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davehop, Ford Technician
Category: Ford
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Experience:  Fully certified in all phases of automotive repair as recognized and certified by Ford Motor Company
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2004 F150: I fix the cam phaser issue

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How do I fix the cam phaser issue on a 2004 F150 5.4 3v. I just purchased the truck and fear I have the annoying sound I have read so much about after buying the truck. For the most part I do all my own work on my vehicles and feel I can tackle the job if need be. I have read that people say just leave it, if I fix it will eventually come back. What to do.

Hello and welcome to JA, the cam phaser noise can be attributed to using low grade aftermarket oil filters...but before we go into that , I want you to read this TSB from Ford, and go through it to determine where the noise that you are hearing can be emanating from...

FORD:2005 Mustang
2004-2005 F-150
2005 Expedition, F-250, F-350
LINCOLN:2005 Navigator

This article supersedes TSB 06-4-7 to update the Service Procedure.


Some vehicles equipped with a 4.6L 3-valve or 5.4L 3-valve engine may exhibit a ticking and / or knocking noise after reaching normal operating temperature, or a rattle upon starting. The noise may be described as ticks, taps, knocks, or thumps. In some cases the noise may be a normal characteristic of these engines. In other cases the noise may require further investigation. Sorting out and defining the noise as reported by the customer is important to successfully diagnose and / or repair the condition.


Before starting diagnosis, it is critical to determine the specific engine noise the customer is concerned with. The customer should be interviewed to get their detailed perception and description of the noise, and to determine if the noise occurs at idle or above idle speed, and if the engine is cold, hot, or both. Attempt to duplicate the noise, and determine the source of the symptom. Refer to the following Service Procedure to help determine the source of the noise and if a repair is needed.







  1. Make sure you have a detailed description of the noise the customer is concerned with, including whether the noise is occurring at idle or above idle speed (does it disappear above 1200 RPM), and if the engine is cold, hot, or both when the noise is occurring. These engines generate a lot of "normal" noises, so it is critical to confirm the noise the customer is concerned with. Determine what environment the customer is in when the noise is most noticeable to them (inside passenger compartment, next to building with / without the driver and / or passenger window open, or beside the wheel well). Validate by using your own perception.
  2. Compare the noise generated with a new vehicle, if available, with an ENGINE build date of 3/30/2005 or later on Mustang and 4/18/2005 or later on F-150 to F-350, Expedition and Navigator vehicles.
  3. Diagnose noise when engine is at normal operating temperature (Oil at 160° F (71° C) or above). Verify oil temperature by using a diagnostic scan tool and monitoring the engine oil temperature (EOT) PID. Startup rattle may only occur with cold oil.
  4. Check the type of oil filter installed on the vehicle. A dirty or clogged filter may cause a pressure drop. Look for aftermarket brands not recognized in the market or a production filter that has gone beyond the standard Ford recommended change interval.
  5. Check for signs of oil brand used and viscosity (interview customer if needed). Motorcraft® SAE 5W-20 Premium Synthetic Blend Motor Oil or equivalent is recommended.

    Once the above pre-checks are complete, check for sound level from the following components, in the order listed. Compare the sound from these components to the noise the customer is concerned with, to determine the source of the noise.


Injector noise (ticking) is considered normal. Noise increases with RPM hot or cold and is recognized at the top of the engine.


Lash adjusters can make a ticking / tapping noise noticeable at any engine RPM / temperature and is audible through the wheel well or an open hood. However, with the hood down, lash adjuster noise can be heard as a light tapping noise through the wheel well and is considered normal.

Tracing this noise must be isolated to a cylinder bank. If one bank is louder than the other bank, focus the diagnostic to the loud bank. If both banks seem loud with the hood down, compare wheel well sound level to another comparable vehicle.

Use a stethoscope on the top of the cam cover bolt heads to confirm which bank is affected. Move the probe from front to rear if necessary.

If isolated, only replace the intake and exhaust lifters on the affected cylinder bank.


The 4.6L 3V and 5.4L 3V variable cam timing (VCT) feature may emit a light knock in normal operation and is audible only at idle speed, with a hot engine (gear selector in park / neutral). However, it may be masked by or mistaken for other noises generated from either injector firing or a malfunctioning valve train as described above. The noise does not affect performance or durability of the part.

VCT phasers may knock at hot idle. It may be heard inside the passenger compartment, or the wheel well area. Some light noise is normal. The engine may require a cold soak overnight for a full diagnosis to effectively be made at hot idle, particularly when a VCT phaser is suspected. The knock is not prevalent at cold temperature.

To test for VCT noise:

  1. Place the transmission in park or neutral
  2. Bring engine oil temperature to 160° F (71° C) or above as indicated by the scan tool "EOT" PID.
  3. Allow engine to idle, and determine if noise is noticeable.
  4. Set engine speed to over 1200 RPM (if noise is a VCT knock, the noise should disappear).
  5. Return engine speed to idle (verify knock returns).

    If the noise intensity is more than a lightly audible knock at hot idle under 1200 RPM at engine operating temperature, replace the cam phaser using the "In-Vehicle Repair" Camshaft Phaser and Sprocket procedure found in the Workshop Manual, Section 303-01


Some 2004 F-150 and 2005 F-150, Expedition, Navigator, F-Super Duty, and Mustang vehicles may have a rattle on startup that lasts 1 to 3 seconds. If initial pre-checks have been completed and the noise sounds like it is coming from the front of the engine, replace the VCT Phaser Kit. If the engine continues to make the rattle noise after the initial startup do not exchange VCT.

5L1Z-6500-AALash Adjuster (2005 Vehicles)
3L3Z-6500-BALash Adjuster (2004 Vehicles)
3R2Z-6A257-DAVCT Phaser Kit


Eligible Under Provisions Of New Vehicle Limited Warranty Coverage

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Ok well I have done those checks and the knock noise doesn't happen when starting up the truck. It happens when the truck is warmed up and idling. When I'm above the 1200 rpm mark the noise goes away. I didn't know about using the ford motorcraft filters. I will get one today and change it. I forgot to mention another symptom. Since getting my oil changed the other day 4-5 times the truck has wanted to die when coming to a stop. It knocks really bad then smooths out. It almost acts the phasers are stuck and the timing is messed up. It brought me back to the days and distributor ignitions. At first I suspected oil pump but the pressure guage is fine. I'm going to get my scan tool and check the pressure. I also used Mobile 5-20 weight oil. I didn't know the engines were so finicky with filters and oil. I have used Quaker State and Fram for years. I just happened to be in a hurry and went to a quick lube that I trust. I used to manage it so I know everyone that works there. Thanks for your help.
ok, when the phasers are not receiving enough oil pressure, the cam timing is unable to be properly adjusted...and that is the reason for the stalling, rough idle...please use only motorcraft oil filter on this engine please, the oil you used is fine, lets get into the habit of changing the oil and filter every 3,ooo miles on this truck for the next few oil changes and reevaluate the situation then, I believe it will correct itself...but note, some noise is going to be acceptable. Please hit the green accept tab if my answer was helpful.
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