Despite being one of the most innovative, and reliable engines in recent years, Ford 1.6 EcoBoost engine problems are not uncommon. While most problems can be avoided with simple upkeep, there are some owners and prospective buyers should be mindful of.
Rolling out in 2010, Ford’s four-cylinder, turbocharged 1.6 litre EcoBoost found itself central to the company’s main lineup until 2018. The engine represented a fresh approach for Ford, as they wound down Zetec production and began releasing its new, smaller but more efficient “pocket rockets” for widespread use. Gradually this powerplant has been phased out to make way for the slightly more economical 1.5 Ecoboost Engine.
The 1.6L EcoBoost engine pushed aside the 1.8 and 1.5 litre Zetec engines and brought with it a bunch of new features. These include stop-start capability, direct fuel injection, Ford’s own Variable Cam Timing technology (VCT), intelligent cooling, and a turbocharger to ensure power is not sacrificed in spite of the lower capacity.
Cars featuring the 1.6 EcoBoost
With the addition of an all-aluminium block design, low-friction gains, and timing refinements, Ford managed to create an engine that surpassed the performance of the previous generation engines while being considerably smaller.
This meant the engine had widespread applicability and was capable of powering a wide range of Ford’s lineup with output from 150hp to 182hp. The 4-cylinder 1.6 EcoBoost also found its way into some of Volvo’s range until 2014 with cars such as the Mondeo and the V60/S60 sharing platforms and automobile DNA.
Cars featuring the 1.6L EcoBoost engine include:
- Ford C-MAX
- Ford Focus
- Ford Fiesta ST
- Ford Mondeo
- Ford Galaxy
- Ford Fusion
- Ford Escape
- Ford Transit Connect
- Ford Fiesta ST
- Volvo V40
- Volvo V60
- Volvo V70
- Volvo S60
- Volvo S80
Is the Ford 1.6 EcoBoost a good engine?
With the 1.6L EcoBoost now out for over a decade, a fair assessment can be made on the reliability of the engine. Cars featuring the engine have now begun to reach the upper mileage recommendation (if following Ford’s official line) and overall, the 1.6 EcoBoost is considered to be a solid if unremarkable engine.
Among the first in the EcoBoost family to be released, the 1.6L Ecoboost was a guinea pig of sorts, with consumers putting the new lineup through its paces.
Owners report decent mileage in the 1.6 with official fuel economy reported being around 44-47mpg in a Focus. This translates into a real-world figure of around 38mpg when reported by most owners online which is somewhat lower than the official number. Nevertheless, on longer runs, you can expect to see decent returns nearing the official line and are pretty standard for a larger petrol engine.
While the EcoBoost is never going to win a drag race, its turbo does a good job at making the 1.6 feel like a 1.8 or bigger. This includes a surprisingly beefy sound and ramping up in power.
Common Ford 1.6 EcoBoost Engine Problems
Most of the common problems relating to the 1.6 EcoBoost are not unique to this specific variant. Owners should be careful to look out for these issues and act swiftly if noticed to prevent bigger problems from occurring.
Below, you’ll find the most common Ford 1.6 EcoBoost engine problems, how to spot them, and how to get things sorted.
1. Carbon Deposits
As with all direct injection engines, the Ford 1.6 EcoBoost suffers from a build-up of carbon over time. This is a natural consequence of fuel entering the intake valves directly, with friction and heat leaving a carbon residue.
As the 1.6 EcoBoost has no self-cleaning mechanism in place, this carbon simply accumulates until it begins clogging the valve. This interrupts not only airflow but the insertion of fuel. This will not damage your engine but will diminish fuel economy and engine power.
Symptoms: An early sign of carbon build-up is a noticeable loss in power and your car will seem to perform poorly in terms of fuel efficiency.
If left to an excessive amount, carbon build-up will cause engine misfires, rough idles, and delayed response when accelerating.
Fix: There are now plenty of garages that will conduct a valve clean on your engine using a special additive. This medium is soft enough to not cause damage but hard enough to dislodge and remove carbon. This costs anywhere from £100 onwards depending on your location.
As the process involves the removal of the intake manifold, labour costs can also be expected to be tacked onto this figure.
As a preventative measure, or to treat early symptoms, make sure to get your engine flushed with every oil service. This involves adding a liquid to your existing oil, allowing it to heat up for 15 minuets and then draining as normal. This solution helps remove carbon deposits, sludge, varnish and other nasties before replacing with fresh oil.
2. Ignition Trouble
While not unique to the 1.6 EcoBoost, owners do report getting through more spark plugs and ignition coils than the manual suggests is normal. These components are relatively inexpensive so this is not necessarily a major problem.
As a turbo direct injection variant, the 1.6 litre EcoBoost is a little more taxing on these parts than a non-turbo equivalent. This means you can shave off some of the expected 80-90k lifespan of a sparkplug and the 130k+ estimate for a coil.
