Camper van: the warts and all

June 09, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Camper van: the warts and all

Our Ford E350 van has a 7.3 L diesel engine. It is considered a very good, reliable, and desirable engine. However, it has a notorious weak spot; the camsensor (Camshaft Position Sensor (CPS)). The part can fail without any warning. When it fails, it no longer sends a signal to the Power Control Module (PCM). As a result, the PCM doesn't know where the engine is in the rotation, and it doesn't know how fast it is going (rotations per minute), and therefore the PCM stops sending an injector signal to the Injector Driver Module (IDM). This means the fuel is no longer sent to the engine; the engine simply shuts down without any warning. In some cases the engine may restart again after 10 or 30 minutes, in other cases the camsensor fails completely immediately. So, you may be driving, everything is fine, and all of a sudden you have no more power and the engine shuts down.

We were aware of this issue and were told to:

1. Always carry a spare camsensor.

2. Always carry the tools needed to replace the camsensor.

3. Have the knowledge on how to replace the camsensor (it is pretty simple and should only take 15 minutes or so). 

But... we postponed doing all of this and just started using the van. And then the camsensor failed... Just before dark on a highway with no shoulder. It required a long tow to a shop where they confirmed the camsensor had indeed failed... a $25-$40 part that you can replace yourself!

So, we took this as a warning to prepare for this in the future. We now assembled a camsensor replacement kit, and we intend to conduct preventative maintenance. Perhaps replace every 1.5 year or so or every 20,000 mi. Replacing it in your own driveway when it suits you beats emergency repairs while on the road! Doing preventative maintenance yourself also provides you with valuable experience to conduct a roadside repair under more challenging conditions.

Failure of the Camshaft Position Sensor (CPS) Ford E350 7.3 L diFailure of the Camshaft Position Sensor (CPS) Ford E350 7.3 L diThe Camshaft Position Sensor (CPS) failed while driving at highway speed at dusk. There was no warning, the fuel to the engine was simply cut and the van rolled to a stop within a few hundred yards. Restarting would crank the engine, but it would not start again; not after 10, minutes, not after 30 minutes, not after 12 hours. This is a known issue with the 7.3 L diesel Powerstroke. I also knew about it but I did not carry a spare or tools, and I had not studied how to replace the sensor either.... Lesson learned.... Towing to shop was required...

Failure of the Camshaft Position Sensor (CPS) Ford E350 7.3 L diFailure of the Camshaft Position Sensor (CPS) Ford E350 7.3 L diThe Camshaft Position Sensor (CPS) failed while driving at highway speed at dusk. There was no warning, the fuel to the engine was simply cut and the van rolled to a stop within a few hundred yards. Restarting would crank the engine, but it would not start again; not after 10, minutes, not after 30 minutes, not after 12 hours. This is a known issue with the 7.3 L diesel Powerstroke. I also knew about it but I did not carry a spare or tools, and I had not studied how to replace the sensor either.... Lesson learned.... Towing to shop was required... Failure of the Camshaft Position Sensor (CPS) Ford E350 7.3 L diFailure of the Camshaft Position Sensor (CPS) Ford E350 7.3 L diThe Camshaft Position Sensor (CPS) failed while driving at highway speed at dusk. There was no warning, the fuel to the engine was simply cut and the van rolled to a stop within a few hundred yards. Restarting would crank the engine, but it would not start again; not after 10, minutes, not after 30 minutes, not after 12 hours. This is a known issue with the 7.3 L diesel Powerstroke. I also knew about it but I did not carry a spare or tools, and I had not studied how to replace the sensor either.... Lesson learned.... Towing to shop was required...

Failure of the Camshaft Position Sensor (CPS) Ford E350 7.3 L diFailure of the Camshaft Position Sensor (CPS) Ford E350 7.3 L diThe Camshaft Position Sensor (CPS) failed while driving at highway speed at dusk. There was no warning, the fuel to the engine was simply cut and the van rolled to a stop within a few hundred yards. Restarting would crank the engine, but it would not start again; not after 10, minutes, not after 30 minutes, not after 12 hours. This is a known issue with the 7.3 L diesel Powerstroke. I also knew about it but I did not carry a spare or tools, and I had not studied how to replace the sensor either.... Lesson learned.... Towing to shop was required...

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