Many things come to mind when considering Ford’s history. The Dearborn-based manufacturer is famous for the assembly line and the Model T. The long-standing car manufacturer debuted the Mustang in the mid-20th century, forever changing the pony car landscape in the automobile industry. In the last decade, Ford has focused on its trucks as they become more versatile and tech-friendly. They are powered by the Power Stroke engine. This diesel engine has come a long way since its beginnings late last century.
The Power Stroke has definitely had highs and lows throughout its history. How is it doing now, and where is it going? The electrification of the auto industry means significant changes coming to Ford and possibly, its truck lineup.
History Of Ford’s Diesel Engines
Ford debuted the Power Stroke V8 engine in 1994. However, you need to know more background for context.
Ford first partnered with the International Truck and Engine Corp. (ITEC) in 1982 to make its first diesel engine. The 6.9-liter indirect injection engine specs included 170 horsepower and 315 lb-ft of torque. It wasn’t the most powerful engine on the block. However, it set Ford up for the next generation of engines. Until 1987, Ford stuck with the 6.9-liter engine and upgraded from the four-speed manual transmission to a five-speed. The bigger change would come a year later.
Five years after the first engine with ITEC, Ford upgraded its mills with a 7.3-liter diesel. The engine was still indirect injection, but there were some changes. For example, Ford improved the engine block, giving it a bigger displacement and overall increased reliability.
When Did Ford Create The Power Stroke Engine?
Ford debuted its 7.3-liter diesel engine — the first with a turbocharger — in 1993. It introduced the Power Stroke engine a year later. The Power Stroke was the first to have direct injection. It also added longevity to the Ford truck lineup by being capable of over 300,000 miles for many owners. The 1994 Power Stroke paved the way for today’s engines as Ford designed it with electronic controls—setting the standard for decades.
Ford created the Power Stroke in another collaboration with ITEC, which changed its name to Navistar International. This engine’s 210 horsepower and 425 pound-feet of torque won’t blow you away, but it was powerful for the time. Compare it to the 1994 gas-powered truck (460 cubic-inch), which had 245 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque. The most impressive part about this new Power Stroke engine might be the direct fuel injection, increasing the fuel pressure to 21,000 psi. Overall, the power was formidable and forever changed how people see trucks.
How Has the Power Stroke Engine Evolved?
Ford set the standard with its first Power Stroke engine and has made changes along the way. Some iterations were successful, while others left room for improvement. Here’s a closer look at its evolution through the years.
The 1994 engine was quite a success, and Ford improved upon it with the 1999 engine. The better 7.3-liter engine with enhanced turbo tuning and increased injection pressure. Ford increased the horsepower to 235 and upgraded the torque to an incredible 525 pound-feet. The engines also became more efficient with the addition of an intercooler. The fuel pump became electronic, touting the technological achievements of Ford for the time.
The early Power Stroke engines were home runs for Ford. Unfortunately, the next round of engines would be closer to strikeouts.
Ford transitioned the Power Stroke engine to 6.0 liters in 2003. Why did they depart from the 7.3-liter mill? In the late ’90s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cracked down on diesel engine emissions — specifically nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM). In 1999, the EPA said pickup trucks must follow national pollution standards, leading to a more environmentally friendly engine.
Balancing power and emissions proved to be challenging. Ford attempted to do so by introducing a variable-geometry turbocharger. The horsepower leaped to 325, and torque increased to 570 lb-ft. Those were the highlights of this new generation. Unfortunately, the 2003 engine was unreliable for many truck owners. The high-pressure oil system (HPOP) and cooler often failed. For example, the oil cooler would become dirty with sediment, raising the temperature and reducing coolant flow. The 6.0-liter engine ended up with Ford in civil court.
The 2007 Power Stroke engine marked the last time Ford partnered with Navistar International. Ford unveiled the new 6.4-liter engine for its Super Duty trucks starting in 2008. This engine improved the head gasket problem found with the 6.0-liter engine by adding 16 mm torque to yield head bolts for better security.
