Ford Spark Plugs Stuck And Breaking in Place

Ford Triton Spark Plug Stuck or Broken
Why won't the cylinder heads let go?

Replacing a spark plug ranks pretty low on the list of difficult car repairs, that is you own a 2004–2008 Ford with the V8 Triton engine. Those engines hold on to spark plugs like an anaconda choking its prey.

Assuming it doesn’t spit them out first.


Why Are Triton Engine Spark Plugs Hard to Remove?

Ford designed a 3-valve engine with spark plugs that only need to be serviced at 100,000 miles. On the surface that sounds great, but eventually you realize:

  1. That’s far outside the vehicle’s basic warranty
  2. The long service interval is one of the reasons the plugs break apart

A Design Flaw

To make this 100,000 mile wonder plug, Ford came up with a 2-piece shell design. The end of the plug has an electrode that extends a bit beyond the threads. This leaves a small gap between the plug and the head — a gap that carbon deposits are more than happy to fill up over time.

Spark plugs from Ford Triton Engines
The pooly designed plugs

If you get the plugs like a normal truck — say at 30,000 miles or so — you could have those deposits removed and be on your merry way. But if you listen to Ford and wait until 100,000 miles, those despots fossilize and form a concrete grip around the electrode.

Once the carbon builds up and hardens, it turns Ford’s unique design into a flaw by creating a natural breaking point.

Yank too hard on one of these suckers and part of the plug pops right off.

Even mechanics with proper tools think these things are a mess:

“Get a call from the dealer stating that the #3 plug broke off in the head and none of their extraction tools will remove it. They say the head will have to be removed and possibly replaced and could cost up to $4500 dollars!!!! I picked my jaw up off the floor and went and complained to the service manager. He said he can get ford to help with the repair (which they initially rejected) and after 8 days and a final bill of $1193.” -Sean M. of Boerne, TX

Ford acknowledges some of these issues in TSB 08–7–6[1].


Ford Settles a Class-Action Lawsuit

It’s no surprise that Ford got their pants sued off here. What is a surprise, however, is that it worked.

While admitting no guilt, Ford agreed to help owners of the following Ford and Lincoln vehicles sold or leased in the U.S., all equipped with 5.4-liter 3-valve engines:

  • 2004-2008 Ford F-150
  • 2005-2008 Ford F-250 and F-350
  • 2005-2008 Ford Expedition
  • 2005-2008 Lincoln Navigator
  • 2006-2008 Lincoln Mark LT

The consolidated lawsuit, Ford Motor Co. Spark Plug and 3-Valve Engine Products Liability Litigation, was granted final settlement approval in January 2016

Settlement Guidelines

There are a lot of guidelines and hoops to jump through to have a claim approved. What, you expected it to be easy? CarComplaints.com has an article covering the the guidelines, so let’s go through them.

1. Did You Spend Enough?

Every eligible owner who spent more than $300 in parts and labor to replace eight spark plugs in a vehicle with less than 120,000 miles will be eligible for reimbursement on a percentage of the amount paid over $300.

That’s a lot of numbers, am I supposed to carry the 4, or…? What it boils down to:

  1. Did you replace spark plugs before your odometer hit 120,000 miles? If yes, great! If not, it’s not over yet just read on below.
  2. Did you spend over $300. This is silly, does any car repair cost less than $300?
  3. A percent of any amount you paid over $300 will be covered.

Since repairs are typically in the $1000 range, that means you’ll get a percentage back on $700 ($1000-$300). And as far as that percentage is concerned, well, it depends…

The amount of reimbursement will depend upon the cost incurred by the owner and by the documentation the owner can provide.

2. Can You Prove It?

Now we’re getting to the nitty gritty. Ford gets the nice headline of “Wonderful, compassionate automaker gives money back to owners and apologizes for headaches,” but the reality is they aren’t going to make it easy.

That’s ok, roll up your sleeves, dig into that box of papers you’ve been meaning to sort any find receipts for the work you had done. Look for:

  1. The identity of the repair facility that replaced the spark plugs
  2. The services they performed
  3. The date they did the work
  4. The amount you paid
  5. The mileage on the vehicle at the time of repair

If you can’t find it, maybe your mechanic still has a copy. Don’t be afraid to bug them (and if your mechanic is anything like mine, a six-pack may help).

After that, all you need is your vehicle identification number (VIN). You can find that all sorts of places, but the easiest is just inside your windshield.

3. Deadlines Based on When You Had the Work Done

If your Ford or Lincoln spark plugs were replaced before October 23, 2015, the deadline for submitting a claim is August 25, 2016.

If your spark plugs were replaced on or after October 23, 2015, the deadline for submitting claims is February 27, 2017.

4. If Your Vehicle Had More Than 120,000 Miles

Did you have your spark plugs replaced when your vehicle had more than 120,000 miles? If the work was done before December 22, 2015 you’re eligible if:

  1. You can identify the Ford dealership that instructed you to wait and the approximate date this happened
  2. You can provide dealership service records that shows you were there with your vehicle between 90,000 and 120,000 miles.

5. You’re Giving Up Your Right to Sue

Owners who file a claim and accept Ford’s offer will be releasing Ford and its suppliers from all claims contained in the lawsuit. This simply means accepting the settlement benefits prevents an owner from suing Ford over the spark plug problems.

