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roach711 03-28-2015 05:47 PM

The Care and Feeding of the Ford 7.3L Diesel
The Care and Feeding of the Ford 7.3L Diesel

The 1999 to 2003 Ford 7.3L Powerstroke diesel engines are considered to be very desirable engines with operating lives routinely running to 500,000 miles and occasionally even to a million miles. That doesn't mean that there won't be problems with the "bolt-ons" like alternators and steering pumps, those fail just about as often as the same parts on gas engines.

The Ford 7.3L engine was built by International for Ford and the T444 International engine often found in the big schoolies uses the same short block. When used in a van based bus the big 7.3L really fills the engine compartment making many repairs a challenge. The lack of space forced Ford to delete the intake air intercooler and de-tune the engine as a result, so horsepower and fuel mileage ratings of the E-van engines are lower than the ratings of the same engine in the F series pickups.

Diesel maintenance is a lot like gas engine maintenance except that everything is "more." More oil, more coolant, more transmission fluid (but no ignition system). Capacities are double or triple what would be found in a comparable gas engine. Parts are generally more expensive, but on the plus side, Ford parts (and repairs) are easily available just about everywhere. There is no ignition system on a diesel engine but they can have fuel problems, especially in cold weather. The diesel is a great beast of an engine, but compared to a gas engine, tends to be a bit "needier."

Basic Maintenance

Engine oil - 15 quarts capacity. Use only diesel rated oils (I use Delvac 1300 Super 15w40). The Powerstroke engines use high pressure engine oil to fire the injectors and when the oil gets old it tends to foam which makes the injectors fire erratically. Many an engine problem has been fixed by simply changing the oil. I change mine at 3000 - 4000 mile intervals or once a year. The oil filter is a big one and holds a lot of oil which makes it a bit heavy when swapping filters, so when I change mine I poke a hole in the bottom with an ice pick and drain it first. Just make sure you can slightly unscrew the filter first. The oil filter has a larger diameter than the typical car oil filter and most filter wrenches won't fit.

Transmission - 18 quarts capacity Mercon V. The earlier years came with the E40D trans and later ones got the 4R100 trans. These are generally considered to be merely adequate transmissions. The vehicle manual says not to use Mercon V but Ford reformulated it in 2006 to be compatible with these transmissions. Check your fluid level with a warm, idling engine. Checking it cold can give false results. Note that there is a hot and cold mark on the dipstick. The later years came with a drain plug in the pan and the pan gasket is reusable. If you want to completely replace the trans fluid see "Ford E-450 ATF change instructions" below.

Coolant - 8 gallons capacity. These engines use either the old style green coolant or the newer diesel rated red coolant. If yours has the green stuff it will periodically need to be checked for SCA (Supplementary Coolant Additive) levels. See the Ford E-450 Coolant Flush section below for more information

Brake fluid - Dot 3 or 4.

Power steering pump - Ford steering pumps use Mercon V automatic trans fluid, not "power steering fluid" that the parts stores sell.

Air filters - The E-van air filters live under the "Turbo diesel" plastic cover on the engine intake cowling. Just flip the spring clips and the cover should pop off easily. The cartridge filters (2) are a breeze to replace.

Fuel filter - Change every 15,000 miles. The fuel filter/water separator is in the fuel bowl which is mounted on the engine behind the plastic air filter assembly. To access it, remove the air filter assembly and find the round fuel bowl which is mounted at the front of the engine in the valley between the valve covers. Use a large oil filter wrench (same size that fits the engine oil filter) to unscrew the plastic cap to get at the filter. Some caps have a 1/2" socket cast into the top for a ratchet wrench. Space is tight in the E-van engine room and the fuel bowl top is very close to the van body. Some new fuel filters come with the plastic cap attached to the filter and I could not get this type filter into the bowl on my bus. I had to get a filter without the attached cap and re-use the old cap.

Remove the old filter and clean any junk out of the fuel bowl. I attached a small plastic tube to my shop vac and sucked fuel, water and sediment out. The new filter will come with two O-rings; one round and one tapered. Put the round O-ring in the groove at the bottom of the filter, lube it with some fresh fuel then push the filter into the bowl, O-ring down. The top of the filter will still be above the top of the fuel bowl. The only tricky part is installing the tapered O-ring. Slip it onto the cap with the taper toward the top of the cap. Many leaks have been caused by facing the taper toward the bowl. Snugly tighten the cap and you're done.

Fuel bowl water drain - The water drain is a small lever (usually yellow) on the lower passenger side of the fuel bowl and likely pretty well buried by wiring and stuff. Some years have a pull cable attached to the lever that runs up to the cowl area. The "Water in Fuel" light on your dash will tell you when it's time to drain the fuel bowl. You open the valve for a few seconds and water/fuel/crud drains out of the fuel bowl, down the side of the engine and all over your driveway.

