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Discussion Starter #1
I've been a long time lurker here and have got a lot of great tips on maintaining my Ridgeline over the years. I bought my 2006 Ridgeline new in July 2007 and it has been mostly trouble free (the steering rack was replaced under warranty but no other major issues). It currently has approximately 115,000 miles on it as I commuted to Manhattan for several years while I owned this truck - meaning I only drove 3 miles back and forth to the train station.

Last week, after the extreme cold snap here, I suffered what my mechanic advises is a blown out spark plug which completely stripped out the threads. This was the center front plug (no. 5). I've read the other threads about similar things happening, but in my case my mechanic advises that the spark plug is --gone--, they didn't find it when they removed the damaged coil. I assume that somehow it got ground up (I drove the car 5 miles home after feeling the "event" occur while on a parkway here - my bad too late to worry about it) and the ground up bits of spark plug got ejected out of the exhaust valves.

My mechanic attempted to get the engine running by "cementing" a replacement plug into the stripped bore (I know that he should have used helicoils or even better a Time-Sert insert) and it runs now. However, my mechanic advises that it runs badly "after it warms up". He mentioned a tapping noise of some sort. I'm going to see it today to get a better idea of what he means. There was a tapping sound before this "event" that I attributed to the hydraulic tensioner (I was planning on having the timing belt done in the next few months along with the hydraulic tensioner and water pump) and I assume the new sound is something much worse (he basically told me to run to trade it in but I'm not ready to do that and would spend a reasonable amount of money to get it fixed).

To me, it seems that the only way that a spark plug gets totally blown out like that is when there's a misfire with the valves closed, making me think that there was either an electrical problem with spark occurring at the wrong time or a mechanical problem with the valves in the cylinder head. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

My mechanic doesn't want to take the cylinder head off (he basically said that they don't do that kind of work). I found one company selling remanufactured heads for under $600 (on ebay). If the problem was caused by a mechanical failure, wouldn't replacing the cylinder head with a remanufactured head be a good solution? Anyone out there in or near Westchester County, New York know of a good shop to do that work for me?

The other issue will be the catalytic converter because that's the only place where the ground up spark plug can be, correct? Or could some of the bits escaped out the intake valves as well?

Any comments/advice welcome!
John
 

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It all boils down to what your vehicle is actually worth, how much your insurance provider would value it at and the cost of the work and downtime. Right thing to do is to replace the cylinder head. I would get it done by a reputable private shop, or a dealer you can trust (or whichever is cheaper). No matter what, the cylinder #5 will have some nicks in it. Engine may sound fine, but the damage already happened. Either the plug disintegrated and dropped in the cylinder when removing, or it just rattled around inside and somehow got ejected out (sounds like a fabulous story).

Regardless, it is expensive and time consuming. Weigh it out and proceed. I would actually look for a replacement motor that is in good condition and save myself all the downtime. Might be the easier and cheaper way out.
 

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I don't have an answer for the missing spark plug, but an intact spark plug isn't going to get sucked into the engine, chewed up and then spit out through the exhaust valves. The threads might be gone in the head but unless there is a significantly enlarged hole where the spark plug used to be (which from your description doesn't seem likely), there is no way it would be pulled into the engine. . .

A spark plug may explode / disintegrate to a certain degree from extreme age or an improper ignition event but I still don't see how it would disappear into the engine. All the metal parts just aren't going to fit thought that hole.

Basically the mechanics story doesn't quite add up and neither does your conclusion that the bits of the plug are now stuck in the cat(s)

That said, even if SOME material from the spark plug did make it into the combustion chamber you will likely have some damage to the cylinder walls and to the exhaust valves. The unburnt fuel from the affected cylinder also may have caused damage to the the cat(s) particularly if you ran the vehicle in this state for a while.

Loose spark plugs are a common enough occurrence on the Ridgeline and the fact that it was #5 that had an issue also coincides with issues that some others have had, particularly in the earlier GenIs. I think that it is likely that your plug loosened up enough that its seal was compromised and eventually there weren't enough threads to hold it in place and it blew loose taking some threads with it. A defect in the cylinder head casting may also have caused / assisted this issue.

Doing some additional inspection and speaking some more with the mechanic should be helpful. If your engine sounds to you about the same as it "always" has then perhaps all you need to do is to do a proper job of fixing the plug threads (nut sert / helicoil). I would probably replace the #5 coil as well. If things sound much worse to you, then it should be possible to peer into the cylinder with a scope and get a sense of the condition of the walls and even the exhaust valves.

