User Beware! Ford’s Plastic Oil Pans and Drain Plugs may not be a slam dunk.
Updated: Jan 3, 2022
Way back in 2015 Ford introduced the now revered 2.7L EcoBoost V6 powerplant for their best-selling F-150 series of pickup trucks. The 2.7L turbocharged 6 cylinder was positioned to serve as the economy option to the more potent 3.5L EcoBoost which was introduced in 2011. Since that time the 2.7L has amassed quite a fan following, with most owners claiming to love the motor in terms of both reliability and performance – even over the traditional 5.0L V8. That’s no small feat considering the weight and expected hauling capacity of a full-size pickup truck.
While generally considered reliable and overachieving in the performance category, Ford’s forced induction engines do come with caveats that can be quite a headache for some owners and service professionals. We’re talking about the well-documented leak potential of Ford’s plastic oil pans and oil pan drain plugs.
The Problematic Plastic Oil Pan of Some Ford EcoBoost Engines
Ford’s plastic oil pan is prone to premature leaks. During our investigation, we uncovered overwhelming evidence of real-world accounts with new Ford owners noticing leaks well before hitting 20,000 miles – and at least one with only 160 miles on the clock! What gives??
“Just traded my 2015 2.7L in for a 2017 3.5L. I absolutely love this new truck. It’s everything I always wanted, even the color (Lithium Grey)…except for the plastic oil pan leaking.
I know from reading the forums, this is a widespread issue for 2.7L and 3.5L owners who have this type of oil pan. The 2015 I just traded in ALSO had the leaking oil pan issue. Took it to the dealer, they removed the pan, resealed it and put the original pan back on, but a few days later it started leaking AGAIN. The second time around, Ford told them to order a NEW pan. Rather than giving me my truck back, they had it for 31 DAYS due to the back order on the new pan. After they put the NEW pan on, it was fixed and no more leaks ever again.
Fast forward to yesterday. My new 2017 has 160 miles on it. Due to my past experience with my 2015, I went under the truck to check for leaks and sure as hell, the same synthetic oil pan is leaking around the same area as my 2015. Check for oil hanging off the bottom of bolts where the top of the pan mates to the bottom of the engine block.
I called my dealer and have an appointment. They even acknowledged that they have been seeing this like crazy. I know they will take care of me, but they told me that Ford tells them that they HAVE TO try to reuse the original pan first before they are allowed to order a new pan. I said that it total bull****. I know I’m going to be in there a second time because it’s going to leak after they put it back on just like my 2015 did. I did a TON of research and others are saying that the synthetic pan are ONE TIME USE ONLY because they warp. They all had to make multiple trips as well.
QUESTION – Is there ANYTHING I can do to convince them to just order a new pan so I don’t have to go through this again? This dealer is very far from where I live and I hate making multiple trips, especially for the same issue. “
We started digging and found that the plastic oil pan leak problem is well-known amongst Ford owners and acknowledged by the automaker, who has published numerous technical service bulletins (TSBs) on the issue. Leaks occur most commonly with 2.7L, 3.0L and 3.5L EcoBoost engines and seem to be especially prevalent in 2017 F-150s. Larger displacements such as the 5.0, 5.2 and 6.7 L are also affected, but there aren’t nearly as many of these engine configurations on the road and we didn’t find many instances worthy of scrutiny.
Ford Applications That Feature A Plastic Oil Pan:
What Are the Reasons for So Many Ford Plastic Oil Pan Leaks?
Bad RTV Gaskets from the Factory and Poorly Installed Replacements
Ford’s plastic oil pans are springing leaks for multiple reasons. The most common seems to be a poor room temperature vulcanizing (RTV) silicone sealant job from the factory. The plastic oil pans can warp and become uneven, creating gaps between the pan and the mounting surface on the engine block, which exacerbates the problem of shoddy silicone application from the factory. During our investigation we uncovered multiple instances of owners having the pan replaced multiple times because the leaks keep coming back.
Images below to see real-world accounts of trouble with Ford’s plastic oil pan.
As of 2021, the 2.7L oil pan is still plastic, but the design was revised during the 2018 model year and has supposedly eliminated the leaking issue on some earlier 2.7L engines. In 2019 Ford issued two technical service bulletins for 2.7L and 3.0L EcoBoost vehicles, which updates the replacement procedure, and in some cases, this means using a press-in-place gasket rather than the RTV silicone gasket that was previously used. TSB 19-2205 refers to the Ford F-150, and TSB 19-2219 covers the Ford Edge, Ford Fusion, Lincoln Continental, Lincoln MKZ and Lincoln MKX. TSB19-2249, later superseded by 19-2387, adds the Lincoln Nautilus to the list and states: Do not install on vehicles produced between 2015 and 2017. Check out this great video by Youtuber MACTFORDEDGE to learn why.
So, it’s encouraging that Ford has taken steps to mitigate the RTV silicone issue but beware that there could be plenty of vehicles in operation that haven’t been addressed.
In March of the 2018 model year, Ford went back to an aluminum oil pan for the 3.5 EcoBoost. Beware that earlier 2018 vehicles could still have the plastic pan.
No Tools Required but Confusing Design of Plastic Oil Pan Drain Plug is Also Problematic
Since the oil pans on these vehicles are plastic, they require a plastic drain plug. That’s par for the course with any vehicle that has a composite oil pan. Unfortunately, the plug has some features that are often misunderstood, which has led to another common problem – they’re frequently broken when both removed and installed during oil change service. They’re also prone to leaking due to improper installation.
The first problem is the 2 tabs that are shown in the image below. These 2 tabs are there to lock the drain plug into place when hand tightened. Often, installers mistakenly believe they need to lift or flex the tabs to unlock and remove the plug – which couldn’t be more wrong. These tabs are not to be pressed or “flexed” in any way. If they are, they usually break. This is not necessary for removal of the plug. Motorcraft FT4Z6730A is a no-tools-required drain plug, so to remove it, simply turn it counterclockwise by hand while pulling the plug away from the pan and the tabs will unlock. Beware that the plug could be difficult to remove after exposure to heat for an extended time. If you can’t get it to budge by hand, a pair of pliers might help, but be careful. To install the new plug, no tools are required – only tighten it by hand because the use of a wrench, or anything else for that matter, risks over-tightening and breaking the plug or pinching the O-ring, subsequently leading to leakage.
The drain plug for EcoBoost engines with a plastic oil pan is a one-time use plug, which brings about the second issue, and this one could lead to leaks. The plug features a silicone O-ring, which like any other silicone O-ring, has a finite amount of time that it will last while subjected to extreme heat. Some users have tried to re-use the plug for multiple oil changes and found that they start to leak rather quickly.
During our research we even found instances of the drain plug leaking before the first oil change. In the case below, the first oil change was performed at 9,000 miles. The owner discovered the leak immediately upon removing the skid plate that hides the oil pan on an F-150.
The oil pan and drain plug issues we’ve discussed have been an ongoing headache for Ford owners of various models featuring EcoBoost engines. Service professionals should also beware of these faults because as we’ve seen in countless other cases where an automaker has done something wrong, one of the first places they like to cast blame is on independent installers. With that said, it’s imperative that anyone performing oil changes on these vehicles knows what to look out for so they can properly manage any blow-back if there are problems down the road.