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Old 12-14-2012, 11:26 PM
Roger Roger is offline
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Ford F-250, oil leak on the head gasket

I have a 2003, F-250, now with 47,000, 5.4L v-8. I've used it exclusively for my lawn service work, pulling a single axle trailer with a ZTR, w/b, hand mower, plus a few other items.

It has been solid, until mid-season. I noticed some spots where it is parked over night. And, I noticed small spots on the street or driveway where I parked for an hour or two, when working. The spots were not consistent -- sometimes seeing them, sometimes not. The oil level dropped, needing to add a quart about every three weeks. So, I knew it was coming from the engine crankcase, not the transmission. The drip location was at the bell housing -- rear of the engine, front of the transmission.

I work solo, and this is my only truck, so I needed to reach the end of the season. I did not want to give it up for repair, so kept watching the oil level closely.

I took it to a local shop last week for a preliminary assessment. The conclusion by two mechanics: Rear oil seal on the crankshaft.

I made an appointment for this week. They expected to have it for about six hours (one mechanic), but the day came and went, without getting it fixed. They dropped out the transmission, and found the rear of the engine dry. The suspected oil seal was not the problem.

They did find a few oil spots on the engine, valve covers, etc, but didn't consider them of significance. They let is run for awhile, took it for a drive, and confirmed the leak when putting it up on the rack again. After closer inspection, they believed that perhaps the oil was coming from the head gasket. A call to a local Ford service garage confirmed their suspicion. They learned that the problem is common on these engines. It area for leakage is the right side head gasket, near the rear of the engine. The dealership said they do a couple of these repairs each week.

The reason for the sporadic spots is that the oil may get too hot and be burned off if the engine has been running for awhile. If it gets started, and drives for a few blocks to the next job, it stays cold, and the oil will drip to the ground, leaving visible spots. When hot, the oil never reaches the ground, hence the spots/no spots pattern.

My mechanic has always worked closely with the dealership service manager, and has confidence in what he says. The pattern has been pull off the heads, get them measured, replace the gasket, reassemble, and put it back on the road. They have never had one return to the shop, nor had they ever had the heads milled.

The problem with this repair is that the engine is stuffed so far back into the cowling, access is impossible without a major shuffling of big parts. Either the engine has to be removed, or the cab has to be lifted. The suggestion is the second choice. Labor is expected to be 10-12 hours.

Does anybody have any like experiences? I've searched threads and I find people with this pickup/engine, or close in model year. I've thought about the tradeoff - replace, or repair, but believe I will take the repair route.

Am I getting a good story that others can back with experiences? Thanks.
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Old 12-15-2012, 03:11 PM
Monroe74 Monroe74 is offline
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Ford F-250, oil leak on the head gasket

I dont understand why the engine or the cab needs moved. I just replaced the head gaskets and put studs in my 04 350 with 6.0 diesel without doing either or removing the hvac housing. Sounds like they are trying stick it to you.
Do it better than the last Guy!
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Old 12-21-2012, 11:25 AM
slowleak1 slowleak1 is offline
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Originally Posted by Monroe74 View Post
I dont understand why the engine or the cab needs moved. I just replaced the head gaskets and put studs in my 04 350 with 6.0 diesel without doing either or removing the hvac housing. Sounds like they are trying stick it to you.
Im calling BS on this one. It is 100% IMPOSSIBLE to change head gaskets/studs without pulling the cab or motor.
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Old 12-17-2012, 11:14 PM
dieselss dieselss is online now
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Done a ton of those modular motors when I was at ford. I did a few heads in the tks,,but my back started hurting to bad so I just started pulling the motors. I can tell you personally that I could do head gaskets in a tk in 3 days with pulling the motor. Now I talked with ford reps before and they told me that lifting the body is never a ford acceptable fix. What the repair shop wants to do is up to them/you BUT if it was me, I wouldn't want the body off for any reason unless it had a 6.0 diesel in it.
So to finish,,those modular motors had head gasket issues. And its a flip of the coin if yours had headgasket issues
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Old 12-18-2012, 07:33 AM
Roger Roger is offline
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Thanks for the feedback. I've read many posts on other forums about this problem, and the procedure used to do the work. Yes, it appears to be a common problem. And, no, there is no consensus on how to do, no removal/no lift, remove, lift. There seems to be some people in each camp.

