How Reliable is the Coyote Engine?

When Ford debuted the Coyote engine in 2011, it was a breath of fresh air. The previous Mustang engine had a single overhead camshaft and two valves per cylinder. At the end of its tenure, the 4.6 modular V8 made 300 horsepower. The Coyote engine, when it first came onto the scene, made 412 horsepower, thanks to high flow heads and variable valve timing.

The block also switched from iron to aluminum, and as of 2018, the Ford Mustang makes 460 horsepower. While all of this is a massive improvement, just how reliable has it been since Ford released it? Even after 10 years, there are only a handful of problems that owners have experienced with their Coyote engines, thanks to its simplicity.

Coyote ticking sounds? Probably normal activity

black 2011 mustang gt coupe parked outside
2011 Ford Mustang GT Coupe | Getty Images

Several owners of 2011 Mustang GTs complained about their Coyote engine making ticking, and sometimes grinding noises. One owner said their pistons blew up at just 44,000 miles. Apparently, an ominous ticking sound has been a problem with all Ford engines but exhibits little to no impact on reliability. Some mechanics attribute the noise to piston slap, which is when the piston impacts repeatedly against the cylinder wall. The ticking sound became more prominent for the Coyote engine in 2018 when they got direct injection. 

Coyote surging? Check the fuel pressure sensor

2012 ford mustang gt at a show
2012 Ford Mustang GT Coupe | Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post/Getty Images

A common symptom of a faulty Coyote engine can be an abrupt RPM drop after a few years. It can best be described as an RPM surge, where it’ll dip down and then come back up. A likely culprit is the fuel pressure sensor, according to George Lawson Gallery. Luckily, the process to replace the fuel pressure sensor is quick and easy and can be done in the comfort of the owner’s garage. A new sensor will run $114 from Advance Auto Parts. 

Warning: Coyote engine may stall

2013 ford mustang gt at international auto show
2013 Ford Mustang GT at the international auto show | Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Several F-150 and Mustang owners complained about their Coyote engine stalling with both automatic and manual transmissions. It seems to be a problem that Ford has yet to acknowledge, where the car will suddenly sputter and then die while driving. One possible cause is a dirty throttle body, which is again easy to find and clean. 

Another possible culprit is the mass airflow (MAF) sensor, which is also easy to find and clean. NHTSA fielded several complaints as well, where the timing chain tensioner broke off. Since the Coyote is an interference engine, this is a bad problem. 

Unfortunate automatic transmission woes

2014 ford mustang gt at a show
2014 Ford Mustang GT | Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

As less of a problem with the engine and more with the transmission, the automatic transmissions paired with the Coyote don’t perform all that well. The transmission exhibits clunking sounds, lurching, missing gears, and inconsistent shifts. Opting for a manual transmission solves this issue, however, they are known to have weak gear linkage. A short shifter kit can solve this problem.

The Coyote engine is widely considered to be a rock-solid reliable engine. It uses forged rods and a forged crankshaft, as well as traditional fuel injection. For all of its minor quirks, the Coyote-equipped generation is one of the best used Mustangs available. The early Coyote isn’t a complicated engine, which helps its reliability, and it makes tons of power to boot.

Keeping up with oil changes, like any other engine, helps preserve its reliability. While some owners may have experienced detrimental defects, the engine as a whole is one of the best, most reliable on the market. However, the jury is still out on the 2018 Mustang’s future.

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