6.0-Liter Power Stroke Upgrades To Keep Your Rig Roadworthy

When it comes to Ford’s Super Duty pickups, The Power Stroke has seen several generations of motivation placed under the hood. Whichever one you feel is best, it’s no secret that the 6.0-liter doesn’t seem to get the respect it deserves. Sure, it has its shortcomings, as it is an older engine design, but it is still a good engine. While many focus on Power Stroke upgrades for the 6.7- and 7.3-liter engines, I thought it time to focus on the often-overlooked 6.0-liter engine.

The 6.0-Liter Foundation

The 6.0-liter Power Stroke was introduced in 2003 and remained in production until the 2007 model year. This new mill was, at the time, outfitted with industry-leading technology. However, it also had its share of issues that plagued it during its production run.

The 6.0-liter Power Stroke was designed to meet 2004’s stricter EPA emissions standards, and although there is no DPF, unfortunately, the EGR cooling system was failure-prone from the beginning. Also, the head gaskets on nearly all 6.0-liter engines will eventually leak and need replaced.

Power stroke upgrades

Reports of high-pressure oil pump failures and cracked degas bottles are another not-so-rare issue. Fuel injection control module failures, clogged oil coolers, soot buildup in the turbo, and carbon buildup on the injectors have also been reported. However, a solid maintenance routine can keep most of these issues from becoming problematic.

But when it is time for a few Power Stroke upgrades, the 6.0-liter engine responds very well. From the factory, they make 325 horsepower and 570 lb-ft of torque. Sure, this might not be a lot by today’s standards, but, since they were built before DPF systems were required, you have a little more latitude when it comes to selecting your Power Stroke upgrades.

Hey There Stud

Walk into any diesel shop in North America and you will likely spot a 6.0-liter-powered Super Duty with its cab off. Let’s face it, the 6.0-liter Power Stroke is best known for head gasket failure and cab removal is the easier way to fix it. But why does it happen?

For starters, it’s not the head gasket’s fault. In actuality, it’s the fasteners that fail. The 20004 through 2007 head bolts have a proven track record of not keeping the head sufficiently clamped. And since the 6.0-liter engine only utilizes four head bolts per cylinder (10 per side) there simply are not enough bolts to keep the clamp pressure.

Power Stroke upgrades

Since the factory torque to yield head bolts are a problematic design for the 6.0-liter diesel, a set of head studs should be the first upgrade you consider.

To fix this, you need a set of good head studs. Gator Fasteners’ head studs have a much higher clamping and tensile strength than the OE bolts and will not stretch like the factory bolts. This will keep your truck from developing head gasket leaks. The Gator Fasteners 6.0-liter head studs are designed for stock to moderately built 6.0-liter Power Stroke engines. And have a tensile strength of more than 220,000 psi.

Cooling Conundrum

One of the more common failures of a 6.0-liter Power Stroke is the EGR and oil coolers These are liquid-to-liquid heat exchangers. The 6.0 engine blocks were sand cast at the foundry, and even after assembly of the engine, debris from the casting process is still present in the coolant passages. Unfortunately, this debris slowly works through the cooling system and eventually plugs the small passageways in the coolers. When that happens, coolant flow is blocked. But if you can prevent the dirt from plugging up the coolers you can have an efficient system.

power stroke upgrades

The Power Stroke is known to have debris floating around in the coolant system. Adding a coolant filter is an easy and economical way to keep the system clean and avoid costly repairs.

If you’re looking at a truck with a 6.0-liter engine, it probably has several thousand miles on the odometer, this could mean one of two things, it has either already experienced a clogged cooling system and the coolers have been replaced, or someone has already added a coolant filter.

If you are looking at purchasing a truck and do not see a coolant filter, ask if the coolers have been replaced. If not, keep this concern in mind. If they have, Sinister Diesel has a coolant filter that will help keep the coolers from getting plugged — if it’s not too late. The coolant filter is installed within the cooling system (in a heater hose), and the filter is mounted in the engine bay making for easy replacement. The Sinister filter head has two valves mounted inline, allowing you to shut off coolant flow so you won’t lose any appreciable amount of coolant during a filter change. And once you’ve gone through the initial system cleanout, (swap filters at 500 and then 3,000 miles) you only need to replace the filter once a year.

If you are too late and your EGR cooler is already experiencing a diminished coolant flow, then a new and improved EGR cooler from BulletProof Diesel should be next on your list of Power Stroke upgrades.  Installing this new EGR cooler on your Ford 6.0-liter engine gives you patented H-Core technology. What is H-Core? It is a twisted grouping of tubing used in place of traditional straight tubes. By installing the tubes in a twisted design, they can flex and move. This reduces the stress on the bulkheads and seams of the EGR. This also allows the tubes to be stacked close together, which allows for more tubes.


