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How to Install the Timing Chain on Vehicles

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

The Vehicles. This means that there is a camshaft located in each cylinder head that opens and closes the valves. Two separate timing chains driven by the engine crankshaft operate the camshafts. When these timing chains or tensioners wear out, they must be replaced to prevent engine damage if they break or slip. This is a major engine repair that will take a highly skilled technician eight hours to complete.

Under The Hood:

 How to Install the Timing Chain on a 2004 5.4 F-150

Open the F-150's hood and disconnect the negative terminal from the battery with a socket wrench.

Place a drain pan underneath the radiator. Using a socket wrench, loosen the radiator plug and allow all of the liquid to flow into the pan. Tighten the radiator plug when the liquid is out.

Place another drain pan underneath the engine oil plug and loosen the plug. Allow all of the oil to drain into the pan, then tighten the plug.

Remove the bolts securing the crankshaft pulley and vibration damper with a socket wrench and pull the two components out of the engine.

Unbolt and remove the accessory brackets attached to the timing chain cover using a socket wrench. Unbolt the steering pump and pull it out with the hoses still connected to it.

Place the first piston at TDC (top dead center) position and disconnect the electrical connection from the camshaft position sensor. Disconnect the knock sensor's electrical component as well.

Remove the front oil pan bolts and the socket-head bolt with a socket wrench.

Disconnect the two heater hoses, then unbolt the outlet tube and pull it out of the engine compartment.

Remove the two bolts from the timing chain cover and pull it out.

Remove the camshaft sprocket mounting bolt with a socket wrench and compress the timing chain tension with a Phillips screwdriver.

Pull the timing chain out of the engine and install the new timing chain. Reassemble the timing chain cover and various components of the engine in the reverse order of removal. Add the radiator fluids and oils back into the engine. Reconnect the negative terminal to the battery and close the hood.

Items you will need

  • Drain pans

  • Socket wrench

  • Phillips screwdriver

 How to Install a Timing Chain in a '97 Saturn

Place the camshaft sprocket on the camshaft, but don't install the camshaft bolt. The dimple in the sprocket should be at the 12 o'clock position.

Insert a drill bit through the hole on the camshaft at the 12 o'clock position and into the hole in the cylinder head. This will ensure the camshaft sprocket is in the proper position.

Align the mark on the crankshaft sprocket with the mark on the engine block. Use a torque wrench to install the crankshaft sprocket, tightening the sprocket bolt to 159 foot-lbs.

Remove the camshaft sprocket.

Place the timing chain over the removed camshaft sprocket, placing one of the discolored links on the chain over the camshaft sprocket tooth with the dimple on it.

Place the chain over the crankshaft sprocket, placing the other discolored link on the chain on the crankshaft sprocket tooth located at the 6 o'clock position.

Install the camshaft sprocket and sprocket bolt, tightening the bolt with a torque wrench to 75 foot-lbs. The discolored link on the timing chain previously installed on the camshaft sprocket should be lined up at the 12 o'clock position.

Remove the drill bit used to align the camshaft sprocket.

Lubricate the timing chain guides with moly-based grease.

Use a torque wrench to install the timing chain guides and mounting bolts to the engine block, tightening them to 19 foot-lbs.

Push the timing chain tensioner plunger into the tensioner and place an Allen wrench through the locking arm to keep the tensioner in the retracted position during installation.

Use a torque wrench to install the timing chain guide and retaining bolts, tightening them to 168 inch-lbs.

Pull the Allen wrench from the timing chain tensioner to allow the plunger to extend against the timing chain.

Rotate the crankshaft clockwise to ensure there is no resistance.

Items you will need

  • Socket set

  • Wrench set

  • Allen wrench

  • Torque wrench

  • Drill bit

  • Moly-based grease

 How to Install Timing Chain on Chevy 454

Ensure that the timing marks are still aligned. The mark on the camshaft sprocket should line up with the mark on the crankshaft sprocket. Insert the camshaft sprocket into the timing chain, making sure the mark on the sprocket is facing downward.

Fit the chain on the bottom of the crankshaft sprocket, and at the same time install the camshaft sprocket on the camshaft. Ensure that both sprockets are properly seated and that the timing marks line up, facing each other (the camshaft timing mark is at the 6 o'clock position, and the crankshaft timing mark is at the 12 o'clock position).

Install the camshaft sprocket retaining bolts and tighten them to 18 foot-pounds of torque. Clean the gasket mating surfaces on the timing chain cover and the block, if not already done. Smear a thin layer of RTV silicone on the timing cover's mounting surface. Fit the gasket into place.

