Ford Snapping Spark Plugs STILL Occurring – Other Trucks Next

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For years, Ford has been known for building engines with spark plugs that snap off. With several class action lawsuits related to the problem still in court, no resolution on the horizon and new metals and mixed-metals being used in building trucks, will this issue spread to other trucks due too?

Ford Snapping Spark Plugs STILL Occurring

This is a common sight to Ford Triton owners. Could we all be facing issues like this?

Not aware of this issue, go ahead and type “ford spark plug class action” into Google, Bing or Yahoo. You will find several news stories and law offices dealing with class action lawsuits that have been filed over the years. The claim goes like this: Ford sold or leased F-150s, Mustangs, Explorers and other vehicles including the Triton V-8 engine with knowing that the spark plugs could snap due to engine design and/or materials. The truth is that Ford did anticipate this to some degree and actually produced a tool for dealers to address this when it happens.

Here is the statement from one class action suit:

“In fact, even after Ford developed a special tool and procedure to remove the defective plugs, and after a replacement spark plug was developed, Ford continued to manufacture, sell, and lease the Covered Vehicles with the defects,” the class action lawsuit continues. “As a result of Ford’s knowing and intentional conduct, Plaintiff and Class Members have been required to spend hundreds, and in many instances, thousands of dollars more than reasonably could be anticipated to replace spark plugs — something that generally costs around $150.”

The way we understand it, the class action suits are being merged and are still in court. However, after a year of litigation (the above was filed in January, 2012), maybe they will finally settle like Toyota was forced to over the unfounded acceleration issue.

What’s the Deal?
The problem boils down to the mixing of different metals. To the point, “The dissimilar metals of the spark plug and the cylinder head coupled with a long service life just about welds the plug into place,” according to YouFixCars.com. “To make matters worse carbon develops on the plugs where it sticks into the combustion chamber again making it harder to remove without breaking.”

Nowadays, most everyone is aware of the issue with the Triton V-8 engine AND they have bought the special removal tool from either Lisle or Cal Van. With this tool and a whole lot of experience, you can probably get all the spark plugs out without an issue. Note, probably not 100% for sure.

The sad part is that it is STILL an issue. Some Ford websites say the issue started way back in the late 90′s – almost 15+ years ago. It seems rather interesting that a permanent solution hasn’t been devised.

The real scary part for all future trucks owners is that the new weight-saving strategies of truck makers are thought to include the use new metals or combinations of existing metals. Without years of proven track records, these new metals have the potential of having unintended consequences like the Triton V-8. It does make you wonder if this problem or a new problem will impact trucks in the future. This is especially true of new vehicles that don’t require maintenance as often and with parts lasting longer. To be blunt, it will simply take a longer period of time before these issues present themselves. That could be bad news for all of us.

Will a class action suit force Ford to address this issue? Will other trucks have issues with mixed metals? What do you think?

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  1. Mickey says:

    Never did change plugs on my 03 F-150. Same for my wife’s 03 Crown Victoria LX Sport. Same engine but we kept the car 1 year longer than the truck. Truck was around 36k miles while the car was 46k miles.

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  3. Larry says:

    “The problem boils down to the mixing of different metals.”

    Dissimilar metals is just one issue with Fords spark plug removal troubles and it’s not the big one. Yes, dissimilar metals when threads are involved can be a possible problem. Always use the proper thread compound to prevent the metals from fuzing together.

    The real problem with the 5.4 Ford V8 is that the cylinder head seats the plug up in the bore away from the combustion chamber. To get the spark down there, the ceramic part of the plug extends downward about 1/2 or so below the thread. The space between the ceramic insulator and cylinder head gets loaded up with carbon and gunk from combustion. Over time it can fuse the brittle ceramic to the cylinder head material. When backing out the plug it will often snap off leaving part of the plug below the threads in the head. In some cases the head needs to be removed to resolve the issue. Talk about crazy, having to remove a cylinder head to change spark plugs. This is total brain damage design on Fords part and they are not doing anything to support their customers.

    This 5.4 motor also has oil flow troubles delivering the pressure needed for the variable valve timing mechanics.

    Class action law suites are underway.

