The Ford 1.5 EcoBoost turbo engine came out in 2014 as a slightly smaller version of the 1.6L engine. This was in part due to Chinese vehicle taxes, which are a lot lower for 1.5L or smaller engines. Despite the slight downsize the engine still offers similar performance to the 1.6 EcoBoost. Power is nearly identical at 181 horsepower for the Ford Fusion and Focus models.
All in all, the 1.5 EcoBoost is an engine with a good balance of power, reliability, and efficiency. With that being said, there are some significant engine problems that can plague the 1.5L EcoBoost, even at low mileage. In this article, we discuss a few common Ford 1.5 EcoBoost engine problems as well as overall reliability.
What Cars Use the 1.5L EcoBoost?
Before diving into the common problems discussion we’ll lay out a little info about the 1.5 EcoBoost engine. It’s in use in the following Ford years and models:
- 2014-2018 Ford Focus
- 2014-2020 Ford Fusion
- 2017-present Ford Escape
- 2015-present Ford Mondeo
- 2015-present Ford C-Max
US models include the Ford Focus and Fusion which offer 181 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque. There’s also the US model Ford Escape 1.5 EcoBoost with 179 horsepower. Some 1.5L turbo engines in foreign models only offer 148-158hp.
Ford 1.5 Turbo Specs
Specs for the Ford 1.5 inline-4 turbo engine are as follows:
Fuel Delivery: Direct Injection
Bore x Stroke: 79mm x 76.4mm
Compression: 10.0 : 1
Head & Block: Aluminum
Valves: DOHC, 16v
Max HP: 181hp @ 6,000 RPM
Max TQ: 185 lb-ft @ 4,300 RPM
These are all pretty standard specs for modern high-efficiency engines. Small displacement helps with fuel economy and lower emissions. A turbo allows the small 1.5 EcoBoost to make solid power for its size. Direct injection is great for performance and emissions reasons, but does have a downside or two that we’ll be covering.
4 Common 1.5 EcoBoost Problems
A few common issues with the Ford 1.5L EcoBoost turbo engine include:
- Cooling system
- Carbon build-up
- Fuel injectors
- Spark plugs & ignition coils
Throughout the rest of this article, we’ll discuss the above problems in-depth. We also finish up with some thoughts on 1.5 EcoBoost reliability. However, it’s important to knock out a few quick notes before. We’re referring to these as the MOST common Ford 1.5 EcoBoost problems for good reason. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re truly common in the traditional sense of the definition. Rather, when issues or failures do occur these are a few common areas.
That said, all engines are prone to problems. It’s especially true when dealing with some newer turbo, direct injection engines. There is generally more technology, more parts that can fail, and higher standard maintenance costs. We’ll highlight that fact in one of the sections coming up. Anyways, let’s jump in and look at a few problems with the 1.5L EcoBoost engine.
1) 1.5 EcoBoost Cooling System Issues
We dug into this problem a little bit in our 1.6 EcoBoost common problems article. There were a couple of things to unpack with that engine. Some of the same problems seem to be an issue on the newer 1.5 inline-4 engines, too. There is a lawsuit floating around targeting the 4-cylinder Ford EcoBoost engines due to some cooling-related problems. It doesn’t appear as common on the 1.5 as the 1.6, however, it’s still enough that the lawsuit does include the 1.5 EcoBoost.
1.5L EcoBoost Coolant Intrusion Problems
Coolant intrusion has been causing headaches for Ford’s 4-cylinder EcoBoost models like the 1.5L, 1.6L, and especially the 2.0L. While the 1.5L EcoBoost is less prone to issues, there are still quite a few Ford owners that have run into coolant intrusion problems in their 1.5L inline-4. To put coolant intrusion into simpler terms, there’s a flaw in the mating surface between the engine block and cylinder head that allows coolant to leak into the combustion chamber. This is mainly due to the 1.5L EcoBoost’s open-deck cooling design, which is prone to gasket failure. Cylinders 2 and 3 are the most affected by this. However, the Gen II 1.5L EcoBoost engines made after April 2019 fixed this issue for the most part.
This can cause severe, and sometimes terminal, engine problems. If coolant is constantly leaking into the cylinders, your 1.5L EcoBoost will go through coolant quickly, leading to other problems if you’re not checking the levels regularly. And if it’s not addressed, coolant intrusion can cause corrosion, misfires, overheating, fouled spark plugs, engine fires, and even complete engine failure. It got so bad that Ford even issued a technical service bulletin about it and there’s a class action lawsuit in progress.
