For the early part of my ownership, nothing much can be reported, with the exception of the driver side power mirror being replaced twice while under warranty, a set of new spark plug wires, and a few recalls that were taken care of.
The main thrust of this entry concerns a recent problem that may have started as long as 6 or 7 months ago, but was only brought to my attention on 2/4/03 by a former Ford mechanic that now runs a quick change oil place.
I had noticed coolant on my garage floor for about 3 or 4 months, but could not determine where it was coming from. When I looked under the hood, there was no obvious sign of a leak, and I dismissed it as an occasional boil over that probably wasn't anything to worry about.
Then one night while driving home from work, the temperature gauge indicated a high temperature in the cooling system, and it fluctuated wildly from cold to hot. I knew this was a symptom of a bad thermostat, and took it in to the quick change place mentioned above. It was indeed a bad thermostat, and the repair cleared the problem.
About a month later, I noticed the heater wasn't heating properly. It would slowly start to emit heat, and then cool down, and then return in a constant cycle of cool and semi-warm air. The temp gauge showed absolutely no sign of instability, although it seemed to register slightly cooler than before the thermostat was replaced.
Yesterday, 2/4/03, I took it back to the quick change place, thinking that maybe they had installed a bad thermostat. I fold him not only about the heater problem, but about the coolant leakage. He then did a detailed analysis of the engine, and concluded that my front timing cover gasket was leaking. He went on to say that this was a common problem with some Ford products, and then listed on a paper the remedies and their costs. The total could be as much as $1400! It would involve tearing down the front of the engine, replacing the front cover gasket, and the intake manifold gasket. He went on to say if the intake manifold or front cover gasket surfaces were pitted, they would need replacing as well to prevent leakage of coolant, which I've found, has happened to a lot of 1997 F150 owners which ruined the engine.
At 56000 miles, this is totally unacceptable to me. I have been doing a lot of research into this, and it turns out there is not only a TSB (technical service bulletin), but a recall by Ford (99b29) that covers other Ford products (including 1997 F150 trucks) with the same problem. In fact, the only difference that my truck has than the other vehicles listed is the engine, a 4.2L V6. That is what excludes it from the recall. However, the engines that were affected included the smaller V6 as well as some V8 engines. This same mechanic also gave me a copy of the TSB, and it showed there being a fix for this problem, in the sense that the gasket kit has been modified to stop the problem from recurring.
As of this morning, 2/5/03, I am waiting for a call from the Atlanta office to voice my complaints. Already I've spoken with a "Customer Care" rep. He told my only recourse was to go to the last dealer I had the truck serviced, and "try to work a deal" with them. What the heck does that mean? Negotiate the cost of a repair of a materials defect that Ford is responsible for? I don't think so. If there are similar stories, I'd love to hear them. My email address is email@example.com.