2015 Ford F-150: Easy DIY Oil Change Holds a Minefield of Potential Screw-Ups
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing on October 19, 2015
Pt 1 | Pt 2
Last time I stressed the importance of waiting 15 minutes before checking the oil in a 2015 Ford F-150 with the 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine, which just happens to be the truck we've got. Ford sent out a Special Service Memo (SSM #45195) to their dealers to highlight the issue, but owners like us didn't get notified.
I found out the hard way when I decided to change the oil in the F-150 myself. After I'd finished with the draining and the filter change, I poured in the required six quarts, checked the dipstick and found it to be 100 percent bone dry. I couldn't believe it. I checked again and got the same result.
Dumbfounded, I looked at my 12-quart drain pan. It should have been half full, but it was brimming with what turned out to be 10 quarts of used oil. Ten!
At this point I figured the 6-quart capacity in the manual had to be a misprint. How else could six quarts fail to make an impression on the dipstick after 10 quarts had just drained out? That's when I did some Googling and found a video posted by a Ford technician that laid it all out.
By this time the recommended 15 minutes had passed. I went back outside and checked again. Bingo. The oil level read full. Clearly, the Ford tech that changed the oil last June hadn't gotten the memo or seen the video.
But this was not the only weird aspect of this oil change. The 2.7-liter EcoBoost held other surprises in store, many of them pleasant. In the end, it was a surprisingly easy job once I understood the nuances.
The best part is that you don't need many tools. You even don't need a floor jack or jack stands because the F-150 stands tall enough. Set the parking brake and slip yourself right under. There isn't enough room for a creeper, but a scrap of cardboard works.
You won't see much down there because a pair of soft aerodynamic covers butt up against the front suspension cross-member from either side. At first it seems like the front one has to come off, but it's actually the rear one that must go. Four 8mm hex bolts hold it in place, and it must be fully removed.
Once it's out of the picture you'll see the oil pan, a squared-off plastic affair that's positioned above the front suspension cross-member. The rear-facing oil drain plug juts from its vertical rear face, about as close to the transmission as can possibly be.
The drain plug is unique. No, let's go with weird. It's plastic, yellow, and has a square recess that accepts a naked 3/8-drive ratchet, breaker bar or nut driver. This is mostly for convenience; you don't need anything with that kind of leverage to loosen the thing. The plug is only meant to be turned 120 degrees, but you must first squeeze and hold those little wings to disengage the interlock before you try to unscrew it.
You need to be very careful proceeding past this point, this first potential "gotcha" in the process. The plug pulls out easier than you expect and it's a big-bore affair that lets out a huge one-inch stream of oil. You'll need a large open-top oil drain pan. Enclosed reservoir-style pans with a small drain in the middle will not keep up.
Also, and for reasons expressed earlier, you need to wait at least 15 minutes since the engine was shut down before pulling the plug free and draining oil, perhaps longer if there's any chance the oil will still be piping hot.
Gloves are a must because the oil will stream nearly straight out. Set the pan back farther than you expect, but not too far because the outrushing stream may also bounce off the stabilizer bar.
I was caught off-guard by this and had to use my ungloved hand to make sure the ricocheting oil went into the drain pan. In retrospect, I was unknowingly dealing with the head pressure of four extra quarts of oil. At least it wasn't hot enough to burn, and I was helped by the broad target area provided by my large-diameter drain pan.
After letting the flow subside to a trickle, I repositioned the drain pan to continue catching the last drips while moving topside to work on the filter.
The oil filter is a cartridge that drops straight in from the top. The hex is 27 mm, but the sealing comes from O-rings that work against the inside bore of the housing, not from the tightness of the cap. The cap torque spec is only 18 pound-feet, which is so low it's hardly worth measuring. It's more a case of emphasizing that it shouldn't be tightened too much.
I don't own a socket that size, but my largest adjustable crescent wrench did the trick because the last oil-change tech at least tightened it properly. The cap came loose without much drama after I first tugged the wrench in an exploratory fashion to make sure the plastic hex wasn't merely twisting and deforming under the jaws of the wrench.
