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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 10-11-2005, 12:51 PM
EAnton EAnton is offline
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5.4L Crate Engine Updates

Hi-

I just had a sparkplug blow out on my 1999 5.4L which has about 112K on it. From reading the forum here about spark plug blow outs, this is obviously a well known, and unfortunately, non-rare event for the 1997-2002(3?) Triton engines. Because the culprit is a poor cylinder head design I am not sure what is the best course for repair. I am considering my various options for repair including using aftermarket inserts, replacing the cylinder head, or replacing the engine with a crate engine. I am considering the crate engine option because I don't want to repair the one hole or one head to just have other one go out. The cost of the crate engine is ~$5500 installed, the cost of the cylinder head replacement is ~ $3200, and the cost of the insert kit is order $100 but it is the down time and the uncertainty of the insert repair (or for that matter the uncertainty of replacing the head with the similar casting) that could end up costing me even more. I contacted Ford about whether their crate engine for this vehicle would have updated cylinder heads (i.e, more threads in the spark plug holes) like the 2003+ years. Unfortunately they were not able to answer my question. Does anyone here know the answer or have any other suggestions?
Thanks.
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Old 10-11-2005, 12:56 PM
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Old 10-11-2005, 12:57 PM
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The timeser insert has been proven by many people on here to work great. I wouldn't replace the entire motor because a $1.50 spark plug blew out. Throw the insert in the head and be done with it. I dealt with this almost 2 years ago with out truck, and unfortunately we were away from home, and the only option was replacing the head.

The best option is to just put the timesert in.
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Old 10-11-2005, 01:15 PM
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I have never heard any conclusive proof about the cylinder heads being changed because of the spark-plug-blowout problems... If anyone has any, I'd be first in line to check it out

The only difference people have noted is the number of threads on the SPARK PLUG have been increased.

The 100K tuneup interval is the root cause of the spark-plug-blowout (among other things). If they were removed and re-torqued (and anti-siezed and sealed with dialectric grease) at 20K intervals the plug blowout problems would probably be mostly gone. And the rest would be solved by improved assembly-line quality-control on the plug torque.

Some of the plug blowouts were caused by leaky heater hose connections (the dreaded #4 (or #5 on a V10) misfire if left too long). Others are by the extremely long tuneup interval. Still others are caused by too much moisture getting down into the hole.

None of these situations has anything to do with the head design. Of course, putting inserts in instead of tapping the aluminum head would help somewhat

Using the timesert seems to be the general consensus on here, and no one has come back to report a problem with it afterwards.

I would suggest, if you go the timesert route, get the OTHER PLUGS changed and torqued correctly at the same time. Make sure they use anti-sieze and dialectric grease on everything.

art k.
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Old 10-11-2005, 01:19 PM
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I beg to disagree with you about the spark plug changes. I replaced the plugs on our truck at around 50k, and followed the isntructions to the letter, even whipped out the torque wrench. However, we still had a plug blow out of the head getting on the freeway heading home from a camping trip out west. I am firmly convinced that it is indeed a problem with cylinder head design, there are not enough threads to hold the plug in.
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Old 10-11-2005, 01:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by krewat
I have never heard any conclusive proof about the cylinder heads being changed because of the spark-plug-blowout problems... If anyone has any, I'd be first in line to check it out

The only difference people have noted is the number of threads on the SPARK PLUG have been increased.

art k.
An increase in the number of threads is proof that the heads have been changed. Ford may not acknowledge the change but that doesn't make it a fiction. They apparently have increased the number of threads in the spark plug holes on later (2003+?) heads.

I just got off the phone with one of the insert manufacturers and they indicated that this spark plug blow out is a major issue with the Triton design. They said that they sell a lot of the kits and even some dealers are starting to buy them. Fortunately, it sounds like the insert is a good repair option and I very much appreciate the posts suggesting to use it. Ford may do well to simply adopt their insert as a recall repair and be done with it as opposed to fight the apparently impending litigation on this issue.

Thanks again for the help!
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Old 10-13-2005, 01:27 PM
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I got the BigSert kit yesterday morning from www.timesert.com and had the insert finished by the afternoon. The engine fired right up and after a little rough running initially, it is running perfectly smooth. I was a little skeptical of whether it was going to work out but I followed all the tips and it just came together nicely.

Thanks again for the pointer!
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Old 10-13-2005, 03:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EAnton
An increase in the number of threads is proof that the heads have been changed. Ford may not acknowledge the change but that doesn't make it a fiction. They apparently have increased the number of threads in the spark plug holes on later (2003+?) heads.
A higher number of threads on the spark plug doesn't mean the heads were changed.

