Reader Question: Beware the 5.4?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Nick asks: I just bought an 2007 F-150 with the Triton 5.4 liter 3 valve engine. Some people say that the engine is garbage. I may have some problem with the VCT or the timing chains. What do you think about those engines?

My reply: I think they’re under-powered engines. Specifically, under-torque engines . . . relative to the stronger (and OHV) GM and Ram V8s. The Ford 4.6/5.4 V8s feel wheezy down low . . . relative to the larger displacement (and OHV) GM LS series and Ram Hemis.

The Ford V8s are also more complicated engines – being OHC engines (and three valve engines) so there is more to deal with and more you might end up having to deal with – because greater complexity often means a higher chance of something going wrong.

One thing you will need to be careful about is spark plug removal. A special tool/procedure is needed to avoid breaking them off during removal  – and if they break in half on you, that is a big PITAS!

Here’s an article that gets into some detail.

All that aside, assuming you got one that wasn’t abused – and was well-maintained – it’ll probably be okay. They’re not bad engines. Just not quite as good as the excellent GM V8 and the also very good Chrysler/Dodge/Ram Hemi V8.

Just don’t forget about those spark plugs!

. . .

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  1. One of the main problems or the main problem with the engine is lack of oil return from the top end. Of course the top end eventually suffers from this. Makes no sense to me why you’d limit oil return(perhaps for future dealer money?). It’s especially common if they haven’t been well maintained to have vavle/lifter problems. Of course, same can be said for the GM and Ram roller rockers and lifters.

    The new Ram Hemi’s are dropping like flies with lifter problems. I rented one and it already had top end noise. I’m facing my own conundrum with the Z 71 and a failed lifter or rocker. Do I want to replace the rockers, lifters and cam on a 230,000 mile engine with original transmission? Not really. This is the very reason I will avoid the LS and similar engines. Too many things to go wrong including variable oil pump, valve timing, etc. Yeah, they can make unbelievable power but for how long in simply the stock state? You haven’t seen a roller rocker or a roller camshaft on a diesel have you? I was just noticing the 800,000+ miles yesterday on the Freightliner with a Detroit 60 series. Nothing exotic there but it uses no oil and pulls like crazy. At least the engine makers for big rigs haven’t gone off the deep end…..yet. I really doubt they will.

    Imagine buying a new truck and the engine is done in half a million miles when a million and a half is common for well-serviced engines and still running fine.


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