Fuel strainers - There are two fuel strainers on the fuel pickup in the fuel tank. Some buses have an access hatch in the bus floor which makes getting at the pickup worlds easier. Otherwise, you have to cut a hatch yourself or drop the tank to get at it. Ford uses quick release fittings on the fuel lines and to disconnect them you need the special quick disconnect tools that fortunately are available cheaply at most auto shops. My strainers were pretty well plugged with 100,000 miles on the clock.

Fuel pump - The early Powerstroke 7.3L engines had an engine mounted, cam driven fuel pump while the later years have an electric pump mounted on the frame rail down below the driver's door. Easy way to tell which one you have is to turn the key to "accessory" and listen for the hum of the electric pump. The electric pump is nice because it's easier to replace and makes purging air out of the lines effortless. After doing fuel line work just turn the ignition key to "accessory" for a bit and the pump will refill the lines and fuel bowl.

Serpentine belt and idlers - The serpentine belt powers the water pump, alternator, AC compressor, vacuum pump (which feeds the power brake booster) and power steering pump so keeping the belt and idler pulleys in good shape is essential. Two of us here have had an idler fail in the middle of nowhere and when that happens you ain't goin' nowhere. Both are relatively easy to replace but you'll first have to remove the air filter cowl.

To un-tension the belt, slip the drive end of a 1/2" breaker bar into the socket in the idler/tensioner body and pull like hell toward the passenger side. When the belt goes slack just slip it off one of the pulleys and ease off the breaker bar. If you're replacing the belt leave the old one in place to show you where to route the new belt. The idler assembly only costs $60 or so. I carry a new serpentine belt and a replacement pulley in my onboard spares.

Fuel tank - Diesel doesn't absorb water as well as gasoline does and water tends to fall out of the fuel in cold weather. This can cause algae to grow in the tank and cause rust in the tank itself. I throw in a container of Power Service's Clear Diesel (Walmart has it) once a year to keep the tank healthy. Keeping the fuel tank full also helps keep condensation from forming in the tank. Don't use alcohol based water absorbers in diesel engines.

In cold weather diesel fuel can gel, especially if your tank is full of summer blend fuel. Winter blend fuel is more tolerant to cold weather but in really cold weather may gel anyway. There are many additives that prevent gelling but it's best if they are added to the tank before cold weather hits so the entire fuel system is treated. Power Service's Diesel Fuel Supplement + Cetane Bost is a popular anti-gel additive.

Tires - Our rigs tend to sit parked a lot so tires usually rot before they wear out. Look for small cracks in the casing which show that the rubber is drying out. The conventional wisdom among RV folk is to replace tires every 5-6 years regardless of tread wear.

Tire pressure - Most shuttle buses run 16" light truck rated tires that can be inflated to 80 lbs. but you don't have to inflate them to 80 lbs if you are lightly loaded. Have your bus weighed at a truck stop (weighing each axle separately) then consult the tire manufacturer's inflation specs for the proper inflation for your axle loads. Our bus is about 2000lbs. under max gross vehicle weight (GVW) so I can run 60 lbs inflation on both axles which gives us a much better ride.

Spare tire I figure that with a dually rear axle I always have what amounts to two spare tires so I don't carry a dedicated spare. Our bus doesn't even have a mount for a spare. If we get a flat rear tire I'll just ride (slowly) on the good tire to the nearest repair shop. If we get a flat front tire I'll set down one or two of my 2x10 leveling boards and drive one of the inside rear dually tires up on it then pull the outer wheel. Then I'll jack up the front with my bottle jack and pull that wheel then swap the wheels and head to the repair shop with one flat rear tire.

Transmission mounted emergency brake - The E-450 emergency brake unit is mounted to the tail of the transmission and has an oil reservoir which holds a small amount of Mercon automatic transmission fluid (4 ounces or so) that keeps the bearings lubed. There's a fill plug on the body of the brake unit (17mm socket if memory serves) so to check it you unscrew the plug and check that the ATF is up to the edge of the hole. These units are EXPENSIVE to replace (like $1200 plus labor) so checking them out once in a while is well worth the effort.

Batteries - Keep the connections clean and the cells topped off with distilled water. If the electrolyte levels drop below the top of the plates they can warp and short out the cells. When that happens all you can do is replace the battery. A coating of dielectric grease on the cable ends and terminals helps keep them corrosion free. When in storage, and particularly in winter storage keep the batteries charged to prevent them from freezing. Starting batteries like to be kept charged and if allowed to be fully discharged may not take a charge again.

Tools - The engine nuts and bolts seem to be all metric. The drive line (at least on ours) is a mix of metric and inch sizes. There are also fair number of Torx bolts here and there. Ours had Torx bolts on the left front brakes and Allen bolts on the right side brakes. Go figure.

