Hagit Limor and Phil Drechsler,
I wanted to write this letter in response to the recent I-Team investigation titled “$2,000 spark plugs, what some call design flaw, Ford calls routine”. I am the Service Manager at Fuller Ford in Downtown Cincinnati, a position I have held for 28 years.
I do acknowledge that the spark plugs on the Ford 5.4 (3 valve) engine do have a tendency to seize in the head of the engine, and that this often results in several plugs breaking off in the head and requiring extraction. However I do take great exception to the prices quoted, timeline represented, and general difficulty of the procedure as outlined in your article.
First, it is important to consider that the price of spark plugs, and therefore the price of a tune-up, has increased over the last decade, but it is important to note that the interval at which this service is required to be performed has decreased correspondingly. Spark plug intervals are now at 100k miles as opposed to the 15k and 30k mileage intervals of earlier models.
Second, Fuller Ford routinely quotes $540 to $750 to replace all eight spark plugs, depending on how many break. I would estimate that Fuller Ford has performed tune ups on 300 plus 5.4 (3 valve) engines, and with varying results. At times no plugs break, often several plugs break, and yes in some instances all of the plugs will break (in this scenario the worse case of $750.00 plus tax would apply). Very rarely, only once that I can recall, has a plug been seized so severe that the head of the engine would need to come off. The $2000.00 to $3500.00 price quoted in this article was shocking and quite frankly a gross misrepresentation of the reality of the procedure.
Finally, Ford, and several other tool distributers, have provided tools that help to extract broken plugs. These tools have been out for years, are relatively inexpensive for a shop to purchase, and greatly reduce the difficulty of the procedure. Generally speaking, the turn-around time, in the event that all plugs break, would be a day to a day and a half.
Fuller Ford has been a proud Ford franchise in Cincinnati since the 1920’s. After reading this article I felt compelled to both acknowledge that this problem does exist, but also to present a fair representation of the realty of the situation.