One of the many great things about 6.0-liter Power Stroke diesel engines are the wide variety of performance products available. The aftermarket create products intended to resolve a problem or improve the performance of the vehicle as-delivered from the factory. With our 2005 Excursion, we’ve found many things that need to be upgraded – and a few more things that we just want to improve. One component that seemed okay at a glance but actually needed replacing was the factory electric clutch fan.
There were a few options to choose from, primarily a factory replacement fan or an early 7.3-liter clutch fan. We found a better option with Flex-A-Lite’s fully electric fans and shroud. After some careful evaluation of the symptoms of our factory fan, we chose the Flex-A-Lite electric fans for 2003-07 Ford Super Duties (PN 274), which is a direct replacement packed full of benefits.
Over the years, we’ve noticed some strange characteristics with our Excursion. The cooling system always seemed to stay cool, but the fan speed was very erratic. The fan would come on late and stay on for a very short period of time; very rarely did we ever hear it kick in on a hot day. Since our towing is limited to 3,000 pounds, we’ve never thought we were working our 6.0-liter hard enough to generate much heat. This was why we weren’t sure if we even had a fan problem at all.
After doing some repairs on the A/C system, we recognized that the fan was not working correctly. Also, since we have an externally mounted oil cooler, we were seeing very high oil temperatures when towing. We determined that the slow response of the fan engagement was allowing the oil to get hot. Since the fan stayed on for a short time, it cooled the coolant, but not the oil. Essentially, our fan was working; just not working well.
Why A New Fan?
We chose the Flex-A-Lite electric fan kit for a number of reasons. Removing the factory shroud and clutch fan system is a huge weight saver. What we weren’t expecting is the amount of space available between the engine and new fans. This would have been the first upgrade on our list had we known it needed it. The extra space makes the engine more accessible, allowing for much easier repairs. For those of us that work on our own trucks, this is a huge benefit.
The air conditioning on trucks can be hit or miss. Some trucks have really cold A/C temps all the time and others not so much. Our Excursion’s A/C temps were cool, but never cold. This was due to the fan not working properly when the A/C was turned on. The fan doesn’t need to be on high when the air is on, however it does need to engage and blow enough air through the condenser to transfer the heat away. A slow-reacting fan can have a huge effect on A/C temps and this was definitely the case for our Excursion.
As mentioned earlier our high oil temps were the final tell. In a truck with a factory oil cooler, the symptoms may not have been obvious. We may have put a lot more miles on our truck until finally realizing the fan was insufficient. Since the truck had an external air-to-oil cooler, the demand on the cooling fan was increased significantly. Also, the parameters that regulated the factory fan speed didn’t take into account the engine oil temperature. That, or oil temp is not an OEM priority in determining cooling fan speed.
The oil temps with the air-to-oil cooler suffered greatly, even though the coolant temps were in the proper range. The new Flex-A-Lite electric fans can draw up to 6,800 cubic feet per minute (cfm) of air at idle if needed. With this much airflow, we could eliminate our hot oil temp problem.
Comparing the Old with the New
The factory fan and shroud are huge. We didn’t realize how much space they take up until we got the old system completely removed. The new Flex-A-Lite fans and shroud are a slim design that fits snugly against the radiator. The new electric fans leave 4-8 inches of room between the shroud and the engine. This makes big engine repairs much easier and also allows for easy access to the serpentine belt removal lever. The lack of space with the factory fan has always made belt removal a big job requiring a special tool. With the new Flex-A-Lite electric fans, we could easily relieve the belt tension with a standard half-inch breaker bar.
With a new fan system, it was important to consider how it interacts with the vehicle’s computer. If we had chosen to use a clutch fan from a 7.3-liter, we may have set a check engine light or a soft code. The Flex-A-Lite system is designed to work with the factory computer by using an emulator. This essentially tricks the computer into thinking that the factory fan clutch is plugged in and working properly. At the time of this writing, we have a couple thousand miles of drive time with our new fans and there are no engine codes or issues. The fans are interacting with the computer just as they should.
