Ford 7.3 Powerstroke years to avoid — most common problems
The 7.3 Powerstroke was a massive success for Ford. Owing to the modification in 1999, the success of this engine model has rocketed even higher than ever before. Unfortunately, notwithstanding its reputation as one of the most reliable diesel engines, the 7.3 Powerstroke couldn’t fulfill specific emission standards in 2003.
Although the Ford 7.3L Powerstroke engine is widely known for lasting up to 500,000 miles under proper maintenance, there are, however, some model produced in specific years that are only partially reliable. As a result, Ford stopped making the 7.3 Powerstroke in the first quarter of 2003.
This article covers aspects ranging from the Ford 7.3 Powerstroke years to avoid down to the best 7.3 Powerstroke years you can actually consider buying and also provides answers to related questions.
Most common Ford 7.3 Powerstroke problems
The 7.3 Powerstroke has some prevalent issues you should know if you intend to shop for a Ford with this engine. These problems include camshaft position failure, fuel filter housing leak, turbocharger up-pipe leak, EBPV failure, etc.
Camshaft position sensor failure
The CPS sensor could be found at the bottom half of the engine block, just above the crankshaft damper. It controls the crankshaft’s position and speed and sends this information to the Powerstroke’s computer or PCM. The engine’s computer then uses the camshafts position data collected from the sensor to deliver adequate fuel at the correct time to control the engine’s timing.
The 7.3 Powerstroke’s CPS is widely known to be the most frequent failure point on these engines. Since the PCM uses the CPS’s signal to alert the injector driver module (IDM) on the quantity of fuel to send and to which cylinder to deliver, when the sensor fails, the PCM gets no signal and therefore doesn’t send a signal to the IDM. The result is that your 7.3 doesn’t get the correct amount of fuel to either start the engine or keep it running.
While Ford has done several revisions over the years, this remains a common failure point for the 7.3 Powerstroke. Owners have had the most success using the recently released purple and dark grey CPS sensor. We recommend you purchase a second one and keep it in your glovebox in case your CPS fails while you’re out on a road trip. It’s also worth knowing the main camshaft position sensor symptoms just so you can act on time and fix the problem.
A few CPS failure symptoms of the 7.3 Powerstroke include:
- Rough acceleration
- Check engine light
- Engine stalling during idle or randomly while driving
- Engine cranks but doesn’t start
Leaking fuel filter housing
The fuel filter housing, commonly known as the fuel bowl, is prone to cracks which lead to fuel leaks. While the fuel pump is made of aluminum, its cap is made of plastic. The fuel system’s pressure, along with the heat from the engine bay, causes the cap to wear out over time and may develop cracks that can cause fuel leaks. Although some drivers have reported cracks in the aluminum housing, it is rare.
Apart from a cracked cap, another common cause of a leaking fuel filter housing is the o-rings. The chemicals in diesel fuel do not react well with the coating that Ford utilizes on the oil seals and o-rings of the 7.3 Powerstroke. These chemicals can create gaps around the o-ring, allowing fuel to escape, and triggering the symptoms of low fuel pressure. As a side note, the o-rings on the drain valve often crack in colder weather, leading to leaks.
Some leaking fuel filter symptoms to look out for include:
- Slow cranking
- Engine stalling during idle
- Fuel dripping under the vehicle
IPR (injector pressure regulator) failure
The IPR or injector pressure regulator rests on the high-pressure oil pump (HPOP) and assists in pressure control. It works with the injection control pressure sensor (ICP) and the PCM to regulate and control the amount of pressure from the HPOP. This, in turn, provides oil pressure to the fuel injector, allowing the engine to get the correct amount of fuel needed for smooth operation.
Instead of a conventional high-pressure fuel pump, the Ford 7.3 Powerstroke utilizes a hydraulic electronic unit injector (HEUI) system that uses the HPOP to regulate the amount of fuel that goes from the injectors to the engine.
Drivers indicate that as a 7.3 Powerstroke engine ages, its IPR may fail for several reasons, including bad sensors, stuck regulators, seal failure, damaged wires, etc. A failed IPR causes the engine to either get excess or insufficient fuel which could lead to several other problems.
A few IPR failure symptoms include:
- Car stalls at idle
- Poor engine performance and rough idle
- Engine cranks but doesn’t start
- Surging acceleration, decreased performance, poor shifting, etc.
Turbocharger up-pipe leak
The turbo up-pipes are the parts of the 7.3’s exhaust system that connects from the exhaust manifold to the turbocharger. The factory-made pipes are installed with crush donut gaskets that connect the pipes to the turbo and manifold. As exhaust gasses flow through continually, the piping widens and contracts. Over time, the crush gaskets begin deteriorating and leaking owing to this expansion and contraction.
Some leaking 7.3 up-pipes symptoms include:
- Loss of acceleration
- Decreased performance
- Diesel particles/soot on the back of the engine, tranny, and firewall
- Increased exhaust gas temperatures
Bent valve springs and push rods
While these two are separate problems, failed valve springs and bent push rods tend to go hand in hand. The valve springs are responsible for the smooth opening and closing of the valvetrain while ensuring that the lifter and camshaft remain in contact. The springs do not possess high seat pressure that could cause the valve to float at high RPMs. Most importantly, a low spring pressure at high RPMs can “float” or cause the valves to seal incompletely.
