Ford 5.4L Triton 3 Valve Spark Plug Replacement
Ah, have you recently developed a misfire in your 3 valve 5.4L Triton? I'm sure you have heard of the warnings about changing spark plugs on the Ford 5.4L! There are risks with this type of surgery. Lets explain and review some tipes to ease the removal of the spark plugs. You can combine several of these methods and tips to increase your odds of extracting the spark plugs intact.
This is a step by step guide describing how you could change the spark plugs on the Ford Triton 5.4L 3valve engine. Specifically, it is referring to 2004+ Ford F150 VCT engine. This does not include previous 2 valve generations built on or before 2003. Those have spark plug issues too, just the opposite of the 3 valve. As a forewarning, this is not a job for a novice. A spark plug removed incorrectly could result in expensive engine damage. We want to avoid engine damge.
There is definitely a handful of tools that you will need. Any pneumatic or power tools can and should be used to save you valuable time and energy. I have compiled a short list of useful and required tools, although there may be some that you need that are not on the list. Some specialty tools are listed during the step requiring their use.
Long Reach Needle Nose Pliers
9/16 Spark Plug Socket and Extension
Lisle 65700 Broken Spark Plug Remover for 3V Ford Engines ESSENTIAL TOOL This is your life saver. This is the tool that removes the broken sleeve from the cylinder head.
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Always recommending motorcraft parts for this job. Had several times when aftermarket parts let me down. One such case was outlined in Techtales blog.
Before you attempt to remove the spark plugs, it is important to understand why you must have that tool. These spark plugs are special. They include a special tip that extends down into the cylinder head. This tip fits very tightly inside of the head. Repeated heating/cooling cycles after tens of thousands of miles causes rust and carbon build up causing the special tip to become seized into the head. Factory plugs also had no antiseize on the tip.
Once you rotate the spark plug, most likely the tip will break off from the rest of the plug and remain down inside of the head. The rest of the park plug will just unscrew like normal. If the plug appears to come out easily as you turn it, most likely it broke off. If it makes loud screeching noises, hard to turn, your sure its stuck but it still turns, your likely successfully removing the plug completely intact.
Sometimes people can easily remove all 8 spark plugs and not a break a single one, while others can try to remove them but break all 8. The lisle tool works by pushing the main electrode down through the spark plug about an inch, and using a perfectly sized reverse threaded tap to thread into the tip for grip. It has a high success rate. However, pieces of the electrode or porcelain may chip off and fall down into the cylinder unexpectedly and cause damage when you attempt to start it.
The plug can break off in several ways. The threaded cap could break away from the stuck sleeve leaving the whole porcelain plug intact, snap the porcelain leaving behind the only the center electrode sticking up, or snap the porcelain and electrode flush inside taking the electrode out with the threaded sleeve.
Ford 5.4L Spark Plug Removal
First step is removing the ignition coils. This takes a 7mm socket. Once the coils are removed, you may find it easier to remove the PCM and bracket from the passenger side of the engine compartment to get to cylinders #3 and #4. Removal is simple. Unplug the three connectors, remove the 4 bolts that hold the PCM to the bracket, and then remove the 3 bolts that hold the bracket on.
Now I will go into the several ways mentioned to remove the spark plugs from first hand experience. I have found the success rate will vary dramatically depending on your chosen method. It appears that if the spark plugs are destined to break, they will break no matter how you attempt to remove them. No one method will work all the time.
The most reliable source, Ford, has released a Technical Service Bulletin on how to remove the spark plugs. The TSB 08-7-6 can be read entirely HERE. Loosening the plug and spraying it with something similar to Wynns EGR cleaner seems to work sometimes. I personally do not have much luck with it.
I use a 3/8 impact gun to remove the spark plugs with a hot engine. This method works about 70% of the time for me. You will probably need a 9 inch extension, u joint (swivel) adapter, and a 3 inch if not using the spark plug tool mentioned earlier. In short bursts like shooting a gun, slowly tap the trigger until the plug is removed or broken. If it breaks, it breaks; I'll handle it.
I have had success in my own vehicle by running fuel injection cleaners through the engine prior to changing the spark plugs. I performed a professional fuel injection cleaning service, then used products similar to SeaFoam weeks in advance. I was able to remove all 8 from my vehicle without any breaking. I have been able to test using high performance intake decarbonization cleaners used by our dealership with varying results. Check out my article Tune-up in a Bottle for some tips.
You can remove them by hand tools if you feel safer. Once the socket is on the plug, slowly apply torque to the plug. Try to keep the socket centered on the plug while you break it loose as lateral forces almost always break the porcelain. If the plug comes out easily, you probably broke it. If it fights you the whole way out while making horrible screeching noises, it probably came out intact. This is my least preferred method because it takes the longest wastes the most energy.
If its broken: Pull out the top part of the plug for inspection. You must determine what is left in the cylinder head. If lucky, the piece you pull out will have a complete electrode attached (metal rod sticking out the end) with only the tip stuck in the head. If the electrode is broken off flush, it needs to be removed from the plug well with pliers before using the lisle tool. If you can not remove the electrode, proceed at your own risk as the first step of the tool will likely break a large chunk of porcelain to be laying on the top of the piston. Any extra porcelain needs to be broken and removed prior to installing the tool. Make sure to blow out the cylinder with air or shop vac it to remove all debris before removing the stuck plug. Follow the instructions included with the tool.
Once the old plug is removed, make sure you coat the extended portion and the threaded portion of the new plug with a little anti seize. Do not get anti seize on the tip of the electrode as it can cause misfires. Make sure you tighten the plug down sufficiently as they will come loose if you do not. Autozone replacement plugs have been notorious for coming loose. If it does work it way loose, you will likely need to replace the coil if it damaged by combustion heat.
Congratulations. You now can change the remaining 7. Good luck.