If there appears to be no cylinder wall damage then you could proceed with replacing the head with a used or rebuilt one. Your head could also be sent off to a machine shop to be rebuilt.

If you find cylinder wall damage and likely head damage as well then you are looking at a used or rebuilt engine (#5 coil too).

After that is taken care of you may find that your cat(s) are throwing efficiency codes due to damage from being fed unburnt fuel in your 5 mile drive. Worse case scenario involves some replacement parts there as well. Make sure any decision to repair includes some extra cost for something like this. . .

Good luck and sorry for your troubles!
 

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If the spark plug broke apart and bits and pieces found their way through the valves into the combustion chamber, you're pretty much out of luck. The truck will run with a new head, but there is likely cylinder wall and/or piston damage on #5 that isn't easily (or cheaply) fixed. You'd need to pull the engine apart and have a machine shop hone the cylinder bore along with replacing the piston. Plus, you'll still need a new head as helicoils aren't a permanent fix. smufguy's recommendation to find a good quality used engine may be your lease expensive and easiest option at this point. SOMETHING caused the spark plug to break - they don't just do that. You'd spend a lot of time and money chasing that problem.
 

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It seems very unlikely to me that the plug, especially in its entirety, was pulled into the engine. If the cylinder is firing at all, the pressure is radically higher than intake vacuum. This, plus the fact that the wrench flats on the plugs are larger in diameter than the threads, means I think it vastly more likely the plug was ejected. Some pieces may have fallen into the cylinder, but I find it almost impossibly unlikely that the engine ate a spark plug entire.

I鈥檇 prefer a new head, but a helicoil may have been just fine ...until they cemented a plug in. I don鈥檛 know what that means, so I don鈥檛 know what they did or what can be done now. If you think you like the pickup, you need to find a shop that will replace or rebuild heads.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Thanks for your comments. I drove the car today, went a mile or two. It idles fine with no check engine light / codes but something starts to rattle in the top end (like a marble in a metal can) after driving it for a bit. I'm looking for someone to get the cylinder head off so I can figure out whether to have them just replace the head or the entire engine. I'll know more about what happened to the spark plug once the head is off. I certainly know this is an odd situation, I was trying to rationalize what the mechanics told me. I did look at the coil and it was badly damaged (but no sign of the spark plug embedded in it).
 

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It seems very unlikely to me that the plug, especially in its entirety, was pulled into the engine. If the cylinder is firing at all, the pressure is radically higher than intake vacuum. This, plus the fact that the wrench flats on the plugs are larger in diameter than the threads, means I think it vastly more likely the plug was ejected. Some pieces may have fallen into the cylinder, but I find it almost impossibly unlikely that the engine ate a spark plug entire.

I鈥檇 prefer a new head, but a helicoil may have been just fine ...until they cemented a plug in. I don鈥檛 know what that means, so I don鈥檛 know what they did or what can be done now. If you think you like the pickup, you need to find a shop that will replace or rebuild heads.
After making my comment, I thought about this, too. It is possible that the plug itself broke part-way up the threads or, more likely, the ceramic/iridium tip broke off. If the plug were to have worked itself loose, there would be very hot air escaping past the treads at very high pressure. That would have caused the coil to be melted and burned and, eventually, the whole thing would "blow out" as the OP described. Pieces of the plug are likely still hanging around in the chamber, which could be easily detected with a bore scope through what's left of the plug hole.

This engine has been known to allow for loosening of spark plugs via the countless numbers of heat cycles. Many here, including me, check the spark plug torque often to ensure they are all tightened to spec. Nonetheless, OP - please please please DO NOT drive the truck anymore until this situation is figured out. You may simply only need a replacement head, but you don't want to do any more damage by driving it. The truck will seem to drive fine on 7.5 cylinders, but don't let it deceive you. There is something wrong.
 
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Good advice all around except I think your mean 5.5:)
Doh!!! Yes, that. I had just come over from another forum. Had an LS3 on the brain...

I've always said a V8 Ridgeline would be awesome!!!
 