    When you drop 35,000 on a truck, this kind of thing is unacceptable, the big 3 just never seem to learn.

    I still don’t know if the 3.7 and EcoBoost V6 motors have this plug/head design.

    The door is open for Toyota to keep gaining share as long as they maintain quality.

    • Larry,

      You’re right the carbon buildup is also a big issue. I guess my point is that mixing metals in hopes of increased MPGs is dangerous as Ford has shown with the spark plug issues. Also, it is interesting to me that people have indicated to me that they won’t buy Toyota’s cars over the unintended acceleration issue. Yet when you put that issue into comparison with other manufactures issues like the EcoBoost shutdown mode and snapping spark plugs, it isn’t the big deal people make it out to be. My only real issue with Toyota currently is over the air induction pump issue that we have documented. I feel like they, like all manufactures, have issues yet Toyota has done a job of addressing their problems like the numerous frame rust issues that plagued Tundra and Tacoma pickups.

      Good points as always.

      -Tim

      • Larry says:

        Tim,

        As you know I have many harsh comments regarding all manufactures but, I have never seen anything proving that the “unintended acceleration” was anything more then people pressing the wrong peddle. It just wasn’t worth Toyota’s time to fight it. If I wanted a Prius that issue would not even be on my list.

        While the EcoBoost is a powerful engine to me it’s still a grenade waiting to explode until 10 years and 150,000 miles proves it’s durability.

        Lab testing is not real world. Look at Fords claims regarding an endurance test.

        http://news.pickuptrucks.com/2.....ts/page/4/

        This is ridiculous, non-stop motor use is nothing compared to 10 years worth of thermal cycles of everyday use. It’s just not the same. This is how a simple cylinder head change involving a spark plug causes all this trouble. How can such a simple issue not get caught by all the engineers involved with the 5.4 engine design.

        And,,,,,,, take a look at the path of the chain on that engine. That photo alone is enough for me to drop Ford from my list. What chance does that chain have of lasting 200,000 miles and what will it cost to replace. At least a belt is only 100 bucks and I can do that myself and I have. 3 chains, 1 which is about 6 foot long snaking all over the place as it changes direction then 2 more chains, linking the second cam on each cylinder head. All this makes the old push rod motor look less expansive. This doesn’t factor in all the oil pressure issues needed to phase the cams for the valve timing. This is one complex motor and if it goes any fuel savings plus the additional up front cost will make gas look cheap.

        Ford can’t resolve a spark plug issue and I am being asked to trust a 400 HP high rev 6 cylinder twin turbo costing 35,000 dollars. If only my 19 years old T100 was not rusting out.

        Ford could have a solid motor here but, I have my doubts. One thing for sure is that if it can’t run to 150,000 without major repairs, they will have a big problem a few years down the road but,,,,,, as usual management will have exercised their stock options leaving the next management team to clean up.

        • Larry,

          Good points and insight. I absolutely agree that it sounds like Ford will leave this problem to others down the road (past warranty coverage).

          As we have talked, I am personally really curious as to what new vehicle you plan on buying. I, myself, have been shopping around quite a bit and I’m not 100% sure what I want. Ford and GM make work trucks, I don’t want a work truck. Nissan doesn’t have anything exciting to offer. My wife likes the Ram and I do too EXCEPT for all the quality, reliability and ridiculous MPG claims. I just don’t trust a word that Ram says. There is actually a Ram 1500 in the press fleet here in Denver that I am working on getting my hands of for a week. Seems to me (from a relatively outsiders point of view), Toyota makes the most reliable half-ton on the market with the highest resale value. Used Toyota Tundra pickups here in Denver are really expensive compared to other makers. I can’t decipher if that is because their is low inventory or because they are great trucks.

          Now, every manufacture has issues like we agree on and yes, it is still possible to get a lemon. I just know out of all the trucks I write about and the way I have been covering the market for the past 15 months, it seems Toyota is the best truck for me.

          -Tim

    • Larry – Great comment – thank you.

  4. Larry says:

    To start. I expect any truck I buy to go 250,000 or 25 years. My T100 will make that even if I sell it. All consumers have a right to demand quality for their 35000 dollars. That’s one hell of a pay out for most people.