The fuel lines have the Ford quick disconnect couplings. They are easy to disconnect but you need special tools for the job. Fortunately the quick disconnect tools are available at any auto parts store relatively cheaply.

If you replace the power steering pump or the vacuum pump you'll need a special tool to remove and replace the drive pulleys that press on to the pump shaft. Many auto parts stores will loan the tool for free.

Common Problems

Crank Position Sensor (CPS) - The early years had a problem with CPS failures which could cause the engine to die briefly (like turning off the key) then restart, die for a short time then restart or die and not restart at all. The CPS is located at the front of the engine above and to the passenger side of the harmonic balancer. To remove it you disconnect the wiring connector (press the locking latch to release), use a 10mm 6 point socket to remove the mounting bolt then pry it out with a screwdriver. Grease the new one then pop it in, bolt it down then reconnect the wiring. This is another "must have" in your spare parts kit.

Turbocharger pedestal oil leak- The turbocharger pedestals on these engines often leak oil from the exhaust back pressure valve (EBPV) actuator. Oil will leak down the back of the engine and appear to be a rear main seal leak. To repair, remove the turbocharger, remove the pedestal and either rebuild the actuator or remove the actuator and valve altogether and seal the shaft holes in the pedestal. The EBPV closes in cold weather to make the engine warm up faster so if you're in a warm part of the country or don't use your bus much in cold weather deleting the EBPV is a cheap alternative.

Loose turbocharger housing bolts - Some turbochargers have had the 4 turbine housing mounting bolts back out. When I removed my turbo to repair an oil leak in the pedestal the turbo literally fell in half in my hands! I found all 4 bolts laying in the engine valley. Incredibly, the turbo was fine (but I rebuilt it anyway). Replacement bolts with an interference thread for improved retention are available from Ford. The part number for the bolt kit is 1C3Z-9G486-AA. Basically, these "Improved" bolts are identical to the originals except that the threads in the middle threaded section of the bolts have been lightly damaged for an interference fit. It would be fairly easy to "modify" the original bolts with a light tap with a sharp cold chisel. Locktite won't work on these bolts due to the high temperatures involved.

Rebuilding the turbocharger is one of the easier jobs on an E-van. It's mounted at the back of the engine so removing the inside engine cover gives you easy access to it. Buy a rebuild kit online and make sure you have a 5/16" 12 point socket and a 10 pound sledge hammer handy (just kidding about the sledge hammer).

Glow plug relay failure - The glow plugs help the engine start in cold weather so if the glow plug relay fails the engine may not start when the temperature falls. The relay lives on the passenger side valve cover and is fairly easy to replace. This is another candidate for the spares kit, especially if you operate in the cold a lot.

Under Valve Cover (UVC) wiring harness - The UVC harness runs inside the valve covers and connects to the glow plugs and fuel injectors. It is known to sometimes degrade and cause engines to run rough or not start in cold weather.

Burning valves by lugging the engine on long hills - The E-Van Powerstroke diesels are more than happy to pull up long hills in overdrive but this causes very high exhaust temperatures that can actually melt the exhaust valves and kill the engine. When on long hills I cancel overdrive by pressing the "overdrive" button on the end of the shift lever which makes the trans drop down a gear. The best way to go is to add an exhaust gas temperature gauge so you can keep an eye on the exhaust temperature.

Ford E-450 coolant flush
(This excellent article and the one that follows was sent to me so I can't give proper credit to the authors. Whoever wrote these - well done!)

You'll need the following:

  • 4 gallons of anti-freeze concentrate.
*Tip* Do not use 50/50 pre-mixed coolant. After flushing, residual water will remain in your engine and cooling system that you can't get out. Therefore, adding pre-mixed 50/50 will further dilute the solution and yield a weak freeze point, along with a low level of corrosion and cavitation inhibitors. Your cooling system holds approximately 8 gallons. Adding 4 gallons of concentrate after flushing, and then topping off with distilled water, will ensure optimal protection.

*Tip* International who made your engine, and who's engine your Ford cooling system was designed around, recommended a Heavy Duty Extended Life Coolant (HD ELC) for all 2/2/99-up built engines (SN 940614-up). These are generally red coolants with operation lives of 300K-750K miles/6-8 years, depending on brand. They are very robust and require no maintenace or additives. Popular brands include International's Fleetrite ELC, Shell Rotella ELC, CAT ELC, Chevron Delo ELC, Peak Final Charge, Prestone Heavy Duty ELC, Zerex Extreme Heavy Duty, etc.

