Bulletproofing has taken on new meaning in recent years, especially in the context of the Ford 2003-07 6.0L/VT365 diesel engine platform. Now registered as a trademark, this branding has sort of become a buzzword for crucial upgrades.
What Does It Mean to Bulletproof a 6.0 Powerstroke Engine?
Here we have explained the basics of bulletproof terms that mean all about the bulletproof products of 6.0 powerstroke.
We discussed bulletproof 6.0 Powerstroke such as:
- EGR Cooler
- Oil Cooler
- FICM Power Supply
- Water Pump
- Head Studs
Though the marketing spiel only touches on 5 component upgrades, others have jumped on the bandwagon too.
The debate still rages on, and various related claims have also covered other vehicle brands.
Also, the trademark itself belongs to Neal Technologies Inc, an Arizona-based manufacturer of aftermarket parts for diesel engines.
This firm is run by brothers Ken and Gene Neal, who started out in truck maintenance.
Moreover, they came up with fixes for problems with Ford 6.0L Powerstroke engines, calling them “bulletproofing.”
Its advertising motto is that bulletproof a 6.0, 4 of 5 “main pattern failures are addressed with genuine Bullet Proof Diesel parts.”
The pattern failures to be addressed are the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) cooler, oil cooler, fuel injection control module (FICM) power supply, water pump, and head studs.
As to why each of these components is special, and for answers as to ‘How much does it cost to bulletproof a 6.0?’ here’s the lowdown.
Here’s a video that will show you everything: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PqLzKex1XQ
The EGR cooler was BulletProofDiesel’s flagship product back in 2008.
Following persistent problems with its 6.0L Powerstroke engines, Ford moved on to introduce the 6.4L variant.
But there were still many stuck with 6.0L engines, and the Neal brothers came up with a solution.
Originally, EGR coolers were introduced to reduce polluting emissions from engines.
This was to comply with stricter emission standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is now a legal requirement.
The polluting emissions being tackled are nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ozone (O3).
NOx easily dissolves in airborne moisture, forming large clouds of smog and later drop as acid rain. Ozone is rather corrosive. Breathing it in can damage the lungs.
These compounds are created by chemical reactions in fuel combustion at very high temperatures (around 2,500oF).
Nitrogen and oxygen in the air get combined to produce these pollutants. The obvious fix is to lower fuel combustion extreme heat, and that’s where the EGR cooler comes in.
How EGR coolers work
The exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system channels some exhaust gas back into the intake manifold. This dilutes the fuel-air mix for combustion and lowers the production of NOx and ozone.
Since exhaust gas is scorching, it needs to be cooled before being fed back into the intake manifold.
This is the function of the EGR cooler, handling a process that ends up cooling engine combustion temperatures.
EGR coolers are a common failure point for the Ford 6.0L Powerstroke engines.
Built like a radiator with no moving parts, thin cooling fins got weakened over time by metal fatigue.
BulletProofDiesel’s solution was to use bigger cooling tubes, better able to handle repeated heat-cool stresses.
Replacing the EGR cooler
When EGR coolers fail, the most apparent symptom would be steam or white smoke in the exhaust.
Coolant levels would be lower. There could be some bubbling of this coolant out of the container.
The engine may overheat, and the ‘Check Engine’ alert would also be displayed on the dashboard.
The cost of a new EGR cooler can range from $300 to $800, labor costs come up to another $500.
It would take about half a day to complete this job. Much of the time is waiting for the engine compartment to cool down enough.
Engine oil does more than just lubricate various moving parts. It also plays a critical heat transfer function.
All the heat collected has to be released somewhere. It’s usually at a radiator known as an oil cooler.
If the heat is allowed to accumulate, engine oil undergoes a physical change and becomes useless.
This material change is known as viscosity, which describes how easily a fluid flows.
Almost solid liquids like honey have high viscosity. Engine oils should have a low density to flow smoothly.
Problems start when there’s too much heat. The oil’s viscosity drops too low, making it unable to cling to moving parts to keep them lubricated.
After a certain point, high temperatures will cause oil molecules to break down, turning them into carbon particles. When hot oil burns, an explosion may occur.
Oil coolers dissipate heat by channeling hot oil through small passages within the radiator.
Some of the oil degrades with constant heat exposure, and the sludge formed will clog these passages.
As less hot oil can flow through this radiator, accumulated heat will lead to an engine breakdown.
Oil cooler problem fixes
The oil cooler was a problem area for Ford 6.0L Powerstroke because it was recessed too deep within the engine area.
There just wasn’t enough space for heat to dissipate effectively.
Symptoms of an oil cooler failure would be either leak under the vehicle or a high-temperature warning on display.
The BulletProof Diesel solution was to relocate the oil cooler, using hosing tubes for oil flows.
As a further upgrade, the coolant fluid compartment was also removed.
Air-cooling as the vehicle moved meant fewer moving parts plus less risk of sludge and clogging.
The advantage of method 1 is evident for better cooling.
It also allows for more straightforward checks and maintenance without touching other engine parts like the intake manifold and turbocharger.
Method 2 does away with potential leaks of the cooling fluid, which can be a big issue when mixed with the engine oil.
Other niggling issues like clogged tiny passageways are also gone.
Either method involves quite extensive work, and the parts alone can cost over $2,000.