This is pretty standard practice from any company offering a settlement. This means if another lawsuit comes up asking for bigger payouts in the future, you can’t take part. As long as you’re ok with that, here’s the link to submit a claim:

Submit a Claim

Wait, I Don’t Have Documentation

If you don’t have the full documentation listed above, it’s still possible to file a claim and get $50 back pending the claims administrator’s approval.

You won’t be able to retire on it, but every little bit helps.


The Settlement Doesn’t Cover Everyone

While great, the settlement doesn't cover everyone who's having issues with stuck spark plugs. These are the vehicles listed in Ford's TSB:

Make Model Years
Ford Expedition 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
Ford Explorer 2006, 2007, 2008
Ford F-150 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
Ford Mustang 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
Lincoln Navigator 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
Lincoln Mark LT 2006, 2007, 2008
Mercury Mountaineer 2006, 2007, 2008

How to Properly Remove Ford’s 3-Valve Spark Plugs

Ford TSB 08–7–6 provides a special procedure for spark plug removal on these engines. For situations where the spark plug has broken in the head, Ford distributes multiple special tools for removing the seized portion of the plug. This repair is covered for vehicles under warranty – which is doubtful.

Some tips from the TSB[1]:

  • Ford recommends you do not try to remove the plugs from a warm or hot engine
  • Do not use air or power tools to remove plugs, use hand tools only
  • Use specialized tools optimized to remove these specific plugs from the engine

Other Actions You Can Take

This step is crucial, don't just complain on forums! The sites below will actively manage your complaints and turn them into useful statistics. Both CarComplaints.com and the CAS will report dangerous trends to the authorities and are often called upon by law firms for help with Class Action lawsuits. Make sure to file your complaint on all three sites, we can't stress that enough.

  1. Step 1: File Your Complaint at CarComplaints.com

    CarComplaints.com is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases. Add a Complaint

  2. Step 2: Notify the Center for Auto Safety

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits. Notify the CAS

  3. Step 3: Report a Safety Concern to NHTSA

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues. Report to NHTSA


  1. TSB 08–7–6 is an 11-page procedural document showing just how complex it is to safely remove these spark plugs.  ↩

Spark Plug Design Flaws

Trying to remove spark plugs from Ford’s 3-valve 4.6L, 5.4L and 6.8L 2004–2008 engines can cause part of the plug to break off and get stuck in the cylinder head. The spark plugs were designed to need their first service at 100,000 miles which sounds great on paper, until you realize that:

  • It’s far outside of the vehicle’s basic warranty
  • The long service interval is actually one of the reasons the plugs break apart
Spark plugs from Ford Triton Engines
The pooly designed plugs

Ford came up with a unique plug design that has a 2-piece shell. At the end of the plug an electrode extends a bit beyond the threads and creates a gap between the plug and the cylinder head which gets filled with carbon deposits. The problem isn’t bad if treated at 30,000 miles, but over 100,000 miles – Ford’s recommended interval – it cakes the electrode in a concrete-like grip. Because the elctrode is welded to the bottom part of the shell, it creates a natural breaking point.

Ford ackowledges some of these issues in TSB 08–7–6[1].

Ford Vehicles Most Likely to Have a Spark Plug Stuck

The following vehicles were named in the TSB. Links are to specific complaints about spark plug problems on CarComplaints.com.

Make Model Years
Ford Expedition 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
Ford Explorer 2006, 2007, 2008
Ford F-150 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
Ford Mustang 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
Lincoln Navigator 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
Lincoln Mark LT 2006, 2007, 2008
Mercury Mountaineer 2006, 2007, 2008

How to Properly Remove Ford's 3-Valve Spark Plugs

The TSB provides a special procedure for spark plug removal on these engines. For situations where the spark plug has broken in the head, Ford distributes multiple special tools for removing the seized portion of the plug. This repair is covered for vehicles under warranty – which is doubtful.

Some tips from the TSB[1]:

  • Ford recommends you do not try to remove the plugs from a warm or hot engine
  • Do not use air or power tools to remove plugs, use hand tools only
  • Use specialized tools optimized to remove these specific plugs from the engine

How Long Does it Take?

Both owners and mechanics have a hard time estimating how long swapping out the plugs will take. That’s because maybe none of the plugs will get stuck, maybe a couple, or maybe all eight. With each broken plug the repair bill – and frustration level – goes up. If things go really wrong it could mean replacing the entire cylinder head.

Motorcraft has since designed a one-piece spark plug that’s less likely to fall apart.


Actions You Can Take

This step is crucial, don't just complain on forums! The sites below will actively manage your complaints and turn them into useful statistics. Both CarComplaints.com and the CAS will report dangerous trends to the authorities and are often called upon by law firms for help with Class Action lawsuits. Make sure to file your complaint on all three sites, we can't stress that enough.

  1. Step 1: File Your Complaint at CarComplaints.com

    CarComplaints.com is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases. Add a Complaint

  2. Step 2: Notify the Center for Auto Safety

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits. Notify the CAS

  3. Step 3: Report a Safety Concern to NHTSA

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues. Report to NHTSA


  1. TSB 08–7–6 is an 11-page procedural document showing just how complex it is to safely remove these spark plugs.  ↩

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Ford Customer Relationship Center

P.O. Box 6248 Dearborn MI 48126