The Ford F150 is the truck for anyone who needs to carry big loads or traverse over rough terrain. You would think that would mean it’s not prone to little issues here and there, but the opposite is true! For someone who needs to drive on tough terrain. For a truck that sells hundreds of thousands of models, the Ford F150 does have some repeating issues that will often need to be fixed.
But what are some of the common issues with the Ford F150? Ford F150 issues depend on the year of the F150. The most common issues tend to be with the ignition coil, head gasket, spark plugs, and transmission malfunctions. Many of them are easy fixes but could cost lots of money.
The issues depend on the model of the truck, so this guide will go into detail of issues that relate to the year of each F150. Some of them do appear on multiple models and years.
Where are the biggest issues with Ford F150s?
Although problems with the Ford F150 vary with the year of the model, there are common issues that tend to appear no matter what. Drivers report the primary issues are engine, windows, and transmission with spark plugs and the MyFord Touch smart technology features being the problems that cause the greatest customer dissatisfaction.
Below is a breakdown of each issue sorted by the year of the model. Some issues occur twice but have different problems based on the model year.
Ford F150 issues (Models: 1987 to 1996)
1.Issue: Alternator belt
The issue was found in the 1990-94 models. According to consumers, the engine would make a chirping or squealing sound, which indicated the pulley for the air-conditioners, or the power-steering was off.
2. Issue: Automatic transmission
Flare-up issues with the transmission were found in the 1990-95 models. However, in the 1990-93 models, drivers discovered the flare-up issues when they’d switch from second gear to third gear.
More commonly in the 1994-95 models, the TR/MLP sensor would be faulty and cause the engine to flare up when the truck switched to fourth gear. Ford’s solution was to fix the distorted valve plates.
3. Issue: Ball joints
In the 1990-96 models, the ball joints would be ruined if exposed to water. This happened a lot, so the ball joints would expire prematurely. The solution was to keep changing them for new ones.
4. Issue: Hard starting
Also, on the 1990-96 models, drivers complained that, well, their vehicle wouldn’t start at all. Specifically, a faulty harness wiring Ford pointed out caused the vehicular stalling, hesitation, and failure to start.
Other causes of this problem include a stuck idle air control valve that makes the engine crank, stall or fails to start altogether.
5. Issue: Suspension problems
Weak leaf springs along the front of the vehicle were found in the 1991-94 Ford F150 models. New springs or added leaves will fix the issue, but some trucks require a newly aligned suspension as well as a replacement of any additional parts in the suspension.
6. Issue: Vehicle noise
Drivers have complained about a chattering sound in the rear part of the Ford F150, specifically the 1990-96 models. The noise occurs during soft turns in the vehicle after driving at high speeds.
The problem came in an insufficient friction modifier or a faulty Traction-Lok differential. The solution was to change out the loose rivets for bolts.
Ford F150 issues (Models: 1997 to 2003)
7. Issue: Head gasket failure
Oil leaking from the head gasket can just be replaced with a new head gasket. The cost is $300-$943.
8. Issue: Ignition coil failure
A bad ignition coil usually means a rough-running engine and an illuminated check engine light. This can be fixed with a new ignition coil. The cost is $300-$500.
9. Issue: Spark plug ejection
Some auto experts claim that the plug design was wrong from the beginning. Other experts say that the spark plugs were too torqued and not tightened properly at the production line. The issue came up mostly in the 2001-04 Ford F150 models. According to Ford, the solution was not to over-torque the replacement spark plugs, even though owners still reported issues.
The cost to fix this issue can range from $1400-$1500.
Ford F150 issues (Models: 2004 to 2008)
10. Issue: Rough idle
A common cause of rough idle is a bad exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), in which a new EGR valve can solve this problem. The cost is $200-$400.
Handy Hint: Have you heard of the F150’s quiet start? If not, it will let your F150 idle at lower RPMs so to not wake up the neighbors. You can find out more here in my guide to the F150 quiet start option.
11. Issue: Spark plugs
Triton V8s with Motorcraft spark plugs occasionally get stuck inside of the cylinder head, breaking off upon removal. Replace the spark plugs.
Ford admitted that the spark plugs in these Ford models created the most complicated spark plug issues. The plugs were supposed to last 100,000 miles, but that places the truck outside its normal warranty. Ford created a plug with a two-piece shell that is meant to last every 30,000 miles to guarantee treatment under warranty. The problem with Ford’s solution is that those plugs aren’t very compatible with the truck because a weld at the bottom of the socket holds the plug down, and when trying to be pulled out, it will cause the plug to break.
