Ford has owned the sales crown in the half-ton market for a long time and is known for building a utilitarian truck for working men.
The F-150 got a major overhaul in 2004, receiving an entirely new squared-off look that was underpinned by a new fully boxed frame. Two extra inches were added to the sides of the bed, making the entire truck taller and larger. The new frame and suspension improved its ride while reducing cab vibration and noise. Safety ratings also vastly improved for the 2004-2008 trucks.
It’s hard to argue with sales and the F-150 has sold more than the Chevy Silverado and Dodge Ram for decades. That reputation of being the sales king adds to the allure of the F-150, as buyers trust that sales numbers represent quality.
If searching for a 2004 F-150, you will find two different body styles, as the previous generation of F-150 was carried over into 2004 as the Heritage Edition to fill in the gap before the new tucks arrived. These trucks were only available in SuperCab or SuperCrew configurations.
Two engines were available at launch in the all-new 04′ F-150: either the 4.6-liter Triton V8 that was carried over from the previous truck producing 231 hp and 293 lb-ft of torque, or an updated version of the 5.4-liter V8 that featured three valves per cylinder rather than the previous engine’s two. The new engine pumped out 15 percent more power, making 300 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are mated to a four-speed automatic.
In 2005, a 4.2-liter V6 with a manual transmission option joined the list, making 202 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque and a flex fuel capable version of the 5.4-liter V8 was introduced in 2006. Powertrain enhancements continued in 2007 with the 4.6-liter V8 getting a 17-hp bump up to 248.
The final drive ratios offered on the big V8 included 3.31:1, 3.55:1, 3.73:1 and 4.10:1. On the smaller V8, you could get a 3.55:1 or a 3.73:1.
Five different trim packages were available: the XL, STX, XLT, off-road specific FX4 and luxurious Lariat. In 2005, the luxurious south-western themed King Ranch joined the ranks, while in 2006 the Harley Davidson Edition was brought into the fleet. 2007 brought along some slight style tweaks to both the XLT and Lariat.
The F-150 came as a two-door regular cab, a super cab model with two small rear-hinged back doors and a super crew model with four full-sized doors. A straight-wall styleside bed or a flareside bed that includes sculpted sheet metal around the wheel wells were both available on the F-150. With them, three different lengths could be had, 5.5 feet, 6.5 feet or eight feet.
1. Solid handling thanks to new frame.
2. Luxury trim packages (King Ranch, Lariat, Harley).
3. A multitude of configurations with three different engines, three bed lengths, two bed styles and three cab styles.
Top 3 Problem Areas
1. Cam phaser issues on 5.4-liter Triton V8.
2. Window issues on earlier trucks.
3. Spark plug issues.
Before you Buy
There are a few different recalls to watch for with the 2004 through 2008 F-150. The first only affects the Heritage edition 2004 trucks and is for corroding fuel tank straps that can cause the tank to fall off or the fuel lines to become disconnected. The next recall affects the 2004 through 2006 trucks, and is to fix the driver side front airbag which can inadvertently deploy.
Premature brake wear on the 2005 and 2006 F-150 prompted a recall as well, while insufficient grease applied to the windshield wiper motor output shaft caused a second recall on the 2006 truck.
The most common problem reported has to do with the windows on early model year trucks, mainly from 2004 and 2005. The power window regulators fail, causing the window glass to fall inside the door.
The cam phaser issue is widespread and usually manifests itself as a clicking, chugging or knocking sound from the engine. If this problem is found, it is best to have the cam phaser replaced. Many Ford dealers advised customers to do nothing about the problem, which often resulted in complete engine failure.
As for the spark plugs, they commonly break when being removed. Once broken, extracting the remaining bits can be very hard to get out, and costs at a dealership will skyrocket because of this.
Overall, it seems best to avoid the Triton 5.4-liter V8 in the F-150, as it was riddled with issues that cost customers big bucks.
Best Bang For Your Buck
Ford has long been known for the its luxury trucks and special editions, making the King Ranch or Harley Davidson Edition particularly good choices because there is nothing truly competitive to them from that same era. These trucks pack many of the amenities still available today, like a backup camera, leather seats and rear-seat entertainment. However, the XL and XLT models will be the most common, and are likely to be the cheapest used F-150s you can find.
As a general rule of thumb, try to avoid the 2004 and 2005 F-150, and focus on finding a 2006 through 2008. These later model trucks seem to have a lot less complaints and issues than the early trucks did.
Recall and Crash Test Database
2008 Ford F-150 NHTSA Recalls