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DATE News (chronologically)
03/13/12
automotive
Ford engine design costing owners big money
The owners of millions of Ford-150s and other top Ford models are paying up to thousands of dollars each just to replace spark plugs, in a problem emerging across the country as vehicles reach the recommended mileage for routine maintenance.

The culprit lies in a design Ford used in eight models between 2004 and 2008. Mechanics at Ford dealerships and independent auto shops say the plugs are prone to breaking even when the most expert mechanic does the work, with the risk of shards landing in the engine cylinder, requiring engine removal on rare occasions. Because the job is more complex, shops are charging more labor time to replace spark plugs, with additional costs for each of the eight plugs that break. Owners are reporting spending up to $2,200 for a job many say they could do themselves for under $50 on other auto models.

Ford is aware of the issue and has written special instructions to mechanics on how to remove the plugs.

Ford also invented a special tool to reach and remove the bottom of the spark plug that remains stuck deep in the engine in cases where the top half breaks off. Ford refused an interview on camera but told us it considers the breakages a “routine service matter.”

The models impacted include the 2004 to 2008 F-150s, which Ford calls the top selling truck in America, as well as the 2005-2008 Mustang, F-Super Duty Expedition and Lincoln Navigator; the 2006-2008 Explorer, Lincoln Mark LT and Mercury Mountaineer; and the 2007-2008 Explorer Sport Trac.

While some owners and mechanics have known about the breakages for years, most owners only now are discovering the issue because they are following Ford’s recommendation to change the plugs when the vehicle reaches 100,000 miles.

Steve Creamer says he always has changed his own spark plugs, averaging under $30 plus an hour or two of his time. He says he was floored when he found out he couldn’t do the same for his 2005 Ford F-150. Local garages have quoted him $700 if no plugs break, up to $3,500 if they do.

“It’s just ridiculous for that amount of money,” Creamer said. “It’s a consumer nightmare.”

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