No decision has been made yet. I'm waiting for the shop to return to me with possible dates. They intend to block out three days. I am working through an independent shop, but having second thoughts about not going to a certified Ford dealership. If this is a common problem, they have made these repairs numerous times, and are better qualified to do the job.

Anybody with an observation about my concern?
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Old 12-18-2012, 07:39 AM
dieselss dieselss is online now
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I gotta say dealer,,,but being a dealer tech,,I'm a little biased
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Old 12-18-2012, 07:53 PM
sjessen sjessen is online now
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I have the same engine in an F150, same year too. One man's opinion only, but this is a job for a dealership that has done the repair many times. Your mechanic will be reinventing the wheel as he goes unless he has performed this specific repair before. Sounds like it will be pricey with almost all of it in labor. If the engine has to be pulled why not do both head gaskets while you are at it?

Best of luck to you. I hope you will keep us posted so we know how it all turned out.
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Old 12-18-2012, 08:30 PM
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jsslawncare jsslawncare is offline
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My Dad had a 1999 F150- 4.6L, It had the same problem. I changed both head gaskets. That was in 2003-4 somewhere in there. It seems like I did it on a Saturday.
All equipment is wore out. <- Never mind. All equipment has been repainted and with new decals. It's like I have new mower's again!
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Old 12-19-2012, 03:15 PM
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Landrus2 Landrus2 is offline
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If you decide to go to the dealer just ask for price and ask again it will be pricey
Those heads are a little tight pulling engine out is the right way to go
Just pin point your problem before you take any action. If you were close to me that would be a good winter project.
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Old 12-20-2012, 11:47 PM
Roger Roger is offline
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Update, as of today.

I was to have received a schedule from the independent shop on Monday. They were to find a three-day block of time to do the work.

No call on Monday, no call on Tuesday, no call by late on Wednesday. I had called Tuesday, left a message, but no return call. My conclusion: They were not interested in doing this work.

Plan B: Call a local Ford dealership. I did so late on Wednesday, and was given an opportunity to bring it to their shop on Thursday morning. The intent was diagnostic evaluation, and develop a plan as necessary. I told them I knew the rear engine oil seal was NOT the problem.

I dropped it off early this morning. I was called late afternoon, "buttoned up, and ready for you to take if you wish, ... needs new gaskets ..."

I had a discussion with the Service Manager upon arrival. Their conclusion is: (1) Head gasket on one side is leaking, (2), Valve cover gasket leaking, albeit it minor, (3) Intake gasket is leaking, (4) Front crank cover is leaking.

(4) was probably the source of the erratic dripping. Apparently, this location is above a rail that was catching the oil, then dripping some of it off when the front of the vehicle is elevated. This was my observation: more dripping if I parked on a sloped surface, so that the nose was higher than the rear of the truck.

Their recommendation is to pull out the engine, and "reseal," that is to replace all the gaskets.

One thing he did warn me about is the exhaust bolts are in a vulnerable place for road spray. This causes them to rust on one side, and have been known to break. This means a drill-out and retap the hole. Obviously, the costs for this excursion comes to the bottom line.

The cost estimate is $2,500, and he needs the truck for four days. Three days might work, but he wants to allocate four days. I paid for one hour of diagnostic time, and brought it home.

Some who have commented here are obviously very familiar with this engine, repair work, etc. What say you to what I have said....?

Also, if the repair is made, is there a high likelihood that other problems will be uncovered? Is there a strong likelihood of follow on problems, say six months, a year, downstream? Are these kinds of repairs at a dealer level pretty sure and certain in outcome, or might I expect more troubles in the aftermath?

Is time to dump this one, and move on to a new truck?

Thanks. I value your insights and comments.
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