Replacing a timing belt without screwing up....How-to. - Focus Fanatics
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Old 05-12-2009, 06:50 AM   #1
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Replacing a timing belt without screwing up....How-to.

I got to see the inside of a Zetec timing cover yesterday. And I can see how easy it is to mess up the job, even using the factory tools (a cam bar and a crank location pin). Here's the problem if the engine has a VTC sprocket......when you remove the belt, even with the factory tools in place, the pulley with the VTC sprocket can move. So when you replace the belt.....you can be off a tooth or more.

Here's how to avoid that issue......before you remove the belt, mark the old belt and the cam sprockets, and the lower sprocket with paint marks (six marks)....like this picture stolen from another problem post,



After you remove the old belt with the paint marks, hold it next to the new belt, and mark the new belt with paint marks in the same place on the same teeth......be careful. Count the teeth between marks to be sure,

Now when you install the new belt, you will be back in the correct timing......no guess-work on the teeth. In fact.....using this method, you don't even need the factory tools, and you don't need to remove the valve cover. Other cars with timing belts use this same marking method.....marks on the sprockets, and marks on the replacement belt.

Timing belt replacement is critical......don't screw up by getting it off a few teeth. You'll get a CEL until you get the timing correct. Mark the belt/sprockets, before you take the belt off.

To get the belt off, loosen the idler tension pulley to get enough free play. That's the pulley toward the back of the engine between the upper VTC sprocket, and the lower sprocket. You shouldn't have to loosen the bolts on the cam sprockets at all.


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Old 05-12-2009, 07:10 AM   #2
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This is a great tutorial! Can we get a sticky on this?
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Old 05-12-2009, 09:47 AM   #3
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Ummmmm.....Yeah. if that's the case, then why didn't we do that and make it work?
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Old 05-12-2009, 09:49 AM   #4
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I was waiting for you to chime in on this......lol
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Old 05-12-2009, 10:51 AM   #5
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I think the key phrase here is "before you remove the belt". Once you lose the timing, then it is much harder to get it back. I'm adding paint marker to my list of tools when I change my belt.
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Old 05-12-2009, 11:09 AM   #6
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Heh.....once you remove the belt without any marks, you're in deep water.

You can get the crank in the proper position with the factory pin tool. And you can get the cams back in the proper position using the factory cam lock bar. So.....if you put the belt teeth on the lower sprocket and on the front cam sprocket so as the belt is tight across the idler pulley......the front cam is in proper time.

Now for the problem.....the VTC sprocket teeth. Since the pulley moves somewhat independently from that cam, you could and might get the belt on the wrong teeth. I'm not certain how the factory manual explains the correct procedure.....it's probably tough to figure out.

What I'm saying......use the paint mark procedure before you remove the timing belt. And don't loosen up the bolts that attach the pulleys to the cams. You'll be fine this way.....
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Old 05-12-2009, 04:51 PM   #7
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IDK......if it were that easy you would think thats how the directions would tell you to do it. It sounds easy in theory but what do i know.
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Old 05-12-2009, 05:18 PM   #8
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Well as far as why the manual gives you a more complicated method.....I can't say. If you break a belt, or knock off a few teeth, this paint method won't work. But if the cam timing is correct before a belt swap, if you follow this paint mark method correctly (it's easy).......your cam timing will be exactly the same after the cam belt job.

Just don't loosen the bolts holding the pulleys on the cams.......loosen the idler/tensioner to do the belt swap. Since the thing has no teeth, it doesn't matter if it spins or not.

If you take the belt off without using the Ford tools, both cams will move slightly. But as long as the paint marks are there, doesn't matter. You know exactly where the belt should go. Say the front cam moves a little......to get it to line up with your paint mark on the belt, you can move it with an open end wrench. The paint marks on the cam and belts are critical.

This technique works......period.
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Old 05-12-2009, 05:38 PM   #9
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Sweet! I love all these tricks and how-to's coming out lately as I'm getting ready to do the belts (pretty nervous) But this I'm definitely going to do. Rep if I haven't already given it yet.

I don't have VCT but even if I don't, would you still recommend this?
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Old 05-12-2009, 06:10 PM   #10
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P.S. be aware the belt will move as you rotate the assembly..........so your marks will not line up. Yep.........
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