We typically avoid covering recall and lawsuit-related stuff simply because it’s not hard to find info on it. Anyways, the failure seems to lie within the design of the block and head. Coolant leaks into the combustion chambers, and can cause low coolant, corrosion, misfires, and possibly even engine failure.
Ford 1.5L Turbo Coolant Fix
In general, it is pretty apparent when coolant intrusion is present on a 1.5L EcoBoost. The most straightforward sign is if your engine is consuming a significant amount of coolant without any noticeable leaks underneath the vehicle. Unfortunately, fixing the coolant intrusion issue is not a straightforward task and often requires a replacement engine. Many owners of 2.0L EcoBoost engines have faced difficulties in getting Ford to address the problem, especially if the vehicle is no longer under warranty. This issue is more prevalent in the first-generation 1.5L EcoBoost engines, as the second-generation engines have a more robust deck design.
Anyways, it’s important to keep an eye on coolant levels. Low coolant may cause overheating, which could lead to other long-term reliability and longevity concerns.
2) Ford 1.5 EcoBoost Carbon Build-Up Problems
Carbon build-up is a topic that pops up a lot with modern engines. In the past, port injection was the primary fuel delivery method. However, direct injection (DI) provides a lot of performance and efficiency benefits. As such, many engines have switched over to DI – including the Ford 1.5 EcoBoost. It’s great tech for many reasons, but does have an inherent flaw.
All engines produce some degree of oil blow-by. This oil then makes its way into the intake tract where it sticks to intake ports and valves. With a traditional port injection system, fuel sprays in the intake ports where it wipes away any oil blow-by. On the other hand, DI sprays fuel directly into the cylinders. There is nothing to clean the valves. This leads to carbon build-up on the 1.5L EB intake valves and ports.
It’s rare for carbon build-up to cause any other reliability or longevity concerns. Some 1.5 EcoBoost engines will likely live their whole lives with excess carbon deposits. However, it can cause several drivability and performance issues so it’s good maintenance to clean the valves. Expect carbon build-up problems on the Ford 1.5 EcoBoost to show around the 80,000 to the 120,000-mile ballpark.
1.5L EB Carbon Build-Up Symptoms
Symptoms of excess carbon deposits on the Ford 1.5 turbo engine include:
- Power loss
- Rough idle
- Poor operation
When excess carbon deposits form they begin restricting airflow into the cylinders. In turn, the 1.5 EcoBoost will lose power and sometimes it can be rather significant. However, it’s one of the hardest symptoms to notice. Carbon build-up occurs over years and tens of thousands of miles, so the power loss is gradual.
Otherwise, look out for poor overall engine operation. You may notice misfires, rough idle, stuttering while accelerating, etc. However, these can all be common symptoms for a handful of other issues.
Ford 1.5 EcoBoost Intake Valve Cleaning
Walnut blasting is a highly proven method for cleaning carbon deposits off intake valves and ports. It’s mostly labor to clean the intake valves, so it’s cheap maintenance if you’re a capable DIY’er. The job requires a shop vac and walnut media shells.
The 1.5L inline-4 intake manifold must be removed to access the intake ports. Once in there, the actual walnut blasting process takes roughly an hour or two, depending on how bad the build-up is. Expect this job to run about $400-600 at a repair shop.
3) 1.5L Inline-4 Fuel Injectors Clogging
This is yet another flaw with some direct injection engines. Many manufacturers have struggled with high-pressure fuel pumps, injectors, and other fueling issues since switching to DI. Some Ford Fusion, Focus, and Escape models with the 1.5 EcoBoost run into problems with fuel injectors.
There are a few ways in which fuel injectors may fail. One of the most common seems to be fuel injectors clogging on the 1.5 GTDI engine, so that’s our main focus here. However, leaking or unresponsive injectors also happen sometimes.
Of course, fuel injectors are important to proper operation of the 1.5 EcoBoost. Faulty injectors can lead to a plethora of drivability issues. It’s really not a very common problem, but look for potential issues north of 70,000 miles.
Symptoms of 1.5 EcoBoost Injector Problems
A few symptoms that may point to an issue with the EcoBoost fuel injectors are:
- Long cranks
- Rough idle
- Poor fuel economy
With a clogged injector the problematic cylinder won’t receive enough fuel flow. In the case of a leaking injector, there’s too much fuel. Both Ford 1.5 EcoBoost injector problems may cause long cranks, rough idle, and misfires. Leaking injectors may cause poor fuel economy, too.
