Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from Top Local, we’re here with Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver; our weekly hangout, talking about vehicles today. We’re going to talk about a 2008 Ford Explorer, 4.6 litre V8, it had some spark plug problems. What was going on with this vehicle Bernie?
Bernie: The vehicle was brought to us for an engine misfire and we actually, I just as another side note a couple weeks previously we did some repairs on the engine, there was a ticking noise in the engine, we did some repairs on that so we, anyways two weeks later the engine came back, it had a misfire.
Mark: So what sort of testing did you do on the vehicle?
Bernie: Well at this point the first thing we do whenever a vehicles been in for service and then something happens and the owner’s thinking well, maybe you did something that wasn’t quite right or its related to the repair we just did, the first test we do is to verify did was what we repaired fixed and so the answer was yes. The initial issue was a ticking noise in the right rear side of the engine there was a worn-out rocker arm that we replaced and that works fine, it worked great, running fine, the issue we had with this one is there was a misfire on the left cylinder banks, the opposite side of the engine, so basically not related to what we’ve done. So from this point we need to do some tests and what it came down to after testing the fuel system, the ignition it looked like it was either a spark plug problem or possibly an engine compression problem.
Mark: So that sounds kind of straightforward, remove the spark plugs, check them, do a compression test, is that what you did?
Bernie: Well, yes, however on one of these engines it’s not quite so straightforward. This is the Ford V8 engine that for about five or six model years, they had, they had the spark plugs would break off inside the cylinder so it’s not a simple matter lets pull the spark plugs out, let’s put a compression gauge in, it requires a commitment from the customer before you take these out because even we might find the plugs are all good but half of them might break off resulting in numerous hours of labour to extract them, so to his knowledge he never had them replaced so we thought it’s probably a good chance the spark plugs are bad and the compression test would be a good thing to do. So let me just share some photos here, so here’s the spark plugs removed from the engine, actually I’m not sharing these, hold on, just give it a second here. Get back with the technology or screen share, ok, now let’s, sorry give me a second here to figure out the technology, where are our pictures, they’re hidden away on me, give me half a second here, ok
Mark: We have done this before
Bernie: We’re you looking at the spark plugs?
Mark: Now we can see them, yeah
Bernie: O.K. so this is a new spark plug on the left, the old spark plug on the right, first thing you notice and unfortunately I was not able to put any arrows here but can you see my mouse pointer?
Bernie: Okay so this is the old spark plug, you can see there’s a gap in this spot and there’s a gap here. You’ll notice that on the old spark plug the gap is enormous so this is an indication spark plugs are extremely worn, also the reason these spark plugs break, it’s the design of the spark plugs, you notice this big long barrel here, this is not cast as part of the threaded section of the spark plug which is unique to this engine and unique and creates a problem in that you get a lot of carbon deposits which you can see on this spark plug. They build up and they seize the spark plug, this section of spark plug into the bore, you untwist the spark plug, boom it breaks and I’m just stopping the sharing here and there should be back. Yeah, so the spark plug breaks off inside the engine.
Mark: So is there any way to prevent these spark plugs from breaking?
Bernie: Well as the owner of the vehicle, no there isn’t but it’s just simply a design of the spark plugs, not much you can do to prevent it but in removing them there are ways that we can mitigate the breakage. There’s a couple techniques, one of them; warm the engine up, shut it off and then you just crack the spark plugs a little bit, you know it’s just a minute turn to just release some of the pressure in the spark plug, maybe, yeah like a 64th of a turn kind of minute amount, spray penetrating oil and let it soak overnight. Fortunately for this vehicle it was actually a Friday night that we did that and came in Monday morning, removed them and only one spark plug broke so whether that penetrating oil you know caused all the other ones to come loose, it’s hard to know. We’ve never had all 8 break, I’m sure it’s happened to somebody but not to us.
Mark: So how often do these plugs need replacement?
Bernie: Well the Ford, the interval from Ford is and I just looked this up is 144,000 kilometers is the normal service interval on spark plugs and a severe interval is 96,000 kilometers which gets me to talking about service intervals. Most people think all I just use my car for normal use but actually most of us use our car for severe use; severe use is excessive, is long idling which is like sitting at city lights, its frequent stops and starts, it’s cold starts. I mean that depends where you live but for the most part, most of us are actually driving severe service. You know, non-severe service like normal service would be starting the car up, you got on the highway and you drive for about 30 kilometers and there may be a tiny bit of city driving and you pull over and then back again, that would be non-severe use, so most of us are in severe schedule and incidentally this vehicle had about 128,000 kilometers and I’d show you the pictures of the spark plug wear so you can see, that this was sort of halfway in between those intervals and already the spark plug were pretty badly worn.
Mark: So you said that Ford redesigned the plugs so they won’t break?
Bernie: Yeah, they did actually and just shortly after this was vehicle was built, you know that there’s’ a production date on each vehicle, during this model year of this vehicle they actually changed the design of the spark plugs and actually so they don’t break, so they don’t have that sleeve that I showed you, that cylinder, it’s more of a normal type of spark plug. Now you can’t just take those plugs and put them in this engine, it’s actually an engine redesign but finally after years of the first generation these engines the spark plugs would blow out under some conditions, these don’t blow out, they just break when you remove them. Now Ford’s finally made them so they come out when you want them to, not before and when you want them out they come out.
Bernie: Yeah like it should be.
Mark: You mentioned that this issue happened after you guys had done some work on the vehicle but they were two unrelated issues; is that something that happens fairly often?
Bernie: From time to time. It’s always a difficult conversation with a customer when you fix something and then something happens and you know, I mean most people don’t know much about cars, they’re complicated and you know, you think well you fixed one thing, now it’s doing this, maybe you did something wrong and you know the truth is sometimes we do and I mean the way we approach it is, you know, first thing we’ll do is look at what did we do and make sure that wasn’t something related to what we did, after that, then it’s o.k. this is what we did and let’s start fresh, this is what we need to figure out and this is you know, this kind of stuff happens with cars and it’s why you need to find a trusting relationship with whoever you do business with in terms of car repair, I mean find the trust and have the conversations with the person, if it seems a little dodgy see, just be honest with them and say it seems like it was this, why is that and just get an answer, anyone good in this trade, in this industry will explain that to you and give you a good answer and if they can’t, well then maybe they’re, maybe they’re full of it, there not many people are, most people are the same, this industry is pretty honest.
Mark: So there you go, if you’re looking for an honest mechanic in Vancouver, the guys to go talk to and get repairs and maintenance on your vehicles are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 or check out their website, we’ve got literally hundreds of videos on there now. 604-327-7112 or pawlikautomotive.com. Thanks Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks Mark.