Many believe the iconic 7.3-liter Powerstroke engine by Ford is the best diesel pickup ever manufactured. Ford used the 7.3 Powerstroke in Heavy-Duty Ford Pickup Trucks and the Ford Econoline vans from 1994-2003.
Ford ultimately introduced the 6.0-liter in 2004, due to government-mandated emission standards changes that required more accurate controls but at the expense of more parts failing.
Today, almost 14 years after the last Powerstroke left the assembly line, over two million Powerstrokes are still in use.
The Powerstroke revolutionized truck diesel engines. The 7.3-liter Powerstroke had an electronically controlled, direct injection controlled by a hydraulic, electronic unit injection system. Previously, diesel engines used indirect injection (IDI). This substantially increased engine power but did not affect the popular durability reputation of the IDI.
Choosing the right fuel injectors for the 7.3-liter Powerstroke depends on several factors.
7.3-Liter Powerstroke Engine Advantages
The cast iron head and block increased engine durability. The Powerstroke engine gradually increased engine performance throughout the Powerstrokes’ manufacturing run. In 1994, the 7.3-liter had a peak power rating of 210 hp @ 3,000 RPM, with a peak torque of 424 ft-lb @ 2,000 RPM. Ford eventually increased the power, using a turbocharger and tweaks in the fuel injectors, by 30% to 275 hp with maximum torque of 525 ft-lb.
Injectors will last you from 150,000 to 300,000 miles, depending on the frequency of oil changes and oil and fuel quality.
How Injectors Work
Injectors work by sending an electric signal that permits high-pressure oil to enter the injector unit, opening the injector needle and injecting fuel.
Diesel engines require ignition. This is accomplished by injecting the compression heat into the injection chamber of the engine, igniting a set mixture of diesel fuel and oxygen.
Small droplets of diesel, added through fuel injectors, are evenly distributed in the combustion chamber and vaporized, providing power.
A few years after introducing the Powerstroke, Ford began offering split injectors for the 7.3-liter. A split injector injects fuel twice. The first injection, called the pilot injection, inserts a small quantity of oil. This warms up the cylinder, smoothing out the combustion process for the second or main injection. The most noticeable effect of a split injector is engine noise reduction.
All Powerstroke injectors are A-code injectors. A-code means the injector has a 6.0-mm plunger and a 16-mm intensifier piston, which increases the injection control pressure compared to other types.
Types of 7.3-Liter Powerstroke A-Code Injectors
Choosing the right one for your requirements will improve your truck’s power and speed.
You can order AA, AB, AD, or A injectors, depending on the year of your Powerstroke engine and your need.
The AA works on 1994-1998 Powerstrokes—but consult the chart on this page to be sure.
You can use AB, AD, or AE on 1999-2003 7.3-liter Powerstrokes.
AB is a split shot injector. The AB has a 130-135 cc fuel flow and is used in late 1999 through 2003 Powerstrokes.
AD injectors have a 135-140 cc fuel flow, which is due to a slightly longer plunger stroke.
Ford made AE injectors to address a “fuel cackle” issue caused by fuel delivery.
You can use stock injectors with larger nozzles to allow more fuel flow so you will get more power. If you are towing, this can be an advantage.
If you use stock nozzles, you will have to add a chip to either extend the time the injector stays open or increase the injection control pressure (ICP) to increase the amount of fuel per opening.
Custom injectors modify the fuel flow to provide more power. They require larger nozzles to allow larger amounts of fuel to enter the engine.
Custom 180 cc injectors help with fuel economy and towing. They also help inhibit the production of exhaust smoke.
Some Powerstroke owners use 160 cc injectors when using the truck at high altitudes. These won’t provide as much power as the 180 ccs.
Other Powerstroke Parts for the 7.3-Liter
There are several other parts many Powerstroke owners replace to assist the fuel injectors in the 7.3-liter. This includes high-pressure oil pumps, for example. However, while fuel injectors usually fit a specific year group of 7.3-liter trucks, you need to take care when shopping to ensure you purchase the right oil pump for your make, model, and year truck.
Other parts to consider include fuel injector driver modules, injector pressure regulators for 1994 and 1995 models, and turbochargers.