The 2010 F150 5.4 engine seems to have gained a reputation for being a bad engine with reliability problems. However, is that truly the case? Or are its problems overblown?
We’ll discuss everything there is to know about the 2010 F150 5.4 engine in this post. From its specs, reviews, and common reliability problems. And at the end, we’ll tell you what we think about this engine:
2010 F150 5.4: History & Specs
The 5.4L “Triton” is a V8 engine part of Ford’s Modular engine family. It comes in several variations, with the smallest one being a 4.6L V8, and the biggest one being a 6.8L V10. Ford uses this engine family for a lot of their cars, from the Explorer to the Mustang, and of course, the F-Series pickup trucks.
We’re focusing on the 5.4L V8 version, specifically the one with the 3-valve SOHC cylinder head with variable camshaft timing (VCT). This is the engine Ford uses for their F-Series trucks from 2004 to 2010. From 2004 to 2008, the Triton is the flagship engine Ford offers for their 11th-generation F-150.
Ford then revised the engine in 2009, and 2010 was the final production year for this engine in the F-150. Afterward, Ford offers the 12th-generation F-150 with either a 5.0L Coyote V8 or 6.2L Boss V8 alongside a couple of V6 engines.
So, how about the specs then? Here’s the spec for the 2009 – 2010 version of the engine:
- Engine: 5.4-liter naturally-aspirated V8 iron block, aluminum heads.
- Bore x Stroke: 3.55 x 4.16 inches
- Compression Ratio: 9.8:1
- Fuel Injection: Electronic Sequential Multiport
- Valvetrain: SOHC, 3 valves per cylinder, Variable Camshaft Timing
- Power: 310 horsepower @ 5,000rpm
- Torque: 365 lb-ft @ 3,500rpm
- Oil capacity: 7 quarts/1.75 gallons
The 2004 – 2008 engine also has the same spec. However, the engine made slightly less power at 300 horsepower. Additionally, the 2009 – 2010 version was capable of taking E85 fuel which increases power output by 10 horsepower.
2010 F150 5.4: The Reviews
So, now we know the engine specs, how about the performance? What’s the engine like to drive? Well, the truck itself is stellar. Many reviews note that the 2010 F-150 has a nice interior, decent tow ratings across the lineup, and is a comfortable truck to drive.
The engine is also quite good. Specifically, when it comes to towing. The torque rating probably isn’t quite as high as you’d like it to be, but the torque comes early in the RPM and peaks at a very early 3,500rpm. As a result, setting off when you’re towing will feel effortless.
However, the transmission and gear ratio setup of the truck isn’t great. This makes the truck feel somewhat cumbersome to drive sometimes. Additionally, it’s a bit of a gas guzzler. The engine will consume 13mpg in city driving, and 18mpg on the highway. While this doesn’t sound too bad at the time, it’s a heavy drinker by modern standards.
Overall, it’s a decent engine for your truck. U.S. News gave it a rating of 4 out of 5. Meanwhile, consumer reviews on Edmunds average a 4.6 out of 5.
The biggest downside of this engine is that some of its rivals at the time offer more power, such as the Ram 1500 and Chevy Silverado. Additionally, it has some reliability issues…
2010 F150 5.4: Common Problems
There is a total of 784 complaints regarding the 2010 F-150 on NHTSA’s website, with 98 of them being powertrain complaints. For comparison, the 2010 Chevy Silverado 1500 only received around 300 complaints in total. Here are the common problems you can expect out of the 2010 F150 5.4 engine:
1. 2010 F150 5.4 Cam Phaser Problems
We need to explain valves and camshafts first to better understand this problem. So, an internal combustion engine has two types of valves: the intake and exhaust valve. The intake valve allows fuel and air to come into the cylinders so that the engine can combust the mixture.
After the mixture combusts, it will turn into exhaust gases. And during the final stage of the combustion process, the exhaust valve will open to allow these gases to escape. This allows your engine to repeat the process and keep it running.