*Tip* Due to International's compatibility tests, all pre-2/2/99 build engines (pre-SN 940614) should use a conventional coolant with the addition of SCA (or a pre-charged conventional coolant already charged with SCA). Most conventional coolants will be green, "low-silicate" and meet ASTM D4985. There are too many brands to list. They will require the addition of a supplemental coolant additive (SCA) at initial fill and maintenance of that SCA thereafter. Most pre-charged conventional coolants will be pink, purple, or blue and meet ASTM D6210. These coolants do not require an initial dose of SCA, but will require SCA maintenance thereafter. These are coolants like Peak Fleet Charge, Prestone Heavy Duty, Zerex Precharge, Shell Diesel Ready, Fleetguard Fleetcool, Fleetrite Fully Formulated, and so on.

*Tip* Do not use "All Makes - All Models" coolants, or "Universal" coolants. They will not meet the needs of your diesel engine.

  • SCA (if using conventional non-charged coolant). Amount depends on the SCA maker (usually 3-4 pints).
*Tip* Either a Nitrite only DCA-2 SCA or a Molybdate/Nitrite DCA-4 SCA will work.
  • Up to 20 gallons of distilled water
*Tip* Tap water contains undesirable minerals, chemicals, and pH. If your tap water is good quality, you can do fewer distilled water flushes.
  • A Prestone flush kit with 5/8" "T". HERE is a photo of a NAPA #720-1286 5/8" flush kit with "T".
*Tip* The "T" regulates and restricts faucet flow. Directly connecting to your faucet without one of these "T's" could damage your cooling system.
  • 1-1/2 foot of 5/8" hose (to go on flush "T").
  • A new thermostat gasket. OEM Part# F4TZ-8255-A
*Tip* Now might be a good time to consider replacing:
Thermostat (OEM Part #F6TZ-8575-EA)
Thermostat housing (OEM Part# F81Z-8592-AA)
Upper radiator hose that goes around serpentine belt (OEM Part# F81Z-8260-CA)
Lower Radiator hose (OEM Part# YC32-8286-CE)
Degas bottle cap (OEM Part# F6DZ-8100-A)
New coolant filter (if you've added one)
Any hose clamps that you feel should be replaced.

Tools needed:

  • 3/4" wrench for drain plug
  • 8mm socket with rachet and extension for thermostat housing bolts
  • 1/4" socket driver for block plugs
  • Pliers for hose clamps
  • Torque wrench to re-torque thermostat housing bolts
  • Emery cloth to clean thermostat housing and hose connections
  • Bucket and suitable catch containers.
  • Funnel
*Tip* A children's small plastic wading pool works good for a catch container. Some fit between the front wheels perfectly.

(Continued next post)

roach711 03-28-2015 05:48 PM

Care and feeding continued
Flushing procedure:

Park truck on level surface. Allow to cool.

Remove degas bottle cap slowly (be careful if hot).

Use 3/4" wrench to loosen radiator drain valve (bottom left-hand driver's side). Drain into suitable container. Expect at least a 5-gallon bucket-full.

Remove lower radiator hose (at radiator) and drain any sediment and/or coolant from radiator and hose into container.

Remove driver's side block plug with 1/4" socket wrench driver, and drain coolant into suitable container.

Remove passenger's side block plug with 1/4" socket wrench driver, and drain coolant into suitable container.

*Tip* This is best done without an extension on the wrench, working under the truck from the top rear side of starter - no need to remove starter.

Re-install both block plugs finger-tight.

Re-install lower radiator hose temporarily.

Close radiator drain valve.

Remove thermostat housing and thermostat.

Re-install thermostat housing without thermostat, using old gasket (it's ok if it leaks a little while flushing and running engine).

Remove heater hose at passenger's side coming off the engine (just below intercooler tube).

Install that heater hose to one end of the 5/8" flush "T".

Install 1 1/2 foot of 5/8" hose to other end of flush "T", Like this.

Install the remaining end of the 5/8" hose to fitting where the original hose was removed from the engine.

*Tip* You could permanently install the flushing "T" in the heater hose if desired. The heater hose removed in this procedure is the one consistent with what you'll find on the flush "T" directions. However, you could install the "T" on either heater hose.

Install garden hose onto flush "T", noting the direction of flow stamped on the "T".

Turn garden hose on until clear water (no green tint) runs (backflushes) out of top of degas bottle. This will take several minutes.

With hose still on, start and run engine for a couple of minutes, again until water coming out of degas bottle is clear (no green tint). Minor water leaks and spray from fan are normal.

Turn engine off. Turn garden hose off.

Drain radiator at drain valve, remove both block plugs, remove lower radiator hose.

Remove flushing "T", the extra 5/8" hose, and reinstall the original heater hose back onto engine.

Close radiator drain valve, reinstall and finger-tighten both block plugs, reinstall lower radiator hose (permanently).

Fill system with distilled water until the degas bottle is full.

Run engine a couple of minutes.

Drain radiator at drain valve, remove both block plugs.

Close radiator drain, reinstall and finger-tighten both block plugs.

Again, fill degas bottle with distilled water.

