A California lawyer is petitioning federal regulators to recall about 17 million Ford vehicles, including F-Series pickup trucks, because of a problem that can cause spark plugs to blow out.

The complaint from attorney Donald Ricketts of Santa Clarita, Calif., would, if granted, lead to the biggest-ever U.S. recall ever. SUVs, pickups, Crown Victorias and Mustangs sold in the 1997-2004 model years had spark plugs that can come loose and fly through the hood, Ricketts alleges.

Nearly 200 consumers have complained to ConsumerAffairs.com about the problem over the last five years. In nearly every case, the Ford owners also complained to Ford, only to be told that the problem was not covered under their warranty and disclaiming any knowledge of a broader problem.

T.J. of Wichita Falls, Texas, complained two years ago that the spark plug blew out of his 1999 Ford F-150. "It is costing me $3,000 to fix this problem. I just returned from the war overseas in Iraq and this is what I get to come home to," T.J. said.

Ricketts' petition was filed less than three weeks after Ford recalled 3.8 million vehicles, a year's worth of sales, to fix a cruise-control switch that can overheat and cause fires. That recall, the fifth-largest ever in the United States, included the same vehicles and model years as Ricketts' petition.

Ford said it couldn't comment on the petition.

Nor has Ford had much to say to any of the thousands of consumers whose $30,000 trucks have been disabled when the spark plugs blew out, resulting in repair bills averaging around $3,000.

The vehicles in question all have an aluminum cylinder head. "Many mechanics feel the head contains an insufficient number of threads to hold the plugs when under stress, so they have a greater than normal tendency to fail," said Christopher of Palmdale, Calif., whose truck blew its plug in 2002.

"Ford is not acknowledging any problem, so there's no guidance from them on the best way to proceed with repair," Christopher said. "Some people have had heli-coils inserted, while some have had to have the entire engine replaced. Others have had a recurrence of the failure, due to lack of direction from Ford."