Your F-250 feels sluggish — it struggles on hills, takes a while to get up to speed in traffic, and just isn’t performing right. Sound familiar? If so, here are some easy tips to improve engine performance and leave that sluggish behavior behind.
Tip 1. Check Your Air Filter
The main cause of a sluggish truck is a dirty air filter. If the air filter is not clean, the engine will bog down and struggle to accelerate. This is an easy-to-replace maintenance item, and generally speaking it should be replaced every 15-30k miles, depending on the type of engine you have and local conditions.
NOTE: Engine air filters are a crucial component on diesel-equipped trucks. If an air filter on a diesel truck becomes clogged, the engine is powerful enough to suck the contaminants out of the air filter, exposing the turbo impeller inside the air intake to debris. This debris can damage/destroy the turbocharger depending on how big it is and how much the turbo “sucks up.” The point: Don’t let a minor maintenance expense like an air filter turn into a major turbo repair. If your Power Stroke is running slower than normal, check your air filter ASAP.
Tip 2. Bad Fuel?
Another common cause of poor performance, especially if it’s somewhat sudden, is bad fuel. Gas or diesel that’s been contaminated with water can sap performance across the board, from sluggish acceleration to rough idle.
If you’re driving a gas-powered F-250, there are some fuel treatments you can buy that will help remove water from the fuel in your gas tank. They’re very affordable ($5 or less at your local gas station or auto parts store) and they can’t hurt. If you’re driving a diesel truck, you want to add something called cetane booster to your tank, which will not only help to compensate for the contamination, but also help overall engine performance.
NOTE: Ford recommends using Cetane booster in areas where diesel fuel cetane ratings are below 50, which is most areas in the US.
Tip 3. Check Your Plugs and Wires (Gas Trucks Only)
These components are trouble makers. A little bit of damage or dirt can make them tank your truck’s performance. If your spark plugs haven’t been changed at recommended intervals, change them now. Also, inspect your plug wires for signs of damage, like burns from the hot engine components, tears, etc. You can also check your spark plugs to make sure the electrode is intact and then check for proper gapping on the plugs (only don’t try to gap a plug that’s out of spec – just replace it).
Diesel trucks can have ignition problems as well, but they’re rarely a source of sluggish performance. A diesel truck with an ignition problem just won’t start, or won’t start consistently.
Tip 4. Replace your Fuel Filter
Just like a clogged or dirty air filter can reduce performance, a clogged fuel filter could be a source of trouble for your gas or diesel powered F-250. Often times, a clogged fuel filter won’t be an obvious problem at idle or cruising speeds. Therefore, if you’ve got a clogged fuel filter, you may find your truck runs fine until you really “get on it.”
If none of these simple fixes are the problem – and you’re not seeing any sort of check engine code on your scanning tool – then you’ll probably want to get with your local mechanic for a check. You may have a clogged exhaust system (a gas-powered truck with a clogged catalytic converter can often be sluggish without setting a check engine light) or some other more serious issue.