The proper 27 mm socket would have been much kinder to the hex, and much easier to use. If you own this truck, buy one. As it was, my adjustable wrench couldn't develop much swing angle in the confined space, so I needed to take more than 30 small bites, flipping the wrench over between each one. Wait a pain. Once the first O-ring came unseated, I could turn it by hand.
The filter and cap come out as one, but you may have to pinch the filter with a free finger to keep it from falling back into the hole. Very few drops of stray oil will end up outside the housing if you lift the pair straight up and slip a rag underneath. It's all very neat and tidy.
The filter element practically falls out of the cap, and it's immediately obvious why the new filter comes with three new O-rings and where they should go. The small thick one goes on the pointy end and the two larger skinny ones fit up above the threads.
The big ones come off easily after hooking them with the blade of a small screwdriver, but the small one may fight back. Mine actually tore in half as I tried to stretch it out of its groove, but this was no loss since I was replacing it anyway.
Still, this highlights potential "gotcha" number two. You need to take extra care when installing the new small O-ring to keep from tearing it. This shouldn't be difficult. The new O-ring will be more pliable, there will be plenty of residual oil nearby for lubrication, and the tapered point will work in your favor.
The new filter and cap go in easily as a single unit. The tapered point helps guide the lower end into its hole and the cap will most likely spin in easier than it spun out. I was able to turn the assembly in farther by hand on the way in, but still needed multiple bites with my wrench until it bottomed out and was fully seated. Again, 18 lb-ft of torque comes pretty easy without trying hard. There's no reason to lean on it because the O-rings do the work anyway.
At this point all of the oil should have dribbled out the bottom. It's time to clean off the drain plug and reinsert it into the pan.
Here you can see how the drain plug works. Like the filter housing, the sealing comes from an O-ring that interfaces with the inner bore of the drain hole in the oil pan. Tightening torque is unimportant. It only needs to be twisted in far enough for the O-ring to fully engage.
Start with the wings horizontal and the threads should mesh right away, allowing you to push it in and begin twisting it gently with the ratchet handle. The plug will bottom out after a one-third turn and meet resistance just as the upper wing interlock engages with a click.
That's it. There's no reason to tighten it beyond this point, but it's worth trying to gently unscrew it (without squeezing the wings) to make sure the interlock is engaged and doing its job.
Now it's time to reinstall the aerodynamic cover and move topside to add oil.
The 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 calls for six quarts of 5W-30 synthetic blend oil, which is a step below full synthetic.
We already know how it goes from here. Add the six quarts, but wait at least 15 minutes before checking the level. Failure to wait and basing judgments on premature readings is presumably how the dealer technician managed to add 10 quarts.
Normally I would add five quarts, start the engine and allow oil to circulate, shut it off, check the dipstick, and then add the final quart or some fraction thereof depending on the dipstick reading. Not here. If I did that, I'd need to wait 15 minutes between quarts five and six in order to gauge how much to add.
The half-life of my patience isn't that long. I simply dumped in all six quarts and was done with it. After all, I'd allowed plenty of drain time and a cartridge filter housing drains out rapidly. My 15-minute check showed that six quarts had been exactly right.
The oil cap is a lot like the drain plug. It only turns about 120 degrees and an O-ring inside the bore does the sealing. There's no need to crank down on it once it seats.
We can't forget to reset the oil life monitor, pressing and holding the OK button (like resetting the trip odometer) when the oil life screen is displayed. Job done, I began wondering how 10 quarts of oil affected our engine over the last 10,500 miles. Page 302 of the owner's manual contains dire warnings, but I'm not seeing any ill effects. It's running strong and smooth as ever, with no leaks or seeps.
Fuel economy has been worse than expected throughout this truck's lifetime, but the data shows no degradation after the suspect oil change, as one might expect with the crankshaft stirring up all of that extra fluid.
Then I got curious about the last oil change receipt. How many quarts had the technician charged us for?
Seven quarts, it says. Interesting tactic; admit to overfilling, but don't make yourself look too incompetent. And look, he used 5W-20, too. There's no mention of it being synthetic blend, either. Hard to tell on this point, but the per-quart price seems too low for anything but conventional oil.
That's three strikes, buddy. I may never pay anyone to change my vehicle's oil again, especially when it's this easy.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 22,357 miles