Labor charges have to be factored in too. How much it costs to bulletproof a 6.0 with oil cooler change is in the range of $3,000 to $4,000.
FICM Power Supply
The Fuel Injection Control Module (FICM) is a crucial computer component, like a PC’s sound or video card.
Its primary function is to send 48-volt, 20-ampere pulses to the fuel injector system.
Each pulse controls delivery for the correct amount of fuel when it’s needed for combustion.
The problem with 6.0L Powerstroke engines was the FICM degrading over time.
When the 12.6-volt vehicle battery weakens, the FICM’s circuitry gets damaged. With every battery change, the circuitry damage worsens.
The FICM’s voltage output drops below 48 volts – causing a tiny delay in fuel injection timing.
There is still a built-in tolerance till 45 volts. Once below that level, misfires occur – causing irregular combustion, and leading to rough engine performance.
Fuel economy drops, engine power output takes a hit, and the exhaust becomes smoky. Once the FICM voltage drops below 30 volts, the engine won’t even start.
Fixes for Bad FICM
The FICM circuitry gets degraded. It is the part that converts the 12.6-volt supply from the battery into the 48-volt pulse for the fuel injectors. This can be fixed in several ways:
- Ford offers a pre-programmed FICM that’s plug-and-play. Open the hood, find the correct FICM location, conduct the swap, and do the fix in an instant.
- Half-shell FTCM replacement involves just the DC-to-DC voltage converter. It’s a relatively easy swap. And takes just a little longer to install. Extra time may be needed if some reprogramming has to be conducted.
- A complete upgrade involves changing to a more robust vibration-resistant circuitry board with a heat sink. Top models include a 6-phase power supply that allows increasing voltage output to either 53 or 58 volts, up from the standard 48 volts. This option aims to further improve fuel economy with faster starting and better performance.
Since this is mainly a component swap-out and settings upgrade where needed, the fix is relatively quick.
Depending on market pricing, a new FICM cost starts from around $230 and can go up to $1,200.
The water pump draws coolant fluid from the radiator and channels it through designated conduits to cool the engine.
The heated liquid goes back to the radiator to expel heat, and the cycle continues.
Unfortunately, this simple process had gone way wrong with the Ford 6.0L Powerstroke.
Despite extensive design testing at the factory, real-world usage exposed key to the water pump’s flaws.
The main problem was the rotating component, or impeller, made of plastic composite.
The pressure of pumping water and exposure to heat differentials made the material flex, crack and eventually break.
Especially vulnerable were impeller fins, getting damaged or corroded far faster than anticipated.
An overheating engine would be the first sign of the water pump failing.
Engine heat doesn’t get dispelled fast enough when impeller fins cannot get water and coolant fluid flowing correctly.
Visible symptoms include steam arising from under the hood and warning indicators on the dashboard.
It may be possible to drive the vehicle for a short distance of up to 5 miles with a broken water pump.
But the risk is very high that the overheating engine block may crack, incurring a large repair bill.
Water Pump Replacement
Strengthening the impeller is the logical fix, and the folks at BulletProofDiesel did precisely that by using aluminum instead of plastic. This material is more resistant, rigid, and corrosion-resistant.
Before replacing the water pump, it’s essential to check what the impeller size is.
Earlier Ford models (2003-4) had a 90mm diameter, while later models were 100mm.
If unsure, use the VIN code to find out which size is needed for ordering this component.
Actual installation can be a bit tedious but not too difficult. Once the housing is exposed, removing 4 bolts will easily detach the old unit and affix the replacement.
The critical point to remember is the ‘O’ ring seal or washer to make the fit air-right.
A water pump replacement is in the region of $350-400, but a Bulletproof 6.0 Powerstroke diesel kit with included aluminum radiator can cost triple that amount.
Using head studs makes sense when clamping to create secure seals against high-pressure forces.
For an engine like the Ford 6.0 Powerstroke, head studs are useful for gaskets at the combustion chamber.
Though they look similar, head studs work differently from head bolts.
A head stud is only finger-tightened into place because of its design. They undergo heat treatment to have higher mechanical strength.
Once tightened, there’s only a vertical clamping force – making head studs well-suited for high-pressure environments.
As for head bolts, they need to be torque-tightened using a wrench or spanner.
They’re not extra-reinforced, they have to handle both vertical and torque forces when under pressure.
Because of these differences, a head bolt is better suited for regular fastening, like keeping the spare tire in place.
Combustion in engines releases very high pressure. Head studs are better in this kind of environment.
For obvious reasons, head studs are more expensive than head bolts.
While head studs can easily replace head bolts, the cost factor and how much fastening pressure is needed would drive choices.
There’s no real rush needed to have a bulletproof 6.0l Ford diesel, as the engine itself is pretty reliable.
Keep using existing factory stock components, and only once they’re worn out should you consider replacements – including bulletproof versions.
Expectations also need to match reality. Despite the higher cost to bulletproof a 6.0 Powerstroke diesel engine, these components cannot be expected to last the vehicle’s lifetime.
Wear and tear will happen, and so do accidents. Routine servicing, checkups, and maintenance are still needed for optimal performance.
‘Bulletproof’ is more a concept idea than a fool-proof guarantee. You can’t extend such a promise to tires or brake pads, for example.
So why would you expect far more from critical engine components which undergo even more extreme conditions?