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Bye-Bye Blow-By – Catch Can R&D, Part 2: Road Testing

We have had some radio silence with this F150 catch can project, but we now have some updates that we are ready to spill! This has been an interesting project from the beginning. The bulk of time has mainly consisted of road testing; we’ve logged thousands of miles so far, and every single mile counts.

Let’s backtrack a bit. When we began this project, we intended to see what a dual-can setup would accomplish. In the last update we explained the benefit of having a catch can as part of both the PCV and CCV systems. Also, our engineer, Dan, was in the process of creating a mounting bracket for the cans and getting ready for some road testing. Our prototype looked great, and the hoses were neatly situated to allow the engine cover to stay in place.

Mounted Ford F150 EcoBoost catch can prototype!
Mounted Ford F150 EcoBoost catch can prototype!
Mounted Ford F150 EcoBoost catch can prototype!
Mounted Ford F150 EcoBoost catch can prototype!
Routing of some of the lines
Routing of some of the lines

The 3.5L

On to road testing! When we make a catch can for any vehicle, road testing allows us to be sure that no codes will be thrown after installation. Newer Ford engines, particularly this EcoBoost are fairly sensitive to changes in crankcase vacuum pressure, and they will throw the check engine light (CEL) at the slightest hint of a pressure change. In the older 2011-2014 EcoBoost engines, a sensor in the bottom end of the engine measures this pressure; anything out of spec would be bad news for the motor.

The 2015 2.7L and 3.5L engines have this sensor in the CCV side of the system. This sensor is incredibly temperamental; in fact, it threw a CEL within a few minutes of driving our loaner 3.5L F150 EcoBoost with this dual-can prototype installed. Upon further design review and research on the subject, we discovered out that this was far from an isolated incident.

These sensors have quite a narrow voltage range. This means if the sensor reads anything that is even slightly below or above factory specifications, it will throw a CEL. This does not mean that these readings are actually unsafe. We suspect that these narrow parameters were set from the factory, so that is how these trucks end up with false readings of incorrect pressures. This theory is supported further by claims that CELs are thrown on bone stock EcoBoost trucks, without any evidence of tampering with the crankcase ventilation system! We are not alone.

Unscrewing can to inspect
Unscrewing can to inspect

So to re-cap, this dual-can setup, which gathered content from both the PCV and CCV sides of the system, kept throwing a CEL after more than 1,000 miles of testing. When we brought the truck back into our garage, we decided to use a single-can setup that is routed to only the PCV side, which doesn’t have the sensor. After about another 1,500 miles, we were able to catch almost 50ml of oil!

Look at all of that oil!
Look at all of that oil!

That is a lot of oil for a mileage range that is less than the interval spec for oil changes. We will continue for now using the single-can setup for the 3.5L version of this EcoBoost, and we’ll keep you updated on any design changes. Now what about the 2.7L? That’s quite a different story …

The 2.7L

This kit will fit both the 2.7L and the 3.5L – don’t forget that! In this stage of testing, we are still uncovering tidbits of information that puts an interesting divide between the two applications. Although the 2.7L EcoBoost is just the 3.5L’s bouncing baby brother in size, there are some key differences we’ve noticed throughout our testing.

Prototype 2.7L catch can setup
Prototype 2.7L catch can setup

With our 2.7L, we could mimic the dual can setup that was on the 3.5L, without throwing a CEL! Great news right? Well, not really. We were expecting to see somewhat similar results, but after well over about 1,600 miles of driving, the truck never even hinted at throwing any codes. This came as a bit of a surprise to our engineers, so while we are still driving the truck to see if a code gets thrown, we are also theorizing about why there is no code yet. Another interesting thing about this truck is the amount of content collected after the first mileage test interval.

Prototype 2.7L catch can setup
Prototype 2.7L catch can setup
The content!
The content!

The above image shows very little content collected, even after more miles were put on 2.7L the truck than the on 3.5L. And get this: The can on the left is the PCV side, which is the same side where, on the 3.5L truck, almost 50 ml of oil were collected after more than 1,000 miles of driving. This can on the 2.7L application barely showed even 1 ml of content. However, the CCV side on the right (the side with the sensor) had closer to about 10ml of material inside. It also had a pungent smell of fuel instead of oil; even the viscosity was closer to that of a watery substance.

There is another interesting design difference in this application. Under boost, the intake manifold pressure would increase to a point where our PCV side hoses were ballooning and blowing off. This similar to what happens after you shake a bottle of soda. The content inside the cans begin to froth (or sizzle) and emit a strong oil vapor that reaches inside the cabin. As that happens, the hoses experience so much pressure that they pop right off their fittings, which happened a few times during testing. To fix this we included a check valve in one of our lines to help relieve some of that pressure.