On top of the valves sits a camshaft. This is a rotating shaft with cams mounted on it, and it’s basically an actuator for the valves. As mentioned, the 2010 F150 5.4 engine – and pretty much every other modern engine – have a variable valve control.
This allows the valves to open at a different rate. In a nutshell, the benefit is that it can make the engine more efficient, but still deliver power when you need it.
Ford uses a cam phaser to control camshafts which ultimately controls the valve opening. This is a computer-operated sprocket attached to the camshaft. The phaser can fail and lock eventually, resulting in a rattling or knocking noise from the engine. This problem can cause performance issues and trigger a check engine light.
The cam phaser is known to fail as early as 60,000 miles. And it will cost between $550 to $850 to replace according to some users. Some users also recommend installing cam phasers from a larger engine so it sits tightly, reducing the chance of failure in the future.
2. Low Oil Pressure
This problem is one of the causes of the cam phaser failure. However, weirdly, it doesn’t seem to be talked about very much. Anyway, the Ford 5.4 engines have narrow oil passageways.
This means that when the oil gets old and sludgy, or there’s debris in the passageways, it can lower the oil pressure in the engine. This results in some parts – such as the cam phasers – not being properly lubricated and will cause damage and even failure.
There’s not much you can do about this since the narrow passageway is part of the engine’s design. Why Ford designed it like this in the first place, we’re not quite sure. Thankfully, this won’t pose many issues if you keep up with general maintenance.
Keep up with your oil changes, and change the filter as well when it’s time. You should check your owner’s manual to find the recommended intervals. However, some owners recommend changing the oil every 3,000 miles to prevent any issues in the future.
Additionally, always make sure you use the right type of oil. The 5.4 engine requires full synthetic oil. Also, don’t forget to check your owner’s manual to find the right oil viscosity. An oil that’s too thin or too thick can cause further problems with the engine. You can learn more about oil viscosity here.
3. Spark Plug Issues
This is actually more common on the 2-valve version of the 5.4L engine. As mentioned, the 2010 engine has a 3-valve system instead. In the 2-valve engine, the spark plugs are known to blow out of the head. Thankfully, the 3-valve engine doesn’t have this issue. However, the spark plugs in the 3-valve engine are known to sometimes break when removed.
Of course, when you’re removing a spark plug, chances are you’re going to replace it anyway. So, this doesn’t sound like a big deal. However, if the spark plug breaks off and falls back into the spark plug port, it can create a bit of a hassle trying to remove it.
Still, overall this issue won’t pose too much problem. Just be sure to be careful when removing the spark plugs so it doesn’t turn a simple replacement job into a headache-inducing repair. You can learn how to change the spark plugs in the video above.
A set of spark plugs for the Ford 5.4 engine is around $60 on average. If you want to have a mechanic replace it for you, your total cost will be around $250 on average. Check your owner’s manual to find the recommended change interval for the spark plugs and ignition coils.
4. Timing Chain Issues
In the simplest terms, the timing chain keeps your engine in rhythm. It connects the camshaft and the crankshaft to make sure that the internal components are moving the right way at the right time. If the timing chain is loose or breaks, then it will throw your engine off its rhythm. This can cause serious problems with your engine.
At best, it will make your engine misfire. However, at worst, it can ruin your engine entirely. This is because the 5.4 engine is an interference engine, meaning the valves and the pistons can come into contact and damage each other if the timing is off. If this happens, you will need to either rebuild or replace your engine.
A timing chain has to be installed properly to the appropriate tension. If the chain is loose, then it will slap around and can cause the tensioner to break. Once the tensioner breaks, then the timing chain will also break loose, possibly causing an engine failure.
Timing chain issues aren’t unique to the 5.4 engine. However, the cam phaser failure we mentioned earlier may cause the timing chain to come too loose which causes further problems. So, we recommend fixing the cam phaser immediately once you notice there are rattling or knocking noises coming from the engine.
