Troubleshooting an F150 Ford Pickup Truck

by Dan Ferrell
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Knowing how to troubleshoot your Ford F150 pickup truck will not only help you keep the engine at peak power, but also maintain fuel economy and reduce possible harmful emissions. However, the engine on your F150 works in conjunction with a number of systems and subsystems, which sometimes makes it difficult to pinpoint the cause of a problem. But following some strategies will help you troubleshoot and find the cause of the problems on your vehicle.

Logical Approach

When troubleshooting your F150, always approach the problem in a logical way. Before removing or changing parts, look for specific symptoms: Is there black smoke? Is the engine idling rough? Is the engine missing? Note if the symptom follows a pattern and occurs when the engine is cold, warm, at every stop, during acceleration, when traveling at 30 mph or after 50 mph. Next, narrow down the possible engine component(s) or related system(s) that might be the cause of the symptom. If your F150 idles rough, for example, but stabilizes when you step on the accelerator, you can suspect a vacuum leak, a faulty component in the ignition system (spark plugs, wires, distributor) or a lean mixture.

Using the Charts

A logical approach helps when you are facing a common problem. However, when facing problems with particular components related to your specific F150 model, a troubleshooting chart will prove more helpful. You can find this chart in the vehicle service manual for your particular model, which is available at many auto part stores. The chart will give you a list of symptoms and components related to those symptoms. A no-start condition, for example, may lead you to the fuel pump, main relay, injector resistor or fuel filter. Once you have found the most likely cause of the problem, the manual will give you a more detailed description for troubleshooting specific components.

Scanning for Troubles

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There will be times when a particular problem will seem to elude you no matter how logical and informative you approach the symptom. However, since the early 1980s, vehicle manufacturers began to introduce On-Board Diagnostics (OBD), a computer control system capable of storing diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs), which makes it easier to find problems on specific vehicle subsystems. Today, you may find a variety of scan tools in the auto market that let you find problems on a number of subsystems of your F150 using different approaches. Depending on its capabilities and level of sophistication, a scan tool will retrieve trouble codes, read operating parameters when a symptom occurs, register engine operating conditions in real time, and test actuators and other components. This is an easier way to find and test for sensors failing under certain conditions, a poor electrical connection and other components that may be operating out of specification.

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