Catch can lines
2.7L Catch can lines

What’s Next?

We still have a lot more testing to do for both these applications. It’s important that we log as many miles and as much data as possible so we can make an informed decision on the final design. Although we are still working to figure out this tricky CEL issue, we are close to wrapping up this project, so stay tuned for the next update!

-Diamaan

24 thoughts on “Bye-Bye Blow-By – Catch Can R&D, Part 2: Road Testing”

  1. I would like for you to drain it into the oil pan and see what happens and report on this. This is the way my quart can is configured.

  2. Hey Jim!

    I appreciate the suggestion. Our catch cans are not designed to recirculate oil back into the pan like some Air Oil Separator (AOS) systems work. The cans we designed for this system only collect, accumulate and must be drained every so often.

    The way our cans work have them pulling out not only oil, but the fuel vapors as well. This isn’t the stuff you want being circulated back into your engine because it can disturb the viscosity of the oil, reducing its lubricating effectiveness. Hope this helps!

    -Diamaan

    1. And this is why my can is an oil/air separator so that I DON’T have to service it. You would be providing a better product by doing it this way. At the very least, run an experiment with this arrangement.

  3. Jim,

    Interesting thought, thanks for the suggestion! It would be pretty nice to have a self servicing system with what we are doing, but in order to prevent blow-by with these cans, we want to completely eliminate the possibility of dirty oil and fuel contaminant re circulating back into the engine. I also mentioned that the oil we caught smelled strongly of fuel. Having fuel and oil mix isn’t ideal, especially in a high pressure crankcase system found in these two engines.

    Remember, it’s not only liquid that our cans collect, we’ve seen solid contaminants as well. In order to keep your oil operating at peak efficiency, you don’t really want any of this recirculating back into your EcoBoost motor. With that said, that is the main reason we make our catch can kits the way we do. Make no mistake, AOS systems do a fine job of preventing this as well! We are just going a different route to achieve the same goal in preventing as much of it as possible interacting with your oil and coating your intake.

    For now, we have gotten pretty far with the current method of how we collect blow-by, not in just this project, but others as well. We have seen some great success in catching the nasty by-product of the modern direct injection process. Having to service these cans every several thousand miles is a trade-off we are willing to accept over reintroducing bits of the bad stuff back into these motors.

    I appreciate the comments! Always great to interact with interested readers!

    -Diamaan

    1. Having a metal “scrub pad” fill up the inside of my can helps to filter the solid stuff. My BMW’s original AOS had a drain back into the oil pan so I just kept it. My 2006 BMW does not have direct injection but it is supercharged, thus, the need for a much bigger AOS can sitting outside of the motor rather than the too small OEM one under the intake manifold (ugh!). AND it has a vertical sight tube on the outside to show me if oil is backing up – another nice thing to have.

      1. Jim,

        There are a few vehicles that have factory AOS systems, but they can always be made better. A supercharger must be pretty fun! With that amount of increased forced induction, a catch can is absolutely beneficial to the performance. And placing it in a spot more accessible is a plus.

        A sight tube is an interesting idea, and in fact, we do have cans that have sight tubes! But those particular cans do not provide the same type of performance as these cans. Although these cans are smaller, they have more features including a 50 micron bronze filter and internal baffling. We will proceed with using what we currently have, but maybe in the future, adding a sight tube to these particular cans is something we can look into!

        -Diamaan

  4. And that is why we can not have nice things. Recirculating with the AOS is great for the manufacturer, because they are maintenence free. The manufacturer want their customers to just drive there cars and love them “did a great job”. Now on the flip side to better the system. We are going to “catch” the bad stuff at the point where it mixes at and store it until we can throw it away. That way our expensive turbos and superchargers are very happy with the highest quality oil to lubricate their bearing and live longer plus keep the oil coating off of the back of the valves that can not be washed off with fuel, because of the direct injection systems in place. No thinned out oil keeps the weight of the oil in range and makes the oil pump happy too. To end my rant AOS does serve it’s purpose very well “as designed by manufacturers”. The catch can go one step above that and take out the issue, but yes we have to get off our ass and drain the tank once a while “you could put a manual drain on the bottom of the can and attach a drain hose to go to the bottom by the bumper so you could just drain it into a pan”. Keep up the good work!!!

    1. Anthony,

      You’re absolutely right! The AOS systems is a manufacturer’s answer to the battle against blow-by and they do their jobs well. But like you said, a catch can takes it one step further and holds the bad stuff in one place for the user to drain. Thanks for the kind words!