Just checked, the 6.8L heads are the same part # for 2000 through 2004.

The 5.4L heads are the same part # from 2002 through 2004.

Still haven't heard from anyone who can definitely say there is a redesign at any point.

I still say, if Ford would change the maintenance schedule to include cleaning/re-torquing the spark plugs every 20K we'd never have heard of this.
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Old 10-13-2005, 03:52 PM
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Again, taking from your own words,

"The 5.4L heads are the same part # from 2002 through 2004."

This seems to imply that something changed on the design after 2001. I indicated that I was not sure of the change date in my post by adding the "?" in my date of (2003+?). So it looks like I should have wrote 2002 instead. Having said that, I cannot get any confirmation from my local dealership about upgrades to heads - they have not returned my phone call. Also, I am not sure why cleaning/retorquing the plugs every 20K miles would solve anything. What is the rationale? If anything I think it would exacerbate the problem by stressing/overworking the already meager threads available in the head. Do you currently clean and retorque the plugs in your V10 every 20K?

I own two vehicles with the 5.4L engine (97' F250, 99' E250) and one with the 4.8L engine (01' E150). I have never changed the plugs in my F250 and now I don't think I want to do it until it is absolutely necessary. I have always put my trust in Ford products but this is a screw-up, just as the recent massive cruise control recall problem is (my F250 was subject to it). I am sure you won't hear anybody at Ford say it is a redesign issue until they are forced to do so - just as was the case with the cruise control issue - they denied it until it was just too overwhelming. I am not one to complain needlessly and I am not looking for anything from Ford except for them to learn from their mistakes and do a better job on designs so I continue to put my trust in Ford products with good reason. "Quality is Job #1" should not just be a cute slogan to make people feel good, it should be a reality. In the mean time, I am content with doing the Big-Sert repair myself so I keep my business going.
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Old 10-13-2005, 05:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EAnton
Also, I am not sure why cleaning/retorquing the plugs every 20K miles would solve anything. What is the rationale? If anything I think it would exacerbate the problem by stressing/overworking the already meager threads available in the head. Do you currently clean and retorque the plugs in your V10 every 20K?
The problem is usually when the plug stays in there a long time, with a bit of moisture, the iron and aluminum interact. That and the expansion and contraction (thermal cycling) eventually lead to a loose plug. After that, it's just a matter of time before it comes flying out.

I've been working with aluminum heads in motorcycles and British 4-cylinders, and now for the last 9 years, 4.6L modulars. They all exhibit the same problems. The iron in the plug and the aluminum in the head interact and eventually they come loose. No way an iron plug and aluminum head are going to stay "friendly" to each other after 100K miles.

One thing about the 2002-2004 dates for the heads. The V10 has the same problems with plug blowout, and they run from 2000-2004, no changes. I don't think the 5.4L's 2002 head change was because of spark plug threads, it was because of the tendency to leak OIL out the back/sides... But I have no real information about that.

Which is really my point, NO ONE can give me a straight answer as to whether the heads were updated to correct this. All YOU can do is say "the spark plugs are different, which means they updated the head" which is not really a valid way to tell. An updated Ford part # retroactive to 2000 would help.

I'm at 21K right now with my V10, and I have removed a COP or two here and there to check on the environmental conditions down there. Next weekend I will be changing the plugs and boots and doing the anti-sieze and torque.

I changed the plugs in my '96 4.6L t-bird at 20K miles, and more than one plug was starting to rust pretty good. From what I saw, and my 20+years of experience as a shade-tree mechanic, those plugs would have come out if I left them in for 50K miles, maybe even less. They were already much looser than the other plugs.

No biggee... keep your plugs in there forever, and let me know when you launch one I'll let you know if I launch one... Deal?

art k.
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Old 10-13-2005, 11:20 PM
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yes the heads are different. the new heads before the 3v release are called the "PI" heads they have more threads and the heads flow better which is why engiens with pi heads are rated at 260 hp compared to the 230 hp before PI>
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Old 10-14-2005, 11:04 AM
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Quote:
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yes the heads are different. the new heads before the 3v release are called the "PI" heads they have more threads
Did you actually count them? Or are you going by someone else's information?
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Old 10-14-2005, 05:27 PM
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there is a indepth step by step head swap here. in which the member compares the 2. the pi heads are a easy swap for bolt on power. what is which he did he swapped the non pi heads for the pi heads.
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Old 10-14-2005, 05:32 PM
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Old 10-15-2005, 11:51 AM
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Where in that link does it say anything about the threads being different?

I'm not doubting you, I'm just curious if Ford really did change it and if i have to worry about this with my 2000 5.4.


-paul
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Old 10-15-2005, 11:51 AM
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