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My Spark Plug Endeavor


Well-Known Member
October 7, 2012
Reaction score
City, State
Northeast Ohio
Year, Model & Trim Level
2006 Explorer EB V8 4WD
Good Lord, when did installing spark plugs become such a miserable task? I must admit, even if I had known about this issue beforehand, I still would have made this Explorer purchase. It ain't a deal breaker, but still sucks. The following items now on order. Prices include shipping & discounts:

The Lisle (LIS65600) Broken Spark Plug Remover is available at Amazon for $59.44 and free shipping, but it's also stocked at my local Oreilly Auto for $99.99 and NAPA for $89.00. I probably should buy it from Amazon, and return it if I don't need it.

Here is the video I refer to for courage to attempt the impact wrench method:

Ford 5.4 Liter 3 Valve Spark Plug Removal
"Have you ever replaced the spark plugs on the 5.4lit 3v? Have you had
the plugs break in the head? Here is my tip on how to replace the plugs
without breaking!"

To be continued...

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I am REALLY interested to see how this works for you. I have a 2006 EB with 88,000 miles on it and have been dreading this since I learned what a stupid design flaw it is.

I wish I could have the engineer who said "Yeah, that's a good idea!" in a small padded room for a little while...I just don't understand how this stuff gets through the engineering/ design QA process.

Anyway, I would have to get an electric impact wrench, no air compressor at the house. I will definitely get the extractor though....I wonder if an AutoZone would have one for rent?

Anyway, looking forward to the update.

There is a post #47 in page 3 of this thread: giving the same advice. To do it with a warm engine and without blowing out the plug well and not putting any carb cleaner into the plug thread and not knowing the air pressure is very courageous. In the video the tech mentioned using a professional fuel system "flush" to remove some carbon. You will also need a 9/16" hex socket for the plugs.

This is quite different to the Ford advice given in that thread in post #5 on page 1.

Good luck.

Thanks for the well wishes, and I'll take all the prayers I can get.

The Senior Master Technician mentioned using a wrench with minimum 200 ft. lbs., and he runs it wide open. That's gleaned from the comments of the video. You basically have no choice on the reverse direction, other than turning the compressor down. They need about 90PSI to work correctly anyway. Looks like his is an Ingersoll-Rand 2115TI, which makes sense if you do this for a living, but a little rich for my blood.

I do intend to do it at operating temperature, so I'll have to strip it fast. No reason why I can't blow the plug wells out quickly though. I think I'll need a really short extension. The local Harbor Freight should be able to help with that.

I read through those 17 pages of comments, a few people like me found the 3/8" impact wimpy; so I will be very interested in your results. It seems the fuel injector/induction service is recommended before the procedure with engines that have 80,000 miles or more according to the author.

There is a specific 9/16" socket for the 5.4 and 4.6 3v engines that comes with a built in extension. You need the extension to end just above the plug well to retrieve the socket since it is a very snug fit on the plug (dielectric silicone grease on the plugs makes it much easier to remove). I used several extensions to put the ratchet in the ideal place for easy removal. I found #4 cylinder a bit aukward due to fittings and clearance under the cowling.

My son's 2007 Explorer V8 plugs came out very easily after about 96,000 miles without using any fuel additives or techniques with carb cleaner in the plug wells (although I had everything including extraction tools). Champions went back in.

Good luck.

I think I'll track down that extension/socket and buy the Amazon Lisle tool as well. I guess the BG44k will be going in on the next fill up, although what's the difference if I only have two thirds of a tank full when I add it? I mean, not all vehicles have a 20+ gallon tank, yet they'd still add the same 11oz. of cleaner to their smaller tank. I'd have a higher concentration in for a shorter period if I don't top it off. Wonder which is preferable?

Just filled it up about 30 minutes ago. Got a respectable 12.8MPG. Last time I checked it was a little under 10MPG. After that abysmal number I checked it on the freeway at 60MPH for five miles on cruise control. Got 22.8MPG in one direction and 24.8MPG coming back. Only thing I've changed was cleaning the throttle body plate and its seat with a rag dampened in denatured alcohol (because I'm out of throttle body cleaner), and cleaned the MAF Sensor, which wasn't dirty to the naked eye. That's currently 12.8MPG with zero highway miles, and warmed up via remote start at least twice per day.

Not noticing any miss at the moment. Plug change will be preventive maintenance, and maybe the fuel injectors are in need of the treatment. Doubt I'll notice a difference by the seat of my pants, but I'm carefully monitoring the mileage.

I once replaced the plugs in my '94 Town Car with NGK platinum plugs. One was missing within a week. Been using Motorcraft or Autolite ever since. Champions might run fine, but it's not worth taking the chance to me. My wife only drives 5K per year, so it will be ten years before I have to go through this again.

Hmmm, by the looks of this video, the OTC 6900 Ford F-150 Spark Plug Socket is a couple inches longer than I was shooting for. Not sure I'd be able to get at #4 and #8 with the impact wrench and that long extension. I do have some 3/8" drive, deep well, 6 point sockets already. Is it possible for my 9/16" socket to get stuck down there?

