In today’s internal combustion automobile engines, a multitude of moving parts translates into a dire need for an adequate lubricant. Engine oil fits the bill by lubricating parts such as bearings and by removing excess engine heat. In some engines, such as the Ford Powerstroke line of diesel truck engines, the oil pump fulfills other needs as well. However, if the oil pressure falls too low, then engine components may be seriously damaged. To ensure that the engine oil remains above a safe minimum pressure level, an oil pump circulates the oil within set limits.
In the Ford Powerstroke line of diesel engines, the high pressure oil pump doubles as the injection pump by sending high-pressure oil to the engine’s hydraulic electric unit injectors. The Ford 6.0 and 7.3 Powerstroke engines rely on an IPR valve and ICP sensor to measure and maintain adequate oil pressure, which varies according to the fuel injectors’ demands. This requirement, in turn, depends on the power needs derived from the driver’s demands. For instance, the fuel injectors require different oil pressures during idling, accelerating and holding a constant driving speed.
During normal operation, the Powerstroke oil pump sends the appropriate amount of oil to create the proper pressure in the engine–and especially the fuel injectors–according to factors such as engine temperature and resistance to flow from engine components. If the pressure becomes too high, then the engine must work unusually hard, leading to excess wear and tear; in addition, overly high oil pressure could even introduce air into the system. On the other hand, if the pressure becomes too low, perhaps due to engine wear or debris within the oil, then the result may be too much smoke and not enough power. In extreme cases, metal-on-metal contact without sufficient lubrication can physically destroy parts; just seconds of operating without oil can wreck an engine beyond repair.