Run engine a couple of minutes.

Drain radiator at drain valve, remove both block plugs.

*Tip* You may decide to flush with distilled water one more time if your tap water is extremely bad.

Close radiator drain valve permanently. Do not over-tighten.

Install both block plugs and tighten permanently and firmly. Sealant can be used on the plugs sparingly, but it is not necessary.

Install thermostat and new thermostat gasket. If reusing the thermostat housing, use emery cloth to clean any rust/corrosion before installing.

Carefully torque the thermostat housing bolts to a maximum 15 ft-lbs. Do not over-tighten.

Add 4 gallons of anti-freeze concentrate to the degas bottle.

If using SCA, add it to cooling system per SCA manufacturer's instructions (usually 3-4 pints).

Add distilled water to finish filling the system until the degas bottle indicates between min/max.

Replace degas bottle cap.

Rinse off any coolant from engine and underbody of vehicle.

Turn in-cab heater valve all the way to "hot". This will help you determine if the thermostat is operating or if there is air left in the system.

Run engine (or drive truck for faster heating), until thermostat opens and hot air is felt through heater in cab. Periodically check coolant level adding distilled water as necessary. If heater does not get hot (or stay hot), it may be necessary to rev engine or purge air from the cooling system.

Add distilled water until level equalizes (min/max mark) in degas bottle (this may take several days).

Use test strip to test and add SCA if applicable.

This method will yield approximately a 50/50 mixture of coolant/distilled water. It is always best to have the freeze/boil protection tested with a quality refractometer. Most shops will do this free.

Write down date and mileage of coolant maintenance for future use. [IMG]file:///C:\Users\Rick\AppData\Local\Temp\msohtml1\01\clip_ image001.gif[/IMG]

Ford E-450 ATF change instructions

Transmission Maintenance - Do It Yourself (DIY)

Changing automatic transmission fluid (ATF) in a SuperDuty truck with 7.3L engine and 4R100 automatic transmission. (Will also work on earlier trucks with E40D transmission.)


I've done this alone. It's easier with a second person, and sometimes helps prevent spills.

1. Things you need to get started:

a. The transmission system holds almost 18 quarts of ATF, and you must waste a couple of quarts to be sure you get it all purged and replaced, so buy 20 quarts of MERCON V ATF. You may use either conventional or synthetic ATF, as long as it is rated MERCON or MERCON V. Your Owner’s Guide says to not use MERCON V, but Ford changed that in 2006.

b. A 10 foot length of clear tubing and one hose clamp, sized to fit over your cooler line. There have been different size cooler lines over the years, so check before buying! The metal part of your cooler return line is probably 3/8th inch outside diameter (OD) with a ferule on the end of it, so if you can find 7/16th inch inside diameter (ID) tubing, that will probably work great. If you use ½” ID, it will be a loose fit over the ferule and will need a good hose clamp tightened good to prevent it from leaking. So just in case, place a big drain pan under the connection. And some folks have reported they were strong enough to force a 3/8th inch ID tube over the ferule. If you try that, dipping the end of the plastic tubing in very hot water for a few seconds will make the job easier.

c. If you don't already have a special funnel that fits into the transmission dipstick tube, then you will need one of those, too.

d. If your transmission has ever been worked on by a Ford dealer, you probably have a Magnefine in-line filter in the "rubber" part of the cooler return line, near the front axle. If so, you should replace that filter every time you change the ATF. You can get one from your Ford dealer, or for about $15 from Magnefine Filters--Online Order Form. Your cooler lines are probably 3/8th inch, so you want the 3/8th size Magnefine inline filter.

2. Note: In cool or cold weather, be sure the transmission is up to operating temp before you begin. It’s not supposed to happen, but several members have reported ATF coming out the cooler bypass line instead of the cooler return line if they tried these procedures with a cold transmission. Also, in cool or cold weather, keep the new ATF in the house so it’s around room temperature of about 70º F. when you pour it in the transmission.

3. If your pan has a drain plug, drain the pan, then replace and tighten the drain plug. If it doesn't have a drain plug, skip to step #5.

4. Pour 7 quarts of new ATF into the filler [dipstick] tube.

5. Disconnect the transmission-fluid return line at the transmission - from where the ATF returns to the transmission from the cooler(s). This is the line towards the rear of the transmission. This is where the old ATF from the transmission, torque converter and coolers will be pumped out. Clamp the clear tubing over the line that you removed from the transmission.

The following is a drawing of the 4R100 transmission, seen from the passenger’s side of the vehicle. The arrow at #2 shows the banjo connection where the cooler return line and the cooler bypass line connect to the rear of the transmission. The arrow at #4 shows where the “hot” line and the cooler bypass line comes out of the banjo connection on the front of the transmission. (The cooler bypass valve is near the banjo connection at the front of the transmission, in that bypass line that runs between arrows #4 and #2.)