Apply a 1/8-inch bead of RTV along the oil pan where the timing cover meets the pan, and along the mounting surface on the block. Allow the RTV to skin over -- when you touch it, it should not stick to your finger. Using more RTV along the oil pan is better than less, as this is where the timing cover tends to leak. Fit the timing cover on the block. Install the bolts and tighten them firmly.

Reinstall the harmonic balancer, using the harmonic balancer puller kit. Reinstall the crankshaft pulley, using the appropriate sockets. Tighten the bolts firmly. Clean the gasket-mating surface of the water pump and the block, if not already done. Smear a thin layer of RTV along the water pump's gasket-mounting surface. Fit the gasket on the water pump. Install the water pump on the engine and tighten the bolts firmly.

Reinstall the brackets for the power steering and air pump, if they were removed. Reinstall the power steering pump and air pump, if they were removed (not all vehicles with 454 engines have these options).

Reinstall the fan and tighten the bolts firmly, using the appropriate socket. Reinstall the accessory drive belts, using the belt diagram, which is located on the fan shroud or the underside of the hood. Adjust the tension on the belts by pushing the belt's accessory away from the engine and tightening the bolts in the slider brackets.

Slide the radiator into its brackets and tighten the retaining bolts firmly. Reinstall the upper and lower radiator hoses, and tighten the clamps. Close the petcock on the radiator, then fill it with coolant. Reinstall the radiator cap. Reconnect the negative battery cable.

Items you will need

  • Torque wrench

  • Set of wrenches

  • Set of sockets

  • Screwdriver

  • RTV silicone

  • Harmonic balancer puller kit

 How to Install a Timing Chain on a 2001 F150 5.4

Remove all drive belts and belt-driven accessories, including the fan and water pump. Remove any components that attach to the front engine covers or obstruct their removal. Remove the front engine timing chain covers.

Unbolt the two retaining bolts for the sensor ring on the crankshaft and remove it. Turn the engine over by hand to place the crankshaft keyway directly at the 12 o'clock position. This is the slot in the crankshaft with a square steel piece in it. Install and tighten the camshaft aligner tool on both camshafts. Do not allow the camshafts to turn separately from the crankshaft at any time. Remove the timing chain tensioners from both timing chains by removing the three bolts from the tensioners. Remove the timing chain tensioner arms.

Remove the right timing chain from the camshaft sprocket and then the crankshaft sprocket. Do the same for the left timing chain. Slide the crankshaft sprocket from the crankshaft and keyway. Install the crankshaft holder on the crankshaft. Remove the retaining bolts and remove both timing chain guides. Place the chain tensioner in a vise to compress the piston. Push into the hole at the top of the tensioner with a pick to push the ratchet arm into the housing. Insert a paper clip into the ratchet assembly to secure the plunger for installation and remove the tensioner from the vise.

The new timing chains should have two copper chain links at opposite ends to assist in timing the engine. If you can not see them, mark one link of the chain, and mark the link at the opposite end of the chain when it is doubled. Loosen the camshaft holding tools slightly to allow some movement of the camshafts. Rotate the left camshaft with the positioning tool until the timing mark on the sprocket is at the 12 o'clock position. Rotate the right camshaft until the sprocket index mark is at the 11 o'clock position. Tighten the camshaft holding tools to lock them into place.

Install the timing chain guides on each side of the engine. Remove the crankshaft holding tool and install the crankshaft sprocket. Face the flanges forward. Place the lower end of the inner chain on the crankshaft sprocket, aligning the timing mark on the outer flange with the copper or marked link on the chain. Do the same with the outer, or right side chain, being certain that the marked links line up with the timing marks. The other brass link or mark should line up with the timing mark on the camshaft pulley. You can use the camshaft positioning tool, if necessary, to adjust the camshaft sprocket slightly to align the marks. Take a minute to double-check the marks to be certain that they are in the right position.

Position the left-hand timing chain tensioner arm on the dowel pin on the engine block and install it. Place the other side on the right-hand side. Remove the retaining pin from both of the tensioners. Remove all of the special tools from the engine and place the crankshaft sensor ring on the crankshaft. Install the bolts retaining the ring. Install the front engine cover and all accessories.

Items you will need

  • Set of metric sockets and ratchet handle

  • Set of metric combination wrenches

  • Pliers

  • Screwdrivers

  • Ford special tool for crankshaft holding

  • Ford special tool for camshaft alignment

  • Ford special tool -- camshaft alignment set

About the Author

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