Ford also introduced the common rail system to the new engine for aided emissions control and increased power. The 2007 Power Stroke engine upgraded the horsepower to 350 and the torque to 650 pound-feet. It became Ford’s most powerful engine to date. Still, it faced problems like its predecessor.
Despite advancing technology for lower emissions, the engine lacked fuel efficiency compared to competitors. Plus, owners complained about cracking pistons and unreliable fuel injection pumps. Ford only used the engine for three years before ending its partnership with Navistar.
Ford introduced the first Ford-Built Power Stroke in 2011. The engine would be a welcome sight compared to the previous iterations. The new engine was a 6.7-liter nicknamed the “Scorpion.” Ford improved the engine by making it lighter while increasing the power with compacted graphite iron (CGI) blocks. The 2011 Power Stroke engine had 390 horsepower and 735 pound-feet of torque. Ford eclipsed the 400-horsepower mark by 2012, creating a powerful motor for its loyal truck owners.
Ford continued using its single turbocharger (with variable geometry) from the previous models. However, this engine was unique because of its twin-scroll turbocharger.
New technology allowed Ford to be more environmentally conscious through exhaust gas recirculation. Other emission control systems included selective catalytic reduction and biodiesel support. The engine could hold up to 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel.
The 2011 iteration proved reliable, so Ford continued with this model in the next generation.
In 2017, Ford upgraded to a high-pressure common rail system with direct injection. Plus, it has an air-to-air intercooler. The 2017 engine was one of the most impressive Ford had ever introduced. The manufacturer provided 440 horsepower and 925 lb-ft of torque. Ford reached the 450-horsepower with the 2018 models. The 2017 Power Stroke is one of the most popular diesel engines on the market.
Ford unveiled a 3.0-liter engine to compete with Ram’s V6 EcoDiesel in 2018. This engine had 250 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque and delivered an excellent 30 mpg. While serviceable, the engine faced problems with failing crankshaft bearings and oil pumps. Owners also reported issues with the exhaust gas temperature (EGT). The engine only lasted until 2021.
2020 brought many changes, but Ford stuck with the 6.7-liter engine for the third time. The horsepower climbed again to 475, while the torque eclipsed the thousand mark with 1,050 pound-feet. Ford reduced the engine weight by introducing a steel piston. It weighs just under 1,000 pounds but provides incredible power.
Ford added the 10-speed heavy-duty TorqShift automatic transmission and switched to split-stream piston cooling jets for the 2020 edition. The maximum psi injection pressure increased to 36,000, and Ford lowered the compression ratio to 15:8:1.
What Does Today’s Power Stroke Engine Look Like?
The 2023 F-Series Super Duty contains numerous engine options for buyers — including the upgraded high-output 6.7-liter engine. Ford set the standard for torque again with 1,200 pound-feet of torque and easily beat its competitors like Ram. The manufacturer also reached 500 horsepower for roaring power under the hood.
The 2023 engine carried over the variable geometry turbocharger. However, Ford upgraded the powertrain control module calibration. The extra 150 pound-feet of torque provides even better towing from the trucks that already know how to haul. Ford also increased the injection pressure, allowing up to 39,000 psi.
Where Does the Power Stroke Go From Here?
Ford has continued to shatter expectations by producing powerful, lighter engines that are more efficient than ever. Can it beat Ram and GM to 1,300 or 1,500 pound-feet of torque?
The future of the Power Stroke engine is up in the air because of electric vehicles (EVs). Ford has announced plans to invest billions of dollars in EV research and development. The manufacturer has stopped putting the Power Stroke engine in the F-150 and reserved it for the Super Duty series. Now, the F-150 is getting the electric treatment through the Lightning model.
The Power Stroke will continue to evolve as long as Ford makes Super Duty trucks.