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.......LOL. I've done the same thing. I usually have at least 4-5 tabs open at once.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
All - I'm moving my Ridgeline to another mechanic's shop tomorrow. I'll provide3 an update next week when I get a better idea of what's going on in the engine. -- John
 

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So my '06 chewed the tip of spark plug#5 around 6 or 7 years ago. 150000km ago. Plug tip went through and out the exhaust valves presumed. Ruined two coil packs. My truck now has 278000km and I still have it since 2010.
I don't have top end noise but I'd say I'm down on a bit of power, 5.5 cylinders as someone suggested. Also the oil looks dirty after each change suggesting blow by and damage to the cylinder wall etc. At the time the plugs were replaced, the plug had to be drilled out and a timecert installed. Replaced the 2 coil packs. I still can get 600km to a tank on long haul, around 400km short / urban / idling more in cold conditions. I towed an enclosed trailer for a few years. Used it construction/ over idling for few years also. I've replaced the plugs twice since and one rear bank cat. Front cat is now showing the code with winter gas.
Just thought I'd share my story. If it sounds like a bag of marbles still and gets terrible mileage, I'd trade in.
I hope to keep for a few more years but common sense says ive had a good run and should move on. Great truck.
Good luck
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I picked up my 2006 Ridgeline today at the second mechanic's shop. All fixed.

The second mechanic thinks it unlikely that the spark plug was swallowed, he thinks it probably just fell out when they pulled the coil and the first mechanic didn't realize it. The second mechanic took the cylinder head off and found no damage to the piston or cylinder walls or valve heads, so he thinks it was just a case of the plug being blown out after becoming loose. He said all the plugs were loose.

He also thinks the rattling sound heard after the first mechanic attempted a repair was actually the no. 5 spark plug rattling (I may have mentioned above that my first - now former - mechanic "glued" in the spark plug with some kind of adhesive because the threads were stripped out, why they didn't use an insert I have no idea).

The second mechanic replaced the timing chain/tensioner/water pump at the same time, replaced the spark plugs and did an oil change. He fixed the stripped threads for the no. 5 spark plug by using an insert. However, he spent a lot of time struggling to get part of the glued-in spark plug out, adding to the labor cost. The total cost ended up at $2695,16 (including tax), and the parts and labor were about evenly split. Hopefully I can get another 100k out of it, so I"m not that worried about this expense - the local Honda dealer quoted me $32k for a new Ridgeline when I checked in at the dealership last week.
 

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I picked up my 2006 Ridgeline today at the second mechanic's shop. All fixed.

The second mechanic thinks it unlikely that the spark plug was swallowed, he thinks it probably just fell out when they pulled the coil and the first mechanic didn't realize it. The second mechanic took the cylinder head off and found no damage to the piston or cylinder walls or valve heads, so he thinks it was just a case of the plug being blown out after becoming loose. He said all the plugs were loose.

He also thinks the rattling sound heard after the first mechanic attempted a repair was actually the no. 5 spark plug rattling (I may have mentioned above that my first - now former - mechanic "glued" in the spark plug with some kind of adhesive because the threads were stripped out, why they didn't use an insert I have no idea).

The second mechanic replaced the timing chain/tensioner/water pump at the same time, replaced the spark plugs and did an oil change. He fixed the stripped threads for the no. 5 spark plug by using an insert. However, he spent a lot of time struggling to get part of the glued-in spark plug out, adding to the labor cost. The total cost ended up at $2695,16 (including tax), and the parts and labor were about evenly split. Hopefully I can get another 100k out of it, so I"m not that worried about this expense - the local Honda dealer quoted me $32k for a new Ridgeline when I checked in at the dealership last week.
I'll add this to the list of "why I don't trust anyone to work on my vehicles" and "why I do my own maintenance". It's great to hear that you're all fixed up and running. I still can't believe that any reasonable human being, let alone one who works on vehicles as a career, would ever believe that adhesive would be a suitable solution to stripped spark plug threads. Nonetheless, you've seemed to have found another quality mechanic who actually knows what he's doing. Yes, the cost was pretty steep, but it's par for the work performed and certainly much cheaper than that new truck. Have you considered going after the original shop for shoddy workmanship or will you just let it lie and be happy that it's fixed?
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I don't plan to take any action against the first garage, although I don't plan to pay them either (except for any parts charges). One thing I do plan to do is to spend some time reading forum posts here to make sure I'm doing all the preventive maintenance needed (like checking that spark plugs haven't become loose).
 