      -Diamaan

  5. I’m running a single, large catch can from RX Speed Works on my 2015 2.7L Ecoboost. I’ve noticed during the winter the contents of the can looked like orange juice and smelled strong of fuel. I had to drain every 1K miles. You could see a clear separation of oil/water (looked like salad dressing), but no dark oil. During this summer, I pretty much had no contents whatsoever. Can has been empty for many months so far. Is this normal for the 2.7L? I’m just wondering if the back of my intake valves are staying clean and any catch can will be doing its job on a 2.7L.

    1. Aaron,

      Weather certainly has an effect on what is done to the content collected in a catch can. We are seeing a lot less content in our cans on the 2.7L so that seems to be the current trend with the warmer weather. But if the blow-by is getting caught, the job is getting done!

      -Diamaan

      1. I am running 2 catch cans in series from the “PCV dirty side” in my 2011 3.5 Ecoboost. Interestingly, the first can catches mostly heavy oil mixed with water/fuel that looks a lot like cottage cheese. The second can catches almost exclusively fuel floating on top of water with almost no oil with a clean line of separation. The amount I catch is almost alarming when I think about running that gunk back into the combustion chamber on the backside of the DI intake valves. we are talking “liters” since I installed them.

        1. Too much blow-by means there is a problem in the motor especially if you are burning oil as well. I too had too much blow-by like you. We did a leak down test and two (out of 6) cylinders showed a problem. We opened up the motor to find a stuck oil ring in one and a mysterious vertical scratch on the cylinder wall in the other one. Do a leak down test test to see.

    1. Aaron,

      We are still doing testing, so it’s hard to tell at this point. Our process involves putting a bunch of miles on both applications to get the most accurate and consistent results we can through a couple of different prototype configurations. I can say that different motors will yield different results, and that is what we are working with right now. Stay tuned for more!

      -Diamaan

  6. Diamaan, have you had the same CEL issues with with the pre 2015 3.5’s? With the dual can that is. I have a 2013. Thanks

    1. Hey Nick!

      We actually have not had the previous generation F150 in for catch can product development. It’s something we have looked into doing, so it’s on our radar. The 2011-2014 F150’s do not have the same CCV setup as the 2015+ models due to the fact that tricky sensor is not in the system. We can speculate that we may not run into the same CEL issues, but it is hard to really say for sure without some official R&D. Hope this helps!

      -Diamaan

    1. Owen,

      We do not currently have any plans to introduce a kit for that application to the market. However, if we find that there is enough interest and support for such a project later on down the road, we can certainly consider it!

      -Diamaan

  7. Diamaan, I’ve heard that environmental components likely contribute to catch can accumulation levels, such as humid/dry climate, winter/summer temps. Also fuel/oil additives might have an impact. It would be useful if everyone experimenting with CC’s would include a standard data-list for comparison purposes. For example; 1) miles since last oil change; 2) fuel/oil additives used, and type; 3) Outside driving temp ranges; 4) Outside driving humidity ranges; 5) potentially causal after market add-on’s (e.g. fuel line water separator); 6) year/make/model of car/truck; 7) vehicle milage; 8) Main driving style (city/highway); etc.

    I need to make a determination if I want to give up my warranty on my new 2016 F150 2.7l by installing a catch can, I’ve been considering the RX catch can. The more data I can find the better I can make a wise educated decision.

    Thank you for presenting your results, Mike

    1. Hey Mike,

      Apologies for the delay! Everything you said was spot on. What is collected in a catch can varies upon everything you just mentioned. I’ve researched some truck applications that can nearly fill a catch can within 500-1000 miles simply due to colder weather. Using catch cans on boosted, higher compression motors is an absolute help to prolonging the life of the engine. Your warranty should not be affected by installing a catch can. Dealers can only void your warranty if they can directly attribute any problems to the catch can setup, so I wouldn’t worry about that! I’m glad you enjoyed reading the results. We will have more data coming, so stay tuned!

      -Diamaan

      1. Thanks Diamaan, I’m looking forward to your 2.7l F150 2016 results… if your results look good, I will install a CC on my new truck. So far, I can’t find anyone that has published 2016 2.7l F150 CC results… I hope that changes as time goes on.

        1. I have a 2015 2.7L (no different from a 2016) with a catch can installed. Very little to nothing collected during warm, summer months. Lots collected during the winter. Almost looks like orange juice with a clear water/oil separation.

          1. I have an additional hose (maybe just on the 2016?) that runs from the driver-side clean air turbo tube (hose that’s closest to the front grille) and then splits off to 2 places on the intake manifold. Does the 2015 have this same hose? Do you know the purpose of this particular clean air connection? This is why I want to see 2016 CC results, I’m not 100% sure Ford didn’t do something to change the PCV system, potentially making the CC less effective, or less beneficial, on the 2016 2.7. Thanks.

  8. Why in the heck isn’t Ford doing all of this?? They are selling a product (Ecoboost) that is half baked and destined to have a high rate of failure if innovators were not fixing it for them.

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