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Discussion Starter #1
I have a 2013 with 70,000 miles. I changed plugs about 15,000-20,000 miles ago. I kind of noticed the truck didn't seem as responsive the last couple weeks, so I decided to replace the plugs.

I was running a BCB Highlander tune for the last 10,000 miles but have ran Unleashed and Gearhead since 20,000 miles. I decided to flash the truck back to stock in case I bring it to the dealership. I have a Ford ESP that goes until 100,000 or 7 years.

What could be the cause of this? It is the front right spark plug, if you are looking at the engine. I do not know the cylinder layout. This was my fourth time changing the plugs and this was the first time I had noticed oil.

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Looks like on the threads more than on the electrode. Kinda a fuzzy close up. I'd say that'd be the o-ring for that cylinder, part of the valve cover gasket job.
 

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^^^ This. The picture isn’t real clear but I think you’re talking about the oil on the threads as opposed to oil on the electrode. When someone talks about having oil on their plugs my head always goes to the electrode and what may be mechanically wrong with the engine. I don’t think that this is the case here. It’s looks like oil down in the spark plug hole. That should be comforting as it shouldn‘t be nearly as expensive to repair as an engine that is burning oil.

That still leaves the question as to why it isn’t as responsive as it once was. It could be as simple as the oil in the plug hole causing the rubber sleeve to deteriorate and causing a miss fire. If however, that were the case, I’d think you’d be complaining about a definite miss fire. Who knows? Maybe a fresh set of plugs is just what the Dr. Ordered. He says, with hands in the air.
 

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I noticed the yellow discoloration towards the bottom of two of the plugs on the right side. I'd say those are toast compared to the others.
Lot of different factors go into why their burning like that; fuel, airflow, tune, engine load, etc..
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OP, did you check the gap on the plugs you took out? Could be your newest tune caused your plugs to deteriorate more rapid than you're used to also. Like Gearhead said, new plugs could be the hot ticket.
 

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In response to the oil problem on the plugs....I'd look at the PCV / Fitting & hose.
That's why a lot of guys go with a catch can system to trap that crap before it gets to the combustion chamber.


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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the reply guys. I did not notice any oil on the electrode. Just the threads. And I did not have any misfires.

Maybe I am over thinking the engine responsiveness. The weather in MN has been up and down lately. I am good at over thinking things.

I am going to drive it stock for a couple weeks to get some stock miles on the truck. I will probably set up an appointment to have it looked at.

Any idea on the cost without the ESP possibility?

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Discussion Starter #8
OP, did you check the gap on the plugs you took out? Could be your newest tune caused your plugs to deteriorate more rapid than you're used to also. Like Gearhead said, new plugs could be the hot ticket.
I did not. I just made sure my new plugs were gapped at 0.030. The plugs are so easy to do. I can check back in a couple weeks and see if the problem is still present. I will check tomorrow. Thanks for the idea.

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Discussion Starter #9
In response to the oil problem on the plugs....I'd look at the PCV / Fitting & hose.
That's why a lot of guys go with a catch can system to trap that crap before it gets to the combustion chamber.


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I had a catch can from 5,000 - 55,000 miles and was thinking of trading it in. Ended up selling it to someone on here.

But I never saw the issue when the catch can was present. When I took it off I had to out new hoses in since I used the OEM fittings on the catch can set up.

But it would make sense because I last did plugs around 50,000.

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I noticed the yellow discoloration towards the bottom of two of the plugs on the right side. I'd say those are toast compared to the others.
Lot of different factors go into why their burning like that; fuel, airflow, tune, engine load, etc..

Discoloration? Maybe my eyes are old and I’m missing something here. I can’t see anything like that on the combustion side of the plug.

Are we talking about the yellowing on the porcelain on the outside of the plug near the base of the porcelain? If that is what we’re discussing this condition is called a Corona Stain. It’s fairly common and does not affect the spark plugs ability to fire properly. It’s caused by oil particles suspended in the air being ionized and attaching to the porcelain. An oily environment such as oil sitting in the plug well will greatly enhance this effect, it has no correlation to fuel mix, air flow or tune etc. Now if you’re seeing these colors on the porcelain next to the electrode (I can’t) then it’s definitely related to what’s going on inside the cylinder.

Corona Stain is not to be confused with a plug that has a gas leak that is letting cylinder gases escape down along the edge between the plug base and porcelain (big Autolite problem a couple of decades ago). It also is not to be confused with spark creep. Creep occurs when the spark actually travels down the side of the plug to ground. This condition is fairly easy to identify and will definitely cause a misfire but you’ll most likely see a small “lightning” type track on the side of the plug if this condition is present.

