By on September 29, 2017

2006_ford_explorer_cologne v6 4.0, Image: Ford

Erik writes:

This morning I pulled in to work and a friend stopped me to ask about his 2006 Ford Explorer. A week ago he performed an oil change on his 4.0-liter V6. When he was changing the filter, the old oil filter’s gasket stuck on, but he didn’t see it and double gasketed it. When he fired up the engine oil spewed everywhere. The oil level ran low before he discovered it and shut off the engine. He kitty-littered the driveway, re-installed the filter, and topped the oil back up. He started the engine and his lifters started ticking. As I stood there talking with him, I could hear multiple lifters ticking. Is there a safe and reliable way to get the lifters pumped back up without disassembling the top end?

I googled “Ford 4.0 lifters ticking” and apparently the engine family has issues with lifters ticking when they get old, but I can’t find anything pertaining to lifters ticking after running the oil level low. The recommendations I see are to run thicker oil, Marvel Mystery Oil, STP oil treatment, Lucas oil stabilizer, ATF, etc. Are any of these a reasonable solution for his problem?

I’ve also read to just drive the truck as normal and the ticking will go away. This is what I’m inclined to recommend. Do you have any better info?

Please let me insert a tip I learned as a technician: when you change your oil filter, always wipe off the filter sealing surface and you will never have this problem.

Sajeev answers:

Be it an OHV or OHC configuration, the Ford Cologne V6 was plagued with valvetrain issues, though the stereotypical first or second owner (the ones owning before deep six-figure mileage) never knew about it. Even if Ford Cologne V6 lifter tick is quite pungent.

It stings the nostrils…but in a good way!

They’ve done studies, you know. 60 percent of the time, it works every time.

Okay, seriously: the one in the video above supposedly has 229,000 miles, and that’s not my Ranger fanboi tolerance speaking. And, according to the Internet, the 2002 and newer models received upgraded timing chain components. I reckon your friend did no harm after the oil filter leak: modern machines make low oil pressure issues less life-threatening — it’s one element of my Puffer Fish theory.

And what if major harm was done? Who frickin’ cares! The Cologne V6 is stupid common at junkyards, a few hundred dollars at the local pick-n-pull, several hundred more from www.car-part.com, and you can get it shipped to your garage. Sure, that’s not free and it’s a metric ton of work for one weekend, but I know you (i.e. you LeMons racers be so resourceful!) so you’ll make it happen. You can do it!

[Image: Ford]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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53 Comments on “Piston Slap: 60 Percent of the Time, It Works Every Time?...”


  • avatar
    jmo

    ” A week ago he performed an oil change on his 4.0-liter V6.”

    Penny wise pound foolish.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Italian tune-up. Get that pressure up asap. The lifters should still have a nice coating of residual oil and shouldn’t be completely dry.

    (the above advice is based solely on the fact that these engines are cheap to replace, according to Sanjeev…if that is his real name!)

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      The issue isn’t about the lifters being “coated.” Hydraulic lifters rely on oil pressure to be filled up in order to expand and take up any valve lash. In this way they’re self-adjusting, but if they’re starved of oil they collapse, resulting in excess valve lash and the attendant tapping.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      These engines do not have “lifters” they have hydraulic lash adjusters that are the pivot point for the follower that actually rides on the cam.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    ” 2002 and newer models received upgraded timing chain components”

    Apparently they weren’t upgraded enough. My brother deep sixed a customer’s ’04 with 165k miles that had a blown headgasket and after some probing discovered camchain guide issues. The real problem with the SOHC variant of the 4.0L is that Ford did some engineering on the cheap to convert a OHV motor to OHC and retained the same block casts. So it uses a jackshaft where the cam used to be in the engine V, to drive a camchain on the rear of the motor. When the camchain on the back starts getting loud, that’s an engine out job. I know some people manage high miles out of these motors, and they make good power, but man what a sloppy and cost cut design. The rest of the ’02-’05 Explorers isn’t much better. All of the common problems of the 2nd gen (fast wearing front ends, 5R55E transmissions), but now t-case issues, wheel bearing issues, rear diff issues. Just utter trash vehicles IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      Thank Cologne for the cam chain setup; it’s the same thing Porsche did on the M96. Must be a German thing. Except the 4.0 kept pressure lubricated plain bearings for the IMS so it doesn’t grenade.

      and no, the block casting isn’t “the same.”

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I stand corrected. It definitely wreaks of cost cutting though. Or maybe Germans just have a thing for putting valvetrains facing firewalls, the VAG VR motors have that layout as well IIRC. Sheer idiocy IMO.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          no, in both cases it was (IIRC) so the left and right banks could use one common cylinder head assembly.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Ah okay that’s what it was. So yeah, penny pinching that lead to horrible serviceability. If I were old-Explorer shopping, Id’ absolutely stick with the OHV variant, or get a V8.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            No it was not “penny pinching” it was just the normal German design where they intentionally make it more complex, problematic and expensive than it needs to be.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I mean saving the cost of a seperate mold/line for the opposite cylinder head is the cost savings aspect, hence “penny pinching.” Or trying to be “efficient.”

