Ford Triton V8 Spark Plug Information & How To Repair Various Problems

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SKILL LEVEL: Above Average – This repair requires a strong knowledge & experience level of auto repair and may be best done by an ASE certified auto technician.

If you own a Ford Truck made before 2007 and you ever got a very high quote to simply replace spark plugs, then this article is for you. Any shop worth its salt knows full well the issues with trying to remove spark plugs form the Triton V8 3-Valve engine and they will quote it accordingly. They also know that if you attempt to do this job yourself, you will most likely be back to their shop for a much more expensive job of removing or repairing the cylinder heads. The simple fact is that almost every time you attempt to remove these spark plugs, at least one of them breaks off into the cylinder head or worse the threads from the cylinder head are damaged or come out with the spark plug. This article explains the extremely common spark plug problems on Ford V8 engines. Their are 2 different issues to address: The first is one or more spark plug(s) broken off or stuck in the cylinder head, The 2nd is the spark plug has blown out of the cylinder head and/or the threads are stripped or pulled out.

The image below shows a spark plug(in the red circle) broken off inside the cylinder head

Broken spark plug in a Ford F150 Triton V8

Issue #1: Spark plug(s) stuck in cylinder head or broken off.

The OE extended spark plugs on these trucks are very long and the threads are not attached to the body of the spark plug which allows the spark plug to twist from the torque of trying to unscrew it from the cylinder head. This issue normally pops up when spark plugs are being removed & replaced for normal maintenance or misfire problem. Ford’s recommended replacement interval for spark plugs on most all of these affected vehicles is 100,000 miles. My own personal opinion is that waiting until 100,000 miles is asking for trouble and I believe waiting that long contributes to these spark plug problems. A spark plug goes through trillions & trillions of cycles during a 30,000 mile period, imagine how much abuse they go through in 100,000 miles. We see most trucks coming in with a misfire problem at around 60,000-90,000 miles. Also the cylinder head is aluminum, the spark plug has steel and other components and the 2 dissimilar metals will lead to corrosion. Every time I remove spark plugs from one of these Ford engines, the threads of the spark plugs are rusty & the base of the spark plug is rusty. The other thing that leads to these breaking off is that the OE spark plug is a 2 piece design and you can see from the images below the difference. This 2-piece design and waiting to 100,000 miles allows excessive carbon deposits to buildup between the lower electrode of the plug & the upper body of the plug.

motorcraft spark plug vs champion solid one piece design

Champion makes a spark plug that is 1 piece and while you should always try to put OE back on, In this case you may want to consider switching to Champion for their 1 piece design. So with all of that said, If you change your plugs at 30K intervals, you have a much better chance of avoiding the plugs breaking and you may even prolong the life of your ignition coils too.

Recommended steps to try and remove plugs without breaking them:

1. CHANGE THEM EARLY, Do not wait until 100K or until you have a misfire. I do a full tune up on my own truck at 30,000 miles. Of course I enjoy doing this type of work and don’t mind at all.

2. Let the vehicle cool, Ford specifically calls out in their TSB to allow the engine to fully cool and do not attempt spark plug removal on a hot engine. Soak all the spark plugs with a good carb/throttle body cleaner, the goal is for the carbon cleaner to weaken the carbon buildup that naturally occurs on the spark plugs, Spray all around the base of the spark plug and then let is sit for about an hour or more, Repeat as necessary, You can do this the night before and then again the morning of just to help get as much penetration as possible. A high quality penetrating oil should be used next like Aerokroil or PB-Blaster

3. Attempt to loosen each plug very carefully only about 1/4 turn. Use premium good quality tools that allow you to get a good solid strong and square position on each spark plug. Once you have them each 1/4 turn loose, then spray more penetrating oil and let it sit, This may sound like a pain, but if you can get the plugs out without them breaking, you have avoided some serious frustration and cost. The passenger side of the engine is where most breakage occurs so pay special attention their.

4. If a spark plug breaks and it usually will if you wait until 100K, then you will need one of these kits to remove the rest of it from the cylinder head. I have used the Lisle 65600 and it worked like a charm and it only took about 15 minutes. Dorman 42045 is similar, however I have not yet used that one and cannot say how it works but lots of them sell.

