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Old 12-23-2010, 01:32 AM   #1
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F150 gas-powered maintenance...

My F150 5.4L with 83k miles on it has been misbehaving lately. It's been setting O2 trouble codes. I looked underneath and found the forward O2 sensor before the driver side cat had a badly positioned cable. This meant the wire had rested against the 4WD driveshaft, the insulation had worn through, and the sensor output wire had shorted intermittently to the driveshaft. This was causing the ECM to flip out, alternating from lean to rich and back as the wire shorted.

Apparently, this is not uncommon.

If anyone else has a 4WD F150, they might like to check and, if necessary, reposition the wires.

I identified the replacement O2 sensor for $79.99 at Autozone, then found the same Bosch part number on Amazon for $36 with free shipping.

I've traditionally replaced O2 sensors every 100,000 miles anyway.

I was wondering what less obvious maintenance issues others have had with their 2004-2011 F150s?

For example, Ford lists the transmission fluid as "good for the lifetime of the transmission" but I have replaced it twice so far as it was starting to break down. I'm also debating replacing the differential oil at 100,000 and so forth.
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Old 12-23-2010, 05:05 AM   #2
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Dave,
I don't have a 4x4 or the 5.4l engine, however I have driven multiple Ford pickups to over the the 300,000 mile mark.

I change oil and oil filter every 5,000 miles. I change the air filter every 10,000 miles. Every 50,000 transmission, rear end fluids, and fuel filter(s) as well as a radiator flush and fluid change. Tires get rotated a couple of times a year when the mood strikes.

I have had Ford pickups since 1978 and have driven 6 of them to over 300k miles. Currently have two; the 2003 has 180,000 on it and the 1996 PSD has 141,000.

Only "problem" I had was my 1997 4.2l V-6 had to have a new radiator every 100,000 miles, never figured that one out.

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Old 12-23-2010, 05:11 AM   #3
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Thanks for the heads-up. I'm going to crawl under and check my O2 cables.

My rotors were just slightly warped so when it came time to do brakes I replaced my front rotors with the PowerSlot brand combined with Hawk pads. I had that combo on my old Excursion and won't ever need to worry about warped rotors again. The brake job on the F-150 is a cinch.

The big issue with this truck are the spark plugs. They're fancy 2-piece plugs that extend into the combustion chamber to provide a cleaner and more efficient ignition. It's actually a really good idea, but carbon gets deposited on the sides of the plug over the course of 100,000 miles. Then it takes so much torque to get them out that they break off and leave the bottom half of the plug in the head.

Ford has come up with a good technical service bulletin describing how to back the plug out an eighth of a turn, spray solvent around the plug and let it soak, etc. etc.

In the end, you're faced with a very expensive plug swap. Most places I've called charge around $400 plus $80 in extra labor for any that break off.

Champion has a single-piece replacement that won't break but they're about $14 each. I ordered mine online and will have the local garage do the labor after the holidays. I'm also having them change the transmission fluid since I'm at 70,000 miles (45,000 towing) and it hasn't been done yet.
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Old 12-23-2010, 07:15 AM   #4
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I also drive an F150 (1999 with a 4.6 litre and 180,000 km/115,000 miles) and have always exceeded manufacturers recommended change intervals for transmission, front & rear differential, transfer case, brake and engine oil. Plus I use full synthetic engine oil and best quality lubricants in other components.

Inspections at maintenance times often come with the feedback that "the inside of the differential (or whatever part) looks just like new". I believe that overall maintenance is cheap, it's unexpected repairs that are expensive!
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Old 12-23-2010, 07:55 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TinLoaf View Post
The big issue with this truck are the spark plugs.
I have read on this and heard a couple of friends' reports - 3 of 8 broke with one, and cost $1,200 to replace. I don't have any failed plugs or coil packs, so I have decided to drive through until such a time as I know I can have $1500 or so set aside, then do it myself in the knowledge I can get back-up if needed.

I have this handy service document bookmarked for when that time comes.

I'd much rather spend $112 on modified plugs than replace faulty design plugs with the same thing.
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Old 12-23-2010, 08:04 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Park View Post
I'd much rather spend $112 on modified plugs than replace faulty design plugs with the same thing.
I'm not so certain the plugs are faulty. When they were designed nobody expected them to take so much torque to remove.

I've put a lot of thought into this. Right now you torque the heck out of them and they break off. You use Ford's tool to extract what remains. It's a lot of labor, but it works.