[IMG]file:///C:\Users\Rick\AppData\Local\Temp\msohtml1\01\clip_ image002.gif[/IMG]

6. This is where the second person comes in handy. One person starts the engine, while the other holds the line over the drain bucket. A clothes pin can replace the person holding the line in the bucket.

a. Run the engine at idle RPM until you have around 1.5 gallons in the drain bucket, then you should see a big air bubble in the clear tubing. Ignore tiny bubbles. As soon as you see a big air bubble, shut off the engine. Then double-check the amount of used ATF in the drain bucket. You should have around 1.5 gallons. If you have much less than 1.5 gallons, then you probably killed the engine too soon, so crank the engine and pump out some more old ATF.

b. If you drained the pan in step 3 and poured in 7 quarts of new ATF in step 4, then while the engine is idling in step 6a above, move the shifter through each position from P to 1, pausing about 5 seconds at each position. This will change some fluid that would otherwise be trapped in the valve body, accumulators, and clutches.

c. If you poured in 7 quarts of new ATF in an earlier step, then refill through the dipstick tube with 6 quarts of new ATF. (That's 13 quarts total so far). If you have not poured in any new ATF yet, then pour in 7 quarts of new ATF, for a total of 7 quarts so far.

7. Repeat steps 6a and 6c until you have poured in a total of 19 quarts of new ATF (7 + 6 + 6).

8. Remove the clear line and reconnect the cooler line to the transmission with 20 lb/ft torque.

9. Drive the truck several miles to get the transmission up to operating temperature. Then check the fluid level and use the last quart of ATF to top off.

Note: You should always check the ATF level when the transmission is up to operating temp – not when it’s cold. The cold marks on the dipstick are not very reliable. When first filling the transmission, use the cold zone on the dipstick to get close to the right amount of ATF in the transmission. But for topping off, do it with a hot transmission using the hot area of the dipstick. When you get done, you want the transmission full, but not overfull.

10. Properly dispose of the used transmission fluid.

11. Congratulate yourself! And your engine starter/killer person.

12. Then get back on TheDieselStop and tell us your "lessons learned" for those that follow you down the DIY road.

Now that we understand the basic procedure, let's muddy the water with the options:

Optional: Change the internal transmission filter. Revise paragraph 3 above to read:

3. Drain the pan, remove the pan, replace the transmission filter, clean the inside of the pan and clean the reuseable gasket, install the pan, then replace and tighten the drain plug. Torque pan bolts to 11 lb/ft.

If your pan doesn't have a drain plug, you remove and drain the pan at the same time. This might be a messy job, but most tranny pans on other vehicles don't have a drain plug, so you won't be doing something the pros don't do routinely.

Don't buy a new pan gasket. The original is reusable.

The pans for the 4x2 and 4x4 drivetrains are slightly different, so the internal transmission filter is also slightly different. So be sure you buy the correct transmission filter for your drivetrain.

I replace the transmission filter every other fluid change. Note that Ford does not recommend ever changing the filter. I've opened filters with over 300,000 miles that were not even close to being clogged.

It just pulls out, there are no bolts that hold it. It is held in place by the pan. Make sure that the O-ring is removed, too. Sometimes it does not come out with the filter.

Optional: Drain the torque converter. Add the following to paragraph 3 above:

If your truck was built before August, 2001, then you may have a drain plug in the torque converter. If you do, then you can also drain the torque converter as part of step 3 above. Some people think it is necessary, but I don't. Running the engine in the next steps will pump the fluid out of the torque converter. If your transmission was built after August 2001, you don't have a drain plug in the torque converter.

If your torque converter does include a drain plug, then to drain the torque converter remove the shield (but NOT the upper right bolt - this one only needs to be loosened) and turn the flywheel until you see the drain plug. If you drain the torque converter, be sure to replace the drain plug, and torque it to 18 to 20 lb/ft before you continue.

If you drain the torque converter, then the old ATF won't come out of the end of the cooler return line until the torque converter is filled with ATF. So instead of waiting until you see big air bubbles in the drain line during your first iteration of going through in step 6a, run the engine for about 30 seconds while changing gears for step 6b, then cut off the engine.

Optional: Blow out the coolers. Add the following to paragraph 5 above.

It's not necessary, but some folks want to get every possible drop of the old ATF out of the system before they pump new ATF through the system. If you drained the torque converter, then you might also want to blow the ATF out of the coolers and cooler lines. If you have an air compressor, you can reduce the line pressure to about 15 PSI, remove the cooler "hot" line from the front of the transmission, and blow air into that line. That will force the ATF in the coolers and lines out the cooler return line at the back of the transmission. DO NOT use air pressure of more than about 15 PSI! Then be sure to reconnect that line before you continue with paragraph 6.

crazycal 03-28-2015 10:23 PM

A most excellent post. We should make this a sticky but in the maintenence section.

omnicat 02-28-2016 01:04 AM

Looking for diagrams..
It is indeed a fine post. would you or anyone happen to have access to the diagrams and schematics for this engine?

