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2/24/2014 12:32:23 PM
How-To : AEM Tru-Time Adjustable Cam Gears by viney266, Lil_RedZX3 & ZX3_Chick
Warning: Neither Focus Fanatics nor its Members may be held responsible for the outcome of performing such a modification to ones car(Ford Focus). Such acts are performed at ones own risk, and sole responsibility must be assumed. This may include, but not limited to, the voiding of Ford vehicles factory warranty.

Always put safety first; using jackstands, eye protection, and all other required safety measures. It is also recommended to have supervision whenever possible.

Items Needed:
1. 8mm Socket
2. 10mm Socket
3. 14mm Socket
4. 15mm Socket
5. 15mm Box End Wrench
6. 17mm Socket
7. 19mm Socket
8. T55 Torx Bit
9. Various Screwdrivers
10. Pliers
Install Time: Difficulty Level:
2-3 Hours 7

First things first, I would like to thank the staff team over at AEM for allowing us at to review one of their products. Thanks guys!

Well we all want to make our cars faster. That is pretty much a given fact for a group of enthusiasts. As many others have, we install an exhaust and an intake, maybe even an underdrive pulley. The car is definitely faster and better than before. So after the basic installs for a modern four cylinder sport compact, what do we have left to do??

After you do all the basic installs of the hard parts it is now time to properly tune the car. This can be accomplished through computer tuning and also through proper set-up of the engine. There is power to be found in setting the intake and exhaust cams to the best possible spot for optimum power production. This cannot be accomplished with the stock camshaft gears as they are not adjustable from the factory. This is where the AEM gears come in handy. Once these gears are installed it allows adjustment of ten degrees advance or retard in the gears alone. And they look good, too!

We are going to go over the basic install with a few suggestions we learned along the way. Finally, we will give a basic overview of what we thought of the gears.

Our First Impression
When you first open your box full off goodies you see some nice trick bits. The pulleys are perfectly anodized and look great. The fitment onto the car was also spot on. Then you notice these strange looking tools in the box as well. Trust us, you will be glad you got them as well. They make the install go much easier.

(Tab on the back of the coolant tank)
Step 1
The first thing mentioned on the front of the AEM instructions are something I feel the need to mention as well. If you are mechanically challenged you may want to think about getting some help on this install or even letting a professional do it for you. That being said, the instructions that come with the AEM cam gears are very thorough and complete. I have a few small things to add along the way, but overall they are much better than many I have had to use.

First off, AEM offers a Cam alignment tool (AEM part# 1-125) and also a Crankshaft TDC Tool (AEM part# 1-126) as separate parts you can buy to aid you in the install. First word of advice, Buy them! Unless you are a well trained mechanic (with the tools to go with it) they will make your install much easier and smoother.

We need one more note of caution here. We needed to raise the front of the car into the air. We made sure to do it in a safe manner using good quality jack stands, and blocking the wheels safely. A lift would make this install much easier.

First thing AEM instructs you to do is remove the belt covers, coolant expansion tank, power steering reservoir, motor mount, and valve cover. I did not remove the motor mount or the power steering reservoir. You would need to do this if you were changing the timing belt, but it is not necessary just to change the cam gears. You must be careful removing the top timing belt cover as it is very brittle and easily cracked (yes we removed it without cracking it). The rest of the covers came off easily and pretty straight forward. Make sure you capture the extra engine coolant in a clean container as you can reuse it when you are finished. We changed the spark plugs at the same time we did this install so we already had them out, but it will make life easier to take them out as you will not be fighting against engine compression as you rotate the motor. We then pulled the accessory belt. Make sure you watch your hand against the frame of the car when pulling on the belt tensioner; it is a tight fit. Next up in the AEM instructions is the removal of the power steering reservoir and the passenger side engine mount. We DID NOT remove these during our install and everything went fine. As we mentioned before you would need to remove these if you were changing out the timing belt. We were working on a 2003 ZX3 with less than 30,000 miles; so we elected to reuse the belt.

Next up AEM has you remove the valve cover and the spark plug wires in the instructions. Remember, we only pull on the spark plug boot and not on the wire. This is very straight forward. We made sure the top of the engine was clean of debris by blowing it off with compressed air first.

(Plug removed for installing timing tool)

Step 2
The next step was to install the AEM cam alignment tool (AEM part# 1-125). This takes a bit of finesse as the tool fitment into the ends of the cams is very tight and you may have to move the cams individually to get them in there. The tool fit perfectly and was very precise. It will help if you have a friend on this step as one of you cam align the tool while the other one moves the cams for you. After the tool was in place we loosened the timing belt tensioner and removed the belt from the pulleys. The tensioner is on the left small pulley facing the motor from the passenger side of the car.

We now went underneath the car to set it at TDC (top dead center). You can get the timing close by aligning the timing mark on the stock pulley. Then use the AEM crankshaft TDC tool (AEM part# 1-126) to set it perfectly. The plug is hard to find and the AEM picture could be a bit better. The AEM directions called it a plug, but on our car it was a stud with a nut on it. It is on the front face of the block on the right side. If you look at the AEM picture you will find it by comparing the engine casting to what is in the picture. When you rotate the engine back against the tool you will rotate it clockwise on the main crank pulley.

Back up under the hood we now removed the pulleys and replaced them with the AEM parts. They went right on and they look great. The bolt in the center of the pulleys is a T-55 torx, so you will probably need to secure one of those before you start your work. We were working with a set of torx sockets and they only went to T-50. So we had to run out and grab one of these.

Step 3
After installing the gears it was time to put the belt back in place. AEM has very explicit instructions for doing this the correct way. Remember to reset the tensioner and torque everything down well. We were really impressed with the AEM instructions here. They had had the torque specs for everything we bolted back together. We thought this was a very professional touch, and it is something really lacking in instructions from some others. Basically at this point we reinstalled everything we had removed. We made sure that the bolts on the cam gears were tight and set to 0 degrees as a base setting. Again be very careful putting the top cam gear cover in place as it is very brittle. This is the place to take your time and get all your parts back on carefully and in the right place. Again, The AEM instructions are very clear and concise in this area. The torque specs are all there for you to use as you need them.
  Our Final Impression
At the end of the instruction sheet there are instructions on how to time the car without a dyno. We were planning on taking it in for tuning in a few weeks so we figured it would be fine at 0 degrees on both cam gears. We ended up setting them to 4 degrees retarded on the intake and exhaust cams as the car ran much better here than at 0 degrees. This was a suggested base setting from AEM and it was much closer to correct than 0 degrees. My friend that was helping with the install was amazed that 4 degrees could affect the car so much. We cannot wait to get it fully tuned in a few weeks.

Overall the install went very smoothly and with no real glitches. The AEM parts were top notch as were the instructions. Honestly, some of the best instructions we have read through for an install in a while. Remember to buy the AEM install tools with your gears as for the few extra dollars it will make for a much smoother and more precise install.
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