My 2006 Ford Expedition 5.3L Triton 3-valve with ~140K miles has a broken spark plug in cylinder #3 (passenger side, 2nd from back). My mechanic tried a well-used puller, but it wouldn't grab. He then tried a brand new puller (like this) ...and it broke too!

Pictures: https://photos.app.goo.gl/exyjzMdS5CvWA8QP9

Head removal will be ~16 man-hours of labor, so I'm wondering what else can be tried prior to that?


  1. The tip of the puller is stuck in the spark plug fragment.
  2. Here's what did come out versus a new plug: enter image description here
  3. My mechanic attempted to (carefully) JB Weld his puller back together, but that didn't work.
  4. I drilled through the puller screw fragment and got it out. I also ruined the head in doing so, as a mechanic used a bore-scope and said essentially "the casing is punctured so a spark plug will never seal".
  • Two questions. Is the broken piece of the puller stuck in there? If it's not, is the porcelain still in there?
    – vini_i
    Apr 24, 2019 at 18:31
  • What part of the spark plug is stuck? Just the threads? or more of the body?
    – Solar Mike
    Apr 24, 2019 at 18:41
  • @vini_i Yes, the broken piece of the puller is stuck in the plug fragment. Apr 24, 2019 at 18:47
  • @SolarMike See pictures already linked or let me know if they're not accessible. Just the narrow tip of the spark plug remains. Apr 24, 2019 at 18:49
  • 1
    Unfortunately at this point pulling the head is all you can do. Pullers tend to be made out of very hard metal and drilling it out would be a bear.
    – vini_i
    Apr 24, 2019 at 18:49

2 Answers 2


Congratulations on your Ford Triton modular V8, you are the first person (other than the other 60,000) to have this problem . . .

I've fixed a bunch of these with the special repair kit. Pricey, but worth it.

If you can drill out the center enough (the porcelain is hollow for the electrode) you can get a small piece of tubing, set the cylinder to BDC by hand, and fill with foamy shaving cream and a little dishwashing soap, from an aerosol can or a turkey baster adapted to the tubing.

You should be able to slowly break up the porcelain with a sharp punch, trying to minimize the size of the bits that fall through. Once the hole is clear, slowly drill out the remaining plug body with a greased drill bit, and chase the threads. Adapt the largest hose you can find that will fit into the cylinder to the nozzle of a shop-vac. Vacuum out the shaving cream and debris while slowly hand cranking the piston back to TDC. Back to BDC, more shaving cream, and repeat.

Inspect the cylinder with a borescope to verify all debris are removed. Repeat with soap, shaving cream, and some brake cleaner as necessary.

If you can't get all the pieces out, unfortunately you needed to pull the head anyway.

If you can get everything out, use plenty of anti-seize on the plug threads, torque the new plug properly, and be sure to change the oil before starting.

I know this process sounds ludicrous, but I've never pulled a Triton head for a spark plug issue, and I've repaired at least a dozen trucks this way - some had more than one plug issue on the same engine. It's tedious but not the 16 hours of head-pulling you may be able to avoid.

Good luck!

  • I appreciate you sharing this tactic! Any recommendations for the type of bit I should use to drill through the tip of the puller embedded in the last inch of the spark plug? I'm not sure what material it is. As you would know, there's a diameter of ~3/8" down there. Apr 29, 2019 at 19:37
  • Start small and step up gradually, plenty of lubricant. HSS or HSS nitrided coating should be fine.
    – SteveRacer
    May 3, 2019 at 2:28
  • Thank you for the help. I seem to have a created a different problem now, no fault of yours. May 9, 2019 at 18:39
  • Jesus this sounds like a nightmare, way to go with your solution! I think if this happened to me I'd just scrap the car. But why shaving cream?
    – Mark
    May 10, 2019 at 8:45
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    @Mark the shaving cream (foamy, not gel - getting hard to find ... "Barbasol" or "Brut") floats the debris and traps it. When you bring the piston back to TDC it pushes out the mess along with the shaving cream. It also acts as a surfactant of sorts, preventing debris from clinging to the piston or cylinder walls. It's very old-school and shadetree, but it works. You can also fill a carb with it when changing butterfly screws and small parts. Anything dropped can be vacuumed or magnet-retrieved, without parts going all the way into the intake.
    – SteveRacer
    May 11, 2019 at 6:10

I got the plug fragment out. My advice:

  • buy a bore scope so you can see clearly
  • buy/use a puller with good threads
  • do not drill
  • do not give up

I bought a bore scope to know what my specific situation was. My dad made a puller himself that was slightly longer and had more teeth than those on the market (This was not ultimately 100% necessary, but it played a role for us). While trying to grab the fragment using my dad's puller, we accidentally pushed the fragment down further about 1/8". We then tried the store-bought puller 3 more times, and somehow it finally grabbed and pulled the fragment completely out. We cleared the cylinder of debris with a vacuum. We replaced the plug with a Champion-brand and she fired right up.

This suggests to me that in my case, the plug was too stuck to be dislodged by puller-teeth alone - loosening the plug fragment first must have been critical. That might could have alternatively been done by carefully tapping down on it carefully with a flat-nose punch.

My drilling was slightly off-center, thus the U shape in the side of the plug fragment.

enter image description here

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