Another thing you can do to prevent timing chain issues is to make sure that the engine is always well-lubricated. You should also replace the timing chain and the tensioner around every 80,000 to 120,000 miles. Although you should check the owner’s manual for the recommended interval. It’ll cost between $1,000 – $1,500 to replace them.
One last tip is to listen for unusual rattling noises from the engine. This usually means the timing chain is loose and needs to be tightened if not replaced.
5. Other Engine-Related Problems
There are a few more problems that we’ve seen with the 5.4 engine. However, these problems are not quite as widespread, so we’re just going to briefly mention them:
- Oil pan gasket leak. This isn’t unique to the 5.4 engine, and every car will eventually have an oil pan gasket leak. However, there have been reports of the gasket leaking prematurely. It will cost around $300 – $420 to replace the oil pan gasket.
- Exhaust manifold gasket leak. They contract greatly during the car’s operation and will eventually break. This can cause the engine to make loud banging noises, as well as introduce an exhaust smell into the cabin. It will cost around $400 – $600 to replace them.
- Fuel pump module problems. This is more common in the 2004 – 2008 engines, but you may still experience a fuel pump module failure in the 2009 – 2010 engines. It can cause the car to stutter, stall, and have difficulty starting. It will cost around $150 – $250 to replace them.
As mentioned, these problems are not as common. The fuel pump module problem in particular is more common in the 2004 – 2008 models, the unrevised version of the engine. But keep an eye out for these problems if you’re planning to buy a 2010 Ford F-150.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that the 5.4 engine is relatively reliable. Most of the problems we mentioned above can be avoided – or at least delayed – by keeping up with general maintenance. Changing the oil and its filter at the appropriate interval should be enough to prevent most of the problems from appearing any time soon.
The main flaw the engine has is with its cam phasers. However, even this problem can be prevented as long as you maintain the engine. As mentioned, the most common cause for the phasers to fail is inadequate lubrication.
We’ve researched and written about many engines here on MotorVerso. While it’s not perfect, Ford’s 5.4 engine seems to be one of the more reliable engines we’ve talked about. It just requires a bit more care than some other engines to prevent any serious problems from appearing.
2010 F150 5.4: Questions And Answers
Got any more questions about the 2010 F150 5.4 engine and the Ford F-150 in general? The answer you’re looking for might be below:
Are There Any More Problems With The 2010 F-150?
Yes, there are. The problems we’ve talked about have been engine-related, and there are a few other problems that you should keep in mind. The biggest problem seems to be with the transmission, where many owners report shuddering, vibration, and difficulty shifting. Especially at speeds below 45mph.
This problem seems to plague both the 4-speed and 6-speed automatic transmissions. However, the good news is that complete transmission failure is rare. The jerkiness may be due to an inherent design flaw. Unfortunately, this is something that you may have to live with if you choose to buy the 2010 Ford F-150.
The next common problem is with Ford’s infotainment system. This comes as no surprise for us since we’ve seen this problem before in other Ford vehicles that uses the system, including Lincolns. Problems include input lags, freezing, and a completely black screen in some cases.
If you’re experiencing issues with the infotainment system, restarting the car will usually resolve it. Unfortunately, there are no software updates or recalls that we’re aware of that can fix the problem. So, this is something you’re going to have to live with as well.
There are other electrical problems as well, mainly with the heated seats, fuel gauges, and the fuel pump fuse amongst others.
Is 2010 A Safe Year For The F-150?
While there seem to be quite a lot of problems, the 2010 model year is one of the better models to buy. As mentioned, most of the engine problems can be prevented with preventive maintenance. And there are no catastrophic design flaws that make the 5.4L engine too unreliable.
The thing you need to keep in mind when looking at common problems is that they can sometimes be a little overblown. Of course, these problems can still happen, but there’s a good chance that you won’t experience them unless there was a truly catastrophic flaw in the first place.
What’s The Best F-150 Model Year?
While the 2010 model is quite reliable, it isn’t the best model year you could buy. So, what’s the best and most reliable model year of the F-150 you could buy? If you’re willing to drive an older car, the 1993 model year is often regarded as the most reliable model year.
