Friday, December 17, 2004

Truck problems

Yesterday I took my F-150 Lightning in to work because I wanted to get a Christmas tree and a cat climber (hopefully the two would be two separate and distinct items) as well as get the ladder that I left at the townhouse.

I drove to the local pet store in Hudson as I left for home, but they didn't have any cat climbers. I picked up a couple of cat toys, but didn't find the nail clippers that I really needed.

I had been driving for less than five minutes, and wasn't even all the way across the St. Croix bridge when I heard a giant BANG! followed by many more smaller BANGs that slowed as the RPMs fell. I noticed a lack of power, the smell of gas, and slowed the truck and pulled to the side of the road. Unfortunately I missed the exit that is right at the end of the bridge and had to park about 100 yards past it on the side of the road. It was 24 degrees outside according to the truck's thermometer, and the truck hadn't been running long enough for the heater to be working.

I popped the hood and checked for foreign bodies in the fan -- nothing. I checked for leaks under the truck -- nothing. I turned the truck on (thankfully it started again) and tried to identify the source of the noise. I could see something fluttering along with the BANGs around the back passenger side head and thought that I had blown an exhaust gasket. I looked at the radiator overflow and didn't see any bubbles, so I was thinking that I didn't blow a head gasket, which is a good thing.

I decided to drive it to the local Ford dealer, rather than wait to be towed. That meant that I had to drive down the freeway about five miles to the first exit that lets you get on going East (the nearest Ford dealership was behind me, about a mile, in Hudson). I drove slowly, about 55MPH, with my hazards flashing, and hoped that if it was an exhaust leak, that it wasn't going to burn through anything (like it did on my Miata).

As I was getting close to Hudson I wondered why the "check engine" light hadn't come on. It came on a few minutes later, when I tried to drive up the steep hill into Hudson. Along with the light came a sudden and startling lack of power. I begged the truck to make it up the hill as the Ford dealer was just a minute's drive away. When the road leveled out, the "Service Engine Soon" light went out, and power came back to its previous low, but usable, level.

I wasn't taking any chances though and ran the just-turned-red right-turn light. I zoomed around the next corner without slowing, and down the street to the Ford dealer. I pulled into the parking lot and turned off the truck as it began to make I-don't-want-to-run-anymore noises and started shaking.

I was able to get a ride back to work from a coworker's wife, redirected on her way home to meet me at the Ford dealer. From work, I was able to get another coworker to drive me home to Cottage Grove (about 15 miles). I got home safe and sound, though a fair bit later than I wanted to, and without any of my shopping done.

This morning the Ford dealer called to say that the #3 spark plug had decided to leave the head, taking a fair amount of the head with it. The only solution, total replacement of the head to the tune of $2900. Ouch! The truck is about 5 months out of warrenty on the 3/36k plan, though it only has about 34k miles on it.

I asked the Ford dealer to ask Ford if they would help me out with the bill, seeing as how it was so close to still being under warranty. After an hour of waiting, I heard that they would cover $1000 of the bill. That's better than a sharp poke in the eye, which was about all I was getting before. What was going to say, "no"?

They expect that the Lightning will be back and operational some time late next week. Just in time to pick up a Christmas tree. Not too bad all things considered.

If the bill comes to less than $2500 then I'll have saved over the cost of the extended warrenty. All told, I'm still winning that extended warranty bet, but if anything else major breaks, I'll be on the loosing end of the extended warrenty equation. That will be a first for me.

Makes me wonder about getting one for the Focus though. But I'm feeling lucky...


Blogger Canis said...


So far I'm loving my '04 Lightning. I did get the extended warranty but by what you say later it sounds as though it wouldn't help.

I think at the end of my stock warranty I'll pay to have Ford swap out the spark plugs. At least then I'll have 12k miles / 12 months of dealer-warranty, so if it pops a plug out I can just point my finger at them. Beyond that, maybe I'll just pay to have the plugs replaced once a year... :P

- Keman

2:26 PM  

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