Ford 3.5l Eco Boost cam phaser trouble

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Well-known member
Jan 27, 2019
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Fayette County Texas
Anyone have any experience with this. I have a 2012 F150 with 128k miles. If I don't use it for a few days it rattles like crazy for a few seconds when I start it. Research on Internet indicates this is a cam phaser problem. My fuel mileage seems to be decreasing and the other day I was getting on the Interstate with an empty cattle trailer and the check engine light came on and it seemed to lose power. Check engine light went out after leveling out speed, no odd sounds that I can recall. Any of this sound familiar?

I guess a trip to the dealer to see what they say and get a cost estimate. Anyone have this problem? If so, how expensive was it? How long did it take to get your vehicle back?

There is a something (not a recall) to help with the costs but I have too many miles, so zero help for me. I'm also going to check with my local mechanic shop to see if they've replaced them and get an estimate as well.

Any info you can help with is appreciated.
I have an'09 that started that around the same mileage. Fixing it was going to be expensive and replacement engines were hard to find. My mechanic advised me to keep heavy oil in it and change every 3000 miles. I'm up to 202,000 now and it still goes.
Red; How heavy of oil? 10w-40 or something like that? How about straight 30w or 20w-40?

Did you notice any significant MPG reduction? The truck was my wife's uncle and we bought it from the estate after he passed. He was meticulous about taking it to the dealer for service. He had a full 125k mile warranty on it. He never reset trip counter #2; his lifetime mileage was 18.1 mpg. Now it is hard to average much over 15, although I probably do a bit more trailering and stop-n-go.

After he passed the truck would sit at his house for weeks and when first started would rattle, after that would be OK until it sat again. After I took possession of it, I would be started every day almost. When I changed the oil I added a quart of Lucas oil treatment that is supposed to coat the upper end a bit better. It seems to help. Maybe I should go to a 20w-40? I use full synthetic as that is what is called for. I'll bet the dealer was using partial synthetic because it was cheaper. Unfortunately, Uncle didn't keep any repair records and the dealership won't give me any because I'm not the original owner.

I appreciate your response. If I can get away with using a heavier oil and starting it every 3k miles that is good. I can buy a LOT of oil for what I think the cam phaser repair is.
How are you getting away with running conventional motor oil and not burning up an engine.
Synthetic motor oil is still hydrocarbons as conventional that has been chemically converted to the molecules being all the same size for tighter tolerance.
It's so tight some conventional won't pass through.
Ford recommends full synthetic oil be used. I use full synthetic in it, 10w-30 weight as recommended. Ford's standard oil is a blend of regular and synthetic. Maybe what you say about the molecule size is why the cam phasers rattle, can't get the oil it needs??
Replacement is the only permanent fix. Those phasers are hydraulic, using pressurized engine oil to retard and advance. There is a spring loaded pin that is supposed to lock the phasers when oil pressure is lost, what you are hearing that pin failing to do it's job and the phaser hammering from stop to stop until oil pressure is present.

Typicall the timing chains, guides, tensioners, phasers, and solenoids are all replaced at one time to eliminate any problems in the future. Will probably run 2-3k. Some just run it and in many cases they will last a really long time hammering away until the phasers fail completely and will no longer stay in time.

You would need to check the codes to see what is going on with your driveability problems, could be a coil or spark plug causing the lack of power, likely generating a P030X misfire code, those are common failures on the Ecoboost. I would only consider the phasers to be the cause if the code relates to cam/crank correlation or camshaft timing.
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Just a bump from the recommended 5W-20 to 5W-30. Used to get about 18 highway last longer trip was 16.2. Don't load it heavy anymore if I can help it; luckily for the time being we don't need to.
Thanks Atimm693, sounds like you know about this problem. I agree the best approach is replacement with the new version of the phasers as well as the other parts you mentioned. Some even say the water pump since it is removed to get there. It is the $3k+ that I am choking on.

Yes redcowsrule33, my mistake. I am using 5W-30 not 10w-30 as recommended. If I remember correctly, the early 3.5l models specified 5w-20 and it was changed sometime later. Sounds like your mileage is suffering a bit as well.

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