In developing the all-new 2015 Ford F-150, Ford set out to design its toughest truck yet. There’s only one way to ensure that the truck being developed is, indeed, tough — and that is to subject it to extreme tests, which can mimic years of use and abuse by the most demanding customers.
The Blue Oval put the new F-150’s durability to the test using ten different methods ranging from a corrosion salt bath to dropping a 55-gallon steel drum into the bed. The bevy of tests put the truck through so much abuse, that five days of the test cycle is equal to 10 years or 150,000 miles of road use. Here are the tests in question:
- Twist ditch: F-150 customers often use their trucks in off-road terrain, and the twist ditch test utilizes a machine that subjects the suspension to extreme travel as one front wheel hangs in the air while the opposing rear wheel loses contact with the ground repeatedly, putting extreme stress on the truck’s chassis and frame.
- Rock and stop: Ford performs 500 aggressive starts on a stand specifically designed to torture rear axles. The machine creates impacts equivalent to nearly 2,000 lb.-ft. of torque — 130 percent more torque than the truck is capable of making, just to be sure the rear axle and all of its parts can handle even the worst abuse.
- Engine Thermal Shock: the F-150’s engines are placed in a special cell and hooked up to a dynamometer, which simulates pulling a heavy trailer at full throttle up a steep incline. The engine is then taken into a freezing environment, as the engine coolant and oil get cooled quickly to negative 20 degrees in as little as 20 seconds. The engine is then taken back to extreme heat, running at maximum power while coolant and oil temperatures stabilize. Ford runs this process 350 times over the course of more than 400 hours to test and prove the durability of the engine block, seals, gaskets, cylinder heads, and liners.
- Stone Peck Alley: to test the durability of the paint of the all-new F-150, engineers drive the truck 150 miles over gravel roads, then another 150 miles over pellets of jagged scrap iron that is first passed through a blast furnace. The truck’s tires fling the stones and scrap iron towards every surface of the truck.
- Davis Dam: engineers drove the Davis Dam durability route, which stretches from Bullhead City, Arizona to the top of Union Pass. The F-150 climbed for 13 miles at posted speeds (from 35 mph to 65 mph) while pulling maximum trailer loads and running the air conditioning at full blast.
- Corrosion Bath: besides their light weight, an advantage of the new F-150’s aluminum body structure and body panels is that the aluminum doesn’t produce red rust. To account for this, Ford had to go beyond the usual tests that consist of driving vehicles through countless salt baths and soaking them in high-humidity chambers. So, The Blue Oval used an acidified spray to be more aggressive on the high-strength aluminum alloys. After simulating 10 years of corrosion, the material showed virtually no signs of degradation.
- Drum Drop: Ford engineers dropped 55-gallon drums into the bed of the new F-150 at a specific angle, making sure all of the force came down on the sharp rim of the drum. They then measured the impact and made adjustments until the cargo box floor was suitably tough.
- Power Hop Hill: this washboard-type surface at Ford’s test track in Romeo, Michigan was created to replicate a steep, off-road dirt trail. The severe 11 percent grade, which Ford says is steeper than the final section of most ski jump ramps, stresses engine and transmission components when the wheels lose contact with the road and return to the surface.
- Silver Creek: Ford’s Silver Creek durability course in Romeo combines two extremely rough roads. One part has 15 distinct types of ‘chuckholes’, while the other is made from broken pieces of concrete. Ironically, many test drivers want off the route after only one pass due to the intense pounding and speed. According to Ford, 500 miles on this road surface is equal to 20,000 miles on the country’s roughest roads.
- Seven-Channel Input: Ford built a special ‘torture rack’ that violently twists and shakes the truck seven ways simultaneously for five consecutive days, simulating the equivalent of travelling 225,000 miles. After running the fully-instrumented truck through durability courses, engineers recorded the forces the road surface put on various vehicle components. Ford says these forces are replicated in seven channels: four up and down, two side to side, and one lengthwise down the center. The frame and body were put under stress to see how the truck performs in situations that might bend the frame.