How to Read the Timing Marks on a Ford 351W

by Robert Bayly
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The 351W, or Windsor, engine is the last in Ford's 90° V-8 series engines that started in 1962 with the 221, then moved to the 260, 289 and 302 engines. The 351W was introduced in 1969. Unlike many V-8 engines that have timing numbers on a stationary marker attached to the timing cover, the 351W has the timing numbers stamped into the harmonic balancer with a simple pointer attached to the timing cover.

Step 1

Attach a ratchet socket to the large bolt in the center of the crankshaft. Turn the engine clockwise while you look at the harmonic balancer. Look for a series of numbers stamped in the harmonic balancer. When you see the numbers, stop and remove the ratchet and socket.

Step 2

Spray some carburetor cleaner on the numbers and wipe them with a shop rag.

Step 3

Find the timing pointer attached to the timing cover. It is shaped like a right triangle and is mounted on the passenger's side of the timing cover. The pointer is where you read the timing numbers. When you attach a timing light to your engine, the light will flash in sequence with the number one spark plug, and you will be able to see the numbers on the balancer appear to hover next to the pointer.

Step 4

Read the numbers on the balancer and write them down. There are two different styles of numbers on the balancer. The first style will read "12-9-6-3-0-3," and the second style will read "20-10-TC-10." In both styles, the numbers approaching the pointer represent degrees of crankshaft rotation before top dead center, which is when the piston is at the absolute top of its stroke. In the first style, the numbers 12 through 0 are the degrees before top dead center. The 3 following the 0 represents degrees after top dead center. In the second style, there are four small hashmarks between the numbers. These hashmarks represent 2° of crankshaft rotation. Almost all engines have a timing setting that is before top dead center. The most common setting for the 351W is 6° before top dead center. Therefore, if you were to hook a timing light to your engine, you'd want the 6 to be aligned with the timing pointer for the first style, and you'd want the third hashmark before the TC aligned with the marker for the second style.

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