The cost is $195 for the spark plugs alone and $800 for the repair and the replacement, making it one of the more expensive repairs.
12. Issue: Aluminum hood corrosion on Ford hoods
Many Ford customers complained about corrosion on the hoods of their trucks and their fuel tank straps. This corrosion issue led to a Ford recall on the 2004 Ford F150 Heritage model, causing the tank in the truck to drop off.
13. Issue: Airbag deployment issues
A serious issue with these mid-year Ford F150 models was that the airbag would randomly deploy on the drivers’ side of the truck. 144,400 trucks went under a Ford recall in 2005-06. The same issue occurred in the 2017 Ford F150 model. It’s possible the issue was never fixed in these trucks, so buyers must be aware to look for this issue when purchasing a used truck from these years.
14. Issue: Window component failure
The 2004-05 Ford F150 models had problems with the power regulators on the door-side windows. This caused the windows to drop into the door, get stuck, or make an annoying grinding noise.
Issue: Loud ticking/knocking engine noise
These noises coming from the engine rooted from problems with the cam phaser. During this time, Ford dismissed any issue with the engine, and Ford customers complied. The engine failed no matter what. The auto experts’ solution to this issue is to avoid the Triton 5.4 liter V8, due to costly repairs if this engine breaks.
Handy Hint: Have you ever wondered why your Ford F150 shakes and shudders as you accelerate? Well, I’ve put together a list of reasons for shaking in acceleration which should give you the best answer.
Ford F150 issues (models: 2009 to 2014)
16. Issue: Ignition coil failure
A failure in the ignition coil caused the check engine light to illuminate as well as a rough idle, which can be replaced. The cost is $300-$500.
17. Issue: Right head gasket failure
Oil leaks from the right head gasket, which can be replaced. The leaks come from overheating, overfilling, and the dissolving of the gasket coating, according to auto experts. Drivers notice the smell of burnt oil as an indicator of a greater issue with the gasket. The issue arises after the truck has put in at least 160,000 miles.
The cost can be as low as $300-400 and as high as $800-$1000, but customers can apply a JB Weld bond to the leaking area to fix the issue.
18. Issue: Engine oil pan gasket leak
Similar to the passenger side gasket leak, the smell of burnt oil sets off alarms of a bigger issue in the gasket. The difference here is that there is too much engine oil in the exhaust system of this Ford F150 model.
The cost to fix this problem is much less than the gasket failure mentioned previously, and customers have resolved this by tightening the bolts around the pan gasket.
19. Issue: Rough-running engine
Sticking exhaust gas recirculation sensors cause idling engines to run roughly in the Generation 12 Ford F150 model. Accumulation of carbon will cause the sensors to stick. Ford recommends changing the sensors every 100,000 miles.
Another reason for the rough-running engine is the mass airflow (MAF) sensor clogs, the cause will usually be a dirty hot wire. In this case, it’s much easier to buy a replacement sensor, which is relatively inexpensive and helps improve the F150 engine running. If drivers decide to clean the MAF sensor, it’s recommended to only use MAF-sensor specific cleaner instead of a throttle body cleaner on the MAF sensor.
20. Issue: Power Rear sliding window defroster failure
Customers have noticed an issue with the defroster’s electrical contact. There is a small tab located on the lower edge of the moving portion of the window and then another small contact tab on the lower portion of the fixed window pane. This contact fails, causing the defroster to stop working. (source: Raybuck)
This failure also affects the heating function of the heated side-view mirrors, which will stop from this defect. Ford never issued a recall for this problem, and the common solution is to replace the entire window assembly altogether.
21. Issue: Transmission shifting problems
This issue was most apparent in the 2009-12 Ford F150 models. The transmission would start downshifting into second gear without warning, an extremely dangerous defect for drivers on the road. A simple flash update fixed the problem.
22. Issue: Generation 12 Myford Touch
The touchscreen feature in these particular models proved unreliable for Ford drivers, and many customers complained about this issue. The Myford Touch would stop working all of a sudden, or the commands were unresponsive and wouldn’t sync up to smartphones. Ford tried to redesign the interface of this feature, but problems still occurred, even in many later models.
There are many recurring issues with the Myford Touch feature, including:
- The screen failing to return once it enters the energy-saving mode.
- The sync system freezes and stops working once the driver shuts off the truck.
- The system won’t recognize any sort of smartphone or MP3 players.
- The rear-view camera shuts off when the truck is in reverse.
