How to Fix & Troubleshoot P0281 Code on a 6.0L Powerstroke

Back in 1996, the US mandated a new system on vehicles known as On-Board Diagnostics. The OBD-II allows the car to find the faults appearing within its system and informs the owner. It tells the owner about the problem using codes.

The code P0281 means there is a firing order issue with the cylinder 7. When one or more cylinders generate less power or RPM than the other cylinders, this 6.0L Power Stroke is triggered.

If you encounter this code, we assure you that you do not have to worry anymore. In this article, we will show how to fix this code step-by-step so that you can fix your vehicle. 

How to Fix & Troubleshoot P0281 Code on a 6.0L Powerstroke

What Does p0281 Code Mean On 6.0 Powerstroke?

So how does the system know when to trigger P0281 code on 6.0L Power Stroke? The power control module (PCM) is like the motherboard, controlling the power of each cylinder. It controls the rate of change of speed and acceleration of each cylinder. 

The 6.0L power stroke engine has a maximum RPM of 4100. Each cylinder provides an equal amount of RPM (might vary by less than 5%). When there is a lower rate of change detected or the difference in RPM is greater than 5% in cylinder 7, P0281 is triggered.

Before we indulge any further, let us understand the terms of this code. 

  • P = Power Train, this refers that the fault is within the engine or transmission system
  • 0 = This refers to a generic OBD code
  • 2 = This refers to a fault in the injector circuit falling under the fuel and air metering section.
  • 81 =This refers to fuel related issues in the cylinder 7 of the engine.

How Serious Is p0281 Code On 6.0 Powerstroke?

Not technically. Because, the code p0281 indicates a fault in the cylinder of the 6.0L power stroke engine. Therefore, that particular cylinder is receiving less RPM compared to the other cylinders (difference greater than 5 percent).

This can be a serious issue and should be dealt with quite quickly. It can eventually cause your 6.0L power stroke engine to deteriorate in terms of power and economy,

Generally, when this code arrives, we expect that the speed of your vehicle to drop significantly. This will be due to the lesser RPM produced and fuel pumped out by that particular cylinder.

We suggest you get the car checked or fixed very soon as this problem could eventually cause the engine to misfire.

What Causes Code P0281 Code On 6.0 Powerstroke?

There are several causes behind the trigger of this code “P0281”. Even though the problem may seem to be less fuel being pumped out of the cylinder, most issues lie within the injector of the engine. Here is a short list of the causes behind P0281 Code.

  • Bad Electrical connection in the fuel injector
  • Faulty Power Control Module of the system
  • Faulty/ Buggy Fuel Injector
  • Clogged Fuel Injector

Other Symptoms Of Getting P0281 Code On 6.0 Powerstroke

By now, you must be wondering how to detect this code “P0281” beforehand to save yourself from some hassle. Here are some symptoms that we have found out that you should look out for.

  • Check Engine Light turning on
  • Less power being Produced
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Idling of the vehicle

How To Fix p0281 Code On 6.0 Powerstroke?

This is the section where we think you need to pay attention. We will walk you through the steps and process of fixing the P0281 code on 6.0L Power Stroke Engine that a professional mechanic would follow. 

Generally, a professional uses the two step procedure: diagnosis and fixation. He/She would first try to find the fault and then start working on the fault. Therefore, let us begin with the diagnosis.

Step 1: Identify the code

Before you can dwell into solving the problem, you first need to identify the code. You need to make sure which code you are working on. Is it only this code “P0281” or do you have other codes to fix too?

Take the diagnostic connector or the scanner and connect it with the port. This will show all the faulty codes and also the freeze frame information. Freeze frame information is generally the state of the car while all the codes are being stored.

Reset all the codes and take the car out for a test drive. After the test drive, rescan the system for the faulty codes again. If the codes reappear, proceed with the next step.

Step 2: Fixing the diagnosis

Once you have done the diagnosis of the code successfully, you will notice that the solution of the fixes lie within these. If you can fix them, you should be able to get rid of the code P0281 on your Power stroke engine. These fixes include.