Edit: Changed my mind. That spark plug socket looks perfect. I just took a peak under the hood, and the only obstruction to worry about, is a heater hose line above #4, which I should be able to shove aside. Kind of looking forward to this challenge now...

Edit II: Now on order:

Damn, that's a butt load of money to change plugs! But, in the end I'll have some peace of mind, a new impact wrench (which I'll return if it sucks), maybe a little better mileage, and a war story to tell my grandkids. :)

Edit III: Man, I really pooched those numbers for the gas mileage on the 10 mile freeway test. Just spoke with my wife, who was in the truck with me, and she said the mileage was 22.8 (not 12.8) going, and 24.8 (not 14.8) returning. She is correct, as I recall. No idea what I was thinking when I wrote those earlier numbers! :confused:

My 9/16" hex socket looks like the one you have ordered and is 6" long. The Champions that I put in are 5/8" hex so I used the sockets for my 4.6 2v. They are 5" and 8" long and made from regular plug sockets with extensions held in place by a roll pin. A regular plug socket is very difficult to remove from the deep plug well.

The Motorcraft plugs were not a problem when replaced, no misfires, etc but the Champions made a performance improvement. Not a noticeable change to the computer fuel estimates (verified by manual calculations). My son seems to average about 17 mpg and much better on a trip and it goes down to 15 mpg when pulling his 5,000 lb trailer.

Good brand name gas includes cleaning agents so if that is what you have been using then less likely you will need extra cleaners.

Good luck.

Plugs just arrived, as did the BG 44k, which has been added to the tank. Going to be at least ten days before that's run through.

I'm now looking into more methods to clean the combustion chamber before the "procedure". I do intend to disconnect the MAF Sensor and remove the Air Cleaner Outlet Pipe to spray a cleaner in the Throttle Body, using an engine cleaning gun. Not sure if this will cause it to throw a code, but I can reset it if it does. I'm very interested in using water as well. This is why: USING WATER TO CLEAN CARBON OUT OF A GASOLINE ENGINE

I'd also like to use Sea Foam or similar product available locally. I'd run it through till the can is empty, leave it sit ten or twenty minutes, run the truck till it doesn't smoke, then run a second can through. At that time I'd pull the plugs during the ten to twenty minute "soaking period". Well, that's the plan. I've still got ten days to bring in a couple cans of cleaner if Sea Foam is inferior. Suggestions welcome, even off the wall cleaners such as alcohol, brake fluid, PB Blaster, kerosene... whatever!


Edit: Just for a test, I sprayed water into the TB of our crippled '09 Grand Marquis using an engine cleaning gun. Had to open the throttle to get the mist to shoot in without dripping all over the COP's. That put the RPM's up around 3K and it took everything I could shoot in there. Had trouble getting it to falter. The beautiful spray mist is probably not enough volume of water. Would have taken forever to shoot a pint in. I did get it to stumble a bit, and it threw three codes for three different spark plugs missing. Reset the codes and it's running fine. No idea how well it was cleaned, or if it did anything at all. I saw nothing unusual coming out of the exhaust. Doubt I'll bother doing that to the Explorer. Still in search of a couple cans of safe combustion chamber cleaner to use on the big day...

Harbor Freight / FedEx... GAWD!

It's going to be above 50 degrees here in Northeast Ohio all weekend. I've got less than a quarter tank to go before all the BG 44k is run through the engine. Plugs are here and coated with anti-seize, Lisle tool is at the ready, fancy spark plug extension all set. Can of Sea Foam on the bench, and camera is charged up. So, good to go, right? WRONG! The wondrous "Earthquake" 3/8" impact wrench from Harbor Freight, that I ordered on the 17th, just arrived in Pennsylvania from the left coast. I checked tracking to see if it might arrive on Friday, instead of the estimated delivery date of Saturday, and it now has an estimated date of December 4th. TUESDAY! :fire:

It's only two flippin' hours away, so there's a chance of arriving this weekend, but good lord, two weeks to deliver one single item! I WILL remember this and make sure everybody else hears about their "awesome" service as well. Gawd...

Too bad your new impact is stuck "in transit". We are going to have a great weekend here in the Northeast of Ohio and you cant get your plugs done! I am interested in how this goes for you I have a friend with a 2005 F150 with the V8 and if this works for you I will recommend this for him!

Run a can of concentrated techron with a full tank through before you change them. Make sure to get the concentrate not the "every 3rd tank" treatment. Don't go easy on it when the techron in there either. Do a few WOT runs using a freeway onramp or something (be safe!). Use the whole tank of gas. Park the truck in the garage or wherever and soak the top of each plug with carb cleaner over night. Literally 8-12 hours. With any luck you won't break any of them.

