The 3.5L EcoBoost Timing Chain Rattle – Causes and Solutions. The Ford EcoBoost series of turbocharged engines has a reputation for being well-built and dependable. The Ford EcoBoost engine series, which ranges in size from a 1.3L inline 3-cylinder to a 3.5L V6, can be found in almost every model in the current Ford lineup. Ford, like many other automakers, shifted away from large-displacement, high-cylinder-count engines and toward smaller, forced-induction options. Overall, they’ve done an excellent job. However, there were some teething issues, particularly in the first few years of the EcoBoost.
Timing chain rattle is a major issue with some of the first-generation Ford EcoBoost engine models, particularly the 3.5L EcoBoost. Timing chain rattle on the 2010-2015 3.5L EcoBoost is caused by the engine’s timing chain stretching out over time, causing it to come into contact with other engine components and potentially jump timing. Because the 3.5L EcoBoost is an interference engine, excessive timing chain play can be disastrous if not properly repaired in a timely manner.
While the generational jump to the second generation of the 3.5L EcoBoost resolved the timing chain rattle, another 3.5L EcoBoost issue exists with the second generation model. Second-generation 3.5L EcoBoosts have cam phaser rattle from their CVT system rather than timing chain rattle caused by a stretched chain. In the near future, we’ll publish a dedicated article about the second-generation 3.5L EcoBoost cam phaser issue.
This guide will go over the Ford 3.5L EcoBoost timing chain rattle, the symptoms it causes, and how to fix it. For more information on other 3.5L engine problems, see our Complete 3.5L EcoBoost Problems Guide.
What Is Timing Chain Rattle on a 3.5L EcoBoost?
Ford chose timing chains for all of its EcoBoost engines to improve reliability and extend service intervals between replacements. A timing chain’s primary function is to synchronize the rotation of the camshafts in order to ensure that the engine’s valves open and close at the correct time. This is an extremely important task. When timing is off, many engine internals, such as valves and pistons, can be severely damaged. The main issue is caused by early 3.5L EcoBoost timing chain stretching.
The timing chain accumulates play over time, allowing it to move erratically and make a loud noise. This is particularly noticeable at startup, before the timing chain guide can gather the slack. It makes a distinct noise and is frequently accompanied by a loss of power and an engine light.
What Causes Timing Chain Rattle in a 3.5L EcoBoost?
The timing chain and cam phasers were the sources of the problem on early Ford 3.5L EcoBoost models. There are several theories as to why the timing chains on the 3.5L EcoBoost stretch over time. The most common explanation involves the cam phasers on the 3.5L EcoBoost. Ford recommends replacing not only the timing chain but also the intake and exhaust phasers in their technical service bulletin for the 3.5L EcoBoost timing chain rattle issue. Most people believe that the original phasers stretched the timing chain due to their design.
According to some Ford mechanics, the problem stems from Ford using subpar materials to build the earlier timing chains. Due to stretching, these inferior metals would allow for play to accumulate over time. While not the direct cause, many other Ford experts believe that timing chain rattle can be caused by improper maintenance or using the wrong oil. Every 7,500 miles, Ford recommends changing the oil in your 3.5L EcoBoost. Most EcoBoost owners, however, believe that is far too long to wait. Changing the oil in your EcoBoosts engine every 2,500 to 5,000 miles is a much safer bet. Low oil levels or dirty oil exacerbate timing chain rattle/stretching. As a result, failing to change your 3.5L EcoBoosts oil on a regular basis can aggravate the problem.
While there are some possible explanations and things that can exacerbate the problem, there is no clear consensus on what causes 3.5L EcoBoost timing chain stretching and rattle. Some 3.5L EcoBoost owners have reported timing chain rattle as early as 30,000 miles on their first-generation EcoBoost. Others don’t notice the problem until they’ve driven over 200,000 miles. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict whether or not the problem will affect you.
Symptoms of 3.5L EcoBoost Timing Chain Rattle
There are a few common symptoms associated with 3.5L EcoBoost timing chain rattle that appear more frequently than others. The following are the most common 3.5L EcoBoost timing chain rattle symptoms:
- On startup, there is a loud audible rattle coming from the front of the engine (after sitting for 5-8 hours)
- Low-end power loss
- Boost/turbo performance loss
- Engine light on
- P0016 Engine Code
The sound of timing chain rattle on startup is one of the most obvious signs that your 3.5L EcoBoost is suffering from timing chain stretching. This is most common after the vehicle has sat for an extended period of time. The sound is caused by the timing chain guide not immediately picking up the slack in the chain upon startup. The sound stops after a few seconds when the timing chain guides are activated. Those who have experienced the problem will know that it is a difficult sound to ignore due to its loudness and abrasiveness.
Other symptoms may appear prior to the 3.5L EcoBoost timing chain rattle. Some Ford owners claim that the lack of power was the first thing they noticed before the rattle began. Most people say it’s most noticeable in the low end. Many other 3.5 owners claim that one of the first symptoms was a check engine light accompanied by limp mode. The engine jumping timing is the most common cause of this CEL. This will almost certainly result in a P0016 engine code, indicating that your engine’s timing chain is stretched.