You're still going to have to torque the heck out of the new Champion single piece plugs when the time comes. Those won't break off. So what's going to happen? You're going to strip your spark plug threads and really be screwed.

I'm almost thinking I'd rather have the plug that breaks.
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Old 12-23-2010, 08:06 AM   #7
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As I understand it, the problem with the plugs is stripping the holes in the heads. if this happens you have to lift the body of the frame to remove the heads. This happened to one of our F150's at work. In our case the dealer was doing the work and shared in the cost with Ford to make it right.
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Old 12-23-2010, 08:25 AM   #8
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The problem is two-fold.

The spark plug is a 2-part design, with a long neck extending the spark plug into the central chamber. This metal shroud can separate from the ceramic of the plug with about 30-40 ft-lbs of torque.

The shaft gets coated in carbon deposits, which harden. This increases the ft-lbs of torque required to remove the plug beyond its design limits.

There are aftermarket plugs that meet the OEM 2-part design, and more expensive plugs that make the shroud a single part including the hex head. The latter type prevents the problem from recurring.

Tritons are also inclined to spit plugs due to the narrow depth of the thread. This is a separate issue, and was greatly improved in the 2004 onwards versions of the 5.4L Triton.
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Old 12-23-2010, 07:13 PM   #9
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My folks had a fancy V6 Oldsmobile (Aurora V8 based) with super deep plugs. Iridium. I found the DELCO parts on discount at a Cadillac dealer. Installed plugs in usual manner with anti-seize on upper threads (all of this at 80k on 100k plugs) as I've done forever with engines. Just a bit of the copper-based stuff, well away from electrodes (and threads exposed to combustion chamber) after cleaning threads with proper tool.

Wouldn't this also be applicable to these Fords?
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Old 12-23-2010, 08:44 PM   #10
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Back in the 1980s I worked in a machine shop. Even then, Ford factory plugs were notorious for breaking off in the heads, rivaled only by Stitt. We were a Minneapolis-Moline dealership. They came with Stitt plugs in them. We removed the Stitts and threw them in the trash before we ever ran a new engine. I got really proficient at removing broken off sparks plugs from a Moline HD-800 without removing the head.

The Ford plugs were in auto or pickup heads and came into the machine shop already removed. They were still a pain to deal with, but the technique used for the HD-800 wouldn't work on the smaller automotive plugs.

When I changed the plugs in my 2000 F150 5.4 I went with Bosch Platinum Plus. Champion also makes a good product and was my choice for many years. As far as I'm concerned, you can't get Autolite, Motorcraft, or whatever Ford calls them out fast enough.

I agree, anti-seize is critical. Especially with aluminum heads. I buy it by the bottle, not the tube.
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Old 12-23-2010, 08:57 PM   #11
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Are there any products that can effectively de-coke a cylinder chamber just by running it, or is that an old wive's tale?

How do you change ALL of the transmission fluid on an F150 4R75E transmission?

Are the front and rear oxygen sensors really interchangeable? If not, why not? (I note some OEM fit replacements fit either position and some specify up or downstream.)

The big truck pushers give the F150 short shrift for the rear end, but don't realize that the rear axle and suspension from 2004 onwards is mostly the same design as the F250 super duty rear axle and suspension, except for the hubs/bearings.
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Old 12-24-2010, 06:26 AM   #12
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Are there any products that can effectively de-coke a cylinder chamber just by running it, or is that an old wive's tale?


We used to dribble water from a glass Coke bottle into carbs ar high rpm (1-2k) prior to changing spark plugs. I've seen threads on modern cars talk about using the brake vacuum booster line to the intake manifold and Marvel Mystery Oil introduced slowly (see BobIsTheOilGuy site).

I like using AUTO-Rx for engine internal cleaning, as well as LUBE CONTROL LC-20 and FUEL POWER FP-60 additives. Have had improved oil analysis reports as a result (among other experience).

The only way to change all the fluid on a trans is to remove the torque converter. Otherwise, a trans flush machine (see above site, some machines are not recommended).

I wouldn't change 02 sensors unless a code problem developed. The dealer and aftermarket parts likely do not have the emissions-life critical quality of the assembly line. There are plenty of vehicle that do not change them well past 100k. Failure of them is often related to other problems that should have been fixed first (in general).

If a rear axle is considered a problem, then there are plenty of boneyards with inexpensive rear axle assemblies waiting.
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