Ford 1.5L Fuel Injector Replacement
There are a couple of options depending on the exact fault of the fuel injector. Leaking injectors likely need new seals, but it’s a time-consuming process. There are also ways to clean the fuel injectors if they are clogged. However, that’s not always the best long-term solution.
Fortunately, a set of 4 fuel injectors for the 1.5 EcoBoost only cost about $100-300. Since they’re relatively cheap some choose to simply replace the injectors. Fixing the seals or cleaning them may cost as much as new injectors if the work is done at a repair shop. However, it’s a good way for the DIY crowd to save some money. The below video gives an example of cleaning the Ford 1.5L injectors.
4) Ford 1.5 EcoBoost Plugs & Coils
We’ll be quick on this section before moving onto 1.5 EcoBoost reliability. Spark plugs and ignition coils are standard maintenance. As such, we don’t believe it’s fair to consider them a problem on the EB turbo engine. Premature failures do happen, but they’re pretty rare. However, this topic about plugs and coils is here for good reason.
Modern turbo engines – like the 1.5 EcoBoost – can be a bit more demanding on standard maintenance. Boost from turbos causes high cylinder pressures, which requires a stronger spark. In turn, spark plugs and ignition coils wear down faster when compared to naturally aspirated engines. However, the 1.5L EcoBoost is a small engine running relatively low boost and power. It shouldn’t be quite as demanding as some of the larger engines like the 2.7 or 3.5 EcoBoost.
Anyways, plugs and coils are simple things that can lead to a lot of symptoms. Those running any tunes or other mods on the 1.5 EcoBoost will likely get much shorter lives from the spark plugs and ignition coils. Stock engines might not need spark plugs until around 70,000 miles and ignition coils can last about twice as long.
1.5L Inline-4 Plugs & Coils Symptoms
Some symptoms of old, worn spark plugs and ignition coils include:
- Rough idle
- Poor performance
As plugs and coils wear down they cannot fully ignite and burn the air-fuel mix in the cylinder. This causes misfires, which is usually the first symptom. As they continue aging and getting worse you might notice misfires and poor overall performance.
Ford 1.5 Turbo Spark Plug Replacement
Spark plugs and ignition coils are some of the easiest maintenance items to knock out. Even novice DIY’ers can knock it out in the driveway in an hour or two at the most. A set of 4 spark plugs comes in around $30-50 while ignition coils can be about $100-200.
1.5L EcoBoost Turbo Reliability
Is the Ford 1.5 EcoBoost engine reliable? Yes, we believe the 1.5L inline-4 turbo engine receives average to above-average remarks for reliability. Other than the non-ideal open deck design, there aren’t many major design flaws with the Ford 1.5 EB. There are some lawsuits and concerns about engine block/head issues that cause coolant to leak into cylinders. While it can happen, the problems do not effect every model with some 1.5L EcoBoosts lasting well into the 200,000-mile range.
That said, some reliability simply comes down to the luck of the draw. We can’t control that aspect, but maintenance is a key piece we can control. This stuff applies to any engine – not just the 1.5 EcoBoost. Use quality oils, change fluids on time, and fix issues quickly if they pop up. Do all of this and most will likely have a good, reliable life from the 1.5L turbo engine.
Ford 1.5 EcoBoost Engine Problems Summary
The 1.5L EcoBoost made its debut in 2014 as a slightly smaller variant of the older 1.6 EcoBoost. It offers a great all-around balance of price, fuel economy, reliability, and performance. 181 horsepower may not be enticing to some, but it’s plenty of power for many Focus, Fusion, and Escape owners.
Like all engines, there are a few problems with the 1.5 EcoBoost to look out for. There are some lawsuits regarding coolant leaking into cylinders, and some cases lead to full engine replacement. Fuel injectors occasionally have issues, but it’s a pretty minor and inexpensive problem in the grand scheme. Otherwise, carbon build-up is simply a downside to an otherwise great technology.
Turbo engines like the Ford 1.5 EcoBoost can be a little more demanding on maintenance. However, it’s hard to find many modern engines that don’t utilize turbo and direct injection technology. Most importantly, maintain the 1.5L engine well. With proper maintenance chances are the Ford 1.5 EcoBoost will live a long, reliable life.
What’s your experience with the 1.5L engine? Are you considering one?
Leave a comment and let us know!