Ford's Spit-Out Spark Plugs Hit Mechanics in their Wallets

Company Covers Up Problem, Lets Consumers, Mechanics Pick Up the Tab

More and more Ford mechanics and technicians are siding with consumers, charging that the troubled automaker is fully aware of a major flaw in Ford engines that causes the power plant to spit out spark plugs at random and without warning.

They complain that Ford is covering up the defect while squeezing and short-changing technicians and mechanics tasked with repairing the problem for Ford consumers.

The trouble is, no one is listening to the warning and Ford continues to stonewall and cover up the spit spark plug hazard, according to Ford technicians and mechanics.

Ford did not respond to requests for comment.

The spit plug is both costly to repair and a safety hazard for people riding in the Ford truck as well as those nearby. Several Ford vehicles have burst into flames following a spit plug.

A Master Ford Technician at a dealership in Georgia told that the situation regarding these engines and the spark plugs blowing out is not unknown to Ford.

Quite the contrary, they are well aware of it and have been since the 5.4 liter Triton engine was released, this Ford mechanic said. This same concern also affects other engines in Ford's modular engine family, such as the 4.6 liter single overhead cam V-8s and the 6.8 liter single overhead cam V-10, he warned.

Ford dealerships routinely insist to consumers complaining about a spit spark plug that they have never heard of such a thing happening.

A second Ford technician confirmed to that, Ford has known about this problem since the first year the Triton V-8 was introduced. I encountered my first one in 1997 on a '97 F150 with 30,000 miles on it. At the time, I thought it was a fluke, partially due to the high mileage (30,000 in less than six months).

All of the Ford technicians insisted that their names and cities not be used, fearing they would be fired for speaking publicly about the problem.

Not a Fluke

But the spit plug was clearly not a fluke.

After several more engines with the same problem, I realized that Ford had a pretty serious issue with the Triton. As per Ford's usual method of letting the customer be the guinea pigs for their new models, I expected the '98 model to have updated heads. The heads were not updated in '98, or '99, or 2000, or ever as far as I know, this Kentucky Ford mechanic told us.

I feel that Ford determined that it would be cheaper to repair the engines that had the concern during the warranty period, then if they did make it out of warranty it's on the customer's dime, he said.

It is not unusual for mechanics to encounter the spit spark plug failure in their own Ford truck.

My own personal 1997 Ford F250 Light Duty pickup with the 5.4 liter Triton engine suffered a spark plug blow-out which cost me over $700 in parts to repair at my cost. a technician wrote

He explained why the repair work is so expensive. Ford does not authorize any type of thread repair to correct this concern. Instead, they insist that the cylinder head be replaced.

Typically these failures occur far out of the vehicle's warranty, which leaves the customer responsible for several hundred or even thousands of dollars worth of repairs. Repairs that they had no idea that they would be facing, repairs that they shouldn't be facing, he said.

Flat-Rate Rip Off

Ford mechanics and technicians complain that if the truck is under warranty, Ford has instituted a repair procedure that technicians insist is unrealistic.

Ford adheres to an unrealistic and unproven labor time guide to determine how much time, or flat-rate hours, the technician should be paid. The technician typically cannot complete the repairs satisfactorily in the allotted time per Ford's labor time guide. That means one of two things, either the technician sucks it up and repairs the vehicle properly despite how much they may or may not be getting paid, or the technician takes short cuts and possibly compromises the repair, mechanics said.

Either way is bad news for consumers. The warranty labor time guide has been steadily altered and cut back since about 1999, under what Ford called the Re-Engineering of Service Labor Time Standards, one technician said.

Technicians across the country have filed requests for review for labor times and operations and have requested the video transcripts of the repairs performed as by the SLTS group to see how it's done. All these requests have fallen on deaf ears at Ford, people familiar with the situation said.

As a result of these cutbacks, it is becoming increasingly difficult for technicians such as myself to maintain financial security for ourselves and our families working under the charge of Ford Motor Company at dealerships across the country, a Ford technician told

In addition, the quality of repairs that the customer may receive could be compromised as well, due to the insufficient time provided to perform certain repairs in question.

The impact on Ford mechanics is equivalent to a 30 percent pay cut.

A tech earning $30,000 a year suddenly found they were making $21,000 A Senior Master Tech that was earning $60,000 overnight was earning $42,000, according to a Ford technician in Mississippi.

Ripping Off Mechanics

Here is an example of how Ford is ripping off it's own mechanics according to a source who has seen hundreds of Ford trucks with spit spark plugs.

In order to do a quality repair, the cylinder head needs to be replaced. Ford pays between 5 and 6 hours to replace a cylinder head. Imagine you were a technician and you came in one morning to find an F150 in the drive and the service writer tells you, there's your first job, it needs a cylinder head, a former Ford Senior Master Technician told

So now you have to remove the entire cab of the truck and all the various components, strip down the entire top and front of the engine to get to the cylinder head, remove the head, clean, inspect and measure the block and cylinders, transfer all the parts from the old head to the new one, reinstall, re-time the chains, re-torque the new head bolts, put everything back on the engine, refill all the fluids, put the cab back on and reattach everything, test drive it, and in most cases, wash the engine bay....

And, oh yeah, if it's still in your stall after lunch - you get to finish it up with no pay, he told us. "Welcome to the Flat Rate Pay System.

Consumer Pays Either Way

Like anything else, our Ford technical sources said, it is the consumer who ends up paying the freight in the end.

And here is how that rip off occurs.

A customer brings in their vehicle for their prescribed service interval. Perhaps an oil change? The oil change that would cost somewhere between 20 and 30 bucks, a Ford technician he explained.

The tech informs the customer that he has checked the vehicle from top to bottom and discovered his transmission fluid is in dire need of changing. 'You must have severe driving to do? How much will that cost? 100 to 200 bucks plus!' Or, 'Oh my lord! I am so glad you brought this in when you did! I pulled the inspection plate and your brakes are at the minimum specs. They need replacing practically immediately!' Sadly these scenarios are occurring daily across the land. our technician told

The mechanics are using what is known in the trade as customer pay to supplement what the manufacturer pays.

Yes many customers are stupid, one mechanic scolded. They have no clue as to whether they have an alternator in their vehicle or halogen fluid in their headlights. But as Abraham Lincoln once said, you can fool some of the people all the time and you can fool all of the people some of the time. Well the slashing of the SLTS has caused many dealerships and techs to try and fool all of the people all of the time.

Problem is customers aren't as ignorant as you would hope for.

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