Tech Tip: 15 Tips on Servicing Ford F-150s
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Tech Tip: 15 Tips on Servicing Ford F-150s

A bold new look and some subtle changes probably best describe the 2004-and-up Ford F-150. To the technician, it is the subtle changes that he or she needs to be aware of. Beginning with the 2004 model year, Ford launched a new body style for the F-150. It is a new vehicle inside and out. However, not all of the 2004 F-150s that you see will be the new body style. The 2004 F-150 was also made ….

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By Glen Beanard
Technical Contributor

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A bold new look and some subtle changes probably best describe the 2004-and-up Ford F-150. To the technician, it is the subtle changes that he or she needs to be aware of.

Beginning with the 2004 model year, Ford launched a new body style for the F-150. It is a new vehicle inside and out. However, not all of the 2004 F-150s that you see will be the new body style. The 2004 F-150 was also made available in the older body style pick up that came on the scene in 1996. Just like when they made the body style change in 1996, Ford didn’t just stop one model and start a new one. Instead, they produced both body styles in the same year.

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Entering the Bay
Tip 1: In 2004, the older body style F-150 is called a “Heritage” edition. The newer body style is simply referred to as a 2004 “new” model. You do need to be aware of this for correct ordering of parts, and parts look up.

Tip 2: On the “new” model F-Series trucks, be sure to fold the side view mirrors in when raising these trucks on a two-post lift. The mirrors are large enough that they have been crushed by the plate or cap found at the top of the lift posts.
By the way, there’s an additional issue that might seem excessively simple to talk about, but can be very embarrassing in front of the customer if you are not prepared. The secondary hood release handle has moved on the 2008 Super Duty. It is now below the inside lower corner of the right headlight.

Spark Plugs
Watch out when changing the spark plugs on the 5.4L three-valve engine found in 2004-and-up F-150 and 2005-and-up Expedition and Navigator (see Photo 1).

Tip 3: First of all, you’d better check your cost on the spark plugs. They are nothing like the conventional design of a spark plug in the years past, and the price is nothing near traditional either.

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Tip 4: These spark plugs also use a 9/16th spark plug socket. So, if you don’t have the right plug socket, it’s time to buy another socket before one of these pickups roll into your shop.

Tip 5: When installing spark plugs, don’t just grab these puppies and start turning on them. These things have the electrodes located about an inch and a half away from the threads, mounted on the end of a ground electrode shell. See Photo 2. The shell rusts from moisture.

Upon removal, the shell can snap off in the head from a combination of the rust and built-up carbon binding the shell in the head, and from the shell being weakened from rusting.

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To aid removal, first turn the spark plug enough to lift the spark plug seat from the head, about 1/8th of a turn to 1/4 of a turn. Then add a tiny amount of penetrating oil to each spark plug. Let the oil soak for about 10 minutes, then remove the spark plugs. You may have to work the plug in and out as you remove it. Some “screeching” sound is normal and about 33 lb.-ft. of torque may be required to work the plug through its threading. Do not do this on an extra-hot engine, or stone cold either. The engine should be warm to the touch.

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Tip 6: If a spark plug breaks off, there is a special tool and procedures for removal. At this point, I’m going to point you to Ford TSB 06-15-02, where it explains the special tool and procedure in the event a plug snaps.

On the brighter side, these trucks are not as hard to access the plugs as with the Ford trucks in the past. The driver’s side is fairly open, and the passenger side opens up well if you remove the PCM and bracket. On 2007-and-up models, you’ll find wide open spaces under the hood for easy access. Also, when replacing the spark plugs in these trucks, be sure they’re the updated plugs.

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The first design of spark plug caused spark knocking and engine damage. Short blocks and long blocks were replaced under warranty over this. Consult TSB 06-03-03, or the older version 05-25-05, and make sure you’re installing the PZT-1F-F4 spark plugs. If you’re using an aftermarket plug, you’ll need to verify that the aftermarket plug you’re installing is made to the same specs as the PZT-1F and not the PZT-2F. If you install the PZT-2F or an aftermarket plug designed to match that plug, you may end up buying someone an engine.

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Oil Changes
Tip 7: Watch out when you change the oil on one of these three-valve engines found on 2004-and-up F-Series. The cam sprockets are variable timing sprockets called phasers. The cam phasers have six metal tabs that stick out from the sides, which excite the cam sensors to tell the PCM the exact position of the camshaft. The right-hand phaser is located directly under the oil filler neck, and can be viewed by looking down the neck. Occasionally, a careless oil change tech will leave the oil gun in the filler neck and start the engine. The tabs are then bent and broken from the phaser. This causes anything from just a check engine light with a cam sensor code to a severe loss of power from the PCM over-advancing the camshaft.

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Shakes and Rattles
When dealing with rattles, vibrations and other ride issues on these trucks, be certain to check for TSBs. These trucks have numerous rattle and vibration issues that require very specific repairs to address very specific ride complaints.

Tip 8: TSB 05-21-19 explains an updated rotor design and even an updated rack and pinion design, for very early build dates to address a brake vibration.

Tip 9: TSB 06-19-16 speaks of shimming the center driveshaft support bearing to stop a momentary shudder on acceleration.

Tip 10: TSB 06-12-02 has you install some weights on the frame at the rear of the truck after checking the tires on a balancer that has road force measurement.

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Tip 11: For a momentary single “bump” feeling when stopping and accelerating, see TSB 05-26-11 about greasing the driveshaft slip yoke.

Tip 12: Even the ash tray has a rattle concern addressed in TSB 16-13-19.

Diesel Exhaust Service
Another issue that a technician should be aware of, pertains to the exhaust tips found on the 2008-and-up F-Super Duty diesels.

Tip 13: These exhaust tips should not be removed or covered with dress sleeves that will seal off the ports on the sides. See Photo 3. As you can see, the new generation of diesel engines from all makes will have some odd-looking exhaust tips on them.

The tips are designed to draw cool air into the tip, by use of venturi action, to cool the exiting gases during filter regeneration. See Photo 4.

During filter regeneration mode, the exhaust temperatures are more intense than normal. Without the special tips, the exiting gases become hazardous to the paint on the truck’s body, dry grass that might catch fire or someone’s legs who happens to be standing too close to the tail pipe.

Filter regeneration mode — another new technology advancement that the independent tech needs to understand — will be something you’ll see more and more in your shops.

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Tip 14: Starting in 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has thrown the diesel manufacturers a curve ball. As part of the new regulations, these engines now have to be equipped with a particulate filter after the catalyst. The job of the filter is to trap soot. Periodically, the PCM performs a regeneration on the filter. During regeneration mode, raw fuel is injected into the filter to literally burn the soot out of the filter. The soot is reduced to ash and drops to the bottom of the filter. The ash never leaves the particulate filter assembly, and eventually, the filters will need to be replaced. In time, this will open a new service market as these filters start needing replacement.

Tip 15: If your shop happens to do diesel work, be advised also that these trucks are extremely tight under the hood and cab removal is required to do most repairs beyond basic maintenance on the Powerstroke V8 engines. See Photo 5.

Glen Beanard is ASE-certified as a master auto technician, ASE truck technician and ASE service consultant, as well as holding ASE certifications in L1 and alternate fuel systems. He has completed 84 Ford training courses in his 17 years of combined automotive repair experience between independents, national chains, fleet repair shops and dealers, having served as both a technician and manager.

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