People buy pickup trucks because they’re tough, and as the segment’s leader, the Ford F-150 must not disappoint in this respect. The all-new 2015 Ford F-150 underwent 10 million cumulative miles of durability testing, both in real world, from mountaintops to frozen lakes, and in simulated environments.
“We wanted to build the toughest, most capable F-150, while making it as much as 700 pounds lighter. We challenged the team to torture the truck harder than any F-150 before it,” says Pete Reyes, Ford F-150 chief engineer.
Ford says the new F-150 towed trailers over mountain passes in temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius), withstood frame-punishing terrain on an off-road course and conquered a frozen lake at minus 40 degrees F (minus 40 degrees C). The new pickup truck also endured high-humidity chambers, salt vats and riverbeds and towed heavy loads up grueling, steep roads.
Simulated tests included robots slamming its doors and tailgates, dropping heavy objects onto the bed of the truck, all while being twisted and shaken from multiple directions. Ford says some of these tests are so extreme that a five-day period equals 10 years or 150,000 miles (241,402 km) of abuse by the roughest customers.
Here’s a detailed look at the 10 toughest durability tests the F-150 had to endure.
By Dan Mihalascu
Seven-channel input: Ford built a special torture rack that simultaneously and violently twists and shakes the truck seven ways for five days, simulating the equivalent of 225,000 miles (362,102 km).
Silver Creek: The Silver Creek durability course in Romeo, Michigan, combines two extremely tough roads. One section of the route has 15 distinct types of chuckholes, while the other is made from broken pieces of concrete. On this road surface, 500 miles is equal to 20,000 miles on the country’s roughest roads.
Power Hop Hill: This washboard Ford test track in Romeo replicates a steep, off-road dirt trail trail in the Hualapai Mountains of northwest Arizona. The severe 11 percent grade is steeper than the final section of most ski jump ramps, stressing engine and transmission components when the wheels lose contact and then return to the surface.
Drum drop: Ford engineers dropped 55-gallon drums into the bed of the truck on an angle, making sure all of the force came down on the sharp rim of the drum. Engineers in Dearborn, Michigan, then measure the impact and make adjustments until the cargo box floor is suitably tough.
Corrosion bath: As the 2015 F-150 has high-strength aluminum alloy body panels, Ford had to go beyond the usual tests that include driving vehicles through countless salt baths and soaking them in high-humidity chambers. The carmaker developed a modified corrosion test using an acidified spray to be more aggressive on the aluminum alloy. After simulating 10 years of exposure, the aluminum material showed virtually no signs of degradation.
Davis Dam: a durability route that stretches from just outside Bullhead City, Arizona, to the top of Union Pass, the 13-mile Davis Dam was climbed by the F-150 at posted speeds (varying from 35 mph to 65 mph) while pulling maximum trailer loads and running the air conditioning full blast in the heat of an Arizona summer.
Stone Peck Alley: to test paint for the all-new F-150, engineers drove the truck 150 miles over gravel roads, then another 150 miles over pellets of extremely jagged scrap iron that is first passed through a blast furnace. Oversized tires spray the stones and scrap iron at every surface of the truck.
Engine thermal shock: this test takes engines from the coldest polar vortex to extreme heat in just seconds, while the engines are placed in a special cell and hooked to a dynamometer that simulates pulling a heavy trailer at full throttle up a steep grade. The process is run 350 times over more than 400 hours to prove the durability of the engine block, seals, gaskets, cylinder heads and liners.
Rock and stop: Ford performs 500 aggressive starts on a stand specially designed to torture rear axles, with the stand creating impacts at nearly 2,000 lb.-ft. of torque. This is more torque than the truck is capable of making – 130 percent more and then some – just to be certain the rear axle and all of its parts can withstand the abuse.
Twist ditch: a set of parallel dirt mounts built to create a situation in which one front wheel hangs in the air while the opposing rear wheel leaves the ground repeatedly. Only two small patches of rubber are left to make contact with a slippery surface and maintain traction, with the ditches putting incredible stress on the truck’s body and frame.