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Old 06-21-2010, 10:22 PM   #1
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Default 5.4L 3V Spark Plugs Engine Build Dates before 10/09/07

If you haven't seen any threads about changing the spark plugs in your 5.4L 3V 04-08, you haven't been here very long. Over the past few months, I've tried to educate myself on the issue, and I figured it was time for a thread that addressed everyone's questions. I'll try to stick to the facts, with a short "IMHO" section at the end.

For those of you wondering why a simple spark plug change gets so much attention, imagine starting a plug change and ending up removing plugs that look like this after hours of labor and waiting to receive some special tools:
Click the image to open in full size.

The culprit is a specially designed spark plug (and the head that recieves it) that is commonly referred to as a "two piece" plug, due to the lower shaft that is crimped to the body of the plug (the broken piece in the above picture). Carbon deposits develop between this lower shaft and the surrounding head, locking the lower piece in place. When you remove the plug, the torque breaks the lower piece off. Ford changed the plug and head design starting with the 11/30/07 engine build date, correcting the issue. Unfortunately the new plugs require the new heads, and as such are not backwards compatible.

Over the years, Ford has developed a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) to instruct techs on the best way to remove the plugs without breakage. The TSB has been revised a few times, and has become TSB 08-7-6. Read it in full text with pictures and diagrams here: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&sourc...VMxmGtvs01omxg

Dealer's have figured out that the spark plugs break, and you'll find most members here get quotes to change their plugs of a flat amount + an amount per plug. As you can see, this is different than the actual Ford "book" values of:
Base spark plug removal: 1.4 hrs Warranty / 2.2 hrs Standard
Broken plug extraction: Actual hours worked
These quotes can range from $270 with no broken plugs, to upward of a grand with all 8 broken (unlikely)

A number of members have followed the TSB and successfully removed and replaced their plugs. It is highly recommended to have both extraction (electrode and porcelain) on hand. Several companies make the tools: Rotunda (Ford OEM), Snap-on, Lisle, Ktool, etc. Prices vary, my Ktool kit was around $60 for both at rockauto.com.

The penetrant used to perform the TSB (Motorcraft carb cleaner in the TSB) can be substituted with others, PB Blaster tends to be a favorite on the forums.

Although I haven't seen any evidence that it definitely works, a lot of guys will use a combustion chamber cleaner like Seafoam in the weeks leading up to the change in an attempt to remove some of the carbon (I am a Seafoam user).

NOTE, THERE IS SOME CONTROVERSIAL INFO IN THIS SECTION:

Now that all that's out there, on to the replacement plugs. Despite what you'll read in some ill-informed posts, the Motorcraft replacement plugs are still two piece. From what I've read, the Autolite is the manufacturer for Motorcraft, and are also two piece.

There are two choices for one piece replacement plugs, Champion and Brisk.
Champions claim to be a one piece "improved OEM" replacement, and are double platinum like the MCs. There have been concerns with Champion's quality control and reports of early fouling with the plugs (this is what I've heard, not personal experience)
The Brisk plugs are racing plugs, and while one piece, are not double platinum, members have reported significantly shorter plug life (from 10k-25k) with these plugs.

IMHO SECTION:
I wouldn't rush to change your plugs earlier than the 100k recommended by Ford, unless you experience spark related mechanical issues. By all means, if you're the preventative type, go for it at 50k, you may spend some more (a set of Motorcrafts is around $60) but your truck will stay in tip top shape.

I personally am using Motorcraft replacement plugs. I trust Motorcraft for its value and the fact that it is Ford OEM. I am going to Seafoam for weeks before through the gas tank (in progress) and probably Seafoam the crankcase through the vacuum system right before removing. I'll have the Ktool extraction sets on hand, and I'll plan on 8 hours worse case. I'm sure there will be much profanity in the garage, and I'll go through several cold ones.

Well there you go, I hope this helps explain the basics to those of you that were unaware of the issue.

Bucko, good enough for a Sticky?
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Last edited by Bucko; 08-13-2010 at 06:16 AM. Reason: Corrected date for engine build dates
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Old 06-22-2010, 06:53 AM   #2
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Excellent work GATORB8. This is a great link to point folks to as a reference. We can monitor it's responses for acuracy (I'll leave that to you GATORB8). If there is any wrong information posted as a response, we can delete it.

Eventually we can add it to CRASHTech's " Stop! Before you post Read this! Common useful links! ", but for now I think it being it's own sticky will help many who ask about this subject.

PLEASE NOTE: I WILL DELETE POSTS ON THIS STICKY THAT DO NOT STICK TO THE TOPIC OF SPARK PLUGS, ARE TESTIMONIALS, OR ARE QUESTIONS (please post seperately and not within this sticky). THEY WILL BE DELETED. We want to keep this sticky as an informational post, and not have to sort through posts.

While there are other stickys that allow questions within them, they are more "personal builds" and not for directly for technical information such as this sticky.

Thanks for doing the thread GATORB8.
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Last edited by Bucko; 12-29-2010 at 01:45 PM.
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Old 06-22-2010, 05:11 PM   #3
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Just for informational purposes Ford does recommend 60,000 plug changes for certain applications.

