Friday, December 17, 2004

Ejecting spark plugs

I did a little searching on the web for similar issues regarding my Lightning's #3 spark plug ejection issue, and I found a very interesting link on a consumer affairs web site, and this thread on a ford trucks web site. It seems that many people have experienced this problem, and many have had the problem with the #3 spark plug. I looks like this is some sort of design or manufacturing defect, but of course Ford is denying that there is any sort of issue.

I don't know how many Triton 5.4l engines Ford has made since 1996, but it is well into the millions; for the past 8 years, Ford has averaged sales of close to a million F-150s every year, and this engine goes into nearly every full sized truck, van, and SUV they make, as well as some Mustangs. A few hundred, heck a few thousand, people complaining about a spark plug flying out of the head could just represent a bad day on the production line (the production requirements for a million units a year are about 2 a minute, every minute, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year -- and remember, that's just for F-150s). A thousand bad units represents basically one 8 hour shift's production run.

As much as I'd like to yell foul and get a class action lawsuit going, the above numbers are accurate. What these numbers mean is that it could be one guy dialed the wrong value into his milling machine and made a thousand bad units and then went home. The next guy at the machine punched in the right numbers and didn't think twice about the previous units.

This kinda throws cold water on the idea of there being a massive issue that warrants a recall or a class action lawsuit. But having to spend $2k plus to get it fixed isn't instilling me with a lot of happiness either. Do I keep the truck (I really like the truck) and just take it like a man if this happens again? Do I take the heads off and get all the spark plug threads replaced with Time-Serts (and while I'm at it port and polish the heads) for a couple of thousand dollars? Do I buy a Toyota?

On the plus side, it turns out that the extended warranty that I didn't buy wouldn't have covered this because the spark plugs are not a lubricated part. Woo-hoo for me! It's kind of an odd thing to be happy about, but hey, at this point, I'll take it as good news. Certainly the people that bought the $2k+ extended warranty only to find out that it didn't cover this failure are far more upset about this whole thing than I am. I guess I'm a half full kind of guy today.


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