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            But it wasn’t efficient, it was less efficient and more expensive since they had to create extra castings to slap that stuff on the back of the block, run 3 chains instead of 2 and a whole host of other things that made it more expensive overall than two separate head castings or creating a head that can be used on either bank. The German engineers would have only needed to talk to those that did the first 2v 4.6 V8 cylinder heads to find out one way to do that. The same casting is used for both heads and the only difference is where the plug for the HLA galley is placed when they are assembled.

            It is typical German engineering where they prefer to use 7 parts where 3 would do the job, and selling that added complexity as a benefit.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            German Engineering: How many failure modes can we design in and still have the thing work?

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      Ford sells no V6s in Germany ; the biggest engine is 1.6L.

  • avatar
    TR4

    I’d just drive it for a while and see what happens. The lifters are supplied with pressurized oil and should fill themselves. If it’s not fixed by 100 miles or so you need to remove the noisy one(s), try cleaning them with solvent or replace them.

    • 0 avatar
      EAF

      I would first make sure that he refilled the sump, after the leak, with the correct amount of oil. If underfilled the head/lifters may have insufficient flow to them.

      I would agree with TR4, drive her around and take it easy, the lifters that bled down will recharge.

      This happens to my 4G63 if it isn’t started for a couple of days. I normally just let it idle and as the oil temp increases the lifter ticking decreases.

      Good luck! :-)

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      Your engine has turned into a Mitsubishi !

      <>

      The only permanent fix is to replace the lash adjusters. They are not expensive. If Mitsi is any guide the engine should run happily for years a-ticking away.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    Yogi also had a Mark for a daily, with a Galaxy 500 for the missus.

  • avatar
    Gadsden

    My dad stressed the practice of coating the seal on the new filter with a fingertip of oil and inspecting the old filter to avoid double O-rings. It took me about 20 years of changes to have it pay off, and then it was twice in a row on my mother’s Accord V-6.

    The danger he cited was fire risk which I have seen happen a couple times to others.

  • avatar
    CobraJet

    I have found that over-tightening the filter when installing it can lead to the gasket sticking to the engine when removing it later. I’ve had this happen a few times.

    I only made the mistake once of not checking and installing a new filter with the old gasket still in place. This was years ago on my 74 Gran Torino. It did not leak right away unfortunately. My wife was driving the car the next day when it let go. She saw the oil light come on, noticed smoke in the rear view mirror, put it in neutral, turned off the engine and coasted to the side of the road. I was very proud of her. She saved the 351 Cleveland engine that we could not have afforded to replace.

    • 0 avatar
      Proud2BUnion

      Would not the engine in a 1974 Torino be a 351M? The true Cleveland was discontinued after the 1973 models. The 351M was the same basic design, only the block was a de-bored 400- a taller deck/longer stroke Cleveland .

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Close to 150,000 on an Olds 307 that had both lifter tick and burning a quart of oil every 3,000 miles.

    Marvel Mystery Oil (replaced one of the 5 quarts in an oil change with Marvel Mystery Oil) helped both issues – oil burning more than the tick.

    Valvoline High Mileage Oil had the same benefit.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      My ’98 MPV had noisy HLAs, I found Castrol GTX High Mileage (10W-30 in my case) did the best job of keeping things reasonably quiet. Finally ended up just replacing some of the lifters.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “When he was changing the filter, the old oil filter’s gasket stuck on, but he didn’t see it”

    My philosophy is this – if I DIY, I do it professionally. If I can’t do it professionally for some reason (lack of know-how, insufficient tools, etc), I call a pro. Changing filter requires basic steps – remove filter – look at it. Wipe access oil and spillage from the port. Follow these 2 steps and you will never have such issue. I tell you even more. When I buy filter, I look inside the box and verify that inside there is a correct filter. I’ve seen people open the box and get the wrong filter there. This guy deserves what he’s got. I hate when amateurs act like they know something. Worst case – entire US Gov.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy67

      Who’s a ‘pro?’ I help maintain 6 vehicles; the one and only time I had to take one to a ‘pro’–the corner Jiffy Lube or whatever–they failed to torque the oil filter. I started losing oil and pressure before I caught it and fixed the “pro’s” work (coincidentally, it was a ’96 Ranger with the Cologne V6).

