1997 Ford Thunderbird Intake Manifold Failure

Posted on Thursday, May 18th, 2006 at 2:40pm CDT by 97818fe6

Company: 1997 Ford Thunderbird Intake Manifold Failure

Category: Other

I ordered a new 1997 Ford Thunderbird with a 4.6-Liter V-8 engine from our local Ford dealer in April 1997. When ordering the vehicle, the 4.6-Liter engine was highly recommended by the dealer sales and service staff due to the reliability record this engine had up to that time.

Approximately 1-1/2 years later, I received a notice from Ford Motor Company to have the intake manifold checked for cracking, which may result in coolant leakage. The dealer found no problem at the time. After some research, I found that this manifold is made of a nylon composite, which looks and feels much like a plastic material.

I since became aquainted with two 1996 Thunderbird 4.6L owners in my community who experienced catastrophic engine damage on their 1996 Ford Thunderbirds due to failure of the intake manifold at the coolant crossover passage. The damage was due to loss of coolant, overheating and coolant entering the crankcase and/or combustion chambers on both these vehicles. In one instance, Ford Motor Company replaced the engine at no cost to the customer; and in the other case, Ford Motor Company provided necessary repairs. Both these cars had between 60,000 and 70,000 miles on them. I have also conducted research, and found numerous instances on the internet of this occuring with several Ford models using this engine.

In May of 2005, I also experienced failure of the intake maifold at the coolant crossover passage area while at highway speed. My car had 71,000 miles on it at the time. I turned the engine off immediately and had the car towed to the Ford dealer. The repairs cost $1275.00 labor and parts, and the intake manifold was replaced with what appears to be a two piece unit, with the coolant crossover portion that looks much like aluminum, as opposed to composite. The Ford dealer mentioned they would check if Ford would cover this, but they thought I was too late for any coverage. This assumption was later confirmed.

I appealed to Ford Motor Company through their website explaining that the car had been previously inspected at their written recommendation, and asked for their assistance. The Customer Relations representative called and explained that there was never a recall on these, that I was too late for any assistance, and the representative would not admit that this was a significant issue with this product. I was then told I should have purchased an extended warranty. This was not a good answer, and off subject. Extended warrantees are a personal choice, and I do not consider them a good product, as least for me; but that's another subject. The warranty period would have expired, and the premium at that time would have cost as much as the repair, anyway.

I have since learned there was a class action settlement for a number of Ford products and model years, including 1997 Mercury Cougars and Ford Thunderbirds and Mustangs manufactured after June 24, 1997, equipped with the 4.6-liter, 2-valve V-8 engine where Ford agreed to reimburse those who had paid for these repairs. The problem was that this was not publicized by Ford; it had a very short 3-month window to respond; and my car had to have been manufactured after June 24, 1997, which is pretty much when that model year was over.

My vehicles generally are low mileage for their model years, and in this case, it was a disadvantage. As a result, it took longer than normal for this issue to finally surface on my vehicle.

All discussions with Ford Motor Company were civil, however, I was not pleased with the selective and defensive nature Ford Motor Company dealt with this issue; nor with the Ford representative's response.

R. Beck


3 Comments

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c357e78a, 2008-10-23, 09:33PM CDT

I too have just replaced my intake manifold on my 97 Ford Thunderbird. However I paid significantly less than $1,275.00. It started leaking about three weeks ago and I at first thought is was the gasket under the thermostat housing. I replaced it and there it was again. a closer examination showed a very fine crack in the crossover tunnel right at the thermostat. I began searching for the manifold and remembered the story about the ford replacement deal. I called ford and was briskly ushered out of the warranty line and into the bring it on in and we'll take a look at it line. (RIGHT). I learned long ago that if you know anything at all about mechanics, its worth your time to fix it yourself. Ford wanted over $400.00, a local parts house wanted $346.00, and I found a brand new one on Ebay for $199.95 drop shipped to my house in three days. I just finished installing the manifold this evening and it took a total of 5 hours for me to do the job. My t-bird is back on the road and running perfectly. As for those "Dealers" they can kiss my posi track rear end.

a79db579, 2009-08-12, 10:17AM CDT

The exact same thing happen to my 97 mustang GT at 72,000 miles. The repair cost $1150.00. This is my third Mustang my 89 had the notorious ignition moduel problem. Which FORD also refuse to inform consumers about Bottom line FORD does not stand behind their products or their proven defects in design. I will never buy another ford.

4194f919, 2010-03-20, 11:19PM CDT

I have a 97 cougar with the 4.6 and it started leaking around the thermostat housing about two months ago. After changing the thermostat and o'ring a couple of times I bought an aftermarket manifold from pep boys for $234 and changed it myself in less than 4 hours.

I also changed the fuel injector o'rings while I was at it.

The car no longer leaks, or knocks, and is running as well as it did when it was new.

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