    —-

    I was considering the plain F150 3.7, no tubos but, I really have my doubts about the valve timing mechanics. I like the F150 suspension. Other Ford issues. The F250 is too heavy. I would only have 2 years to get an F150 as I read they are working on aluminum bodies. As this thread started about the problems of dissimilar metals, think about bolting aluminum body panels to steel frame components. That’s too much risk for a first time buyer. My T100 has sacrificial zinc plates on the rear body panels. The way I see it with a steel frame the entire F150 body aluminum could become sacrificial.

    Ford is really going out on a limb and I may have to eat a ton of crow one day. We will see. If they pull it off they will have lifted the bar so high they will drag all the manufacturers up along with them.

    I hear you on Ram, Ram has a history which they must overcome. I kind of like what I see in the Ram 1500. I need to dig more into the V6 to find out what history it has. It’s a simpler design then the EcoBoost. As for their milage claims tied to, front radiator louvers. Engine start/stop etc.,,,, not on my truck. I think they picked a good transmission. 25 MPG, yes if you stay on the freeway at 55 MPH and never stop, that’s a scam. I don’t really pay much attention to the MPG ratings. I know what it takes to move 5000 pounds and it’s combustion. Higher MPG means a lighter truck and a lighter truck becomes a fragile truck.

    As for the announced 3.0 L diesel, it will be expensive and EPA will force RAM to have UREA injection for the NO2 problems and it will surely have one of those particulate filter soot burn off systems. Don’t think I want to know what those will cost to replace. Diesel is expansive stuff which limits it’s market and I don’t pull heavy loads.

    The 5.7 Hemi is a solid engine and I have faith in the ZF 8speed trans. Just don’t know about the rest of the truck and those coil springs on the rear suspension. I’m still looking closely.

    GM, well, what can I say about GM, I’ll just skip GM and say nothing.


    Nissan. I can’t comment on Nissian as I have not spent much time looking into the Titan but to my knowledge it’s short bed only.

    I want the Tundra, standard cab V6, long bed. I keep writing to them and I hope they add a work truck to their lineup.

    First choice is Tundra, second is a plain (F150 or RAM 1500). Nissan has no long bed option. GM,,,,, what can I say about GM?

    As long as my T100 has only got body rust issues I can hold. That truck has been worth every penny of the 17000, I paid for it. With the exception of a sleazy dealer Toyota has sold me a solid product. I can always try another dealer, not that I expect it to be different.

    Still hoping for Toyota to come through even if it’s with an automatic transmission. I like many think very highly of the Tacoma, it’s just too small for real work.

  5. Mickey says:

    Larry working on that 250k miles. Currently at 155525 miles. I won’t make the 25 years. It will be way sooner than that. I’m glad for you that the T100 is working out for you. As for aluminum on steel the mixing of metals which I deal with daily. I work on subs like you mention uses zinc’s as the sacrifice metal for salt water on metal. Also many ships in the Navy had aluminum superstructures on steel hulls. It did make for intresting ways tyo combat corrosion along with rust on steel. Aluminum can’t take the flexibility needed to flex a ship. When I was on a Spruance class Destroyer the aluminum superstructure started ripping apart and had anywhere from 2 to 6 inch crack going from one side to the other. This was caused by my opinion replacing the old ASROC launcher with the tomahawk launcher. I do like the idea of Dodge’s ZF8 speed transmission. Toyota should get on the wagon with that idea. It would definitely increase the mpg’s they need.

  6. Larry says:

    Tim,

    This is a bit off topic with regard to plug issues but it’s still engine tech stuff.

    Take a look at the images related to the Ram Pentastar V6 engine especially the cam chain setup. The engine uses 2 chains, 1 chain drives both cams on each side. This is a much simpler chain path then on the Ford V6. Phasing of the Pentastar variable cam setup looks to be electric. With 1 chain driving each cam it might be the only way to do it. Don’t know about that idea, I will need to keep looking.

    http://www.pentastars.com/engines/tech.php

    So far I like what I see in the Pentastar over the Ford. It just looks simpler then the Ford. Right out of the gate I can tell you the Pentastar will have a rough time competing with the twin turbos of the EcoBoost motor. People are going to look at the 0-60 numbers and Ford is going to win out. I don’t know why people look at this stuff for trucks but they do.

