Ford Spark Plug Blowout FAQ’s – Common Questions
DennisB WiseAutoTools.com © Summary: We’ve been selling spark plug thread repair kits for many years to vehicle owners and repair shops for Ford spark plug blowout repair. We answer frequently asked questions and go over concerns regarding common misconceptions. Although other vehicles can have a sparkplug blowout or ejection problem, this article is primarily on 1996 to 2012 Ford 4.6, 5.4 and 6.8 engines. The most common kits we sell are the Calvan 38900, the TIME-SERT 5553 and the largest thread repair kit TIME-SERT 5600.
It astonishes us that the spark plug blowout problem, particularly in Ford’s still exist. But since it does, we wanted to clear up a few things. Below we cover some common questions (FAQ’s) that our customer’s typically have when facing this problem for the first time. We also cover some common mistakes and misconceptions that some people have. If you’d rather get assistance now in purchasing the correct spark plug thread repair kit for your current blowout problem without reading further, just give us a call and we’ll be happy to help. Otherwise read on for more information and a demonstration video that I did awhile back using our largest sparkplug thread repair kit, the Time Sert 5600.
This image above shows contents of the TIME-SERT part number 5553 with a parts identification breakdown. The Time Sert 5553 is just one kit that we sell. The #7 wrench is like a socket extension that attaches to tooling making it easy to reach the bottom of recessed spark plug holes. Number 6 in the image partially shows the laminated Time Sert 5553 instructions that comes in the kit. For more details on all of the components see our TIME-SERT 5553 product description. The instructions are very easy to follow. We also email extra tips for free when the TIME-SERT 5553 (5600 or 38900) is purchased on our website. Just mention “tips” in the comments when purchasing online or to the person taking your order if placing it over the phone. Please remember our free tips are only available when purchasing on one of our websites WiseAutoTools.com or DenLorsTools.com. We don’t sell on Amazon or eBay, since we cannot offer expedited order handling on those sites. We are also able to pass the savings (or faster shipping benefits) on to our customers. Paypal as well as all major credit cards are accepted.
Question – Why do spark plug threads fail and blowout mainly in cylinder #3?
Answer – Some Internet forums and other websites perpetuate the idea that Ford spark plug blowouts are more common with one or two particular cylinders and that the others usually never have a problem. Pick your cylinder in the following question. Why do Ford spark plug blowouts always occur in cylinder number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10? This is a common misconception that certain cylinders are more prone to having thread failure. This theory is based on no supporting data. Spark plugs can blowout of any cylinder. They all have the same chance of blowing out. The same grade aluminum in the head. The same spark plugs. The same torque and so on. Any cylinder’s number may be up randomly, just as no particular number is drawn in a lottery.
Misconception – The cylinder heads are made of aluminum, so I need an aluminum thread insert to make a proper repair. Otherwise different expansion and contraction rates will cause the inserts to loosen up over time.
Clarification – Mostly false. Our steel alloy inserts in Time Sert kits and Calvan kits share enough of the same properties as the aluminum that cylinder heads are made of but are more durable. This means that there are no issues from heating and cooling or proper grounding. Also, think about the spark plugs themselves. The spark plugs are NOT made of aluminum! Now it is true that some inserts made of simple black carbon steel and the fact that they are thin, can distort and loosen over the course of many heating and cooling cycles. This is not true with the inserts supplied in our kits because of the material and thickness. *Aluminum inserts are available for use with the TIME-SERT 5553 kit for certain racing applications when the type of fuel used would possible adversely affect the steel alloy. However, this is not a problem with everyday vehicles using normal fuel. For race applications and for those that are not convinced, we sell a TIME-SERT 5553 kit with aluminum inserts at a slightly higher cost.
Question – Here’s something else on the Internet so it must be true. Are spark plug thread repair inserts just a temporary fix?
Answer – Some repair inserts are definitely a temporary fix, no doubt. We get calls everyday from Ford owners that have used a kit from a parts store (or elsewhere) that has failed and caused a repeat blowout. We understand that local parts stores are a natural “go to” when a breakdown occurs due to convenience. The problem is that they usually only have a Helicoil Sav-A-Thread or a Dorman HELP! kit to choose from. In our experience these type of kits seldom hold for very long. We have had no reported failures with Time Sert or Calvan kits to date. And we’ve been selling them a since 2005.
Misconception – Because of room to work needed and the problem of metal shavings, the only way to repair a spark plug hole is to remove the cylinder head.
Clarification – Not true. Our tools have wrench flats that accept sockets. When using a hand ratchet or air ratchet a 90 degree is created for turning tools. This for allows work in much tighter areas. Work can be done in vans and in tight areas like the passenger side on trucks. As far as metal shavings; The first step is always to make sure the valves are closed (and piston down some). This does two things. It insures that the valves are not sticking out into the cylinder, which could allow the tooling to bend the valves. It also isolates the cylinder being worked on, so no metal goes beyond the cylinder. A vacuum can be used. A blower can be used. Brakeclean and more blowing can be done etc. The engine can be cranked over. Finally an inspection camera can be used to verify all debris is out before putting the sparkplug in.
Question – Heli Coil wrote the book on thread repair. Why don’t Helicoil’s stay in?