Boost: A Big Power Stroke Upgrade

Now that you have added head studs and a coolant filter, you might want to start looking at the turbo. The factory variable geometry turbocharger (VGT) is known to “stick”, which means it can no longer function properly. In most cases, a turbo that is stuck can be fixed without replacement, but until you remove it from the engine, pull the turbo apart, and treat it to a thorough cleaning, the problem will remain.

The 6.0-liter Power Stroke came new with a Garrett GT3782VA turbo. While the same turbocharger was found on all 2003 through 2007 6.0-liter engines, a few subtle differences were incorporated between early and later versions. The early 2003-model turbocharger has different mounting bolt locations and also comes with a 10-blade turbine wheel. The later version came with a quieter, 13-blade turbine. Both versions featured a 58mm compressor wheel.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy turbo upgrade, the KC Turbos’ Jetfire could be the right option for you.

Unfortunately, the unison ring (the part that moves the variable gates) is the part prone to carbon build-up and corrosion. This occurs when the truck is used for light-duty (commuting) use and experiences high idle times. Depending on what position the vanes are stuck, you either have a truck that’s very responsive down low but sluggish in the higher RPM range, or extremely slow to respond at low RPM but a strong runner in the higher range. But, instead of cleaning a used and already ailing turbo, a better option might be an upgrade.

KC Turbos’ Stage 1 Jetfire upgrade works great when retaining stock injectors. The Jetfire is specifically designed for truck owners looking to utilize the full potential of the stock injectors without experiencing the lag of a bigger turbo. This turbo is meant for the guys who tow heavy, want quick spool-up, and more power. The second-generation Jetfire supports up to 175cc/30-percent over injectors and engines developing 450 to 550 horsepower (with supporting modifications).


Power Stroke Upgrades For Better Fueling

The deadhead fuel system utilized on 6.0-liter engines is ripe for upgrades. The Driven Diesel Regulated Return Kit for the 2003-’07 Super Duty is an important part of the fuel system upgrade process. This kit replaces the stock fuel rails and eliminates the dead head system. It also allows for adjustable fuel pressure for the fuel system. This is accomplished by connecting the ends of each fuel rail together via a bypass fuel pressure regulator. The Driven Diesel Regulated Return Kit also includes new fuel feed lines (from the fuel filter to the cylinder heads) with larger high-flow hoses to eliminate the fuel-restricting check valves.

The primary benefit of this kit is increased fuel flow “through” the heads, ensuring that each fuel injector has adequate fuel volume and pressure all the time. If you want increased injector life and less injector noise…particularly if you are installing expensive new injectors (stock or aftermarket), we recommend this kit to protect your investment!

Tuning: An Easy Power Stroke Upgrade

Adding a simple preset tune to your Power Stroke is a quick and easy way to improve power and reliability. To help you get the most out of your 6.0-liter Power Stroke upgrades, Edge Products offers the Evolution CTS3.

The Evolution CTS3 reprograms your vehicle’s computer via a connection made at the OBD-II port under your dash. The Evolution saves the stock files from the vehicle’s computer and then uploads the Edge calibrations into the computer. This “tuner” comes with multiple power levels designed by a team of engineers and can be installed in minutes without even opening the hood. The Evolution increases horsepower and torque and not only retunes your vehicle, it also stays mounted in the cab of the vehicle and features real-time, monitoring of vital engine readings like EGT (exhaust gas temperature), boost pressure, transmission temperature, load percent, percentage of fuel left, and more.

Better Breathing: A Really Easy Upgrade

There has always been a lot of controversy behind the validity of a cold air kit improving engine performance. This is because there are good kits and those that only remove your hard-earned money from your wallet. When it comes to good kits, verifiable proof should be one of your first requirements.

Take for instance the Banks Power Ram-Air kit. The Ram-Air has been extensively tested and the results show it outflows the stock system by 38 percent. This will free up some horsepower and help your engine run cooler and cleaner. The filter is housed within an enclosed housing to keep out hot engine air and instead forces the engine to get its supply from cooler, denser, outside air.

The Ram-Air filter is reusable and easy to access for monitoring and cleaning, and the filter is easier to access than the stock filter which is difficult to access, not reusable, and when dirty, the entire expensive unit has to be replaced. Finally, the Banks Ram-Air works with stock sensors so it will not generate trouble codes.

While some of these simple Power Stroke upgrades I have listed might not be performance oriented, they are definitely some of the more important ones you need to consider. Let’s face it, the 6.0-liter Power Stroke might have a lot of miles on it, but it’s still a great engine that deserves to be kept on the road and delivering many more miles. All it needs are a few simple upgrades, and now you know which ones to focus on adding.

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About the author

Randy Bolig

Randy Bolig has been working on cars and has been involved in the hobby ever since he bought his first car when he was only 14 years old. His passion for performance got him noticed by many locals, and he began helping them modify their vehicles.
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