How to Troubleshoot a 7.3L Turbo Diesel

by Alexander Eliot

The 7.3-liter turbo diesel engine is the largest displacement engine in Ford's Power Stroke series. The 7.3-liter Power Stroke was available in the Ford E-Series vans manufactured between 1994 and 2003. Though Ford's various turbo diesel engines are known for their long-term reliability, various issues with the engine and turbo system issues can arise, especially on high-mileage engines. Any issues or malfunctions should be troubleshooted immediately to avoid the development of more complicated issues.


Check the gauge cluster to see if the "Check Engine" light is activated. Most turbo system malfunctions, as well as other engine and emissions system issues, will activate the "Check Engine" light, making for an easy diagnosis.


Plug an ECU code reader into the ECU OBD-II port, located in the driver's side footwell area. If you don't own an ECU code reader, many automotive service departments offer free error code reading service. The code reader will display any error codes responsible for the "Check Engine" light, as well as a brief description of the malfunction.


Find a safe road to accelerate the engine under heavy throttle, allowing the turbocharger to spool. While accelerating, listen for signs of turbocharger malfunction. This can include excessive turbocharger whine or whistling noises. In extreme cases, grinding noises may be present due to worn turbo bearings. If your turbocharger shows these signs of wearing, it should be replaced or rebuilt immediately to ensure the continued performance of your turbo diesel engine.


Examine the various turbo system components in the engine bay for signs of wear or loose hose connections. This includes the intercooler piping system, as well as any turbo vacuum lines. Rubber lines and connections are especially prone to wear due to the extreme heat generated by the engine and turbo system. Worn lines and hoses should be replaced to avoid boost pressure leaks, which can substantially lower the performance and reliability of your engine and turbocharger.

Items you will need

About the Author

Alexander Eliot has been a professional writer since 2006. He holds a B.A. in English literature from the University of Cincinnati. His academic background allows him to write articles in all fields of education, as well as science and philosophy. Eliot once worked for a performance auto center, an experience he draws from to write informative articles in automotive theory, maintenance and customization.