Answer – It’s true that Helicoil is the best known brand when it comes to thread repair. For spark plug thread repair, the repair has to be sustained over time. The repair has to last over many heating cooling cycles, hold up under compression forces etc. For a dependable repair, the insert needs to be held in very well, be made of the proper material and needs to be thick enough to resist distortion. Helicoil – thin coils of wire are only held in by spring action and the spark plug itself. Helicoil – solid inserts are only held in from the top knurl when swedged with a cone shaped tool and a hammer. One way TIME-SERT inserts like in the thread repair kit p n 5553 kit are held from the bottom. An install driver finishes cold rolling the bottom of the threads, completing them while expanding and locking the insert in. Since it’s held from the bottom (instead of the top) it’s a much better design that is what we consider a permanent repair, that can withstand all of the challenges that the spark plug hole dishes out like heat/cool cycles and compression. Calvan has a lip at the top of the insert that tightens down similar to how a bolt head tightens down.
Misconception – The auto repair shop said that, since a Helicoil had been used before the cylinder head needs to be replaced, because the spark plug hole is too big to be repaired.
Clarification – While it’s true that a Helicoil or any other common brand sold by parts stores cannot be repaired with another insert of the same size, there are other “over-size” options. Just because some repair shops are not aware of bigger kits, doesn’t mean that the only solution is replacing the cylinder head. I can’t count all the times that our customer’s were quoted cylinder head replacement costs of $2,000 or more, before finding us. The typical scenario, is that in desperation they Googled the problem of “Spark plug hole too big to repair” and found our information. Now in some rare occasions the hole could be too big to repair. For instance; if a Dorman repair (which is bigger than Helicoil) is used and there’s a compression leak outside the insert. Erosion can occur which elongates the hole. In this case, the largest repair kit, the TIMESERT 5600 is the best chance of saving the head.
Question – I’ve got taps, so can I just buy the insert?
Answer – We sell replacement inserts for all of our kits. Taps alone do not make up a kit. There’s actually a reason for everything in the kits. For instance, in the TIME-SERT kits, special size thread taps are needed to prepare the holes with very close tolerances. Then an installation driver is used to complete the threads in the insert which also expands and locks the insert in place. Without this last process, the installation will not be complete and failure of the repair would be certain.
Misconception – Time Sert spark plug thread repair kits have a guide piece that lines the tooling straight into the hole.
Clarification – False. The Calvan spark plug thread repair kits have a guide, but the Time-Sert kits do not use one. Time Sert uses piloted tooling, which means the tools are smaller stepped at the beginning to help guide the tooling into the spark plug hole. This makes the TIME-SERT brand capable of working on many more applications compared to Calvan because Calvan has to have the guide to work properly. And the guide only works for certain models.
Question – Should I repair threads by installing inserts in ALL cylinders since it may be just a matter of time before the others fail too?
Answer – This is up to the individual. Some techs and vehicle owners only repair the failed spark plug threads. Many of our customers will fix ALL of the holes. Technicians rebuilding engines for racing usually do all cylinders, eliminating weak links. We’ve had customers that live in extreme conditions like hot desert climates or extreme cold climates like in Alaska that cannot afford a breakdown. Those customers almost always upgrade the spark plug threads in ALL cylinders. Many others do all cylinders as preventative maintenance. Recently I’ve had two mechanics say that have had blowouts in their own vehicles before, in a different cylinder. And now have had a different sparkplug blow in their personal vehicle. This time both techs have decided to repair the rest of the cylinders to eliminate the chance of a future break-down.
Question – I have a Ford F 250 spark plug blowout problem. What’s the difference between the TIME-SERT 5553 for sale and the Calvan 38900?
Answer – The short answer is they are different brands and each do things differently. The inserts are held in differently. The Calvan 38900 works on less applications compared to the TIME-SERT 5553 Big Sert kit. See our comparison article for more information. – What’s the difference between a Calvan 38900 VS TIME-SERT 5553?
Question – Do you rent Time Sert Ford Triton spark plug thread repair kits?
Answer – No! Rental tools are typically used and abused. That makes renting a precision tool kit like Time Sert or Calvan a bad idea. These tools need to be sharp to properly ream and make proper threads. And with TIME-SERT the driver tool is critical in expanding and cold rolling the insert on the final step. Steer away from worn tooling to help ensure a dependable repair.
Question – I want to make sure everything is in the Ford spark plug blowout repair kit. What other tools do I need to do a spark plug thread repair?
Answer – Good question, because some people think all they need is an insert. The kits we sell include the special tooling needed to properly install the inserts. Basic mechanic’s tools are needed including an air compressor and ratchets. A video inspection camera is good to have also. See below.
Basic Tool List for Spark Plug Thread Repair
1. Standard Pliers (not included) 5/8″ Spark Plug Socket (not included)
2. 3/8″ Drive Extensions (not included)
4. Air Ratchet (not included)
6. Cylinder Leak Detector (included in 38900 kit) Available separately if purchasing a TIME-SERT kit see 389-4000.
8. Safety Glasses (not included)
9. JB Weld (not included) Loctite is included in the Time Sert kits
11. Shop Towels (not included)
Question – Will the manufacturer ever own up to the problem and do a Ford spark plug blowout recall?
Answer – Doubtful. We’ve been selling thread repair kits so=ince 2005 and the problem was around before that. What further confuses the issue is tha some Ford owners never have a problem, while others have multiple failures. Ford did update the torque specification which you would think would solve the problem, but it seems there are still issues.
Any questions not answered here feel free to ask below or give us a call at 800-734-8665.