      I’ve also helped maintain several aircraft; should I mention that engine failures in aircraft–I’ve had one–are a bit higher pucker factor than noisy lifters? You failed to mention lubing the gasket which, if you don’t do it, can result in the old gasket sticking or other problems (like incorrect filter torquing and excessive ‘shear’ on the new gasket). Most will use a smear of the old oil, but fresh oil is better and the aircraft engine manufacturers were very specific: Use Dow Corning DC-4. They also had a torque spec for the filter; 18 lb-ft IIRC.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        I’ve changed timing belts, clutches and whatnot… Never an issue. Because I simply make sure I do it right, not just do it. Ok, I do put old oil on gasket. Simply because it is there, under the car already. But in my Toyota, where you have filter housing that you need to screw on, I never put old oil because it may have particles that might deteriorate the thread and ring impression.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      “I’ve seen people open the box and get the wrong filter there.”

      Yes there are some nefarious folks in stores who slip an 8 dollar filter in a 3 dollar box, and vice versa. A lot of these filters aren’t in sealed packages.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Get a grip. Mistakes happen, if anything I think the “pros” make more due to the pressure of book time pricing. I did this once back in the day on my ’85 Jetta – if that is the worst mistake ever made wrenching the guy is doing pretty good.

      Sure did suck losing 4qts of Mobil1 on the driveway as a starving college student – I haven’t made this mistake again.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      “This guy deserves what he’s got”

      Get a load of this d!ckhead

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    Old Miatas are also known to have noisy hydraulic lifters. Just remember that a loose valve is happier than a tight one. On old aircooled VWs you were supposed to get worried when you no longer heard them slightly tapping.

    I agree with those who say to run it for a while and see if they fill themselves again on their own. If not, you can start trying to clean them out or swapping for different ones, but must likely a little bit of tapping isn’t going to do much harm. At least in Miatas the tapping is mostly just considered an annoyance, and not a ticking time bomb. Just make sure that oil is being circulated everywhere it needs to go in the engine.

  • avatar

    If you really wanted to check the lifters you could remove them one by one and put them in a cup of oil and pump them back up by hand and replace plus its good to see which ones hold and which ones are shot.
    If it was me I would prob order a few before hand though as I doubt all of them will pump up properly.
    All in all its not a very complicated process and you would only require valve cover gaskets and some oil in a cup to test the lifters, remove the rocker arms one by one and pop them back in with either the tool or a big flat blade driver.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      If the guy didn’t know enough to make sure the gasket came off with the filter and didn’t stick to the block then I don’t think having him try to replace the HLAs on an engine like this is a good idea. It is not just removing the valve covers either, which will not need new gaskets if they aren’t leaking. It is removing the upper intake and other misc stuff before you get to the valve covers.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I remember I used penzoil full syn instead of mobil 1 on my supercharged E36 which had around 150k miles on original motor at the time. Lots of top end noise which was intolerable, I went back to mobil 1 less than a month later and it went away immediately.
    On my g37 only Nissan /infiniti ester oil made the vq resemble smoothness. It seems certain engines just like certain oil.

  • avatar

    I have had good luck with Rislone oil treatment and noisy lifters on old mopar v8’s.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Totally spitballing, but as I recall Marvel Mystery Oil is really thin, you could try running your engine on it(or a mixture of MMO and regular oil) for a couple minutes and see if it pressurizes your lifters. Assuming your engine’s well broken in, probably no harm in trying it.

    Disclaimer: this might be a horrible idea.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      it’s less about how “thin” it is, and more about how ~20% of it is a solvent (mineral spirits, a/k/a paint thinner.)

      I suppose if there’s some gummy deposit(s) holding things up, a solvent could loosen it.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    He’s probably just noticing noises that were always there.

    Unless the oil pressure light was on for an extended time or the vehicle was driven a significant distance with the light on, I wouldn’t worry about it. Even if he did those things, there’s nothing he can do about it now; except maybe sell it before it fails.

  • avatar
    George B

    I’d just drive it. The Cologne 4.0 V6, even with valve noise, is likely to outlast the 5R55E transmission. If it breaks, you can buy an entire replacement Explorer for low thousands or you can buy something else. If absolutely everything expensive in the Explorer broke all at once, it’s still a lot of useful parts and a big mass of scrap metal if you can get it to a salvage yard.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    This is the second time in a week or so that the “double filter seal” has been mentioned on TTAC.
    I had Yogi Berra’s “Deja Vu all over again” when I did a recent oil/filter change on the S O’s Ford. I looked at the filter when I removed it. No rubber seal. It was still on the engine’s filter mount. I think this is the second time in more than four decades and probably thousands of oil services that this has happened to me.
    I have seen it on vehicles others worked on.
    Once a customer brought his car in because he could not remove the filter. He did his own oil changes and the seal stuck to the filter mount. He just tightened the filter until it stopped leaking.
    Had to go buy a heavy duty filter wrench to remove that filter.
    And yes, I always oil the rubber seal/O-ring. Usually instructions on the box tell you to do that. Every workshop manual that I have ever read has that same instruction.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      I wonder how often that happens at quick change shops like Jiffy Lube? Then again, they’re well-trained highly skilled professionals that would never make that mistake </sarc >


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