5.3 Vortec vs 3.5 EcoBoost: Reliability and Towing Comparison

Automakers strive to make great motors that will satisfy their customers and outdo the competition. This means that they will use the technology available to produce a great engine, most of the time. Which one is better, is hard to say.

The 5.3 Vortec is said to be a good engine but it has some problems with the direct injection and oil flow. Then the 3.5 Ecoboost is said to have a turbocharger that makes downshifting uphill rare. Both are good motors.

To learn more about these engines just continue to read our article. It provides the most details it can in such a short space. Take a few minutes to see how this comparison helps you make a good buying decision.

5.3 vs 3.5 EcoBoost Pros And Cons

No matter how great a motor is, there will always be some great aspects that make it a good engine. Then there are always some flaws that keep that engine from reaching star status. Here are the pros and cons of both motors.

1. 3.5 Vortec


  • can last between 200,000 and 300,000 miles
  • incredibly powerful
  • an advanced small block V-8
  • can be quieter than you expect from a V-8
  • reduced engine vibrations
  • active fuel management system
  • variable valve timing


  • burns too much oil
  • engine carbon build-up
  • spark plug issues
  • cracked cylinders, problems with the intake manifold & gaskets
  • fuel injector and pump problems

2. 3.5 Ecoboost


  • direct injection of gas
  • turbocharged for extra power
  • excellent fuel economy
  • good power to displacement ratio
  • also lasts for hundreds of thousands of miles
  • 2 primary chain systems
  • can be a very reliable engine


  • needs lots of maintenance to keep running
  • if timing goes, you will have lots of engine repairs to do
  • spark plugs & engine coils do not last
  • carbon build-up is a problem here as well
  • timing chain problems on top of the above

3.5 EcoBoost vs 5.3 Vortec Reliability


Nothing is going to be perfect in this world. Automakers try to get as close to perfection as possible and so far, they have not even obtained that objective. But the 3.5 Ecoboost & the 5.3 Vortec are getting close.

As you can see by the cons listed for both engines, there are mechanical issues that get in the way of a smooth performance. But with proper maintenance, both engines should last a long time.

The issues listed are common for all models of these two engines but not everyone will experience them. The 5.3 Vortec is said to be the most reliable and it will last up to 300,000 if you take care of it.

The same can be said about the 3.5 Eco-boost. While there is not a specific lifespan number given, it should last you over 100,000 miles with ease and good maintenance.

However, the unlucky buyer may get a lemon and they do happen. The presence of those lemons does not ruin all the rest of these motors. Over the course of your ownership, you should have your share of repairs.

Not every engine can be the Dodge slant 6 which seemed to run forever, no matter how it was treated. But no matter which engine you buy,m if you do not abuse or mistreat them by withholding routine maintenance, you should have two very reliable motors to choose between.

Chevy 5.3 Vortec vs 3.5 EcoBoost For Towing

Towing is always a concern. The RV life has become even more popular today than it has been in other decades and getting away from it all has been a dream of many people who buy RVs and trailers.

The key to towing a trailer is to have a great tow vehicle. But you have to watch those weight capacities as even good motors like the 3.5 Ecoboost and the 5.3 Vortec are not miracle workers which can tow more than their capacities let them.

What makes things worse for tow vehicles is that their owners want to get away from it all but want to bring it all with them. Having a tow vehicle that tows heavy weights is important.

1. 3.5 Ecoboost

This motor inside an F150 produces roughly 375 HP and 470 lb-ft of torque. Plus, it is turbocharged so it can get that trailer up the hills very easily. With all of these specs on its side, this motor is rated to tow 13,200.

That is 2100 pounds more than the high output 3.5 Ecoboost which is rated at 11,100 pounds. There is no real way to boost the towing capacity of this engine.

If you want to tow a 5th wheel, this motor can do it if you stay within all the weight capacity ratings. All of these figures and information are for the 2019 F-150 3.5L Ecoboost motor.

2. 5.3 Vortec

This engine is a little less powerful than the 3.5 Ecoboost. Its 355 HP and 383 lb-ft of torque are a lot less than its competitor. But that does not mean it cannot tow a lot of weight.

This motor is rated for the same amount of weight as the high output 3.5L Ecoboost engine at 11,100 pounds. This still allows you to tow a 5th wheel trailer as long as it is a light one.

There may be a way to increase the power of this motor to make it more competitive with the 3.5 Ecoboost

5 best 5.3 Vortec Upgrades


These are different upgrades that can boost the HP significantly.

1. Tuning

This is the first step in the upgrade process. It is either a stand alone upgrade that can get you an extra 35/50 whp/wtq using 93 octane gas. Or it is the mandatory grade when you want to add any of the following 4 additional parts that boost this engine’s power.

This tuning upgrade makes sure the engine performs under safe parameters and it should improve response and fuel economy.

2. Long-Tube Headers

The stock headers are going to be heavy as they are made out of cast iron. But with these new long tube headers you get less back pressure and exhaust flow restrictions. But that is not all you will get.

These headers are made from aluminum so you lose some weight at the same time. With these additions, you may get an additional 10/25 whp/wtq. The good news is that there are a lot of brands producing these types of headers that enhance your engine’s power.

3. Cold Air Intake

This can be confusing as many manufacturers advertise their air intake systems as cold air intakes. However, they may just be modified versions of the regular air intakes.

A real cold air intake is positioned lower in the engine bay and near the sidewall or fender areas. This is an after-market upgrade but you will not get a great boost in power. This upgrade is rated at 15 whp/wtq but this upgrade helps the engine breathe better after you installed other performance upgrades.

4. Cam Upgrades

Another aftermarket product that helps your engine perform a lot better. These additions make sure the duration and opening of both the intake and exhaust valves are longer.

What that means is that the engine gets more air and better flow into the combustion chamber. More air equals more power. The trick is to buy the right cam upgrade for your engine.

If you get the right one, you can boost your power by 25 to 100 whp. When combined with other modifications on this list, you will get even more power than that added to the 5.3 Vortec.

5. Forced Induction

Of all the upgrades you can do, this is the best one. When you add a supercharger or turbocharger, that forced air induction gives you a real boost in power. Of course, the boost you get will depend on the size of those additional parts.

There are kits available for this engine in both the supercharger and turbocharger options. Once installed, you are looking at getting between 100 to 150 whp for smaller turbos and larger ones can get the 5.3 Vortec over 1000 hp.

That is quite a power boost and makes this engine a little better than the 3.5 Ecoboost.

Some Final Words

Buying a truck with a good engine can be tough. There are so many models with different engines that sound like they would be good for your trailer situation. But once you look at the facts, it is easy to separate the good engines from the lesser ones.

Both of these engines are good but the 3.5 Ecoboost, when stock, has the edge over the stock 5.3 Vortec. But if you add those power additions, the 5.3 Vortec may be better than the 3.5 Ecoboost.

Longevity is where the stock 5.3 Vortec tops the 3.5 Ecoboost

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