The 7.3 Powerstroke is considered to be a legendary engine from Ford, but you want to avoid the specific years that this motor had serious maintenance issues.
What are the worst years for the 7.3 Powerstroke engine?
Avoid buying a truck with a 7.3 Powerstroke engine from 2001, 2002, and 2003. The 7.3 Powerstroke engines from these years were known for having camshaft position sensor failures, damaged push rods and valve springs, EBPV failures, overloaded suspension, PMR parts, and fuel filter housing leaks.
After extensively researching Ford automotive and maintenance forums, I have been able to gather enough information to determine which 7.3 Powerstroke years you should avoid.
My research has indicated that you should always thoroughly inspect and test drive any used car before you buy it, regardless of what driver reports claim about the engine, as there could be any number of underlying isolated issues.
The 7.3 Powerstroke Years You Should Avoid
The 7.3 Powerstroke is widely-regarded as being a superior diesel engine by many vehicle owners. Throughout the 90s, many car critics and drivers had nothing but praise for the 7.3 Powerstroke engine, but this changed with the onset of the new millennium.
Ford redesigned this engine in 2001, and from then on, a bulk load of problems began to appear, and the 7.3 Powerstroke was eventually discontinued due to these issues.
If you are on the market for buying a used truck with a 7.3 Powerstroke motor, you need to consider your options carefully, as there are some years that you should absolutely stay clear of.
Engines manufactured during these faulty years have been extremely problematic for drivers, and there are a number of maintenance and performance issues that raise a lot of red flags. That is why you should avoid buying a 7.3 Powerstroke powered truck from the following years at all costs.
2001 7.3 Powerstroke
The 7.3 Powerstroke had a lot of hype around it prior to 2001 and there was plenty of demand for trucks this with this engine. However, the 2001 7.3 Powerstroke failed to deliver on the performance and reliability that previous models were so widely praised for.
The 2001 7.3 Powerstroke had a number of isolated issues with noise being the most common complaint from vehicle owners. Drivers reported that their motor would make an excessive amount of noise when in motion and I uncovered that this was attributed to issues with the split-shot injectors.
In addition, I also found that surges were a common problem for a lot of people who bought trucks with the 2001 7.3 Powerstroke engine. While this was not as frequent of a problem as the noise, it is an inconvenient and costly repair when you encounter it.
2002 7.3 Powerstroke
The biggest issue with the 2002 7.3 Powerstroke is that Ford changed the design of the engine by replacing the traditional forged metal rods that were commonly used with powdered metal rods.
This resulted in a number of performance issues that ultimately sabotaged the reputation of the 7.3 Powerstroke permanently. Adding powdered metal rods (PMR) to the diesel engine significantly decreased its capabilities and it downgraded it from models that had been released in the years prior.
I also found that many drivers complained that their camshaft position sensor failed on them. Another common problem with this diesel engine is that the exhaust back-pressure valve would fail quite commonly on many vehicle owners.
These are all maintenance issues that cost a considerable amount of money to fix and if you do not want to deal with unnecessary and expensive repairs, you should avoid the 2002 7.3 Powerstroke motor.
2003 7.3 Powerstroke
Many fans were hoping that Ford would change things around in 2003 given the lackluster outcome of the two previous years. Unfortunately, that did not happen and Ford ultimately released an engine that was even worse than the 2001 and 2002 models.
The 2003 Powerstroke used the same powdered metal rods as the 2002 model, which downgrade the engine’s performance and reliability. However, the biggest change that Ford made from the previous year was that they removed the 7.3-liter engine altogether with a 6.0-liter engine.
This ended up being a huge blow and it essentially lowered the performance capabilities of trucks with this engine below the rest of the competition from the super duty-truck lineup during that time.
Much like the 2002 model, the 2003 7.3 Powerstroke also experienced camshaft position failure. Lastly, the 2003 model was known to have a series of leaks in the fuel filter housing, as well as the turbocharger up-pipe.
Common 7.3 Powerstroke Issues from 2001-2003
When Ford released the 7.3 Powerstroke in 2001, it really marked the beginning of the end for this diesel engine. It was considered by many drivers and car critics as being one of the best truck motors on the market for a while and a series of performance issues and design flaws resulted in Ford discontinuing the 7.3 Powerstroke altogether after 2003.
A number of these problems were directly connected to Ford attempting to adapt the design of the engine to new environmental and state regulations that were being initiated in the country.
However, the real failure of the 7.3 Powerstroke had to do with faulty designs and a series of unnecessary maintenance issues that were consistent with many vehicles from 2001 to 2003 that had a 7.3 Powerstroke diesel engine.
1. Camshaft Position Sensor Failure
One of the most notorious issues of the 7.3 Powerstroke was that the engine’s camshaft position sensor would fail over time. This is a critical component as it regulates the amount of fuel needed to power the engine optimally.
