1996 Ford Windstar Spark Plugs Please Help

06-20-2003, 02:04 PM

I have a 1996 Ford Windstar GL 3.8L Automatic, Recently the spark plugs have needed to of have been changed at 100,000 miles since the previous owners changed them at 70,000 I have just hit 101,700 and I need to change them because you can tell by the bad condition they are in, by the way it starts in the morning.My question is if anyone could send me like a diagram or instructions on where I can locate the back plugs and how to remove them, and I located the front ones but need help on removing them,I am a DIY and have changed plugs before but the 1996 Ford Windstar GL 3.8L looks like a challenge.

Thanks for any feedback,instructions, or diagrams.

07-27-2003, 09:08 PM
I just did my 1999 plugs and you need a few things:

Strong fingers (to pull off the boots)
Skinny arms (to stick them between the intake manifold and the edge of the body of the van)
Excellent tactile ability in your fingers (to put the socket wrench on)
Flex head, long handle ratchet
A lot of patience.

I did the back plugs with no exension on the ratchet.

AFter I did them, I said it is good they put platnium plugs in (100k replacement interval), otherwise there would be a rash of Windstar owners dying of frustration. This was a very painful task.

Be sure you put some dielectric grease on the plug wire boots before you stick them back on, since you don't want to screw yourself for later.

Good luck, there is no secret.


David Vancina
09-26-2003, 09:14 PM
I have a '97 that I bought new, and I remember going over the engine before I bought it, looking to see how much grief routine maintenance would be. When I asked how in the world a guy was supposed to get at those back plugs the salesman told me, "The plugs are good for 100,000 miles. When the need to be changed just bring it here. With a 100,000 mile change interval it's not even worth your time."

I bought the van.

09-28-2003, 01:09 PM
Alex, I did mine at 100k. Quite a hassle but do-able with the tools billn6 suggested. I actually put a garden mat/pad on the intake manifold and knelt up there and leaned over the rear bank. It is all blind work. Best of luck.

11-02-2003, 06:10 PM
Changing the spark plugs on the 3.8 is one of those "don't do this at home" items. I tried, couldn't reach up down or sideways on this one and finally took it to a shop I trust. They told me you have to lower the back of the engine to get to them, then they are usually frozen and you need lots of leverage to break them loose. I paid the shop and had them changed.

Good luck. I guess I could lose a little weight on my arms and they might fit........LOL!

11-04-2003, 11:06 PM
This Windstar has a transverse engine which makes getting to the rear spark plugs very difficult. I took it to a shop I trust, and was out of there in 2 hours and down $204. You might want to have new plug wires at the same time you do it or have a shop fix it.

11-23-2003, 08:42 PM
Here's the trick to get the rear spark plugs out or work on any other part of the rear of the engine. You can remove the windshield wiper module. If you have an electric screwdriver you can have it out in less than 15 minutes. Once you get it out you have easy access to the rear of the engine. Don't be scared of it. The wiring harness just unplugs from it and once the screws are removed the whole thing just lifts up out of the way.


01-02-2004, 07:33 PM
Here is how to get at the back spark plugs with little difficulty. YOU HAVE TO REMOVE THE COWLING WHERE THE WINDSHEILD WIPERS ARE.Get yourself a haynes manual it explains exactly how to re move it. You will also have to move the fresh air return out of the way. this is the only real way to get to the back plugs. when I did this you wouldn't beleive the room you have to work in. I could remove the back head if I needed to. The dealer won't tell you this but thats how the remove the back bank when replacing the imfamous head gasket problems.

Also another tidbit of information watch for a timing chain cover leak on the back side @ 100,000 miles. It will leak externally and internally. So watch the oil. I also just had a connecting rod spit in two. Yes it did go through the engine wall. This was at 117,000 miles. The 3.8l no matter what year it was built is a piece of junk. I've been building hot rod engines and racing cars for years (many many). I have never seen a connecting rod crack under normal driving circumastances. Especially, without a rod knock first. There was absolutely no indication that a problem was occuring with this engine. I would probably guess that the materials used for these connecting rods are less than adequate.

01-22-2004, 08:48 PM
You can also get those rear spark plugs from underneath. That way you don't have to remove anything from the firewall. While your under the drivers side you can easily swap out the fuel filter too.

