'97 Taurus Wagon GL, 147k: P0301 Misfire Cylinder 1

Colt Hero

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#1
Weird, but a day after replacing a ball joint and driving the car with a loose stabilizer link, my Check Engine Light suddenly started BLINKING (first time I'd ever seen that on ANY car I've ever owned). Thought for a minute that the computer could somehow tell that my suspension system wasn't completely intact, but the code turned up P0301: misfire cylinder 1.

First time I've ever seen this code on this car, but understandable since the plugs and wires are still original (I know, shame on me for not replacing them around 75k).

Ford says the replacements for this car are AWSF32PP's. $6.04 per plug. Wires are $55.56. Now normally I would just go to Autozone and buy Bosch or Champion or NKG replacements, but I've heard people say you should only put Motorcraft plugs into this car (Vulcan 3.0) because it's very finniky. People have experienced problems with other brands of plugs.

Any advice on changing the plugs on this car?

1.) Any special techniques or tools?
2.) Does a hotter engine make it any easier?
3.) Will I be able to get at the plugs facing the firewall? Will I have to rock the engine or partially dismantle it?
4.) Am I going to have a hard time getting the old plugs out since they've been in so long?
5.) What if an old plug breaks while unscrewing it?
5.) Should I just change WIRE #1 first to see if that solves the problem, then PLUG #1 if not?
4.) THIS CAR HAS ALWAYS SUFFERED FROM PRE-IGNITION (Pinging). ANY PARTICULAR PLUG HELP TO PREVENT THIS?
 
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#2
What is the engine code on this?...the 8th digit on the VIN....Is it a 1...2...S....U....?.........Jim
 
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#4
You don't need any special tools...The head is aluminum...You want to make sure you let it cool down before you try to take the plugs out or you might strip the threads in the holes...Are you sure you didn't pull a plug wire loose when you did the ball joint?...I would check that wire first...Here is the procedure that might help you....Jim...........


Disconnect the battery ground cable. NOTE: When the battery has been disconnected and reconnected, some abnormal drive symptoms may occur while the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) relearns its adaptive strategy. The vehicle may need to be driven 10 miles or more to relearn the strategy.
Remove the RH side of the cowl vent screen and RH cowl top extension.
Disconnect engine control sensor wiring from the ignition coil, remove the four ignition coil hold-down screws, and remove the ignition coil to access the spark plugs on cylinders 1, 2 and 3.
Disconnect the electric Intake Manifold Runner Control (IMRC) actuator electrical connector, remove the mounting screws, and lay the IMRC actuator aside to access the spark plugs on cylinders 4, 5 and 6.
Disconnect ignition cables from spark plugs.
Loosen spark plugs 1/4 turn and, using compressed air, remove any dirt or foreign material from spark plug areas of cylinder head.
Remove spark plugs.
Inspect spark plugs and replace if necessary.
To install, reverse Removal procedure. Tighten spark plugs to 9-20 Nm (80-177 lb in) .
 

Colt Hero

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#5
Replaced only the #1 spark plug wire this weekend and the P0301 code returned, as expected, within 3-5 miles of driving. So then I replaced the #1 spark plug and the code seems to have gone away. Only drove the car the same 3-5 miles, though, so who knows - the code may return tomorrow when I drive 50 miles roundtrip. Car drove a lot better than with just the wire replacement - no stumbling at all. Interestingly, other codes that I've been living with for two years also didn't reappear : 1131 (?), 430 (?), and 133. Not really sure on those code numbers offhand. They were "lean" codes and appeared to be related.

As for the old plug, it was dry, not oily or wet, and the curved "bar" that you bend to gap the plug was worn at somewhat of an angle. Instead of being a squared-off "bar", it was slivered or wedged toward one edge. The plug also appeared to be gapped a little too wide. It must've just worn to the point where the gap got too wide.

As far as doing the replacement, the plastic tray that the wire snaked through had to be opened, which meant some screws and nuts above needed to be removed first (no big deal). Then, a plastic standoff near #2 plug that held the #1 and #2 wires wouldn't unsnap for me (I ended up cracking it - oh, well). The immediate area around the #1 plug was amazingly clean - no need to blow any dirt out of there. Then, the plug came out very easily with a 5/8" socket and short extension (even though this plug had been in the engine for 10 years and 148k miles). The new one threaded in just as easily. Plenty of clearance to do this from the top. Although you really can't see exactly what you're doing, you certainly can feel the plug threading in with your bare hand.

I torqued the plug to 11 Ft lbs. This was within the range of what the Hayes book specified. As I always do, I cross-checked this number against the Ford shop manual, only to find an 80-117 (?) Ft lbs number. Another error in the shop manual - number in wrong column.
 

csaxon

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#7
I'm just curious about what brand plug you removed and what brand you replaced it with.
 

Colt Hero

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csaxon:

Both Motorcraft. The spec'd replacement was AWSF32PP (platinum), but the dealer had a replacement number (don't have it on me right now). Looked identical to the original with the blue rings around the porcelain part.