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Is Ford EcoBoost worth cost?

| Saturday, June 6, 2015, 12:01 a.m.

Question: What's your take on Ford's EcoBoost engine and others that supposedly deliver big-engine power while using small-engine gas? Do the long-term savings justify the higher upfront cost? I'm looking at new F-150s and trying to sort out the engine choices.

­— Terry

Answer: I certainly admire the engineering and efficiency built into these engines and their performance is impressive. The power delivered by a techie engine can be double that of an identically sized, old-school engine and perhaps 30 percent better than an identically sized current but lower-tech sibling. In a nutshell, a boosted V-6 engine delivers V-8 power while using about 15 percent less fuel. The attribute I find most appealing is the significant increase in midrange torque. It's interesting that the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine gets the same combined gas mileage as its lower-tech, displacement sibling.

My main concerns are that these modern engines are fussy and less forgiving of abuse. Indeed, there have been a few teething issues with the EcoBoost system.

The heart of this is direct fuel injection and twin turbochargers. Though the system delivers outstanding performance, I'm still unconvinced regarding its long-term durability. Furthermore, the cost to repair these engines will be higher than for standard 3.5-liter or 5-liter engines. Owners need to be certain to use exactly the right lubricants and coolant and change them on schedule (important with any engine, really). Clean, high-quality oil and cooling system maintenance are key to keeping a pair of turbochargers happy. Top-tier fuel is a must for direct injected engines in order to mitigate intake valve carbon buildup.

If my math is right, you'd need to put about 40,000 miles on the truck before the fuel savings of the EcoBoost would justify choosing it over the V-8 standard engine. Each additional 55,000 miles would bring you about $1,000 ahead. I'd hope durability issues wouldn't wipe out your savings somewhere down the road. I should add the V-8 engine has some great performance/efficiency features such as four valve heads and variable valve timing.

Q: Is there a way to make my turn signals louder? My RV is fairly noisy, and I am a bit hard of hearing.

— Allen Norris

A: Yes, this can be done. Older vehicles using a standard flasher unit can often be retrofitted with a simple plug-in replacement that is designed to be easier to hear. Newer vehicles often use a more complicated and proprietary flasher unit making this upgrade less likely. Any vehicle can be modified by adding an inexpensive tone generator. Doing so would require accessing the left and right turn signal wires beneath the instrument panel and splicing in the tone generator, along with a pair of isolating diodes. In some cases this is easier to talk about than to do, as the wiring may be difficult to identify and access. See if you can find a repair shop with a sharp and innovative tech willing to do this at reasonable cost, then go pick up the parts yourself.

Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. Readers may send him email at; he cannot make personal replies.

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