Factory Fan and Fan Clutch Removal
Installing the Flex-A-Lite electric fan and shroud was fairly painless and took us less than a day. Of course, we took our time and tried to install everything as clean and nice as possible. Since we were dealing with a radiator, it was important to be careful so we didn’t bend or puncture any tubes. With this install, patience was the key to success.
The factory fan shroud is two pieces that are connected together by some heavy-duty rubber. Before the shroud will come out, the radiator needed to be disconnected at the top. A few components needed to be removed, including the upper radiator hose and an air filter assembly bracket. We just disconnected the upper hose at the radiator and moved it out of the way. We did this so we wouldn’t have to drain the coolant from the radiator.
Removing the upper radiator mounting brackets allowed the radiator to move forward at the top. However, before it could be moved, the battery cable needed to be unsecured from the frame. This allowed the cable to be pulled out of the way, leaving room for the radiator. Once everything was clear and disconnected, we pulled the fan shroud out.
With the front half of the fan shroud out, we were able to reach the fan clutch. We used a very large Crescent wrench to break the large nut loose. We also unbolted the second half of the fan shroud. The bottom shroud bolts were connected to a female threaded stud that required a second wrench to keep from spinning. We found out the hard way and twisted the plastic right off the shroud. Fortunately, the new Flex-A-Lite fans and shroud don’t use any of the old shroud components.
Installing The Fan And Shroud
With all the extra room available, it was very easy to install the new Flex-A-Lite fans and shroud. We double-checked that our batteries were disconnected and made sure to follow the instructions precisely. The emulator plugs directly into the fan clutch harness socket. We paid special attention to the factory harness, rerouting it to prevent any rubbing or pinch points. The emulator mounts to the degas bottle bracket and is completely out of the way.
Before placing the new fan shroud into the truck, we mounted the upper brackets. Flex-A-Lite did a fantastic job designing the upper brackets to fit the radiator while allowing some flexibility. Unfortunately, the lower brackets required some minor modifications to fit properly. We needed to massage the bottom bracket to clear the lower A/C hoses. Also, we needed to drill another hole to mount the lower bracket to the shroud. The aluminum bracket was easy to work with, which allowed for a quick and easy fix.
The shroud is designed to fit snug against the radiator. The lower bracket has slots which allowed us to adjust the shroud for a perfect fit. Once we felt comfortable that the new fans and shroud were mounted properly, we tightened all of the bolts for a permanent fit. Before moving on to wiring, we bolted everything back up except the batteries.
Flex-A-Lite supplied detailed instructions with the kit. For the wiring portion of the install, this was critical. The last thing we wanted to do was fry the variable speed controller due to a bad wiring job. Fortunately, everything needed to install the wiring was supplied including extra long wires.
A fuse tap was supplied for the “key on” power source and a piggyback connector for the A/C connection. One critical component was the thermostat probe. This probe mounted into the radiator between the fins. It was necessary for us to be extra cautious when installing it, otherwise we could’ve cracked the radiator. The final step was to reconnect the batteries and install the main fuse for the fans.
Testing and Calibration
With any new part, we always want to make certain it’s working properly. For the Flex-A-Lite fans, we did this by warming up the Excursion with the A/C off. Once the engine was warm, we monitored the fans to see if they switched on. In our case they turned on when they should have and seemed to cycle properly as well.
Also, when the A/C was turned on, the fans increased speed as expected. The control unit on the shroud has an adjustment that can change the temperature setting of the fans. Since it’s still winter, we will wait until it’s hot again and recheck the adjustment just to make sure all is well.
Flex-A-Lite did a great job designing this kit. With all of the great features that went with it, we were disappointed we didn’t install this sooner. Installation was simple and aside from the minor modifications, it bolted right in. The new fans cured our oil cooling and A/C issues and provided much-needed space under the hood. The weight savings alone should be helpful for MPGs. Also, there’s no doubt that we gained some horsepower by removing the giant fan.
Upgrading to a new Flex-A-Lite electric fan system has proved to be a great benefit for our Excursion. If you think your rig could benefit as well, we encourage you to check out the company’s website and Facebook page for more information.