I’ve seen most of the big manufacturers have problems that were specific to their plugs. Champion had a huge problem with compressed resistor springs caused by how they were gapped by the end user. Motorcraft had issues with the density of their porcelain, these would crack easily but wouldn’t fall apart. You really had to look close to see the cracks but you could pick it up on an oscilloscope. NGK’s had separation problems where the metal shell would break upon removal and leave the threads in the head. These threads usually came out fairly easy with the appropriate plug easy-out. These problems to my knowledge have all been eliminated. Anyway, I’m sure I’ve bored most of you to death by now.
 

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I really don’t have any idea what a dealer would charge for a valve cover gasket replacement. They’d probably do both sides while they’re at it. RockAuto sells the gasket set (it looks like there are 2 designs for a 2013 3.5L), which include spark plug tube seals for about $50.

I’d think the average motivated guy could knock this out in his driveway in a couple of hours, probably less. That means the dealer could charge you a couple hundred bucks labor. ;) I know, it’s scary. It’s a pretty straight forward job there are just a few things to get out of the way to get to the valve covers. I haven’t looked but wouldn’t be surprised if there is a YouTube on this kind of repair.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I will try to take better pictures of the spark plugs tomorrow. 2 definitely had some yellow discoloration. One with discoloration was the cylinder with oil on the threads. Good info on the Corona Effect.

I usually dive into projects and the wife gives me crap about it. But with a 2.5 year old and a 11 week old baby boy, my time is limited. If I could get it covered under the ESP, I would be grateful. $100 deductable.

I will be pulling the plug later this week or next week and see if the oil is still there.

Thanks for the ideas everyone.

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I will try to take better pictures of the spark plugs tomorrow. 2 definitely had some yellow discoloration.
I can definitely see the yellowing on the outside of the plug. My only point here is that it isn’t cause for concern as far as the way the truck runs (i.e. rich, lean, misfire etc.) I was trying to see the electrode and could ‘t see anything well enough there to say there was yellowing. Sorry, I can’t type what I think. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I did not notice any yellowing on the electrode. Plugs probably needed to be changed anyway. Crazy how easy it is.

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Discussion Starter #15
I pulled the plug again the other day. Still oil on the threads. Just called and talked to a service guy at the local dealership. He said it sounds like the o-ring for the plug is what the problem is. My ESP covers gaskets and seals.

Set up an appointment for February 12th. I don't know what the cost would be but I have a $100 deductable. My guess is the transmission will get flashed for TSB too.

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I pulled the plug again the other day. Still oil on the threads. Just called and talked to a service guy at the local dealership. He said it sounds like the o-ring for the plug is what the problem is. My ESP covers gaskets and seals.

Set up an appointment for February 12th. I don't know what the cost would be but I have a $100 deductable. My guess is the transmission will get flashed for TSB too.

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I just had this issue and the valve cover gasket needed replaced as well as the plugs and plug seals. It was a few hundred dollar job so 100 isn’t bad.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I brought the truck in Tuesday night for a early Wednesday morning appointment. I got a call around 2:30 that after noon saying the broke the valve cover. They kept it overnight and replaced the valve cover, seals, and gasket. Picked it up today. I don't notice any change but I am happy I bought the extended warranty. Possibly paid for itself or close to. The warranty was $1380 for 7 years/100,000 miles. Still have about 30,000 miles to go.

They did change my ECU strategy which sucks because I can't use my current tunes.

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This used to happen to my Lincoln LS V8 all the time, which had a 3.9L DOHC V8 from Jaguar. The valve cover gaskets would fail(there was an individual ring around each hole where the coils passed through the valve cover, between the cover and head) and it would fill the plug hole with oil. This eventually would result in the coils shitting the bed and the car running like total crap. I can't tell you how many times we changed the coils on that thing. Eventually Ford updated the gasket design which improved it, but I don't think it ever really fixed it.

In the Lincoln it would cause all kinds of issues from the engine lightly missing, to hard misfires, to the engine dying on the freeway at speed, to the transmission shifting like a complete savage and thinking the diff was going to explode from the shock.

If the truck is not running better, I would be taking a look at the coils. They could have degraded due to the oil contamination.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I did notice the get up and go of the truck was kind of crappy. That is why I changed the plugs. I have extra coils in my garage. I can change that one quick.

Thanks for the idea.

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Discussion Starter #20
Changed out the coil pack. Seems a little different. But the weather has been warmer too so that changes how the truck seems to run too. Should be good to go. Thanks for the suggestion.

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