The Time Has Come

Ran the tank with the BG 44k down to near empty. 3/8" Impact still hasn't arrived, and I can't be sure it will. Plan B: Buy a mega powered 3/8" drive locally. Too bad there are none to be found. Went to Harbor Freight to see if they might have one in stock. No, they didn't, but they had a display model which they refused to sell me. *******s! :)

I have an ancient 1/2" drive that isn't too big, so I thought I'd try it with a 1/2 to 3/8 adapter. I mounted that to a short extension and 6 point 9/16" deep well socket. Ends up the exact same width and length as the special spark plug socket. But, turns out it's gutless. Went to Sears and found a tiny 1/2" impact with lots of power: Model# 19986 This will do! It also has adjustable power in forward AND reverse.



Tomorrow morning I'm warming it up, running half the Sea Foam through the brake booster hose. Waiting 30 minutes, then run it "enthusiastically" about ten miles. I'll then put the last half of the Sea Foam in, blow out the debris with compressed air, strip the COP's, and blow out the plug wells. Wait for the balance of 30 minutes from inhaling the Sea Foam, and start pulling the plugs. I want to set the wrench at a conservative setting, but I'm not sure how that will be determined. The compressor can achieve about 120psi, and I'll set the output to about 100. I guess I'll select the medium setting on the wrench to start with.


Oh yeah, I forgot I'll be attempting to set the camera up for video as well. Wish I had a taller tripod...

Sorry Harbor Freight wouldn't sell you the floor model? Which one did you go to the one in Canal Fulton? I cant wait to see how your project comes out, I wish you the best of luck! I am so glad I didn't get a Explorer with the v8 because I have to admit I did no research prior to buying my truck and I could have been in your shoes right now.

You have to go an hour north to get to our Harbor Freight near the lake... Eastlake. Doesn't matter now. This one can do the job at least as well, and for twice the price it should. At this price point, the NitroCat 1355-XL or Ingersoll Rand 2115TiMAX would be money better spent IMO.

This is truly it. We won't have weather like this again for a LONG time:


I'm getting antsy to have at it!

The 9/16" deep socket with an extension will not work. You will need the one piece specialty 9/16" socket that you have. The specialty socket has a rubber fitting that grips the plug allowing easy removal of the plug and easy placement of the plug into the well, and the extension part shows above the well so you can grip it and remove the socket and plug as a unit. The regular socket does not have the rubber fitting and a weak connection with the dimpled ball socket "lock". So there is no way of gripping the plug to pull it out of the well.

If you were able to fit a spark plug gripping rubber into the 9/16" regular deep socket, it still would not work because the connection to the extension is not strong enough.

Good luck

Damn it!

You're right about the deep well not having the rubber inside, but I usually just use a piece of 3/8" fuel hose to pull 'em out. In this case, I had the fancy socket, so I used that too.

Unfortunately, you can learn from my mistake. I turned the power down on the wrench for the first plug... MISTAKE! Cranked the power and spun the other seven out no problem. Now I have to use the Lisle tool. $60.00 down the drain unless I can recoup a few bucks selling it on Ebay.

I've got videos of the ordeal, but only a crappy editor. That will be later. Right now I'm having lunch, and then removing the last plug...

What A PITA, But It Could Have Been Worse!




Shot some grease down in the hole of the porcelain to help prevent ceramic chips from going in the cylinder during removal.

Oh, and guess what my mailman brought me just as I was finishing up?

Uploaded the third video. Took 70minutes! The other two are being worked on. I'll add links here sometime later...

Ford 4.6L 3V Spark Plug Removal Part 1
(For reference to lack of speed & power setting of impact wrench, which caused failure to successfully remove first plug intact.)

Ford 4.6L 3V Spark Plug Removal Part 2

Ford 4.6L 3V Spark Plug Removal Part 3

After discovering the removal of spark plugs from the Ford Triton 3 Valve Engines often results in leaving part of the plug behind in the head, I found SR Master Tech's unorthodox method for successfully removing the plugs without incident. His video is titled, "Ford 5.4 Liter 3 Valve Spark Plug Removal"

God bless him for not only finding this method, but for taking the trouble to video the procedure and upload it.

This is my video of the procedure using a 1/2" Craftsman Model# 19986. This is the third video showing plugs one through four being removed. The first video shows plug number five failing on the removal. I foolishly backed off on the power for the impact wrench, thinking it may be too high, since it's 1/2" instead of 3/8". BIG MISTAKE! I cranked up the power and removed the last seven without a hitch. For reference, my compressor was set to 125 pounds and the wrench was dialed to the top notch.

Also, thanks a million to the engineers who created the "Lisle (LIS65600) Broken Spark Plug Remover for Ford Triton 3 Valve Engines". That tool is worth every penny (about $60.00 on Amazon) and then some!

So sorry to hear about the first plug breaking. Good to have the tool to remove the broken part, certainly not $60 down the drain in this case. Think how much the dealer would have charged you to replace the plugs.

Good luck with the rest of the job.

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Nice video of the last 4 plugs to come out.