  • Replacing the power control module (PCM) of the system
  • Cleaning the fuel injector
  • Replacing the fuel injectors

Let us dive deep into the solutions.

Fix 1: Clean the fuel injector

Before you jump into the process, we would advise you to grab a pair of gloves and goggles for your safety.

  1. Head over to Target/ any other local store and grab a fuel injector cleaning kit. You might want to buy some gloves if you do not have them at the moment.
  2. Disconnect the negative terminal from the vehicle battery.
  3. Remove the fuel tank cap in order for gas pressure to escape.
  4. Open up the fuel pump line by unscrewing the bolts and opening up the lines that block the pathway. Gently pull out the injectors and reattach the fuel pump line.
  5. Disconnect the fuel regulator vacuum line and connect the cleaning kit to the fuel port line.
  6. Rev up your engine and allow it to run for some time. The time could vary from 5 to 10 minutes. This is to allow the engine to use up all the cleaning fluid.
  7. Once the engine stops on its own, remove the cleaning kit and reattach all the components back into its place. 

Fix 2: Replace the fuel injector

Replacing the fuel injector can create a mess from time to time. If you want to avoid that, you can get a piece of cloth beforehand. Also, just like before, be equipped with gloves and goggles.

  1. Allow the car to rest in a cool place for 5-6 hours before starting this process. You should not replace the fuel injectors right after a drive.
  2. Gradually, unplug all the fuel injector connectors.
  3. Unscrew the bolts that hold the fuel pump line and take it off. 
  4. Get a towel or piece of cloth or a cup and place it beneath the injectors you are trying to pull off. This is to prevent the excess fuel from making a mess.
  5. Get the new injector and apply a handsome amount of fuel oil/grease over the O-ring. This helps lubricate the new injector.
  6. Re-install and attach all the components back into its place and rev up your 6.0L power stroke engine to check whether everything is working or not.

One advice that we would like to provide is that you should change all the injectors together.

Fix 3: Replace the power control module (PCM) of the system

We will highly advise you to get the help of a mechanic/ professional for this solution. This process not only requires you to open up a lot of components around your 6.0L Power Stroke Engine but also the dashboard.

However, if you want to save your money and replace it yourself, here is a short guide for you to carry out the process by yourself.

  1. Disconnect the negative terminal of the car’s battery.
  2. Open up the hood and unplug all the components to free your power steering fluid reservoir. 
  3. Unscrew all the bolts to access your electrical junction bus and remove it from that end.
  4. Now, head over to the inside and try reaching underneath the dashboard. It might be difficult for you to do that. So you might need to take the whole dashboard out for this process.
  5. Replace the power control module (PCM) and re-install everything back into its place.
  6. Start up your car and scan it for codes.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix P0281 Code On 6.0L Powerstroke?

If you are going to your local garage for a check up of your 6.0 powerstroke with code p0281, you could assume a safe amount of $150. If you need to change your fuel injectors, then the cost could spike up exponentially. 

Fuel injectors are quite expensive and can easily cost you upto 1000 dollars, alongside labor cost.

However, if you do plan to fix the problem by yourself, you can easily reduce the cost. But be careful while you are handling this problem. If you are a new vehicle owner, we would suggest you go to a professional to get it fixed.

Can You Drive Your 6.0 Powerstroke With p0281 Code?

Yes you can! Unlike other codes, this is a code which will still allow your car to move around the city. However, it is best to get the car/ vehicle repaired as soon as possible.

Once you get hit by this code on your 6.0L Power Stroke, you will face significant loss in speed and experience poor fuel economy. If you continue to drive the car with this code, your car might face some serious drawbacks.


The 6.0L Power Stroke Engine might be well known for its difficulties but it still is a great engine to own. We suggest you take extra care of this engine to experience the maximum performance out of it.

We suggest you own a diagnostic connector for safety. You could get a cheaper basic one. However if you want to ignore the hassle of finding the meaning of codes, we suggest you to invest in an advanced diagnostic connector.

This will surely save you time and allow yourself to be informed as soon as you get hit by any code. We hope that this article was informative and was able to answer all your queries. We hope that you have a great day!

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