6.0 Liter Head Gaskets
Chances are that if you own a 6.0L Power stroke engine vehicle, you will experience head gasket failure sometime in the service life of your vehicle. Blown head gaskets are common with the 2003 through 2007 diesel engines. Those with performance tuners installed are likely to see this happen at very low mileage.
The primary reason head gaskets fail on 6.0 Powerstroke engines is the number of bolts per cylinder. Whereas the earlier 7.3 Powerstroke engines were made with eighteen, the 6.0 has 10. Cylinder pressures combined with the lack of clamping force typically leads to gasket failure somewhere down the line.
Common signs of head gasket failure are coolant expulsion from the coolant pressure cap and residue on and around the coolant expansion bottle. While sometimes interpreted as EGR cooler failure, these symptoms are actually unique to failing head gaskets. Problems may start off sporadically, with overheating and coolant expulsion becoming a problem only on longer trips or when hauling extra weight. This strongly points to the early stages of head gasket failure.
If you suspect head gasket failure in your 6.0 Powerstroke vehicle, you can usually continue driving your truck as you make plans to get the problem fixed. Try not to pull any extra weight or otherwise overexert your vehicle, and keep an eye on coolant levels.
Before you do anything else, you should first test the integrity of your radiator cap and degas bottle. It is not uncommon for the degas bottle to crack at the seam. This is not necessarily indicative of head gasket failure one way or the other but it should be fixed before running further diagnostic tests.
If the signs of head gasket failure remain, a good next step is to upgrade the factory head bolts to ARP Head Studs. These should be thoroughly pressure tested and surfaced at a machine shop you trust. ARP Head Studs are made of stronger steel, torque tighter, and are far less prone to stretching than stock head bolts.
Engine oil cooler issues are another common problem that may occur alongside or independent of had gasket failure. The two most common oil cooler issues are clogging of coolant passages and internal leakage between the coolant and oil passages. Be sure that your vehicle maintenance includes inspection of engine oil operating temperatures. Also make sure to perform cooling system flushes approximately every two years. Untreated oil cooler issues can lead to premature engine wear, fuel injector failure, and localized overheating of engine components. These problems often go unnoticed by the driver, making routine maintenance at a qualified facility especially essential.
Another common problem is issues with the 6.0 Powerstroke EGR cooler, which is mounted below the intake manifold on the right hand side of the engine. This cooler is prone to rupturing, allowing coolant to leak into the exhaust system. This is often referred to as a "blown EGR cooler." Symptoms of a blown cooler include steam from the exhaust while driving as well as coolant loss with no signs of external leaking. (Either of these can also be signs of head gasket failure.) Coolant leakage while the engine is not running poses serious problems as attempting to start the engine after coolant has entered a cylinder can lead to hydroblocking. Hydroblocking occurs when the incompressible coolant stops the engine from turning. This may cause the affected cylinder's connecting rod to bend, requiring significant internal engine repairs or even engine replacement. The best way to prevent EGR failure and subsequent damage is to keep the cooler properly maintained or, ideally, to upgrade the EGR system with a Bulletproof EGR Cooler.
Performance tuners for 6liter Powerstroke engine vehicles can deliver increased horsepower, better towing performance and better fuel economy. Unfortunately, tuners that increase horsepower and modify fuel delivery also accelerate the occurrence of problems like head gasket failure. Upgrades including ARP Head Studs are the best way to prevent head gasket failure. This is in no way saying to avoid performance tuners, as the same problems would likely come up sometime down the line regardless, but simply to take precautions and make recommended upgrades sooner than later if you do opt for any type of performance tuner.