Ford's $5698.37 Pinging Noise

Jeff has a long story to tell but he believes in keeping his promises. He promised Ford Motor Co that he would tell his entire story if they didn’t take care of his warranty repair to his satisfaction. They didn’t, so here it is. Jeff writes:

Below I detail a problem I encountered with my 2005 F-150 pickup and what I thought were covered damages and repairs under the initial warranty or the ExtraCARE extended coverage.

Basically, my truck was making a pinging noise pretty much from the outset of purchase, the original dealer said it was normal, only to find out later that it was not and was going to be a very expensive repair.

Here is the letter Jeff sent to Ford:

This documents the events surrounding the engine noise problem experienced with our 2005 Ford F-150. We purchased the truck in April 2005. The truck was new and only had 5 miles on it. I purchased the ExtraCARE for four years/100,000 miles.

I also received free routine maintenance for the first 30,000 miles from the dealer, Koons Sterling Ford in Sterling, VA. I brought the vehicle in every 5,000 miles approximately for this service. Early on, the engine developed a pinging noise. I asked the mechanic and service manager at Koons about this and they said this was the normal sound of the fuel injectors. Since the truck ran fine otherwise, I took them at their word as this truck was more up to date than my previous 1993 Ford F-150. I never experienced any other mechanical problems with the truck and it ran fine, albeit with the pinging noise.

After the 30,000 mile free maintenance was up, I started taking the truck to Jiffy Lube – first the one in Leesburg, VA then the one in Ashburn, VA. I started going to the one in Ashburn because they had the newer equipment which could service the automatic transmission fluid. All during this approximately 28,000 miles nothing changed in how the truck performed or in how it sounded. The “fuel injector” ping was still there.

This changed when I drove my truck near a friend one day and he mentioned that we probably had a lifter problem. I said the noise was attributable to the fuel injectors. He advised that if that was so, why didn’t all fuel injected Ford trucks make this sound? I realized he was right as I have never heard another vehicle make this sound, truck or otherwise. I made an appointment at Jerry’s Ford in Leesburg to have them look into the noise. If the noise was truly fuel injectors, they would know about it and tell me so. I advised that no other performance problem was being experienced, just the noise.

They advised that the problem stemmed from the camshaft position sensor. The said it would have to be replaced. They did so, but the problem persisted. They continued to work on the truck, and we (the dealership and I) agreed that the extended warranty covered us. This was the last week of February/first week of March 2007. A week later they still had not found the actual cause of the problem, but had continued to tear the engine down looking for it. In the meantime, since this was covered by the ExtraCARE and Jerry’s had agreed, I had rented a rental car, and Jerry’s even called Enterprise car rental to alert them to me having ExtraCARE maintenance plan work being performed and that the plan would pick up a portion of the rental car. They said it would pay for 10 days at approximately $28 per day.

On March 7 2007, the service employee at Jerry’s called me to alert me to the problem stemming from the use of an aftermarket oil filter. I reiterated that the problem predated the use of aftermarket filters, and that the true problem had to be caused by something else. They pointed me to a service bulletin (attachment bm3.jpg) which stated that the use of low quality aftermarket oil filters can cause pinging and would result in damage not covered by a warranty. This bulletin did not state what brand or which service, such as Jiffy Lube, might be suspect. This service bulletin also does NOT cover the actual engine installed in my truck. Please see attachment bo3.jpg, my buyer’s order, for detail of my vehicle. At this point they stated that the maintenance plan probably would not cover this repair. I once again alerted them to the fact that this noise predated the use of aftermarket oil filters. They checked their Ford records from our maintenance visits to Koons, but nothing of this detail was recorded on our records from that time period.

I started investigating my rights under the warranty, consumer protection services, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and what the proper procedure would be if a dispute continued. Jerry’s said a Ford inspector would visit on Thursday, 08 March 2007 to see the truck and make a determination of my case. Initially, Jerry’s said there was not enough debris from the filter in the oil to have caused the pinging. I again reiterated that the pinging predated the use of aftermarket oil filters. At this point, their tact with me changed and they pretty much ignored anything further I had to say concerning the condition which predated the use of aftermarket oil filters.

I received word late on Thursday, 08 March 2007, that my warranty claim was denied and that there would be a hefty bill for the repairs. The engine could be put back together for $2800, the cylinder head could be replaced for $6200, or an entire new engine could be installed for $7800. I chose the second option, giving them the benefit of the doubt that something had to be done to rectify the problem. I authorized Jerry’s to perform the work and they stated that the truck could probably be finished on Monday, 12 March 2007.

I then started to gather information on how to best challenge this maintenance plan denial. I called Ford ESP (Extended Service Plan) after talking to Jerry’s service manager. The service manager advised this was going to be the best route to challenge the denial. I gave them all of the pertinent information, having to spell out in great detail where I purchased the truck and where I was getting it serviced. The representative of Ford ESP I spoke with was quite unfamiliar with the concept of going to different dealers. She did recommend that in order to get a favorable decision I should go to different Ford dealers in the area. I advised that the maintenance plan does not require that, since I had been dealing with an authorized Ford dealership and maintenance shop. She also did not know or understand what a “Jiffy Lube” was. I did not explain this to her further, but asked to speak to someone else who might be able to change the warranty denial for me.