Symptoms: Fortunately, dead spark plugs and ignition coils are some of the easiest problems to diagnose. You will notice your car regularly misfiring with the idle feeling rough. You will also experience overall bad performance from the engine as it struggles to ignite fuel.
Fix: For owners of cars with the 1.6 EcoBoost engine, replacing spark plugs and ignition coils more frequently than recommended is the go-to advice. While this can be undertaken by a trained mechanic, it is also something you can do at home with parts costing between £20 and £50.
3. Timing Belt Wear
Most timing belts will need to be replaced around 150k miles into their life. For most drivers, this will be after around 10 years of driving. In the case of the Ford EcoBoost 1.6l, however, the timing belt appears to wear out a lot quicker, needing replacement after just a few years.
This issue has not affected all models but is a fairly widespread issue with some owners left frustrated by the failure of such a vital component. As a light belt, owners do benefit from lower engine noise. These are weaker than timing chains though, with the 1.6’s relatively powerful output seemingly pushing belts harder than ideal.
Ignoring a bad timing belt can eventually lead to serious engine damage.
Symptoms: A bad timing belt will cause a number of problems, most notably an unusual ticking sound from under the bonnet. You may also experience worse performance from your car and find the check engine light appears on your dash.
Fix: There isn’t a whole lot you can do to fix a worn or damaged belt other than replacing it. This is a relatively expensive fix costing £300+ with most of the cost being labour.
Most vehicles will be in the garage for the majority of the day and sometimes 2. This time consuming job usually involves removing the entire front bumper & radiator too. It is difficult to avoid this problem, however good driving practice is encouraged as well as regular oil changes.
4. Overheating Issue
Over ten years into its life and it appears there is a Ford 1.6 EcoBoost engine overheating problem. In most cases, this only affects earlier cars ranging from 2010 to 2015. Specifically, the Fusion, Fiesta ST, and Escape models are most affected.
The issue is seemingly caused by various leaks in the thermostat housing, causing low pressure in the coolant system. This causes the engine to overheat, with cracked head-gaskets possible and coolant intrusion into cylinders causing corrosion.
With reports coming in since 2017, the issue is now fairly well documented with Ford issuing recalls and refunds for over 15,000 cars. In some cases, this overheating has even caused fires so it’s worth keeping your eye on this problem.
Symptoms: The best way to tell if you have a coolant leak is to simply check your levels regularly, before and after journeys if possible. Most coolant is a bright colour due to anti-freeze additives so it’s quite easy to spot leaks, especially if your car has been standing for a day or two.
If you do run the car low on coolant, you’ll notice the engine temperature dial swing to the right fairly quickly. This will cause the engine to behave abnormally, sound differently, and feel sluggish.
Fix: Most cars will lose some coolant due to everyday use. However, regularly checking and topping up coolant is the best way to avoid damage to the engine itself through overheating. If you suspect you have a leak, contact a trained mechanic who will be able to tell you if you’re suffering from the common 1.6 EcoBoost overheating problem.
Alternatively, there are leak stopping fluid additives you can add to the coolant. This should seal most minor leaks, however it is not considered a permanent fix.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long will a 1.6 EcoBoost engine last?
Ford’s conservative estimate is that the 1.6 EcoBoost will last anywhere between 80-100,000 miles. In the experience of most owners, however, this is a lowball figure. Despite the problems listed above, the average well-maintained 1.6 EcoBoost can quite easily reach 150,000 miles and upwards.
Does the Ford 1.6 EcoBoost have a timing belt?
Yes, the 1.6 EcoBoost features a dry timing belt. This is considered quieter than a timing chain as it causes fewer vibrations. A quirk of the 1.6 EcoBoost timing belt is that its tensioner is bolted to the water pump. This necessitates its replacement at the same time.
What turbocharger does the 1.6L EcoBoost have?
The turbocharger in 1.6 EcoBoost engines is a Borg Warner KP39 that is fixed to an iron exhaust manifold. This is partially water-cooled with exhaust gases fed to a tri-way catalytic converter. This complies with Euro-5 emission standards.
What horsepower is the 1.6 EcoBoost?
While the engine has the capacity to output 197 horsepower, most cars featuring the 1.6 EcoBoost see between 150-178hp. The most impressive is the Ford Fiesta ST (2013-2019) which can achieve the full 197hp at 6000rpm.
While most of these common problems can be avoided with simple maintenance, some will be unavoidable over time. Be sure to replace the oil at regular intervals and use an engine flush. This will remove those carbon deposits and sludge that can build up easily in the EcoBoost engine.
Overall, Ford engines from this generation are considered reliable and cost effective to run. This 1.6 variant is no exception. After a decade since its initial production, it can be said this engine has stood the test of time. With hundreds of thousands still in use, and spare parts readily available, the Ecoboost engine will continue to be a smart used buy for years to come.
If you have experienced your own Ford 1.6 EcoBoost engine problems, please feel free to leave a comment below.