    People here are Toyota fans so if anyone has web sites pointers to the same images for the Toyota motors I would like to see them.

    I know little about the GM V6 designs. I have done a lot of digging into the GM V8 variable displacement engine setup. GM also splits the engine into 4 cylinders each having different cam profiles which implement the Otto combustion cycle on 4 and the Atkinson cycle on the other 4. I don’t yet know the mechanics of the GM setup or how they manage the cam phasing. They have a cam in cam setup which is difficult to describe. Since I won’t buy GM I won’t spend much more time looking into it. At this point I know the Ram Hemi setup works and has a proven solid history, I don’t know about the GM durability.

    From what I am seeing up to this point, Toyota engines have yet to become this complex and this is not a bad thing. Durability is more important then fads. The big 3 have often rushed bad design to market and paid a heavy price along with the buyers. The old GM diesels were converted gas motor nightmares.

    Over the years Toyota engins have been as solid as they come. The old 4 cylinder and belt driven 3.0V6 motors seem to be indestructible. The need keep doing things right.

    • Larry – I think we’ll probably see variable valve lift added to Toyota engines before we see cylinder deactivation, mostly because it’s an “off the shelf” technology they use on other VVTi motors. Toyota is absolutely behind the curve on engine design, but as you say that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

      What’s more, if the rumors are true, Toyota’s fuel cell technology is a world beater. If they can develop an affordable fuel cell vehicle, they get a pass on advanced engine design in my book.

    • Larry,

      It is interesting you bring this up. I have heard many, many writers and industry “insiders” complaining about the new engine technologies that either are extremely complex and/or unproven. I thought it was interesting at the Detroit Auto Show that Ford broke down their engine parts into individual displays to explain each piece. They probably did this because the average Joe can’t figure them out anymore.

      And yet with all this “innovation” and new ideas, the MPG gains simply aren’t there. For example, Truck Trend just wrote a post on how the Ram 1500 and the Ford F-150 EcoBoost have the same EPA MPG numbers. http://www.trucktrend.com/feat.....index.html. And in real world testing by consumer groups, Toyota maintains that there trucks have the same MPG as the others.

      I would agrue that yes there are some guys who care about 0-60 times, but they are a minority with their super chargers and slick tires. For many truck buyers, it is storage room, riding comfort, MPG, towing capability and quality/reliability.

      I also agree with you and Mickey that Toyota SHOULD come out with an 8-speed transmission. Frankly, everybody else is doing it, for good reason, and Toyota is simply falling behind without it. My guess is that the 2016 model will have it.

      On the chains issue, it is interesting how complex it does make an engine look. And I am sure with your knowledge that having multiple chains isn’t good engineering. However, I am sure I could talk with Ford and Ram engineers who would convince me it is the only way to go.

      The reality to me is that these new technologies are simply unproven. So, if you are looking to keep a truck for a decade or longer (see: way past warranty) would you put your trust in new chains or old reliable Toyota. That is a big decision.

      When Mike Sweers tells me the Toyota 5.7L V8 is a solid, reliable engine that competes with the other “gimmicky” motors. Well, I believe him.

      -Tim

  7. Larry says:

    Tim,

    What you are saying is that you are closing in on some hard facts, we all are.

    Fuel economy has a basic issue of 14 parts air to 1 part fuel for gas. That’s it. Power requires fuel consumption. No question that modern high pressure direct fuel injection was needed to move us away from the old carburetor. Engine management computers handle the rest.

    Our other component is weight. We can’t do all that much with the wind load problems of a truck.

    So, the engines are much better, more efficient, cleaner. We can’t really lean out the fuel rations much more without hitting engine life. We can’t get much lighter. We should all notice that all this tech and light weight stuff is going into the 1/2 ton line of trucks. The 3/4 ton and up are in a different category. We can only make stuff so light and then it becomes fragile and that won’t work on a heavy industrial use truck.

    I’m sure the 8 speed trans is on the way.

