Preview: Truck Torture Benefits F-150 Buyers

By Sue Mead, July 5th, 2014

Acid baths, extreme heat, frigid cold, and a torture rack that twists and shakes. Pretty gruesome torture tactics, you have to admit. But this is how Ford tests the durability its all-new 2015 F-150 pickup.

You might think Ford could rest on its truck laurels. After all, the F-150 has been America's best-selling truck for 37 years. Ford, however, wants the newest version of its light-duty pickup to be the strongest and most durable ever and, with an all-new high-strength aluminum-alloy body and all-new high-strength steel frame, Ford wanted to prove its durability by torture-testing the 2015 F-150 at its proving grounds, and at a variety of extreme locations in the U.S.

Meeting up with Ford at its Research and Development Center in Michigan, we learned about the Top 10 Torture Tests that the new full-size pickup endured in the labs, as well as grueling tests the trucks were subjected to crisscrossing the country, pulling heavy trailers and carrying hefty loads, through desert valleys and over high-altitude mountain passes -- in temperatures from 40 below zero to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Here are the 10 toughest from Ford's list:

strong>1. Seven-channel input: Ford's special torture rack violently twisted and shook the truck in seven ways -- simultaneously -- for five days, simulating the equivalent of traveling 225,000 miles. Using a fully-instrumented truck over durability courses, engineers recorded the forces the road surface put on different vehicle components and replicated in seven channels -- four up and down, two side to side, and one lengthwise down the center -- to evaluate how the truck performed in situations that might bend the frame.

strong>2. Silver Creek: This durability course in Romeo, Mich., is made up of two extremely rough roads: one section has 15 distinct types of chuckholes, while the second is comprised of broken pieces of concrete. The intense pounding makes test drivers beg off after one pass because the pounding and speed is so intense; it's like hitting a crater-sized pothole every 5 feet for miles -- going 20 mph. On this course, 500 miles is equal to 20,000 on America's roughest roads.

strong>3. Power Hop Hill: This course boasts a severe 11 percent grade created to replicate a steep, off-road dirt trail in the Hualapai Mountains of northwest Arizona. Designed to stress engine and transmission components when the wheels lose contact with the surface and then return to it, it's steeper than the final section of most ski jump ramps.

strong>4. Drum Drop: Engineers dropped 55-gallon drums into the pickup's bed at an angle, making sure all of the force came down on the sharp rim of the drum, to measure the impact and make adjustments until the cargo box floor was suitably tough.

strong>5. Corrosion Bath: This test challenges the integrity of the aluminum, which has an advantage over steel because it doesn't produce red rust. Going beyond the usual tests, using salt baths followed by high-humidity chambers, Ford developed a modified corrosion test, with an acidified spray that was more aggressive on the high-strength, aluminum alloy. Simulating 10 years of exposure, the aluminum material showed virtually no signs of degradation.

strong>6. Davis Dam: The durability route stretches from outside Bullhead City to the top of Union Pass, Ariz. The F-150 climbed for 13 miles while pulling maximum trailer loads and running the air conditioning full blast in the Arizona summer heat.

strong>7. Stone Peck Alley: This test assesses paint durability. Engineers drove the truck 150 miles over gravel roads, then another 150 miles over pellets of extremely jagged scrap iron using oversized tires that spray the stones and scrap iron at every surface of the truck.

strong>8. Engine Thermal Shock: The F-150 engines were first placed in a special cell and hooked to a dynamometer that simulates pulling a heavy trailer at full throttle up a steep grade. Next, thermal shock testing transports the engines from the coldest polar vortex to extreme heat in a matter of seconds. The engine coolant and oil are quick-cooled to minus 20 degrees in close to 20 seconds, then the engine runs at maximum power while coolant and oil temperatures stabilize, first at 230 and then at 270 degrees, before being chilled again.

strong>9. Rock and Stop: 500 aggressive starts on a stand designed to torture the truck's rear axles using a method that replicates the way serious off-roaders navigate rigorous terrain using a drive/reverse/drive technique; this is the same mode that drivers use to get unstuck from snow. The stand creates impacts at nearly 2,000 lb.-ft. of torque; this is 130 percent more torque than the truck is capable of making, just to be certain the rear axle and its parts can withstand the abuse.

strong>10. Twist Ditch: Another test to ensure off-road capability, a set of parallel dirt mounds create a situation in which one front wheel hangs in the air, while the opposing rear wheel leaves the ground repeatedly. This leaves only two small patches of rubber on the tires with contact to keep traction on a slippery surface.

The 2015 F-150 is the first high-volume vehicle produced with a high-strength steel frame, and body panels made of high-strength aluminum alloy; this is the same material that has been used to make armor-plated tanks and navy warships.

Ford's goal was to engineer its toughest truck yet, and can now say through its extensive testing that the all-new 2015 F-150 lives up to the "Built Ford Tough" standards.

It is also "smarter" says Ford, with 11 new class-exclusive features, including 360-degree camera view; integrated loading ramps stowed in the pickup bed; 400-watt power outlets inside the cab; LED headlights; LED sideview mirror spotlights; and a remote tailgate release. The 2015 F-150 goes on sale in the fall.

Specifications

Base price N/A
Curb weight TBD
Displacement 3.5-liter
Epa mileage rating TBD
Fuel capacity TBD
Horsepower (net) TBD
Motor type Ti-VCT V-6 w/SMPFI
Overall length 209.3 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) TBD
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 3-passenger regular cab pickup
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