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Second-hand: 2004-2008 Ford F-150

It's an expensive list of foibles, but no domestic truck is immune to drivetrain issues. If its sales volumes are any indication, Ford may be doing a better job of keeping those to a minimum.

  • The image of cars on a parking

Along with the development of the 12-inch vinyl record, Velcro and the Frisbee, 1948 was notable for another thing, it was the year Ford ushered in its first F-Series pickup.

Replacing the automaker’s car-based pickup, the F-Series was a purpose-built light truck with a one-piece windshield, a windshield washer and even a passenger-side tail light.

It would go on to become the best-selling vehicle in America for 23 years and the best-selling truck in Canada for 42 consecutive years.

In reality, if sales of the mechanically identical Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra are combined, the General Motors twins outsold the Ford most years.

Still, it’s estimated the F-Series alone was responsible for half of Ford’s profits in recent years.

CONFIGURATION

Ford redesigned the 11th generation of the pickup for 2004, giving it a roomier cab, more power and a Marlboro Man physique. Gone was the windswept, rounded look of the previous, girlie F-150.

Regular, extended and crew-cab body styles returned, all built on a rigid, fully boxed frame, rather than the old C-section frame.

All cabs were longer by 15 cm and wider by 10 cm, sporting four doors of various sizes. The regular cab joined the extended SuperCab by offering rear-hinged half doors as standard. The SuperCrew returned with four front-hinged doors. Both extended and crew-cab models featured a rear bench seat for six-passenger capacity.

The cabin was easily the biggest draw of the new truck. Appreciably larger, it was appointed with lots of stylish, textured plastic and chrome-ringed gauges.

The rear bench, where equipped, accommodated adults better than in the past, though the seats were mounted close to the floor. The rear doors on extended cabs even had roll-down windows, a segment first.

Out back, buyers could specify box lengths of 5 1/2, 6 1/2 and eight feet, depending on the model. The unusually deep boxes improved cargo capacity, but made it almost impossible to reach anything without climbing aboard, owners noted.

Ford’s base engine was a SOHC 4.6 L Triton V8, good for 231 hp. Optional was a 5.4 L V8 with three valves per cylinder, rated at 300 hp (versus 260 in 2003) and 365 lb.-ft. of torque. A four-speed automatic was the sole transmission – available with a floor-mounted shift lever for the first time.

All models came with rear-wheel drive or optional four-wheel drive that had to be disengaged on dry pavement, but included low-range gearing. Antilock four-wheel disc brakes were standard.

In 2005, a 202-hp 4.2 L V6 and a five-speed manual transmission became standard on base models. Incidentally, Consumer Reports named the 2004-08 F-150 with the 4 L V6 the most reliable American pickup truck ever produced.

Traction control became available on all rear-wheel-drive V8 models for 2006.

ON THE ROAD

The F-150 distinguished itself by offering the only overhead-cam V8s in a domestic truck. While more rev-happy than the pushrod motors used by GM and Dodge, some owners suggested the SOHC engine was short on grunt.

Acceleration numbers seemed to bear that out: the 5.4 L V8 took 9.3 seconds to reach 96 km/h (saddled with 4X4). Blame the truck’s burdensome mass – the 4X4 SuperCab crushes its own gravel road with a dead weight of 2.7 tonnes.

Conversely, the F-150 provided a refined ride-and-handling mix. It could manage a washboard surface with grace, maintaining a controlled linear path, in part due to its precise rack-and-pinion steering.

Unfortunately, the F-150 sucks gas at a voracious rate. Owners have recorded fuel consumption as low as 21 L/100 km, although the (rare) V6 models are considerably better.

WHAT OWNERS REPORTED

The redesigned 2004 F-150 won fans for its exterior and interior styling, enlarged cabins and neat touches like the spring-loaded tailgate. What didn’t win acclaim were the mechanical hiccups – especially important when you rely on a vehicle to earn your income.

“Last Ford for me, since I’m a business owner and breakdowns cost me time and money,” pointed out the owner of an ’04 F-150 who replaced the engine early on.

Driveline vibration was commonly reported, and was attributed to the transmission, driveshaft, differential and even the emergency brakes. Any of these components have been known to fail, owners say, with the rear differential being particularly prone.

“I have had five sets of tires, three driveshafts, two rear pinion gears, rebuilt transmission,” the owner of a ’04 wrote on the Internet, listing his ongoing repairs.

Brake rotors are also reputed to require frequent service, and water may enter the rear of the cab through the cargo lamp. Other weaknesses include a feeble air conditioner and interior rattles.

It’s an expensive list of foibles, but no domestic truck is immune to drivetrain issues. If its sales volumes are any indication, Ford may be doing a better job of keeping those to a minimum.

We would like to know about your ownership experience with these models: Toyota Yaris, Pontiac G5/Chevy Cobalt, Toyota Matrix, Dodge Caliber and Nissan Versa. Email: toljagic@ca.inter.net.

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