Ford 1.6 EcoBoost Engine Problems
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. Then again, no engine is perfect and there are no exceptions here. In this article, we discuss a few common problems with the Ford 1.6 EcoBoost and finish up with overall thoughts on reliability.
What Cars Use the Ford 1.6L?
Under Ford the engines are simply known as the 1.6L EcoBoost engine. However, Volvo badges the engines as the B4164T. There’s also another number at the end of the Volvo engine code depending on the specific variant of the 1.6 inline-4 engine. Anyways, the 1.6 liter turbo engine is in the following Ford and Volvo models:
- 2010-2018 Ford Focus
- 2010-2018 Ford C-Max
- 2013-2016 Ford Escape
- 2013-2014 Ford Fusion
- 2013-2016 Ford Fiesta ST
- 2016-2017 Ford Fiesta ST200
- 2014-2016 Ford Transit Escape
- 2013-2016 Volvo V40
- 2010-2018 Volvo S60
- 2010-2018 Volvo V60
- 2011-2016 Volvo V70
- 2011-2016 Volvo S80
The 1.6L EcoBoost engine is also in a few other international models. Most models – especially in the US – began switching to the newly developed 1.5 EcoBoost engine around 2015. Power varies from 148-182 horsepower depending on the specific year and model. However, the Fiesta ST200 receives a 197 horsepower 1.6 EcoBoost engine.
4 Common 1.6 EcoBoost Engine Problems
A few of the most common issues on the Ford 1.6 l EcoBoost engine are:
- Timing belt
- 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.
1) Ford 1.6 EcoBoost 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 now days. We’re still surprised Ford opted for a timing belt as many modern turbo direct injection engines utilize timing chains. They’re typically true lifetime parts, but some companies do struggle with timing chain tensioners and other poorly made parts.
Anyways, 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.
1.6L GTDI Timing Belt Symptoms
Possible symptoms of timing belt problems on the Ford 1.6 EcoBoost include:
- 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 1.6L 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.
Ford 1.6 Inline-4 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 owners 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) 1.6L 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.
As of recently, there is a lawsuit that claims the Ford 1.6 EcoBoost has an inherent flaw. It alleges coolant leaks into the cylinders thereby causing corrosion, engine failures, and possibly even fires. We’ll leave it at that since there’s quite a bit of info out there regarding the recalls, service bulletins, etc.
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.
Ford 1.6 GTDI 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.
3) Ford 1.6 Turbo EB 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.
1.6 EcoBoost Carbon Build-Up Symptoms
A few symptoms that may point to excess carbon build-up on the Ford 1.6 EcoBoost engine are:
- Power loss
- Rough idle
- Stuttering / hesitation
As carbon deposits form on the intake valves they begin restricting air-flow 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.
Ford 1.6L Turbo 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.
4) 1.6 EcoBoost 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 around 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 mod the 1.6L turbo 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.
Ford 1.6L Spark Plug Symptoms
Symptoms that may point to old, worn spark plugs or ignition coils on Ford 1.6L turbo engines include:
- 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.
1.6 Inline-4 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 $30. Ignition coils come in around $20-40 each, so they’re a little more expensive. These are quick jobs for mechanics and the labor shouldn’t be more than $100-150, 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 the best 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 our 2.0 EcoBoost problems article