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Old 01-05-2013, 07:33 PM   #1
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Spark plug woes

Hi All,

I have 2 Focuses, a 2001 and a 2003. Both are manual transmission with Zetecs.

About a year ago I replaced the plugs in the '03 with NGK LTR5GP There were Autolite/Motorcraft AZFS 32F/FE plugs in there. The electrodes looked great when I pulled them so I didn't need to change the plugs but of course, I didn't know that until I pulled them out.

Well, a few months ago I was cruising along I-5 averaging 80 with bursts to 90, RPM between 4K to 6K. Everything running smooth. Then BOOM. #1 spark plug blown completely out of the head. Of course taking all threads with it. I limped into a NAPA and bought a replacement NGK, and there was maybe 1-2 threads left in the hole - just enough to put maybe 5 ft pounds of torque on it - which I did and then drove the remaining 200 miles home with #1 plug disconnected, going about 55Mph the whole way, and passed by every Grandmaw on the road. Not fun.

Anyway, I pulled the head, took it to a head shop which put an insert in, replaced the valve seals, milled a hair or so off the block face and I just got it back and am getting ready to put it back.

The thing that is bothering me though is WHY the FUCUS did this happen?

Hey, I enjoy working on my cars - in the summer, when the garage is nice and warm - and I'm not freezing my tush off. The last thing I want to do is a major job like this in the middle of winter.

Did I screw up the plug install and strip the threads? I was very careful putting them in and I have other aluminum head engines that I've never had a problem with. Maybe I didn't torque them right? I used a torque wrench but I didn't recheck torque a week or so later or any of that. Is the plug to blame? Is this an endemic problem with these engines?

I talked to a tech who works at a Ford dealership and asked him if he thought I was pushing the engine - he said he didn't think so - and he had dealt with this problem before with these engines.

The guy at the head shop said that what he's seen sometimes in aluminum heads is plugs get loose - then the engine combustion basically hammers the heck out of the threads with the plug bouncing up and down and finally hogs them out to where the plug blows.

I'm wondering if it was the NGKs. There is a thread difference between them and the Autolite plugs - the NGK's the threads are much longer. Same pitch, though - but in an older thread in this forum people don't like the NGKs.

I'm kind of thinking the plug got loose because there was definitely a single thread left at the bottom of the hole that the plug bit into - I felt it when I put the temporary plug in and I saw it when I pulled the head off.

Anyone run into this before?

Also, would anyone like me to post the pics of the head remove & replace?

One last question - the Factory Service Manual says the cam cap bolts are reusable but they can only be reused 3 times - your supposed to mark them with a punch each time you use them - mine are not marked - should I do this or should I discard them and buy new ones?

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Old 01-05-2013, 09:55 PM   #2
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Just saying if that happened to me I may have made a mess so to say. But that's crazy I've never heard of that. But I'd love you to post pics that would be nice.
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Old 01-05-2013, 10:06 PM   #3
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Moved to "General Technical Chat".
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