The issue presents itself, no matter the attempt at easy solutions. For example, removing and reinstalling the battery in the trucks still doesn’t make the Myford Touch feature work properly in some trucks. Cold weather makes this touchscreen feature inoperable as well. The feature refuses to update to current installments or it won’t work when the drivers use touchscreen-friendly gloves or have long fingers.
This particular issue is crucial because it caused Ford’s customer service ranking to decrease greatly with consumers.
Ford F150 issues (Models: 2015 2019)
23. Issue: Electronic throttle body failure
Another common problem is the truck going into “limp” mode, where power is severely reduced and drivers are forced to drive at low speeds. New ETB’s must be installed to fix this problem.
Specifically, ETB’s are data controlled. The ETB transmits sensory data to the throttle valve, which controls the quantity of air that passes to the engine. When the ETB stops reading this data, limp mode occurs. The cost is $400-$500.
Ford has come across this issue so many times, the company back-ordered replacement parts, and customers still had to wait weeks for their replacements. It’s important not to drive this vehicle after it has entered limp mode due to its high risk of car accidents on the road.
24. Issue: Frozen door handles
In freezing temperatures, many owners have reported that their door handles freeze shut. Ford issues a recall to install a water shield over the door latches to prevent water from freezing inside the mechanism. In more severe cases, the door would fly open as the truck was in motion.
The cost was free under recall, and Ford said they would reverse the issue by putting water shields over the latches. Ford faced a lawsuit for the frozen door handles, which led to 1.3 million trucks under recall in October 2017. The trucks that were affected were made in Kentucky, Missouri, and Michigan’s Ford plants.
25. Issue: 10-Speed transmission roll pin
Some trucks with the 10-speed transmission were assembled without a roll-pin, meaning the trucks can roll away in parking mode (if the parking brake is not on). The cost of this was also free under Ford recall; 15,000 2018 Ford F150 trucks went under recall because of this issue. Ford fixed the issue by reflashing the power-train control module and advised drivers to be extra careful when switching from park to drive.
26. Issue: Transmission slipping/clunking
Many owners have reported this issue, and there’s no common fix reported at this moment. Owners have claimed that Ford is trying everything from replacing clutch packs to installing completely new transmissions. There’s no cost because it’s repaired under Ford’s warranty.
Issue: Seat cooling
Customers have complained that the seat cooling feature on the most recent Ford F150 models (specifically the 2016 model) only works for a brief period of time before malfunctioning. Other customers have said the seat cooling feature only works on the base of the seat, not on the back. The issue can be pointed to the hose that provides airflow to the seats coming undone.
28. Issue: Generation 13 Myford Touch
Much like the Generation 12 feature of the same name, this function is unreliable in many ways. Customers of the 2015-17 models with this feature threatened to file a class-action lawsuit, claiming the glitches disable important vehicle commands that the drivers rely on for safe driving.
Specific issues include commands that fail to enable the defroster or rear-view cameras, as well as diminished temperature control and navigation tools.
Which Ford F150 has the most issues?
As you can see, there are several common issues the Ford F150 model has faced during the production of the truck. However, the 12th Generation model (the trucks produced in 2009-14) has the most complaints and serious issues connected to them.
CarComplaints.com did a model year comparison of the Ford F150 models, examining models as far back as 1977. The 2004 model had the most complaints with 1,156, yet they concluded that the 2012 model was the worst version of the Ford F150.
The main reason is that the 2012 model has the major issue of loss of power while driving, which can cost $2,300 to fix and occurs after 44,000 miles on the truck. Car Complaints gave the issue a severity rating of 8 out of 10.
Which is the best F150 you can buy?
Generally speaking, auto experts suggest if purchasing a used Ford F150, the 2015 model is an excellent bang for a buyer’s buck.
Being the second truck in the new 13th generation, the 2015 model has the current technology while being one of the older trucks on the market eligible for resale and purchases at used prices.
The 2015 Ford F150 won the Best Buy Award from Kelley Blue Book and Motor Trend’s 2015 Truck of the Year. The U.S. News and World Report ranked this truck 2nd in Used Full-Size Trucks $25k and Up and praised its body construction and four available engines.
Issues and solutions for classic Ford F150 Models
Ford began building and distributing its first F150 models back in 1948, known as the Ford F-1 series until 1975. Still, the early models are considered close to the F150, and car connoisseurs collect these classic models and restore them.
