My 2004 5.4 started ticking from the right valve train a few thousand miles ago, loud enough to sound like an exhaust leak, but it was definitely coming from the valve train. Local mechanic wasn't willing to tear into it, so went to Ford. They confirmed that it's valve or lifter noise and called it 'not unreasonable' for a 5.4 with 60K miles on it. Wow, so sounding like a clapped out school bus is 'normal' after 60K. No wonder Ford is tanking in the marketplace...
Anyway, service manager said not to fix it now, because the 5.4s they worked on in the past for this were a mixed bag. Sometimes, replacing lifters fixed it, sometimes it also required valves, and one never did stop ticking until they replaced the whole motor. He said those engines are notoriously persnickety, and to just keep driving it until the noise becomes too annoying, then think about tearing into it.
I know from searching here that lots of folks have dealt with ticking 5.4s. Anyone just keep driving theirs with the tick? I'm wondering how long before I'm looking at an expensive repair...
2 years ago I personally put r/s lifters and cam phaser in my '05 5.4L for a ticking noise. It still sounds like a sewing machine in the summer after driving for a length of time. But it did quiet down a bit the rest of the year. Has to do with the oil passages in the r/s cyl. head. I can understand why your local guy wont touch it, if the camshaft is not set up properly the engine will be FUBARed seconds after starting.
Cam phazers.....If you stick your ear in the passenger front wheel well you'll hear it better. It's not a bad job, maybe 4 hours? You need to take both valve covers off and mark the timing chains before removing the old phazers. You also need a special tool to jam down between the front covers to keep the chain from falling back in. You'll need an A/C machine to recover the R-134 because you need to removed one of the lines from the accumulator to get the passenger side valve cover off. Pretty straight forward, just a lot of B/S to do it....
Was a little hesitant to post this as I don't recommend doing this, but at a suggestion by my mech. buddy who has heard the tick or tap on my truck for the last 80,000 miles or so (truck has 105,000 miles), told me to put 15w40 in it on the next oil change. Wasn't really comfortable doing this, I thought he had lost his mind. But he is a reeeeal good mechanic and has NEVER steered me wrong, so I did what he said and at the same time changed my plugs (second plug change on the truck), cleaned and recharged the Volant filter and unfortunately fixed a leaking rear axle seal. Anyway truck runs great (knock on wood) and that annoying tick is gone, and I mean completely. Will post update if anything bad happens as a result of this strategy for eliminating the tap or tick on these 5.4's
Some fleet vehicle shops use the 15W/40 oil on their cars and trucks. It is a cleaner detergent oil that removes carbon buildup in diesel engines. Most of their fleet vehicles run for 200,000 or more miles.
I started using Rottella 15W/40 on my old Jeep(AMC 360) when, I heard that they took all the ZDDP out of the typical stuff such as Valvoline. I did it because it was supposed to prolong the life of hydraulic lifter cams in pushrod engines. I never had a problem, and I had better oil pressure than ever(not high though). Of course there is a big difference between an AMC 360 and a Ford 5.4 Liter, but If it would get rid of the noise without harming anything it's worth it, because I can here that damn noise over my exhaust at idle. I think I read somewhere that the cats can also make similar noises, don't know though.
1) The reason ZDDP was removed from gas engine motor oils is that it plugs catalytic converters. You can't find a straight answer on how long that takes... a lot depends on how much oil blows past the rings. The OEs basically pushed for it because they have to warrant the cats for so long.
2) The cam timing mechanisms on the Ford Modulars are calibrated for a light oil (5W20 and 5W30). I'm told by Ford corporate engineering sources that a high viscosity oil will alter how those parts operate. To what degree, I'm not sure, but I am trying to find out. Based on what I know about oil, if you ran a 15W40 in a very hot climate, whatever bad effect there are would be minimal, if at all apparent. If you ran in a cool climate, the oil might never get warm enough to reach it's rated viscosity (it has to reach 210 degrees F (about 100C)to get to it's rated viscosity). Lots of research to do here, but bear this possibility in mind.
3) High ZDDP motor oils are most necessary with flat tappet engines. OHC or roller cam engines, not so much. What I'd want to know about the example cited by Mitch150 is: Was it the high viscosity oil that masked the noise (Heavier oil does not usually quiet lifters but it can reduce piston slap) or did the ZDDP additives have something to do with it (by freeing up a sticky part)? Mitch, maybe you should try a 10W30 diesel rated oil at the next change and see if the noise stays away. You'd be closer to the right viscosity and then you'd see. Shell Rotella-T 10W30 is readily available here in Ohio. Chevron Delo 400 10W30 is also made but is a bit harder to find. After that, you could try a 5W30 and see. Then maybe drop back to the specified 5W20. It would be an interesting experiment and we'd all learn something from it.