Until recently I was on the hunt for a new truck, and I really wanted an F-150, however after learning about Cam Phasers, and their tendency to fail, I became reluctant to purchase one. After a couple failed attempts at test driving and finding some that had failed already, and some that had been repaired in the past with a “fix” I ended up not buying one. Instead opting for a 2004 Dodge Ram 1500 with the 5.7 liter.
If you are on the hunt for a Ford vehicle, but are worried about this, these are the vehicles that currently have Cam Phasers, and are at least worth double checking before purchase. These issues plagued many Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles starting around 2002 and ending all the way up until 2014 when Ford phased out the 5.4 liter engine.
1. 2004 – 2010 Ford F-150 (5.4)
This generation of F-150 is probably the most well known vehicle to have this issue. It ranged all the way from the 2004 F-150 after its redesign, all the way into the next generation until they moved away from the 5.4, instead moving to the 5.0 that replaced it in 2011. Yep, that’s right, they didn’t fix the issue… they just had to replace it.
2. 2009 – 2010 Ford F-150 (4.6)
The 4.6 liter engine was the base version of the F-150’s engine choices. Thankfully this wasn’t an issue in these engines until they switched over in 2009, and then went away in 2010 when the engine was replaced.
Earlier versions of the 4.6 didn’t have the cam phaser issues, as they had the 2 valve. These trucks are the ones I would prefer, however I have also found them to be rare, and expensive if you do find them.
3. 2006 – 2010 Ford Explorer (4.6)
Prior to its redesign in 2011 and ultimately switching to a crossover platform, the Explorer was a body on frame vehicle and used its truck platform 4.6 liter. From 2006 until 2010 the Explorer had cam phasers and were susceptible to this issue.
4. 2007 – 2010 Ford Explorer Sport Trac (4.6)
The Explorer Sport Trac was almost exactly the same vehicle as the Explorer, just with a bed. Because of this it carried over much of the same drivetrain, including the cam phaser enabled 4.6 Liter.
5. 2004 – 2010 Ford F-250 (5.4)
Much like its little brother, some of the F-250s from 2004 until 2010 had the exact same engine as the F-150 and had the same issues. You don’t find these trucks with the 5.4 quite as much as the F-150 as many people opted for the larger engines that this platform offers, but they are out there.
6. 2004 – 2010 Ford F-350 (5.4)
Again, the F-350 used the same engine in some of its trucks as the F-150 (and F-250) and had the same concerns with the cam phasers. However just like the F-250, and probably more so, people opted for diesel options, or just larger gas engines that thankfully didn’t have the cam phaser issue.
7. 2005 – 2010 Ford Mustang GT (4.6)
Yes, the mighty Ford Mustang GT was a part of this list of problem vehicles! From 2005 until 2010 the cam phasers caused issues in one of the most sold sports coupes in the world.
You should also keep an eye on any other Mustang’s of this year range that have the 4.6 liter engine in their engine bay.
8. 2006 – 2010 Mercury Mountaineer (4.6)
In 2006 Mercury (a now defunct version of Ford vehicles) was making its own rebadged version of the body on frame Ford Explorer. The 4.6 Liter engine was used and thus had the cam phasers!
9. 2005 – 2014 Ford Expedition (5.4)
The Explorers larger version the Expedition used the 5.4 Liter that the F-150 was using, and carried over the cam phasers to cause similar issues found in the most sold truck on the planet.
10. 2004 – 2014 Lincoln Navigator (5.4)
Finally we have the Navigator, which essentially was a nicer version of the Expedition. Unfortunately it didn’t have a better engine, and still used the 5.4 liter with the same issues.
What is the issue with the Cam Phasers?
If you ended up on this article, you likely are in the same spot I was before and are trying to decide if it is worth buying a vehicle with cam phasers, or are wondering if the vehicle you are looking at even has this common issues.
Basically cam phasers are a portion of the VVT (variable valve timing) component of your engine. Initially it was meant to help give better gas mileage, and be more efficient, however as the vehicles aged (and some even with low mileage) the system begins to fail causing a ticking or knocking sound, which is never exactly a great experience.
Will a bad cam phaser damage my truck?
I have seen so many different opinions on this one! Some people say to just turn up your music so you don’t hear the clicking.
My personal opinion is to not drive the vehicle, as I have heard inoperable or broken cam phasers can cause loss of oil flow and cause the engine to fail.
Do I know if that is completely true? No. However I would prefer to be safe than sorry, and not have to replace an engine.
What happens when cam phasers fail?
The most tell tale sign of bad cam phasers is a clicking sound that gets progressively louder. Keep in mind you may be hearing the injectors, that also make a clicking sound. However if something is getting progressively louder and doesn’t go away when the engine is warm, you probably should get your vehicle into a shop and have it checked.
How much does it cost to replace Cam phasers?
From what I have found, having cam phasers fixed tends to be in the $2,000 range. If you are shopping for a vehicle with cam phasers, especially if they have failed, or haven’t been fixed in the past, I would negotiate that into the price, as it is quite possible it will happen at some point.
Why do Ford cam phasers fail?
Originally Ford added the cam phasers into their engines to help with gas mileage, and they succeeded. However over time, they just wear out and loosen up, causing the clicking sound.
Ford 5.4 cam phaser lockout
One of the trucks I had looked at when I was shopping around for an F-150 was a cam phaser lockout. So what is this cam phaser lockout? It doesn’t remove the cam phasers, instead it actually “locks” the cam phasers in the up position. Because of this, they are no longer moving, and are unable to fail or cause the ticking sound.
Downside to this? The check engine light will show. It also doesn’t necessarily fix the issues that can cause an engine to fail, it just hides it.
For the check engine light, you can program the light to not show with a programmer, however I still feel like that is just hiding an existing issue, rather than actually solving it.
Now, this article is not really meant to scare anyone, however more of an informational piece. These vehicles are all great vehicles, and I am a huge fan of Ford personally. Just make sure you keep an eye out for this problem when shopping for your next Ford of this generation.
If you hear this concern when shopping, keep in mind the cost to fix and work that into your negotiations, then actually follow through and have it fixed if purchased.