Issue #2. Spark plugs are loose or actually blow right out of the cylinder head and typically strip or pull the threads out with them.

Believe it or not this actually happens and it happens very often. Typical symptoms include very loud exhaust popping noise coming from the engine bay area, immediate misfire, and very likely a check engine light will follow shortly their after. Oh and one more symptom is that their is probably a spark plug or pieces of a spark plug laying around in your engine bay somewhere and your ignition coil may or may not still be attached to the top of that spark plug. Look at the coil tower next to the missing spark plug and the retaining bolt and a small piece of the ignition coil are probably still their. Ford has issued a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) #: 07-21-2 which replaces TSB #: 7-15-2, This TSB explains that Ford has an authorized repair kit available so you can repair the stripped or missing threads inside the cylinder head instead of replacing the cylinder head. Below we have listed the expensive Ford authorized kit & the much cheaper aftermarket ones available.

Tools Needed:

Ford Authorized Repair Kit: Rotunda 302-00001 – Very Expensive

Aftermarket Repair Kits Available:

TimeSert 5553 – Professional Kit

NOT FINISHED, MORE TO COME

Joel

ASE Certified Auto Technician 16+ Years Of Auto Repair Experience

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15 Responses

  1. john anthony says:

    i have a ford 3 valve triton when removing the plugs i did the overnight thing but have 2 plugs with the complete porcelain still in the cylinder head the thread and collar came out right over the rest of the plug, the lisle tool says the plug must be broken off the rotunda kit has a gluing kit that is supposed to work for this. i can’t seem to find one elsewhere, any comments or ideas would be appreciated

  2. semi repair says:

    Hello there, You have performed a fantastic job. I?ll certainly digg it and for my part suggest to my friends. I’m confident they’ll be benefited from this site.

  3. STEVE WINKLER says:

    I HAVE A PROBLEM LIKE ISSUE ONE, PROBLEM IS THE LISLE TOOL WILL NOT GRIP IN THE STAINLESS PORTION STILL IN THE HEAD.BACK PLUG ON DRIVERS SIDE,6 OF THE 8 BROKE,AND WERE REMOVED EXCEPT LAST ONE. ANY SUGGESTIONS? HAVE EVEN TRIED ANOTHER TOOL USING A LONG TAP,WHICH WILL NOT START.PURCHASED A BRAND NEW LISLE TOOL AN IT WILL TRY TO GRIP BUT WILL NOT HOLD.HAVE BEEN A GEAR HEAD AN WORK ON MOTORS FOR A LONG TIME ONY SOLUTION I SEE IS TO PULL HEAD

  4. fieroruss says:

    make sure you use the first part of the lisle tool to push the porcline down as far as it goes.the second part of the tool should grab the sleeve.DO NOT BANG OR TAP THE PORCLINE DOWN IT CAN LAND IN CYLINDER AND CAUSE MORE DAMAGE.the tool does get dull it works on about 10 plugs.save recept or by off tool truck they will warranty it. all the other steps are very helpful to avoid this problem in the first place.carbon remover bp blaster the day before ect…

  5. steve says:

    does the motorcraft sp-515 spark plug one piece or is it intwo or more pieces like the oem spark plugs? i see all over the internet its the best spark plug to put in the 5.4 liter triton.

  6. Bill Ables says:

    I am going to sell my 2008 Ford F150 I refuse to pay that kind of money to change my spark plugs. I have been a ford owner for the last 15 years. Ford get your ct together.

  7. Levi says:

    I have a 06 f150 5.4 changed all of the plugs on passenger side of the engine and now I have the number 6 plug broken I used tool to remove it it gripped it once and when I went to tighten the nut on the extractor it pulled all the threads that the puller had cut and now will not bite again I’m completely lost what should I do please help

  8. Jerry says:

    I have the same problem as Steve winkler and Levi.
    I used the NAPA tool, which is a relabled lisle tool. The Tool worked perfect on the first two plugs, the 3rd it just would not grab. I noticed the threads were dull and exchanged it, the new tool tried to grab for a second then pulled out and will not grip again.

