Ford 1.6 EcoBoost Turbo Engine
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The 5 Most Common Ford 1.6 EcoBoost Problems

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The 1.6L GTDI engine from Ford is among the first engines in the EcoBoost family. It made its debut in 2010 and is in quite a few Ford and Volvo models. Ford 1.6 EcoBoost engines offer 148-197 horsepower. Not bad for a small engine that’s fuel efficient and reliable. While it is a very solid engine from a performance standpoint, there are some significant issues that some owners face. In this article, we discuss a few common problems with the Ford 1.6 EcoBoost and finish up with overall thoughts on reliability.

Ford 1.6 EcoBoost Turbo Engine

Common 1.6 EcoBoost Engine Problems

  • Timing belt
  • Coolant Intrusion
  • Overheating
  • Carbon build-up
  • Spark plugs & ignition coils

We discuss the above problems in greater depth throughout the rest of the article. However, let’s add a few quick notes before moving on. We’re calling these some of the most common problems. That doesn’t exactly mean they’re truly common and affect a large number of engines. Rather, when things go wrong these are a few likely areas.

Overall, the 1.6L turbo direct injection engine from Ford is pretty solid. There were a few significant problems in the early days that were resolved pretty quickly. We’ll discuss where relevant and circle back to 1.6 EcoBoost reliability at the end of the article.

If you would rather consume this content via a video, check out our Ford 1.6L EcoBoost Common Problems video below:

1) Timing Belt

Timing belts on the 1.6 inline-4 turbo engine don’t really seem like an issue at all. However, the Ford EcoBoost is an interference engine. This means there is some overlap in the area the pistons and valves travel. If a timing belt were to fail then it could be very bad news. It’s possible for the pistons and valves to contact each other, which could lead to bent valves.

Ford calls for a timing belt replacement interval of 10 years or 150,000 miles. It’s a long interval for a timing belt, but they are pretty reliable nowadays. We’re still surprised Ford opted for a timing belt as many modern turbo direct injection engines utilize timing chains.

Anyway, the timing belt on the 1.6 EcoBoost engine is mostly a non-issue. We haven’t seen or heard of many issues with the timing belts. However, it’s important to check the belt from time to time. This can help avoid any serious repair bills as belts rarely fail out of the blue. Rather, they begin failing over time so occasional inspections can help detect any issues early.

Timing Belt Failure Symptoms

  • Ticking / odd sounds
  • Check engine light
  • Poor operation

Ticking sounds or other weird noises from the engine may signal the timing belt is on its way out. It’s one symptom that may show itself before the timing belt ultimately fails. Again, inspect the timing belt from time to time especially once you’re north of 100,000 miles. If a timing belt fails you’ll likely notice tons of symptoms and poor operation. Misfires, check engine lights, rough idle, etc all might point to a timing belt problem on the EcoBoost engine.

Timing Belt Change

As a reminder, the service interval for the Ford 1.6L timing belt should be every 10 years or 150,000 miles. Double-check the owner’s manual for confirmation. We also think it’s a good idea to physically inspect the belt occasionally.

Anyways, timing belts are generally cheaper to replace or repair compared to timing chains. The belt itself comes in under $50 and it’s not a challenging repair for the DIY crowd. However, it’s important to ensure the 1.6 EcoBoost timing belt is done correctly with the right tools. Less confident people should consider going to a repair shop, which can add about $200-400 to the bill.

2) Coolant Intrusion

Coolant intrusion has been a major source of frustration for owners of Ford’s 4-cylinder EcoBoost models, particularly the 2.0L engine. Although the 1.6L EcoBoost is less affected, coolant intrusion has been shown to be an issue on nearly every first-generation EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine. The problem lies in a flaw with the open-deck cooling design and, more specifically, with the head gasket that secures the engine block to the cylinder head. The inadequate mating surface causes coolant to leak into the combustion chamber, causing an array of potentially serious issues. Cylinders 2 and 3 are the most impacted. However, this issue was mostly resolved in Gen II 1.6L EcoBoost engines manufactured after April 2019.

Coolant intrusion can lead to serious and potentially fatal engine problems. When coolant continually leaks into the cylinders, it quickly depletes the coolant levels and causes other issues if not monitored regularly. Ignoring the problem can result in corrosion, misfires, overheating, fouled spark plugs, engine fires, and even complete engine failure. Ford was forced to issue a technical service bulletin due to the severity of the issue and a class action lawsuit is underway.

Coolant Intrusion Fix

In general, coolant intrusion is pretty obvious when it affects a 1.6L EcoBoost. You can tell by observing if your engine consumes a significant amount of coolant without any visible leaks underneath the vehicle. Unfortunately, fixing the problem is not simple and often requires a replacement engine. Many owners of 2.0L EcoBoost engines have struggled to get Ford to address the issue, especially when their vehicle is no longer under warranty. This problem is more prevalent in first-generation 1.6L EcoBoost engines, as the second-generation engines have a stronger deck design.

Therefore, it’s crucial to keep a close eye on coolant levels. Overheating may occur if the coolant levels are low, which can result in long-term reliability and longevity issues.