Scooternj 02-28-2016 06:21 AM

Excellent post. And a fine reminder point for those of us with 444E's with non-Ford specific information

gbstewart 02-28-2016 08:52 AM

very good right up, I'm glad I have a dog nose, so much room to work on the motor.

Scooternj 02-28-2016 09:52 AM


Originally Posted by gbstewart (Post 137432)
very good right up, I'm glad I have a dog nose, so much room to work on the motor.

Even the International/Amtran/Ward REs have more room to work than a van. :whistling:

roach711 02-28-2016 12:54 PM

Info regarding the Ford part of the bus was fairly easy to find.

Many of the auto parts websites have parts schematics

Official Ford Parts Site | Buy Motorcraft & OEM Ford Parts Online |

Ford has owners manuals available online. The manuals include fuse locations and the usual fluid capacity stuff.

I did find a wiring diagram but don't remember where. A quick web search should turn some up.

Eldorado was kind enough to e-mail me wiring diagrams of the bus section. You give them your VIN and they send you the applicable wiring diagrams. They were moderately useful.

AeroTech - ElDorado National - KansasElDorado National – Kansas

And yes, the van engines are a royal pain to work on.

jester 05-22-2016 07:46 PM

i have the entire t444e engine manual in pdf form, it is huge and in tons of pieces but if any one needs specific or all of it i will email it to you. just message your email to me.

Hex 05-22-2016 09:46 PM

Great OP. Thanks!


Originally Posted by jester (Post 149221)
i have the entire t444e engine manual in pdf form, it is huge and in tons of pieces but if any one needs specific or all of it i will email it to you. just message your email to me.

Thanks, Jester. Look for a PM from me!

roach711 06-01-2016 12:54 PM

Here are a few more tidbits I've picked up lately:

Common leak points

Turbocharger pedestal EBPV (Exhaust Back Pressure Valve) actuator - This will leak into the engine valley and ultimately drip down the back of the engine and appear to be a rear main seal leak. You can either rebuild the actuator or remove it and seal off the hole in the pedestal.

Fuel filter bowl - The new ULSD diesel attacks the O-rings in the fuel bowl and often a leak will appear at the water drain valve at the back of the bowl. The fuel bowl is easy to rebuild but is hard to get at in a van body.

HPOP gasket - The HPOP (High Pressure Oil Pump) provides high pressure engine oil to fire the injectors. The most common HPOP leak is the gasket at the base of the pump where it bolts to the top of the engine. This is another one that's not too easy to get at in a van body.

High pressure oil rail plugs - Each head has a plug at the rear of the head that seals the oil galleries that the HPOP feeds. There's an O-ring on the plug that sometimes goes bad. This is an easy job on a van body.

Up pipe seals - There are two exhaust pipes that run from the back of the exhaust manifolds up to the turbocharger. Look for soot around the connections and/or a smell of exhaust in the passenger compartment. With time the doughnut seals become loose and leak which can cause a loss of power and fuel mileage and increased exhaust temperatures. There are replacement kits from many vendors that use a "bellows" arrangement that does away with the doughnut seals and gives a much more long lasting fix. This is another easy job in a van body.

Most 7.3L fuel and oil leaks happen at the top of the engine and leak down the passenger side of the engine to the transmission bell housing mimicking a rear main seal leak. Actually, the main seals on this engine are very reliable and main seal leaks are fairly rare.

sproutroot 06-01-2016 01:47 PM

A lot of what you've posted isn't included in this website, but it's a great resource for any Powerstroke owner. Tons of info on every model from a shop that's dedicated specifically to these engines.
POWERSTROKEHELP.COM - The Information Source for Ford Power Stroke Diesel Owners & Mechanics

I'd like to reiterate your recommendation that an Exhaust Gas Temperature (EGT) gauge is a necessity for anyone who's thinking their Powerstroke should last 500,000 miles.

Another common failure on the 7.3 is the transmission. Both the E4OD, and the later 4r100 transmissions have well-documented weaknesses. Common upgrades include the transmission cooler, and a temperature gauge (easy). Your tranny oil change procedure takes care of the often-ignored oil in the torque converter, which is vital. One thing I don't think you mentioned was cleaning off the magnet on the inside of the oil pan. It's normal to have debris built up on the magnet, and you want it to continue to pick that stuff up, so cleaning it is important. In fact, I'd drop the pan and clean it inside and out (the E4OD doesn't have a drain plug, so you have to drop the pan every time you change the fluid anyway).