    I have read of using a Dremel to cut longitudinal cuts in the threads to make it more like a tap. Anyone else had luck with this? I fear I won’t be able to exchange/warranty the tool after doing this.

    Thanks

  9. Bret Coffey says:

    Ford states that the engine should be cold. I find that hard to believe. I remember trying to get the oil drain plug out of my 900 Kawasaki motorcycle. It had an aluminum oil pan and a steel plug. With the motor cold it would not budge. Kawasaki recommended worming the engine first. Then plug came out like a normal plug would. I believe the ford has aluminum heads do they not? And the spark plug is steel is it not?

    Secondly; as a maintenance man I routinely had to replace the faucet spout aerator on many old faucets. The aerator is the tip with the screen on the faucet spout.
    Most of them were so rotted on that they wouldn’t budge. I broke off a few before I finally found a method that worked every time. I finally realized what was happening. When I put the pliers on the aerator and squeezed it was bending the aerator into an oval shape thus making it resistant to loosening. I found that if I continually moved the pliers and applied little pressure at various points that the aerator would come loose. You had to be careful not to squeeze too hard. This may be what is happing with the spark plug. The plug itself is so weak that it is becoming egg shaped instead of round and thus resistant to loosening and twisting off. Move the plug wrench around the plug and apply little pressure. Start at 3 O Clock, give a little tug, then move to 9 O Clock give a little tug, then move to 6 then 12. Increase pressure and repeat cycle until plug break loose. Do not force it. Soak plugs in advance, and if that don’t work, I would try worming the engine.

    I haven’t had the pleasure of trying this on the Ford spark plugs, but when I find stubborn bolts or nuts that are rusted and won’t come off, this method works wonders.

  10. boatman says:

    but the consensus is to have a hot engine and use an impact set on 250lbs and any associated extensions or universals…burb the gun in bursts.

    many fewer plugs are broken with this method it is reported by many people.

    there is a youtube on this.

    http://www.ford-trucks.com/forums/1146243-5-4v8-dreadful-spark-plug-issue-solved-4.html

  11. Walt Hively says:

    My wife and I are getting ready to go through this. We have a lot of Ford “Stock”, so we are pretty Pissed about this. They should have stepped up to the plate on this one. I am going to put anti-seize compound on them, and recheck torque at every oil change. also going with the Champions.

  12. Keith Smith says:

    I am having the same problem john anthony had in 2011. the collar that holds the plug in the engine cam all the way off the plug . The rest of the plug is still in the engine. It is the back drivers side plug. Can it be removed with out removing the cylinder head?

    Thanks

  13. Michael T says:

    @Keith – I’m sure you’ve already dealt with your issue, but in case anyone else is listening:

    In some cases (such as yours) the nut collar will in fact separate from the plug. It gives the feeling that it is loosening infinitely since it is spinning freely. In this case, a long set of needle nose pliers (say, 13″) can be used to pull the plug innards from the spark plug bore.

    While you will still need to pull the tip out—using the magical Lisle 65600—with a little effort the bulk of the plug along with the electrode can be removed by pulling directly on the topmost portion (aka connector tip) of the plug.

    Note: In my case, I first removed the nut collar from the plug body prior to extraction of the body. (Obviously, both were done before attempting removal of the base.) And, yes, you must physically pluck the spark plug out of its base, which is lodged in the bore as described in the article.

  14. scott says:

    After break the first spark plug i tried to remove last year. I purchase the recommend extractor and successfully extract the broken tip. One year later after my ruck began to run rough,so I have finally decided to attempt to change the spark plugs in my 2006 ford expedition. I have read fords TSB and read many post on the topic. After watching hot spark plug extraction performed on two different U-Tube videos. I decided this was the best path for success and it was. I removed all 7 remaining sparks plug without break any. Bring engine to operating temp, removed the spark plugs with a 3/8 impact gun. I am not a mechanic, but have always performed most of the routine maint. on all of my vehicles. I refused to pay ford $800-$1000 to change spark plugs. We did celebrate by drinking a beer after every plug…. WOW.. Much easier then i ever expected. Please note, I did run Seafoam engine cleaner prior to starting this project.

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