20266 2004-2008 F150/2006-2008 MARK LT/2005-2008 EXPEDITION/NAVIGATOR/F-SUPER DUTY 5.4L 3V ENGINE - MISC DRIVABILITY CONCERNS/VERIFY SCHEDULED MAINTENANCE COMPLETE
SOME 2004-2008 F150 / 2006-2008 MARK LT / 2005-2008 EXPEDITION/NAVIGATOR/F-SUPER DUTY VEHICLES WITH 5.4L 3V ENGINE WITH GREATER THAN 60,000 MILES, THAT ARE SUBJECTED TO SPECIAL OPERATING CONDITIONS, MAY EXHIBIT MISFIRE DTCS AND IGNITION SYSTEM RELATED DRIVABILITY CONCERNS UNDER HIGH-LOAD OR WIDE OPEN THROTTLE (WOT). SPECIAL OPERATING CONDITIONS ARE DEFINED AS EXTENSIVE IDLING AND/OR LOW-SPEED DRIVING FOR LONG DISTANCES AS IN HEAVY COMMERCIAL USE SUCH AS DELIVERY, HEAVY TOWING, TAXI, PATROL CAR OR LIVERY. BEFORE ATTEMPTING REPAIRS, VERIFY RECOMMENDED 60,000 MILE SCHEDULED MAINTENANCE SERVICE HAS BEEN PERFORMED WHICH INCLUDES SPARK PLUG REPLACEMENT. REFER TO TSB 08-07-06 WHICH PROVIDES UPDATED SPARK PLUG REMOVAL PROCEDURE. IF SPARK PLUG REPLACEMENT DOES NOT CORRECT THE CONDITION CONTINUE WITH NORMAL PC/ED DIAGNOSTIC ROUTINES.
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Old 06-23-2010, 08:12 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1997XLT View Post
where do you get the engine build date, is it the same as the sticker inside the drivers door jam?
Remember this only affects 04 (non heritage)+ which have the 3 valve version of the 5.4L, 97-04H had 5.4L 2V.

Per the TSB: The engine build date can be read on the left hand
cam cover information sticker.
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Old 06-23-2010, 08:43 AM   #5
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http://www.flatratetech.com/index.php?categoryid=4 Check out episode 26
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Old 06-23-2010, 05:52 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GATORB8 View Post
Remember this only affects 04 (non heritage)+ which have the 3 valve version of the 5.4L, 97-04H had 5.4L 2V.

Per the TSB: The engine build date can be read on the left hand
cam cover information sticker.
Thanks. And yea, i know it doesnt affect my '97. Just intersted in knowing because I am looking for a newer truck and would like to get one with the updated plugs.
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Old 06-23-2010, 07:25 PM   #7
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so why did it take ford so long to fix this problem and is there any type of recall? I have always done all my own maintenance on my vehicles but since I've been reading about these plugs I am kinda worried about it I just rolled 90,000 miles so it almost time for me to do mine.
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Old 06-24-2010, 10:44 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jake04f150 View Post
so why did it take ford so long to fix this problem and is there any type of recall? I have always done all my own maintenance on my vehicles but since I've been reading about these plugs I am kinda worried about it I just rolled 90,000 miles so it almost time for me to do mine.

By the time a company finds out it has a problem like this........ Not noticed untill many of the first engines have 100,000 miles..... Then it takes multiple upon multiple issues with plug breakage....... Why would they fix it?

It would be good to save face... But realize that most of the general buying public has absolutely no clue about this issue.. It is a maintance issue- the plugs are hard to change- It is not a safety issue- it is not a mechanical issue in the sense that it will not hurt the engine in any form.

It would be like replacing mufflers because they had a batch that would rust out at 90,000 miles....

A lot of the owners who originally bought these vehicles did not deal with this issue because they were trading up before 100,000.

For the most part if it isn't broke- don't fix it- While a design change was needed- there was no real reason to recall a maintance item.
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Old 06-28-2010, 12:12 AM   #9
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FWIW the Lisle tool is VERY easy to use and after you get the first broken one out, the other broken ones will take almost no time unless they are one of the rear 2 on the passenger or the rear on the driver side. After soaking, I had 3 plugs break with the porcelain staying in the broken end. With the Matco tool (same as the Lisle as far as I can tell) the first broken plug took about 15 mins to remove. The other two took a total of 5 minutes to get out. I went with the original 2 piece plugs at $7.50 each vs $20 a plug for the one piece motorcraft plugs. If you coat the plug properly with anti-seize you shouldn't have a problem the next time.
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Old 06-30-2010, 10:24 AM   #10
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My Question is if any of you guys that are having problems with spark plugs braking off in the heads only run on regular gas. I have a 07 with 35,000 and I am able to run E-85 also so I was just wondering if that could have a different affect on removing plugs ? I found out about this problem about 3 mts after I bought my Truck... Love the truck but wondeing if I should go ahead and change them before I get to many more miles on it...
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