3) 1.6 EcoBoost Overheating Issues

There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to problems with the Ford 1.6 EcoBoost engines overheating. There have been several lawsuits, service bulletins, and recalls related to overheating problems. In 2017, Ford issued a recall for some 2014 Escape, 2014-2015 Fiesta ST, and 2013-2014 Fusion models. The main issue seems to be running low on coolant, which causes the cylinder head to overheat, crack and leak oil. Some even ran into fires due to high-pressure oil leaks. Ford added coolant-level sensors as part of the recall.

Anyways, we typically try to avoid writing about recalls and other issues that have been addressed. It seems these problems mostly affect earlier models, and there were some updated parts. However, it’s hard to say whether or not these issues were fully resolved given lawsuits are still popping up as of the last year or two.

Overheating Fix

It appears the ultimate cause of overheating is low coolant. Normally that wouldn’t be a defect as all engines lose some coolant over time, and it’s important to top off as necessary. However, in cases where there is excess coolant loss, it makes sense that coolant very well may be leaking into the cylinders.

Regardless, ensure you’re checking the coolant and topping it off as needed. If that’s done properly then the risk of overheating, cracking the head or head gasket, etc is minimal. Of course, coolant leaking into cylinders could cause other long-term concerns over engine reliability and longevity.

4) Carbon Build-Up

This is far from the first time we’ve talked about carbon build-up on direct injection engines, and it surely won’t be the last. Direct injection (DI) is excellent technology with lots of benefits to power, fuel economy, and emissions. It’s common on many modern turbo gasoline engines, like the Ford 1.6L EcoBoost. However, DI does come with one primary disadvantage.

All engines naturally produce some degree of oil blow-by. This oil travels toward the intake tract and often gets caught up on intake ports and valves. It’s not an issue by itself, and it’s something that used to be a rare topic. Port injection (PI) used to be the most common fueling on gasoline engines. PI sprays fuel into the intake ports, so any oil blow-by wasn’t an issue as the fuel is able to wipe it away.

However, the 1.6 EcoBoost direct injection engine doesn’t have that benefit. The injectors spray fuel directly into the cylinders, just as the name direct injection suggests. As such, these oil deposits build up on intake ports and valves and cause carbon build-up over time.

It’s not a major problem and many modern DI engines live with this flaw. Surely, plenty of Ford 1.6 turbo engines will live their whole lives without ever cleaning the carbon deposits. However, over time, excess carbon build-up can cause some performance and drivability issues. It’s likely a good idea to clean the 1.6 l EcoBoost intake valves every 100,000 miles.

Carbon Build-Up Symptoms

  • Power loss
  • Misfires
  • Rough idle
  • Stuttering/hesitation

As carbon deposits form on the intake valves, they begin restricting airflow to the cylinders. This causes the Ford 1.6 EcoBoost to lose power and performance. However, power loss is hard to notice as it occurs slowly over years and tens of thousands of miles.

Otherwise, carbon build-up on the 1.6L EcoBoost engine may cause misfires. Those misfires, in turn, can cause things like rough idle, stuttering, and poor performance in general.

Carbon Build-Up Fix

Walnut blasting remains a highly proven and successful method of removing excess carbon deposits from intake valves. The process involves a heavy-duty shop vac and walnut media shells. If you have the tools it’s a very inexpensive job to tackle as it’s mostly labor related.

Once you access the intake valves the cleaning process can take about an hour. Of course, the 1.6L GTDI intake manifold must be removed to access the intake ports and valves. Labor can add up so expect this job to come in around $300-600+ at a repair shop. Again, it’s probably good maintenance to complete every 80,000 to 120,000 miles but it’s generally not a serious or urgent issue.

5) Ignition System Problems

Alright. We’re finishing this article with something we don’t consider a true problem. Spark plugs and ignition coils are standard maintenance on any gasoline engine, including the Ford 1.6L EcoBoost. Ford states the service interval for spark plugs is 90,000 miles. Ignition coils typically last about 1.5 to 2x as long as spark plugs.

However, the 1.6 EcoBoost is a turbo direct injection engine. Turbos and DI can be a lot harder on spark plugs and ignition coils. Those who don’t utilize the turbos and performance often may see decent life out of the plugs and coils. However, start using the boost often and the spark plugs and coils can wear down quickly. This is especially true if you intend to tune or otherwise modify engine.

Spark plugs and ignition coils are standard wear-and-tear items. They rarely fail suddenly on the 1.6 EcoBoost, but rather become less effective as they age. Again, it’s not something we consider a true issue, but we would be surprised if many saw 90,000+ miles out of the spark plugs. It’s a cheap repair, so don’t overlook something so simple.

Spark Plug Symptoms

  • Misfires
  • Rough idle
  • Poor performance

Misfires are usually the first sign of tired spark plugs and/or ignition coils. That may also be accompanied by rough idle and poor overall performance. Ignition coils last longer than spark plugs, and they’re also more expensive. As such, if you run into these issues, spark plugs are usually the best starting point.

