Ford F-150:Tested Tough
“We give our F-150s a thorough beating beyond anything customers will put them through. Before a customer puts his new F-150 to work, we’ve been hard at work putting more than 5 million miles of durability, development and evaluation testing on prototypes to ensure they have earned the Ford Tough label.” – Gurminder Bedi, Ford Vice President, Ford Truck Vehicle Center
Under a scorching sun at 120 degrees Fahrenheit with no shade and no wind, Ford engineers drive trucks for hours, days and weeks on end. They drive them over dusty gravel roads, hot concrete curves, pools of mud and rocky hillsides, over and over again.
For more than 20 years, most Ford F-150 durability testing has been carried out at Ford’s Arizona Proving Ground (APG) in Yucca, Ariz. The proving ground and the Yucca area offer a unique combination of climate and topography – from 500 to 3,900 feet above sea level – to test trucks beyond normal and extreme limits. The average summer temperature at APG is a dusty and dry 103 degrees Fahrenheit with peak temperatures exceeding 120 degrees.
Trucks, their powertrains, body and frame structures, cooling systems, front- and rear-end systems, electrical systems and anti-corrosion elements are tested on 50-miles of special road surfaces from paved highways to square-edged pothole riddled gravel roads. Test trucks, both 4×4 and 4×2 configurations, are verified over tens of thousands of miles of durability testing.
Each F-150 durability prototype was put through 71,000 miles of powertrain, structure and trailer towing testing. Routes included the five-mile high-speed track, rough roads designed to cause accelerated structural damage and several steep grades to validate the powertrain.
In addition, complementary lab and dynamometer testing was conducted on subsystems and components.
Arizona Proving Ground Tests
The Arizona Proving Ground’s 50 miles of specialty roads are the training camp of the Ford truck. It is here that F-150s are put through such drills as the Sandwash, Twist Ditch, Translator Hill, Power Hop Hill and Mudbath.
The Sandwash looks like a giant sandbox. Only a four-wheel-drive vehicle can get through its two-foot deep bed of loose desert sand. Designed to tax the drive system, it measures the toughness and durability of the front-drive axle, the transfer case and the rear-drive axle. Test trucks are exposed to 750-1,000 miles in the Sandwash.
The Twist Ditch tests the 4×4 frame and body durability on an F-150 driven diagonally through a large ditch. When a truck is in the ditch, its weight is largely supported on diagonally opposing wheels, inducing maximum torsional loading of the body and frame structure. Test trucks make more than 3,000 passes through the Twist Ditch.
Translator Hill – a 3,900-foot peak in the Hulalapai Mountains -provides a stringent test to the 4×4 system. The only way to scale its boulder-strewn surface is in four-wheel-drive – all the way up and all the way down. Translator Hill, which gets its name from the communications equipment at the top, tests a truck’s gradability, braking capability and powertrain toughness on a steep, unpaved incline. Test trucks prove themselves over 100 miles on Translator Hill.
Power Hop Hill is a man-made hill that includes a harsh washboard driving surface that tests the impact resistance and strength of the suspension and driveline components. Two-wheel-drive test trucks complete more than 250 cycles of Power Hop Hill.
The Mudbath is a giant concrete-lined tub filled with a sloppy mixture of mud and clay. The mud works its way into any nook and cranny and clings to every part it touches. The Mudbath tests retention of wiring and mudpacking resistance of rotating components. Test trucks are put through more than 200 Mudbath cycles.
Three engines are available in the 2000 and 2001 F-150 lineup.
Components such as the heavy-duty cranks, bearings and camshafts were developed to meet the rigorous demands placed on pickup trucks. The heads and intake manifold are specially configured to give F-150 a wider, flatter torque curve that is needed for towing and general pickup use.
Two Triton™ V-8 engines, designed with a fail safe cooling system, are optional on regular cab and SuperCab model F-150s. The 4.6-liter _Triton™ V-8 is standard on the 2001 F-150 SuperCrew and 2000 F-150 Lariat models.
In the event of a loss of coolant, fail safe cooling allows the truck to continue to operate for a short distance (depending on load, road conditions and outside temperature).
Due to extreme temperatures experienced in trailer towing conditions, an auxiliary engine oil cooler and transmission cooler is recommended. The auxiliary engine oil and transmission coolers are included in optional Class III trailer towing packages.
Nonetheless, Ford engineers test F-150s over a trailer towing route with and without auxiliary coolers to ensure the proper engine and transmission operating temperatures can be maintained under the extreme, abusive situations owners sometimes demand of their trucks.
To ensure long-term durability, powertrains are exposed to more than 10,000 miles at maximum gross cargo weight in starting and stopping and high-speed track towing tests.
The F-150 lineup has undergone an extensive corrosion resistance program for the chassis and the body. Virtually all body panels feature double-sided galvanized steel – the roof uses one-sided galvanized. A full phosphate dip plus High-Edge E-Coat systems and durable paint help to protect most of the body and chassis components.
Door inner cavities receive a rust-preventative wax and hem flanges are sealed. The frame is given a hot-melt wax finish. The front edge of the hood and fenders receive an anti-chip primer before painting. Clearcoat paint and a PVC coating are sprayed on the lower bodyside and rear wheelhouses for extra chip and corrosion protection from stone pecking.
The exhaust system is stainless steel.
Prototypes complete a 17-week corrosion test which includes APG’s Saltbath, Humidity Chamber, Mudbath and Drying Chamber. Sixty cycles of this testing are the equivalent of six years of abuse in Canada’s rugged Maritime Provinces. Today’s F-150 prototypes were subjected to 100 cycles of the testing.
All told, today’s F-150 has been exposed to more than 5-million miles of cumulative testing.