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:
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.
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?