If you’re looking for something newer, then consider the 2001 & 2003 model years. These were the late models of the 10th-generation F-150. And if you want something even more modern, the 2014 & 2015 model years are worth considering. All of these have a reliability rating of 3.5 out of 5 according to RepairPal, which is slightly above average.
Meanwhile, the years to avoid are the 2004 – 2008 model years. Ford seems to have trouble working out the kinks in this generation, so it’s best that you avoid them at all costs.
What’s The Best F-150 Engine?
Many Ford enthusiasts seem to prefer the 5.0L Coyote V8 which Ford started using in 2011 until today. The Coyote is relatively more modern, offers more power, and is more fuel-efficient. It’s rated for 16mpg in city driving and 22mpg in highway driving in heavier models of the F-150.
We tend to agree with this. While the 5.4L Triton is a good engine, the 5.0L Coyote engine is superior in almost every way. The only downside is that the torque band and peak torque are a bit higher in the rpm range than the Triton engine. This can make the car feel a little more sluggish when setting off.
Is The EcoBoost Engine Any Good?
It feels kind of wrong to not have a V8 with your full-size truck. But if you’re looking for something more fuel-efficient, you’re probably considering the V6 EcoBoost engines instead. We recommend staying away from the 2011 – 2014 model years that use an EcoBoost engine. Many reviews say they feel sluggish, and there are reliability problems.
However, the EcoBoost engines in the 2015 models onward are much better. They provide a lot of power and torque, are fuel-efficient, and are a lot more reliable than the previous versions.
Are There Any Alternatives To The 2010 Ford F-150?
We have four recommendations, and the reason why you should consider them:
- Toyota Tundra. It’s obvious, isn’t it? It’s a Toyota, it’s reliable and will last you a lifetime.
- Chevrolet Silverado 1500. A decent truck, although not outstanding in any particular way according to Kelley Blue Book. However, it’s available with a 403 horsepower 6.2L V8.
- Ram 1500. The most well-rounded of them all, with great driving dynamics that are probably better than the rest – even the F-150. Oh, and did we mention it’s available with a 5.7L Hemi V8?
There are other full-size trucks as well, namely the GMC Sierra 1500 and the Nissan Titan. However, those three we mentioned are the ones we recommend that you consider.
Any Buying Tips?
We recommend the usual things: take the car for a thorough test drive and listen for any unusual noises. Pay close attention to the engine noise, and listen for a rattling or knocking noise. This noise likely means either the cam phasers are failing or the timing chain is loose. You’ll need to prepare yourself for repairs if this is the case.
After the test drive, you should do a pre-purchase inspection to find potential problems that you may have missed during the test drive. You can ask a trusted mechanic, a Ford dealer, or an online PPI service to do this. This will typically cost about $250 but it’s worth it to ensure that you’re not buying a lemon.
The two things above should help you to avoid buying a lemon. If you’re feeling brave, try buying a car from Carvana or Vroom. Both of these online retailers provide a 7-day money-back guarantee where you can have a refund if you’re not happy with the purchase.
2010 F150 5.4: Our Verdict
Our verdict of this engine is that this is a good and reliable engine, but with an asterisk. While not catastrophically unreliable, the engine is quite sensitive, and keeping up with general maintenance is key to keeping the engine running smoothly. That being said, you should keep up with general maintenance no matter what car and engine you have.
The next asterisk is that it’s not the most powerful engine you can get from a pickup truck. As mentioned, its competitors offer engines with more power. Even the Toyota Tundra is available with a 5.7L V8 producing a very healthy 381 horsepower. If you want more power in an F-150, we recommend considering the 5.0L Coyote motor in the 2011 model and onwards.
To be honest, this is the better overall package and the one we would recommend. But if for whatever reason you want the 5.4L Triton engine, then get the 2009 – 2010 models. The ones before that have a lot of reliability problems that we’re sure you don’t want to deal with.
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