    I work with composites in boat building. As I go lighter and replace glass fiber with kevlar and carbon, the price moves up right along with weight savings.

    I really think we are closing in on the upper end of efficiency for the piston engine. From here on the gains are going to be small.

    Take a look at the 4 cylinder engine on a simple aircraft. No spark advance, no real ignition system. Inefficient full power which wastes fuel for 2 minutes then we run the engine at 70 percent power 99 percent of the the time at that one sweet spot speed. Even the fuel mixture is managed manually by watching to see which cylinder temp peaks first. As we descend to where there is more air pressure we add fuel to bring down the exhaust gas temp as the combustion leans out. All manual and it never fails. Almost nothing to fail and our life depends on it. A broken timing belt on my car means I’m stuck. A broken belt on an aircraft and I might be dead. The move up to redundant ignition systems, turbos etc and the price of a 6 cylinder aircraft engine can go 100,000. Overhaul times of 2000 hours. Even the simple, stupid air cooled push rod magneto versions are 30,000. Lycoming and Continental will never implement anything like what is going on with EcoBoost. If they did they would be out of business after the crashes start occurring. I know of one person who has built a business on 2.5 and 3.0 Subaru firewall forward engine kits with great success but, this is the exception.

    On the ground we can take some chances but, I prefer to stay with simple less expensive durable over complex expensive if the savings are only a few percentage points on fuel economy. I am cheap to a fault. When my check engine light came on due to EGR trouble, I was too busy to deal with it. A service place wanted too much money to work on it. My solution was to fool the computer by placing a 10K ohm resistor in place and now the computer thinks EGR is there and A okay. That was 2 years ago, my engine has not burned up and it’s too old to worry about it, one of these days I will get around to replacing the EGR valve.

    GM really worked me over back in the 70s. Toyota has never done that. I will stay with Toyota if they build what I need. I won’t go back ever. When Toyota screws up and does not fix their problem, I will move on again.

    • Larry,

      Agreed! After the decades of experience with gasoline engines, I think engineers have tapped out their basic efficiency. Their are small items they can work on improving and that is primarily materials used. For example, a Chrysler spokesman was talking about the SRT Viper and how engineers went to an aluminum fly wheel (I believe that was the part). Anyway, it made the engineers nervous due to the amount of torque applied to this part and to move away from steel. They actually found it to be just as durable, saved weight and produced better HP results. Those small changes will be the “innovation” we will see. Like in the 2014 Toyota Tundra where they have reportedly adjusted the gearing ratios to improve MPG (that is the rumor anyway).

      I anticipate the rest of the savings will come from rather unexpected weight savings and efficiency. Like the use of advanced tires like the eVolve we recently wrote about, the Aerofins and tighter fits of body parts. I think the Jury is still out on whether more aluminum will have the best impact. I am very curious to see what the GM Twins MPG estimates will be. There use of aluminum throughout the truck is either going to be revolutionary or a terrible idea. The concern is that we won’t know for several years.

      The airplane thought is interesting as well. I’m surprised Boeing and other makers aren’t looking at other engine types. This is probably, like you said, related to safety. I know when I toured Boeing 6 years ago, they were really working on reducing weight. Their latest innovations were in the paint which surprisingly to me contributes a lot of weight to the aircraft.

      Like I have said in the past, I am not an engineer. I am though a truck consumer who is comparing all the models. Also, I am very interested in what happens this Fall. I can see the Toyota Tundra improving MPG by 1-2 miles through Aerofins, gearing ratios and tighter fit of body parts. I could also see the GM Twins coming out with some “shocking” fuel numbers as well as the base model Ram 1500. The Ram 1500 is interesting because they say it can get 25 mpg, however, the EPA said no. Ram took the truck, changed the computer programming a bit and recently sent the truck back to get “re-calibrated.” I’m following that story closely.

      And where does that leave the Ford EcoBoost? For all of its hoopla, it seems to be getting passed by from the other makers who are sticking with their old reliable technology. I remember Mike Sweers saying too me about the GM engine that once you take off all the fancy gimmicks it is still the same pushrod technology.

      It will be interesting to see how the next 6-8 months play out and how much more expensive the trucks get!

      -Tim

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