You may experience engine noises, get a low compression test in a cylinder, or even more severe engine damage. If the spring breaks rather than floating, it can send the valve into the cylinder, damaging the cylinder head, piston, and other internal engine components.
Similarly, piston rods commonly fail due to a weak cylinder, resulting from valve spring issues. In addition, poor engine timing, stuck filters, and overly tightened rocker arms can also be the culprits.
The Injection Driver Modules (IDM) is located on the fender’s part that is on the driver’s side of the vehicle. When these parts come in contact with water, they get damaged fully or partially, causing the engine to either refuse to start or prevent it from running smoothly. This problem is also common with the Ford 7.3 Powerstroke.
Under valve cover harness (UVCH) failure
Without getting too technical, the UVCH is an essential component of the Ford 7.3 Powerstroke fuel injector system. For the injector to fire appropriately requires a little more power than the battery provides. To this effect, the engine comes with an Injector Driver Module (IDM), which receives a signal or voltage from the ECM that would then fire the injectors to output a high-enough voltage for the injectors.
As its name suggests, the under-cover valve is under the valve cover. Considering the constant shaking of the engine and the heat within the valve cover, its connector wires can either melt or break by rubbing against the valve.
Some 7.3 UVCH failure symptoms include:
- Engine misfires
- Poor performance and rough engine running
Which Ford 7.3 Powerstroke years to avoid?
You do not have to avoid all the different models of the Ford 7.3L Powerstroke, but there are specific models with issues that other model years don’t have. Be sure to avoid the following Powerstroke years:
Ford 7.3 Powerstroke 1994-1997 model years
Ford developed its 7.3 Powerstroke engine in 1994, which was meant to replace the T444E engine. There weren’t any significant issues that could result in expensive repairs, but one prevalent issue in 1994-1997 was the loose contact in the under-valve harness connector. This connector links the fuel injector and the glow plugs to the output stage relay and injector control module.
When this connection breaks or loosens up due to engine vibrations, it leads to engine misfires. The problem is easy to diagnose, and all you have to do is check the electrical coupler for any short circuits or loose contact.
Another common issue with these engines is a leaking fuel filter house. The aluminum is prone to cracks as the mileage and age of the car increase. The fuel heater in the fuel filter can also blow up the fuse due to an internal short circuit.
Ford 7.3 Powerstroke 2001-2003 model years
The Powerstroke engines manufactured between these years have camshaft position sensor (CPS) issues, and it is a critical problem and frequently prevents the engine from starting up. One common symptom of a faulty CPS is when there is no engine speed reading on the vehicle’s tachometer. When you crank the engine with the starter motor, the engine speed hovers around 200-300 RPM, causing the tachometer to fluctuate.
The engine can stall if the camshaft position sensor doesn’t work correctly. You should check if the tachometer’s needle moves when cranking the engine, and if it doesn’t, you should replace the camshaft position sensor.
Ford did not introduce any significant design changes to the Powerstroke engine during its reproduction, and these changes included using new fuel injectors, turbochargers, ECU, and emission control. However, the most significant change occurred in 2001 when Ford switched from using forged connecting rods to powered metal connecting rods.
Bear in mind that these new connecting rods are less strong than the former as they cannot handle the same stress level and breaks easily, leading to inadequate compression. Therefore, you must avoid these engines as the powered metal connecting rods can snap without warning.
Best Ford 7.3 Powerstroke years?
The Ford 7.3 Powerstroke is a great model and can provide an incredible experience if you keep away from the faulty models we discussed earlier. We recommend you go for any of the models listed below.
- 1998 Ford 7.3 Powerstroke
- 1999 Ford 7.3 Powerstroke
- 2000 Ford 7.3 Powerstroke
Beginning in 1994, Ford built an excellent reputation for its 7.3 Powerstroke and improved upon it over the years. However, the performance and innovation of the 7.3 Powerstroke met its peak in the late 90s, which many drivers regard as the best years of this engine. So, it is best to avoid buying a Ford truck with a 7.3 Powerstroke engine released between 2001-2003.
Is the Ford 7.3 Powerstroke worth buying?
Yes. It can be worthwhile buying a Ford truck with the 7.3 Powerstroke engine. With its long-lasting injectors, you can get up to over 200,000 miles. Other features of this engine that would guarantee good performance and durability include its fixed geometry turbo, complex yet durable fuel injection system, external oil cooler, etc.
What is the life expectancy of a 7.3 Powerstroke?
If unmodified and used under top-notch maintenance routines, a 7.3 Powerstroke has a life expectancy of around 400,000-500-000 miles.
What Powerstroke engines to avoid?
It would be best if you avoided Powerstroke engines between 1994-1997 and 2001-2003. These engines have a long list of issues; therefore, it is best to pick an engine between 1998-2000.