I was connected to the technical manager, “Bill”. I gave him the full history and waited to find out what Ford ESP could do for me. He advised that they had not seen the inspection report yet, but that the failure of an oil filter which caused the damage would not be covered under the warranty. I reiterated to him that the noise was preexisting, explaining again about how I alerted the original dealership’s service department to it. Bill advised that he had no evidence or documentation to back this up. He also stated that even Ford Motorcraft oil filters, had they been used and failed, would also invalidate any warranty claim for repair of damage. He said there was nothing else he could do for me. He gave me the phone number of an arbitration service. I continued to have to rent a rental car, but now completely out of pocket for the entire expense, until the truck is done. Ford ESP also stated that the inspection records and photos were the property of Ford and I would not be receiving a copy of it.

I called the Ford Customer Center in Dearborn, MI on Friday, 16 March 2007. After a lot of pleasant conversation, questions, answers, and being on hold, Ford informed me their guideline was to support the dealership and side with them. They stick behind the idea that an aftermarket oil filter was the culprit. They said if I wanted to get the inspection report I would have to talk to the dealership; the dealership said I would have to talk to Ford ESP. The answer from Ford ESP is stated above.

I also submitted my information to the Dispute Settlement Board to no avail. Based on this information, Ford is blaming an aftermarket oil filter even when the problem predated the use of aftermarket (i.e., Jiffy Lube) filters. Ford is not standing behind even the products they recommend and use. The failure of these replaceable parts could possibly damage warranty covered parts, which would invalidate the warranty. This could mean one of several things: this is a convenient excuse for voiding customer’s maintenance plans; Ford has no faith in even their own filters; Ford maintenance itself uses aftermarket filters of a questionable brand.

This also begs the question of whether or not Ford officially applied for a waiver to the tie-in sales prohibition of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. Invalidating a warranty based on a claim such as this should create evidence which could be used against the aftermarket manufacturer or the service company (Jiffy Lube). Ford’s unwillingness to part with this information tends to make me think there is something wrong with even their filters, or they have simply found an easy scapegoat for invalidating customer’s warranties.

My intention all along has been to maintain the truck so it will last as long as possible, performing the service for which it was designed. I believe I have done everything practically possible to this end. I availed myself of the maintenance offered by Koons for the first 30,000 miles. While I notified them of the noise, they informed me it was “normal” and just the “fuel injectors”. Since they were being held up by Ford as the local experts, I believed them and took them at their word. Obviously, now I know they were wrong, lying, or incompetent. If they were improperly trained or too inexperienced to diagnose problems, shame on them. If they were lying to me, that is fraud. My vehicle was brand new, under warranty and they were choosing to not address a concern brought to them by a customer.

I respectfully request repayment of $5698.37 to cover that amount of the attached work order (wo10f3, wo2of3, wo3of3 jpgs) and remaining portion of the rental car expense. I have also provided a copy of the rental receipt (rental.jpg) and a copy of my title (title.jpg) and registration of the vehicle to show I own it (registration2.jpg).

Should you not consider this request deserving of a refund, I will be posting all of this information online (e.g., for others use in consideration of your products. A positive response can also be posted to show how well you take care of your long-term and repeat customers.

I have been a Ford truck owner since 1993 and truly enjoy the vehicles. I want to stay with the Ford brand for future truck needs. Your positive response to this request will go a long way to ensuring just that. Thank you in advance for your prompt and professional attention to my request.


John Y.
[contact info redacted]

I worked through Ford’s Customer Relationship center, their Dispute Settlement Board and the BBB. Getting no satisfaction, I am now writing Consumerist. The above information was sent via EECB (Thank you Consumerist for this information!) to several high level managers and members of the board of directors for which I could come up with names. I ferreted out the most probable names of the e-mail addresses and sent the above letter. I starting getting a few delivery failures right away and kept track of those. I also received immediate responses from a few people at Ford who have since moved on to other duties within the company and do not handle these areas. I also started to get phone calls from a local Ford rep who wanted to quickly offer me a one time Goodwill payment of ½ of the repair costs. I stated that was not good enough and told her to check with her superiors over the weekend for a better offer. I reiterated that this would not go away and I would definitely make a stink of this on the Internet.

The next week I also started to receive phonecalls from Detroit from Ford’s headquarters and executive offices. I thought this was directly related to the other phonecalls. Apparently, when you send an EECB to a large company and to several people, you might get independent responses that do not know about each other. Detroit called to say they were standing behind their inspectors and were going to offer me nothing. I do not know why they felt compelled to call me to say this. I again reiterated that this was unacceptable and I and the issue were not going away quietly. I thought that was over then. I started receiving calls again while I was out of the office with several voicemails being left by Detroit. I thought they had changed their mind when they said they had an “exciting offer” for me. The offer was for the X-Plan to purchase a new vehicle at a low cost. This just goes to show how out of touch Ford is with their truck buying customers.

I have since received a check for half of the repair costs from the original Ford rep. It came through one of the local dealers with no stipulations about keeping quiet if I cashed it. I cashed it and am now making good on my promise to write this up for all to read on your site.

I feel Ford still owes me for the other half of the repair work and the cost of the rental car. This totals $3567. The rental car alone was almost $900.

At this point I think it is fair to say I will not be doing business with any of the Koons dealerships or the Jerry’s dealerships in the Washington, DC area, nor buying any more Ford products. They are dead to me. However, if they choose to respond to this posting in a positive fashion (e.g., money) I would be willing to write you with a positive update.

As an aside, it was very interesting to find out what the Better Business Bureau can, and cannot, do for you. Their response to my complaint letter said that since the mileage on my truck at the time was outside the initial warranty, they could not help me at all. Good to know what the scope of your interest is, BBB.

Thanks a lot for all you do for all of us consumers. It really helps.

Also, here are the email addresses of Ford executives which did NOT receive a delivery error:

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