F-150 Coil Barbecue Tips
Q I own a 2003 Ford F-150 4X4 with the 5.4L V-8. I've been searching for quite some time on the Internet for something to help me out with my coil packs always going out. (I guess it is a common problem with them.) I work at a Ford dealership and am a paid on-call firefighter. It seems that every time I need to drive in a muddy field, my number 1, 3, and 8 coil packs keep frying. I've heard from buddies at work to use dielectric grease on them when I service them, but that does not seem to help. I'm an avid mudder, and I don't know if horseplayin' in some pits might weakens the seal. Can you point me in the right direction so I don't keep frying the packs? At 92 bucks per pack, even with a Ford employee discount, it still takes quite a chunk of change out of my pocket.
A Yes, it's always a good idea to use dielectric grease on all ignition components. It ensures a good clean contact surface and can prevent moisture from entering the components. Instead of just replacing the coil packs, which you have apparently done several times, I suggest that you try to pinpoint just why they are failing. Is it moisture that is getting to them and causing the spark to try to jump to a ground, causing an extremely high current buildup that is damaging the coils? If that is the case, then it would be a good idea to figure out a way to keep the water off of them.
According to Ford, approximately 50 percent of coil-on plug (COP) coils returned for warranty do not have a problem. It's something else that is causing the problem.
You might also want to visit one of the service advisors at the dealership, and have them look up TSB #05-22-8 that was issued in November 2005. This technical service bulletin deals directly with coil problems and misfiring cylinders. With that in hand, head out to the service bay and talk to the guy who does the electrical troubleshooting. The misfiring cylinder must be identified through Self-Test misfire codes or through WDS Power Balance test. Rule out base engine problems first, then rule out fuel problems, and then look at ignition problems (be sure to rule out coil primary circuit issues). Once the above steps have been completed, and the issue is in the secondary part of the ignition system, the oscilloscope procedure outlined in this TSB can isolate the difference between a coil or spark-plug problem.
While you're talking to the service advisor, have him also pull up TSB #08-7-6 dated April 2008. The spark plugs in the 4.6L and 5.4L V-8s have removal issues. If you don't follow the removal instruction outlined in this service bulletin, you could strip out the threads in the cylinder head or break off the plug in the cylinder head. Either one of which will cause you no end of grief to repair.
Welding To The Frame = Bad Idea?
Q A real good friend of mine (and a huge help on my '72 Bronco build-up) is a very accomplished professional welder by trade. He's got certifications up the ying-yang and if it can be done, he can weld it or braze it. While talking about the new Cage Off Road rear shock mounts I'm about to install, he mentioned something about it not being a good idea, nor recommended, to weld anything to a car/truck frame because it could theoretically weaken the frame. (Because they are tempered and /or heat-treated?)
Now, most of the time, this is my go-to guy for buildup questions, and most of the time I completely agree with him as he is generally dead-on. That said, they weld to the frame without any hesitation, comment, or worry in just about every single magazine buildup you read and every buildup show you watch on TV.
If it were that bad of an idea or that big of a deal, how come welding to the frame is never mentioned or discussed in any "how-to"?
A There is really no problem in welding on your Bronco's frame, if done properly. Yes, there are some high-tensile steel frames used on large commercial trucks, and they actually have a decal that warns against welding on them. The watchword here is "properly." It's important to work with a clean surface that's free of paint, grease, and rust. Just as important is to have good penetration but not to undercut the parent metal. It's also a good idea not to make long, straight welds if you can avoid them, as they can sometimes lead to localized stress points. In some locations, depending on what is being mounted and where it is mounted, it may be necessary to make some type of support piece to increase the mounting location's strength.
I always recommend putting the ground clamp as close to the welded area as possible and disconnecting the vehicle's negative battery cable. Transient voltage can raise heck not only with computers and other electronics but with the alternator as well. I consider myself an average welder with no formal training, and I have done some considerable modifications to vehicle frames for about 50 years with not one structural failure. Cage Off Road builds some good products, and the head honcho there, Jim Cole, is quite knowledgeable when it comes to welding and what steps are needed to ensure a quality installation of their products, so don't be hesitant to follow his instructions.
Tech Letter Of The Month
Battery Post Corrosion Solution
I have been a subscriber since the magazine was printed on newspaper. Yup, almost as old as dirt.
I was reading "Willie's Workbench" from August 2008, about batteries. Back in the '80s, a Snappie dealer and mechanic showed me a tip to clean the terminal's post instead of using grease.
Take a spray can of clear acrylic paint and give the terminals a heavy coat, which won't hurt. Henceforth, no corrosion, and always a good connection, as well as being water-resistant.
As for jumper cables, they need a little extra twist to get good connections about the same as when using grease. When it comes time to take apart, it'll be a little stiff turning the nut, but you will have good nuts to turn with a wrench. When you re-assemble, clean as before and spray a new coat.
This has been working for me on all autos I've touched in last 20-plus years.
Gravois Mills, MO
My guess is that I have got you beat on being a longtime subscriber. I have my name on the mailing label for issue number 2. (I lost the first issue someplace.) It's great to hear from people who are long-time subscribers, and thanks for reading my column and taking the time to write.
I have never heard of that solution to the corrosion problem. I just may give it a try and see how it works out. However, a couple of things come to mind: Moisture and acid fumes can attack from the underside of the connection that does not receive any paint, and the connection may end up with some unseen problems from the bottom up. We don't seem to have the corrosion problems that we used to have when batteries had "tar" tops and vent caps. Sealed batteries sure solved a lot of problems. It will be interesting to see if we get any feedback on this.