Even then, the car had many troubles that needed fixing. Between the late 1940s and the 1980s, Ford came out with seven different models of the popular trucks with their own quirks. These models are the following:
- 1948 to 1952
- Ford fixed their new model in 1951, fixing issues with the altered cabs, fenders, grills, and hoods.
- The 1952 model increased the horsepower to 101 and implemented a six-cylinder engine
- 1953 to 1956
- Some notable improvements to the trucks in this era were larger windows, automatic transmission, an overhead-valve V8 engine for 15% more horsepower, power brakes and wraparound windshields
- 1957 to 1960
- Ford kept making improvements to the F-1 series, such as wider cabs and hoods, 139 horsepower, an eight-foot bed for more room, and more safety driving at night with quad headlights.
- 1961 to 1966
- The two biggest positive changes to come into the Ford F-1 series were better air conditioner accommodations and a coil-spring front suspension.
- 1967 to 1972
- In 1968, by law, Ford had to implement side reflectors or sidelights on all their cars, including the F-1 series, so they added hood emblems.
- That same year, Ford improved the size of the engine, as well as the armrests, door handles, heat controls, and window levers.
- Marker reflectors were added to be up to speed with federal regulations
- 1973 to 1979
- F150’s become available to the public in 1975, which causes Ford to become the most popular car brand in the United States during this time
- Ford also makes improvements to the headlights on these trucks
- 1980 to 1986
- Ford downsizes the V8 engine to 255 cubic inches to boost fuel economy
- In 1985, Ford also introduced its fuel-injected 5-liter engine as an option for the F150 and its other trucks.
How to fix and restore a classic Ford F150
It’s entirely possible to fix the issues in the earlier models to have the truck run like a modern Ford F150 would. Many drivers prefer the vintage style of a 1950s Ford truck to the contemporary look of a recent Ford F150 model. There are specific steps and components to achieve this feat. Raybuck, a popular car repair company, lists the following:
- New engine
- Interior parts
- Quarter panels
- Truck beds
- Window seals
Many of these parts are also connected to issues found in the more recent Ford F150 models, implying that Ford has had trouble for decades with certain parts, such as the engine, transmission, and suspension.
Steps in the Restoration Process
Before embarking on restoring your classic Ford F150 pickup, always check to see what condition the vehicle is currently in. This check will determine exactly what kind of repairs are necessary for the truck to start working like new. Most likely, several parts will need restoration, but the first areas to check are the carburetor, radiator, spark plug, and the ignition coil since those parts are subject to the most wear and tear.
There are three major steps to restore a classic Ford F150:
1. Sandblast the body
A paint job on a much older F150 truck will likely have plenty of rust. Sandblasting serves as a primer before the fresh coat of paint can be applied and will prevent rust from coming back. To prevent sand mist from infecting the inside of the truck, cover the engine parts that might be the most vulnerable to the sand.
2. Prepare the engine and other structures in the truck
There are several mini-steps in the process of preparing the engine and transmission:
- For less complex restorations of the engine, a rebuild kit will serve just fine. However, for a more authentic restoration, you will need an inline-six motor.
- The engine might need to be reassembled with new parts if the cylinder walls on the engine have been worn down if not being used for too long.
- Check the brakes. Corrosion around the brakes lines will appear if the brakes haven’t been used in over 20 years. In more extreme cases, wheel cylinders might need to be replaced because they’re bound to be worn down as well.
3. Paint the body and reassemble
This step can be done if the restorer has experience painting the bodies of cars or trucks. If not, leave this step to a professional. For reassembling, Raybuck suggests this process: put the engine, driveshaft, and transmission into place. Other parts to replace at this time would include the lights, windows, weatherstripping, and tires. If necessary, reupholster the interior in whichever color or pattern you prefer. Add new carpeting and interior touches.
Conclusion: Is the Ford F150 a good buy despite the problems?
Fast forward to this year 2020, the Ford F150 remains a popular truck for potential buyers looking to purchase a new or used truck. According to the U.S. News and World Report, the newest edition of the Ford F150 is a suitable truck all around. Its most glaring issue, like in the majority of the Ford F150s in the past is its reliability, which could be subject to potential issues drivers need to look out for.
Currently, Ford has a warranty for its trucks of 3 years/36,000 miles guarantee and a 5 year/60,000 power-train warranty.
For reliability, the Ford F150 does fairly average. The average cost of repairs is about $788, but many owners don’t go into car repair shops often for their Ford F150’s and the probability of glaring issues is about 15% (source: repairpal.com). With proper maintenance and awareness of the issues in your Ford F150, it still continues to be a good truck with issues that can easily be solved.