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I had a similar issue last month. My truck began missing the week after Christmas. I had just filled up and suspected that I had some bad gas. A mile down the road the symptoms cleared up and I went along my merry way thinking a I had a temporary fuel problem. Two weeks later the missing returned, check engine light flashed and lasted for a much longer period of time. Again like the first time it cleared up and the check engine light went off. It was late afternoon and cold so I went on home thinking I'd check into it the next day. Next morning truck starts and runs normally on the way to the office. At lunch the miss returns and check engine light flashes. I pull into an Advanced Auto and have them read the codes. #4 cylinder misfire. It was Friday afternoon and my mechanic was busy. We both suspected the coil for #4 cylinder was beginning to tap out. I bought a ND coil and went home to replace the coil. The truck is running normally again at this point. When I removed the #4 coil I noticed it was covered in a red/rusty residue. Knowing this wasn't normal I returned to this forum and did a little research. there was an interesting thread about the #4 spark plug coming loose. Long story short my #4 plug was at least 8 turns loose. The author of the thread suggest re-torquing the plugs every 50 K miles. I checked the other plugs and all were fine. I've put a few hundred miles on the truck since tightening the plug and all appears to be well. As much as I like this truck it's up for sale. I had the radiator episode, lucky for me I was in a parking lot when the transmission line came loose and now this. But I do like like the truck enough that I found and purchased a '13 with only 40K miles on it.
I would follow the suggestion of checking the spark plug torque every 50K miles just to avoid any plug related mishaps.
 

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^^ Great advice. I check my spark plug torque every 2 years or so. I don't put many miles on it, but I can have all 6 coils off, check the torque and put all six back on in about 30 minutes now. You will still have the same potential for radiator issues and loose spark plugs in your '13. I would highly suggest changing out the radiator proactively within the next 3-5 years. You should also continue to check the spark plug torque regularly.
 
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I don't have an answer for the missing spark plug, but an intact spark plug isn't going to get sucked into the engine, chewed up and then spit out through the exhaust valves. The threads might be gone in the head but unless there is a significantly enlarged hole where the spark plug used to be (which from your description doesn't seem likely), there is no way it would be pulled into the engine. . .
An intact plug isn't going to get sucked into the cylinder but once the blow-out occurs the plug is going to be sucked forward and backwards with each compression stroke.
The individual spark coil for each cylinder prevents the plug from being ejected. After a very few engine revolutions the insulator of the plug will break apart and pieces will get ingested. This is what does the major damage, scoring the cylinder walls and nicking the valves and valve seats.

To this engineer it seems likely that there is a thermal expansion issue that is specific to the #5 location (in the front, in the middle), that causes the #5 plug to work loose.

If we used cheap plugs that had to be replaced more frequently this type of design issue would never show up. In the good old days of a single spark coil and a distributor the plug would have just fallen out and not have caused any further damage.
 

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I've been a long time lurker here and have got a lot of great tips on maintaining my Ridgeline over the years. I bought my 2006 Ridgeline new in July 2007 and it has been mostly trouble free (the steering rack was replaced under warranty but no other major issues). It currently has approximately 115,000 miles on it as I commuted to Manhattan for several years while I owned this truck - meaning I only drove 3 miles back and forth to the train station.

Last week, after the extreme cold snap here, I suffered what my mechanic advises is a blown out spark plug which completely stripped out the threads. This was the center front plug (no. 5). I've read the other threads about similar things happening, but in my case my mechanic advises that the spark plug is --gone--, they didn't find it when they removed the damaged coil. I assume that somehow it got ground up (I drove the car 5 miles home after feeling the "event" occur while on a parkway here - my bad too late to worry about it) and the ground up bits of spark plug got ejected out of the exhaust valves.

My mechanic attempted to get the engine running by "cementing" a replacement plug into the stripped bore (I know that he should have used helicoils or even better a Time-Sert insert) and it runs now. However, my mechanic advises that it runs badly "after it warms up". He mentioned a tapping noise of some sort. I'm going to see it today to get a better idea of what he means. There was a tapping sound before this "event" that I attributed to the hydraulic tensioner (I was planning on having the timing belt done in the next few months along with the hydraulic tensioner and water pump) and I assume the new sound is something much worse (he basically told me to run to trade it in but I'm not ready to do that and would spend a reasonable amount of money to get it fixed).

To me, it seems that the only way that a spark plug gets totally blown out like that is when there's a misfire with the valves closed, making me think that there was either an electrical problem with spark occurring at the wrong time or a mechanical problem with the valves in the cylinder head. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

My mechanic doesn't want to take the cylinder head off (he basically said that they don't do that kind of work). I found one company selling remanufactured heads for under $600 (on ebay). If the problem was caused by a mechanical failure, wouldn't replacing the cylinder head with a remanufactured head be a good solution? Anyone out there in or near Westchester County, New York know of a good shop to do that work for me?

The other issue will be the catalytic converter because that's the only place where the ground up spark plug can be, correct? Or could some of the bits escaped out the intake valves as well?

Any comments/advice welcome!
John
Rather than ground up the spark plug, is it possible it did tge opposite? Is it possible it spit it out with / through the coil? That I could imagine quicker than it chewing up that steel / metal spark plug? Your thoughts?
 
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