As you've said, parts for these engines are readily available. In VT, there are all kinds of guys parting out their rusted rigs, and I've seen full, healthy engine/transmission combos for $2000. If you're looking for parts, it may be worth it to search craigslist in areas that use salt on the roads, because the running gear lasts way longer than the truck bodies.

roach711 06-27-2016 03:58 PM

More oil leak points

Turbocharger seals -
Leaky turbocharger seals can show up as oil in the turbocharger housing, oil in the down pipe (the exhaust pipe running from the turbo outlet down to the exhaust system below the bus), or (eventually) oil at the tailpipe. Turbo rebuild kits are easily available and the rebuild process is fairly simple.

Injector o-rings - Each fuel injector has three o-rings that separate diesel fuel from the high pressure engine oil that fires the injector. A leaky lower ring often shows up as oil residue in the fuel filter canister (fuel bowl) and often, but not always, white smoke at the tailpipe. A leaky upper o-ring shows up as oil coming out of the top of the injector and flowing back into the oil pan (no apparent oil use). Replacing injector o-rings in a Ford E-van is either very expensive or a major PITA depending on whether you pay someone to do it or decide to do it yourself. The new low-sulphur diesel fuel attacks the stock o-rings so most 7.3's get these replaced at some point in their lives. The new updated o-rings are fairly inexpensive.

BlueHeart 07-01-2016 11:17 PM

Great thread! I haven't owned a 7.3 in awhile, but this recommendation holds true for the 6.0 liter as well: always use OEM oil and fuel filters. If held next to an aftermarket version, there are obvious differences. You will have issues directly related at some point.

Jolly Roger 07-02-2016 02:11 PM

Good thread
I don't have to worry about this type of engine.
My response is about the TORQUE rating's on some of the bolt's
10-15 ft. Pds is what you get when you use a standard open end/box end wrench or ratchet of the same length.
Anything longer or an air ratchet will likely cause problems.?
I learned this from working on diesel fired pumps that had inch pounds instead of foot pounds?
I broke a few pieces and the manufacturer wouldn't cover them cause I used to big of a wrench.
8" wrench-10-12 ft pounds 10" wrench 12-16 ft. Pounds

Jolly Roger 07-02-2016 02:35 PM

Some reusable gaskets require less torque because of the grommets used that once crushed messes up the gasket.
If you have a leak with a brand new gasket then most likely the housing is warped.
Sealant will only buy you time?
That has been my experience?
Don't necessarily mean others have not had better success?

roach711 08-10-2016 12:25 AM

Some 7.3L's don't like a full oil pan

Some, not all, 7.3's like to run about a quart low on the oil dipstick. After replacing my up pipes mine has become one of them. Previously I'd keep the oil level right at the top of the dipstick but after the up pipe repair my oil level dropped to one quart low (half way down on the dipstick) and stayed there. No idea why some engines do this and others don't, but the Ford mechanics I talked to confirmed that it happens.

Hank 08-12-2016 07:19 PM


Originally Posted by jester (Post 149221)
i have the entire t444e engine manual in pdf form, it is huge and in tons of pieces but if any one needs specific or all of it i will email it to you. just message your email to me.

How would I go about obtaining one of these manuals?

Hank 08-12-2016 07:58 PM

Has any one switched their vehicle from the green coolant to the hd elc coolant, such as Fleetrite ELC?
And has any one switched from the 192 or 195 degree thermostat to the 203 degree thermostat?
There is tons of info on the web regarding this topic when it comes to 7.3's installed in the f-series trucks, but I cannot find much about the engines in the e-series vehicles. I have spent countless hours reading and researching on the internet. I have read that there are some differences in the engines in the trucks vs the e-series.
My radiator has cracked across the top, so I have to replace it. I'm trying to determine whether or not I should switch to the hd elc coolant and the higher temp thermostat at the same time.
Also, does anyone know where to find the engine's build date on the e-series? I have called Ford and they could only give me the vehicle build date, which I already knew. They said they are unable to find info about the build date of the engine, itself. If I knew the build date of the engine, whether or not to change to the hd elc coolant would be an easier decision. I'm not sure what caused the radiator to crack, but it seems that there must be something else going on for that to happen and perhaps the hd elc coolant might be a good investment. On the other hand, I don't want to switch to the elc coolant and then find out down the road that switching has caused some other type of damage.

sdwarf36 08-13-2016 12:26 AM

Whatever kind of fluid you buy, you'll need a lot of it.
I have regular napa antifreeze in mine-and a reg temp thermostat. And it never gets hot. It kinda runs on the cool side actually. If it ain't broken...
The internals are the same from the van to the truck engine. The difference on the outside are minor. 1 valve cover-one exhaust manifold-different turbo-some difference in the oil cooler. (I did a motor swap in mine-and the donor came out of a truck. ) And most importiant difference-the truck has an intercooler-the van doesn't. :ermm:

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