When the camshaft position sensor fails, the 7.3 Powerstroke’s computer system is incapable of receiving information about how much fuel needs to be distributed.
Once this happens, you may not be able to turn on your vehicle until the camshaft position sensor is fixed and replaced. If the sensor has not completely failed, then other performance issues such as rough acceleration and engine stalls are quite common.
The repair costs for this component can vary but you should ultimately expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $200 – without the cost of labor. All in all, this results in around $250 – $300 of maintenance that could have easily been avoided.
2. Damaged Push Rods and Valve Springs
Many vehicle owners who purchased a truck with a 7.3 Powerstroke engine from 2001 to 2003 experienced damaged push rods and valve springs. These issues are not always connected but there have been a number of incidents where drivers experienced both developing simultaneously.
This usually happens when the valve spring breaks first and gets bent, which ultimately weakens the cylinder. Once the cylinder is frail, the push rods can get damaged and bent as a result of this.
Fixing this issue can be expensive, especially if both components need to be addressed. These repair costs can set you back anywhere from $250 and $500 (or more). However, one of the biggest issues with this is if the valve spring breaks and goes into the cylinder which can cause a lot of damage to the engine.
3. Exhaust Back-Pressure Valve Failure (EBPV)
There were a number of issues with the 7.3 Powerstroke’s electrical components and one of the most common things that would get affected by this was the exhaust back-pressure valve (EBPV).
The primary function of this component is to create back pressure from the exhaust so that more heat can be delivered to the engine. This is an important component that enables the motor to warm up much quicker in cold weather.
If the EBPV fails, then it will be unable to perform its key functionality, which can result in the vehicle failing to start in certain conditions.
4. Overloaded Front Suspension
A super-duty truck equipped with a 7.3 Powerstroke diesel engine needs to have quality and durable suspension that is reliable for adverse terrain and driving conditions.
I’ve found that the design and weight of this engine often overloaded the front suspension of vehicles, which can cause a number of maintenance issues to develop.
An engine of this size encourages the risk of components such as bushings, ball joints, and tie rods breaking over time, which was common with Ford’s trucks during this period. This is a particularly big issue for any vehicle owner that relies on their truck for off-road driving and hauling heavy payloads.
5. Powdered Metal Rods (PMR)
A critical mistake that Ford made with the 7.3 Powerstroke was replacing the forged metal rods with powdered metal rods in 2002.
These rods are not nearly as reliable for a super-duty truck that was designed for rough and rugged driving. The powdered metal rods that were installed in the 2002 and 2003 7.3 Powerstroke diesel engines have 37% less fatigue strength than the forged metal rods.
While this may not be a deal-breaker for vehicle owners who use their trucks for casual driving and commuting, it’s a major drawback for people who bought their 7.3 Powerstroke to push it to the limits.
6. Fuel Filter Housing Leaks
A number of different leaks have been common with the 7.3 Powerstroke diesel engine from these years – especially in the fuel filter housing. The cap connected to this issue is made out of plastic which will begin to crack from the heat and pressure of the engine and fuel system.
Once the cap cracks it will leak, which most drivers notice once fluid starts dripping underneath their vehicle. However, not all people are able to spot the leak right away and many vehicle owners experienced issues with their trucks stalling out when idling.
While fixing a leak in the fuel filter housing is not an expensive repair, it is usually not something that the average driver is capable of handling without professional help. This results in more tedious maintenance and vehicle upkeep – on top of the already problematic repair issues.
The Best 7.3 Powerstroke Years
As I already mentioned, up until 2001, the 7.3 Powerstroke was considered to be a top-notch diesel engine for super-duty trucks – with outstanding performance and capabilities. This engine has been regarded by so many owners and car critics as being one of the best truck motors on the market during its peak years.
While the 7.3 Powerstroke diesel engine certainly went downhill fast with the launch of the 2001 model, virtually all models prior to this were fantastic motors. With that said, some 7.3 Powerstroke years truly stand out as being the best. That is why I recommend buying a truck with a 7.3 Powerstroke from the following years:
Starting in 1994, Ford built a very solid reputation for the 7.3 Powerstroke and it improved upon the design of the engine over the ongoing years. However, the innovation and performance of the 7.3 Powerstroke motor truly peaked in the late 90s, which are widely regarded as the best years of this diesel engine.
- Avoid buying a truck with a 7.3 Powerstroke engine that was released in 2001, 2002, or 2003.
- Common issues with 7.3 Powerstroke engines include camshaft position sensor failures, damaged push rods, and valve springs, EBPV failures, overloaded suspension, PMR parts, as well as fuel filter housing leaks.
- The best years of the 7.3 Powerstroke diesel engine are 1998, 1999, and 2000.