surface of the head better. Failures because of using a whiz wheel are more common than you think.

Once the head is complete, the valves are seated and cut if necessary to remain in Ford spec for tolerances. Extra little steps like this are what make the difference in our process and add value and peace of mind for the customer. Valve springs are also visually inspected for wear, stress and discoloration as a signal a replacement is needed.

Oil Cooler, Water Pump and all Related Gaskets and Seals

For the rebuild process, we use a Master Gasket Kit from Ford, if a gasket, seal or O-ring comes off the truck during the process, it gets replaced with a brand new piece. We also use a brand new Motorcraft oil cooler from Ford, we don’t feel an upgraded unit is necessary at all for these truck. With proper coolant, the main downfall of the oil cooler is removed from the equation. All trucks also get a brand new Motorcraft water pump and front cover.

Block Surface is Prepared with a 2 Step Whet Stone Process

The block surface tends to be dirty, and have deposits of carbon, burnt oil and combustion debris. To combat that we first wipe the surface down to remove the loose bits, then we follow up with a 2 stage whet stone light conditioning treatment. The purpose of this is to make sure the block surface is as clean as possible, and smooth but without removing or knocking down the machining marks.

Cylinder Head  and ARP Head Studs Installation

Once the heads are finished at the machine shop, and the engine is ready for reassemble we start the process. Most of the now clean parts are re-installed to the truck, made easy due to the cab being in the air. The majority of the reassemble takes place at this phase. We use the remaining parts of our Ford Master Gasket Kit to complete this process, no seal, o-ring or gasket is reused.

Finishing Re-assembly of Truck

In the final stages the cab is lowered, and attached to the trucks chassis. The truck gets fresh fuel and oil filters, and an oil change and if necessary the air filter is also replaced. The tech will then do various diagnostic tests on the truck to make sure everything is correct, and working properly before the initial startup.

3 Step Engine Cooling System Flush, and Final Fill With Rotella ELC Coolant

Once the truck is ready, the cooling system is filled with distilled water and Fleetguard Engine Flush and the truck is ran and flushed a first time. The truck is then filled with distilled water and flushed a second time. We will repeat this step as much as needed until the water comes out clear. Once the flushing process is complete, we will refill with a 50/50 mixtures of Rotella ELC Coolant and distilled water. The final step of the process, is the final test drive the next day to make sure the truck is functioning properly and all the repair work performed is solid. Soon as that test drives ends, the truck is ready for delivery to the customer.


Final Thoughts

Our process allows us to offer a 2 year, unlimited mileage warranty on all 6.0 bullet proof work. We have personally yet to see a truck come back needing a head gasket or oil cooler after we perform our work. We have been practicing that exact process for 10+ years now, and firmly believe in our process. Quality components, proper coolant and meticulous prep work are the keys to success with the 6.0 Power Stroke engine. The majority of the trucks we work on, are work trucks, the owners depend on their trucks day and day out. We strive to provide the best service we can, to keep these trucks on the road for years to come, be it work truck or a strictly play truck.

Doing the job the right way, the first time, will secure your truck’s engine health for years to come, and sets you up perfectly to start adding other modifications to the truck. With head studs in the block, your truck will be ready for larger injectors, camshaft, push rods and valve springs, turbo upgrades or even twin turbos. You don’t even have to stop there, you can add performance headers, intakes and inter-coolers into the mix, and the only thing you need to worry about is your transmission until you want to break into the 750hp+ range. That is a whole different article though, as the truck requires a good amount of work to get you there, reliably.

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