However, ignition coils lie on top of the plugs so they’re easier to access. If you notice misfires then check the fault codes to find out which cylinder is having trouble. You can then swap the ignition coil from that cylinder to another good cylinder. If the misfires follows then it might be time to change the coils. Otherwise, spark plugs are the likely culprit.

Spark Plug Replacement

Fortunately, plugs and coils are some of the easiest maintenance to complete. Even novice DIY’ers can quickly knock out the job in a driveway or garage. A set of 4 spark plugs for the 1.6 EcoBoost is about $65. Ignition coils come in around $90 for a set, so they’re a little more expensive. These are quick jobs for mechanics and the labor shouldn’t be more than $150, so be weary if anyone quotes more.

Ford 1.6L EcoBoost Reliability

Is the Ford 1.6 EcoBoost engine reliable? We’ll give the engine average remarks for reliability. It definitely hasn’t earned a good reputation due to some recalls and lawsuits. However, the 1.6L turbo engine is far from the worst. There aren’t many flaws or failures with the 1.6 EcoBoost, so that’s good news. Some may be skeptical due to the overheating problems, but the internet does have a tendency to blow things out of proportion.

A lot of 1.6 EcoBoost reliability comes down to maintenance. Use high quality oils, change fluids on time, and fix issues in a timely manner when they occur. It’s all basic stuff that should be done on any engine. However, it’s generally more important on turbo direct injection engines like the EcoBoost. Stay on top of maintenance and chances are most will have a fun, reliable experience with the Ford 1.6L inline-4.

1.6 EcoBoost Common Problems Summary

Ford 1.6L variants were among the first in the EcoBoost family, which dominates a large portion of Ford’s modern line-up. They’re excellent engines that provide solid performance, efficiency, and reliability for their size. However, there seem to be a few more concerns with the 1.6 EB compared to some of the others.

One major concern revolves around potential design flaws with coolant leaking into cylinders. This causes low coolant which may ultimately lead to overheating, head cracking, fires, etc. We think it’s likely over-blown due to some recalls and lawsuits surrounding these issues. Otherwise, there really don’t seem to be many major issues with the Ford 1.6 EcoBoost.

Stay on top of timing belt changes as it is an interference engine, so belt failures may cause further damage. Carbon build-up is a consideration, but it’s simply a downside to direct injection which is great tech. Turbo engines can also be a bit more maintenance intensive as they do like to burn through things like spark plugs and ignition coils.

What’s your experience with the 1.6L EcoBoost engine? Are you considering one?

Leave a comment and let us know! Or check out some of our additional content including 1.5 EcoBoost problems and 1.6 vs 2.0 EB.

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10 Comments

  1. The engine has a defect and causes coolant to be leaked into the cylinders. After one engine replacement I can definitely say the reports are not “overblown”. It is a real problem. The new engine is now giving a “check coolant” message.

    1. check your vacuum lines on the turbo. i bought an escape with that same code. turned out the vac line from the turbo bypass solenoid and the waste gate was kinked

  2. I have a 2013. Love the car. But I did notice that I have to add like 2 cups of coolant every maybe 6 months. Should I be worried? I have 69,000 miles on the car. I simply love the car.

    1. Yes. Be worried. I have the 2014 1.6 Eco Boost at 110K miles. It starts slowly, but coolant losses increase over time. Soon you’ll be at a gallon every other month. Took into trusted mechanic, and it’s not leaking through hoses or radiator, and they assume it’s burning up in the engine. Either cracked engine block or head gasket. Cost of repairs and troubleshooting almost as much as trade in value of car. Huge defect. No new car at 110K miles should have this sort of problem.

  3. i have a 2014 kuga 1.6 eccoboost every trip i make the coolant is low. . i saw 2 pipes leaking..i replaced them but the car is still exhausting the coolant .

  4. My Ex owns a Fiesta 1.6 nonturbo. She recently started blowing smoke one day. After checking compression wet and dry, we found the valves were leaking. So we pull the head, have it refurbished and reinstall it. Now mind you, there were no codes and no timing issues up to the head removal. With that said, I was surprised at a number of design issues with this engine. First and foremost was the fact that the crank pulley and cam phasers were NOT keyed to there respective shafts. So we followed the install proceedure to the letter. Once installation was complete we started the car up and it ran smoothly. But after driving a couple blocks it ran rough and codes p0017 and 0015 came up. We pull the timing belt and realign the shafts. Put it back together and started it. Again it ran smooth but went bad after a couple blocks. We redid it twice more, one of the times was done at a shop. And still the codes. So I know I did it right the previous times. So I’m sitting here with a 1.6 that won’t hold time and everyone says how easy it is. I have done multiple timing jobs so I’m no slouch.

  5. I got a 2014 Fiesta ST 1.6L Ecoboost with 140000km on the clock and it has a misfire at idle and when it misfires it makes a tick sound.. replaced MAF, MAP and boost sensors as they were coming up as codes, replaced sparkplugs and coils, replaced the EVAP vacuum tubing and the problem is still there. Never misfires when accelerating.

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