What Models Were Affected by the 3.5L EcoBoost Timing Chain Rattle?
Several Ford technical service bulletins have been issued regarding the 3.5L EcoBoost timing chain rattle issue. According to these service bulletins, the timing chain rattle problem affects the following vehicles:
- Ford F150 (2011-2015)
The 2011-2015 Ford F150 is the most well-known model for having this problem. While not specifically mentioned in the Ford technical service bulletin, the following vehicles are also known to have timing chain rattle issues:
- Ford Taurus SHO 2010-2015
- Police Interceptor Sedan 2013-2015
- MKS 2013-2015 Lincoln
- MKT 2013-2015 Lincoln
- Ford Explorer Sport 2013-2015
- Ford Explorer Platinum (2016-2015)
- Ford Flex 2013, 2014, and 2015
Repairs for Ford 3.5L V6 Timing Chain Rattle
Unfortunately, there is no quick, cheap, or simple solution to the timing chain rattle problem on the Ford 3.5L EcoBoost. This is especially true if your F150 or other 3.5 EcoBoost-powered Ford is no longer covered under warranty. Even some Ford owners who had their 3.5L EcoBoost repaired under the previous TSB 15-0044 bulletin experienced the issue again shortly after receiving their vehicle back. This is primarily due to the fact that the previous bulletin only replaced the timing chain and tensioner. The subsequent, more comprehensive bulletin, issued on October 24, 2018, stated that not only did the timing chain and tensioner need to be replaced, but also the cam phasers and other supporting elements.
Overall, the following parts must be replaced in order for the 3.5L EcoBoost timing chain rattle issue to be resolved completely:
- The initial timing chain
- Timing chains that are secondary in nature
- Phasers for the exhaust and intake systems
- Timing chain tensioner main
- All gaskets, o-rings, and seals
That is a lengthy list of repair items. Because repairing most timing-related issues takes time, it’s not uncommon for Ford to charge around 19-20 hours of labor to complete the job. This is in addition to the cost of the parts themselves. It is also possible to complete the work on your own. However, it is a detailed job that necessitates a significant amount of experience and knowledge. If you want to learn how to fix the 3.5L EcoBoost timing chain rattle yourself, watch the video below by FordTechMakuloco, who does an excellent job of explaining the process.
Cost of Ford 3.5L V6 Timing Chain Rattle Repair, Warranty, and Ford Support
The average cost of a Ford 3.5L EcoBoost Timing Chain Rattle Repair is $3,000.00.
At this time, many Ford owners have encountered this common problem on first-generation 3.5L EcoBoosts and have had to deal with it by contacting Ford directly to see if they offer any kind of support for the problem. Unfortunately, many people have left the situation bitter and empty-handed, having to pay for the repairs themselves. The lack of a P0016 engine code is the most common reason Ford refuses to repair the problem under warranty. This confirms that the timing chain on the affected truck is stretched. Even if the sound is loud and noticeable, some Ford dealers will refuse warranty repairs if the code is not present.
The majority of the (2011-2015) Ford F150s experiencing timing chain issues are now nearly 15 years old. The majority of them are no longer covered by both the 8-year emissions warranty and the 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. There have been numerous instances where Ford dealers refused to accept repairs under the powertrain warranty. Many 3.5L V6 Ford owners have had to bite the bullet and pay for the timing chain service out of pocket after many hours on the phone with Ford customer service, with the issue returning only days later. For years, there has been talk in Ford communities and forums about a potential class action lawsuit about the issue, but none is currently in the works.
Finally, it’s a shame that Ford hasn’t done more to help those affected by this common and potentially serious problem. This issue with the 3.5L EcoBoost engine is well known and documented. You’d think the manufacturer would step up to the plate. That, unfortunately, is not the case.
Summary of Ford EcoBoost Timing Chain Rattle
Ford EcoBoost engines are frequently praised for their dependability, versatility, and efficiency. However, there are some issues that plagued previous models significantly. The first-generation Ford 3.5L EcoBoost, which debuted in the 2011 Ford F150, struggled with timing chain rattle issues that weren’t addressed until the second-generation model of the engine arrived.
Timing chain rattle occurs when the timing chain on the 3.5L EcoBoost is stretched due to external factors. Cam phaser wear, improper maintenance, and subpar building materials are all suspected causes. As the timing chain accumulates slack, it will rattle on startup, resulting in a loud noise. While it may appear to be innocuous, the 3.5 EcoBoost timing chain can accumulate so much slack that it causes the engine to jump timing. This could have disastrous consequences for the engine.
Unfortunately, there is no simple or quick long-term solution to EcoBoost timing chain rattle. Almost every timing system component must be replaced with newer parts to correct the problem. While the problem is clearly the result of poor design, Ford has done very little to alleviate it.
Because the 3.5L EcoBoost is a common issue on early models, you should look at 2017+ Ford models with the 3.5L EcoBoost, as the second generation solved the problem.