04-06-2004, 05:01 PM
After reading some particular threads on here I was fearful of attempting this plug change on my girlfriends 1996 Windstar 3.8L. I'm not a mechanic by any means but have known to be adventurous around a motor. First off, the van would periodically feel like the transmission would slip but I thought a diagnostic test from a Ford dealership would be a good start. (Hey at 150,000 miles I know we're lucky this Windstar made it that far!) Sure enough, a CYLINDER 1 MISFIRE and a CAT (catalytic) code came up. SPARK PLUG TIME! Once getting it in the garage, I become very interested in a few of the posts that mention taking off the wiper cowl. It looked doable and well.... IT WAS! Without doing this, it is IMPOSSIBLE to change the plugs UNLESS you come in from underneath (however, I saw a heat shield under there that will pose some risk to your limbs). Remove the antenna, wiper arms (be careful prying those babies off!), the many screws and bolts and carefully unhook all the wiper fluid hoses. I was surprised to see the second layer under the cowl (the intake 'dash'). Don't worry, this one comes off easy too, just be patient. Set all that aside and get to work. I only needed a small extension to the socket for the back set and the rest was a piece of cake... seriously. Oh yeah, after installing the first plug I found out the PCV vacuum hose hanging by a thread so don't forget to check your hoses and put a new PCV valve in while you're back there. WHEN PUTTING EVERYTHING BACK TOGETHER, don't forget all your wiper fluid connections and the antenna. It runs MUCH better now. The only 'tricky' part was putting the screws for the wiper cowl back in due to the receivers under the cowl 'float'... don't tighten all of them down because chances are you'll need to lift the cowl a little to line the holes up... HOPE THAT MADE SENSE... THANK YOU FORUM... I would not have attempted this if it wasn't for this thread.

04-07-2004, 01:56 PM
I just finshed the job on my 98 winstar. The front ones are no problem except you reall have to yank to get the boots off. Fortunately they are pretty strong. Now for the rear. It looked like taking the cowl apart was the way but I really didn't want to rip all that stuff apart. I was able to get to the driver side and the middle plug with just a flex socket and a ratchet. I probably could have used just a standard socket and a short extension. The passenger side was a bit of a problem untill I figured out that i could reach up through the suspension and guide the flex socket. I went over to Tractor suppluy and got 2 3/8 square key stock bars and hammered the end of one so it would stick in a short extension then used a 3/8 sq socket to adapt the ratchet. I think a 12 point socket will do the same thing. I weaseled this thing up thru the maze of tubes and wires and viola it hit the plug dead center with nice leverage. About 5 minutes later I had it swapped out. Total time about 1 1/2 hours except for the trip to TS. I even had the cowl off. Now wheter it runs better or not is the subject of another post.

04-30-2004, 10:42 PM
Remove the cowling is the correct answer.

11-29-2004, 10:02 PM
Just finished changing the 3 rear plugs after visiting Autozone where they decyphered my check engine light code to reveal a problem with number 3 cylinder. I took the advice of taking off the wipers, then the plastic covering under the wipers, then the metal covering that holds the wiper motor, and the cowling. After that is was pretty easy to get to all 3 plugs, and I DO have fat arms. I did not need any special tools or even a swivel socket. The job took 1 1/2 hours. Just make sure you keep track how everything comes off and you'll have no problems. I disconnected the battery for about 10 minutes, then started the car and the check engine light was off and there was no more missing and hesitation at 35mph. Thanks to EVERYONE who suggested taking off the wiper covers.

11-29-2004, 11:09 PM
Watch out for the exposed bottom edge of your windshield. I knicked mine with my glasses (or a tooth?) as I was pulling on that middle plug back there.

11-30-2004, 11:39 AM
Read my little article on spark plugs, you'll see what my view is of 100,000 mile spark plugs. I will do one on dielectric grease soon, as well, I think.

12-01-2004, 11:41 PM
The rear plugs on my '96 3.8L were VERY easy to change from under the car.
I drove the car up on ramps.
Slid in under the car (It MUST be cool as you will be hugging a catalytic convertor)
I slid back until I was looking up right along the front edge of the firewall (that is further back than one would think).
From there....you just have to reach up to the plugs.
No disassembly of any other items is needed.
Fast and easy.

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