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VCT Zetec Timing Belt Replacement.

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  • VCT Zetec Timing Belt Replacement.

    IMPORTANT The ZX2 Zetec is a non-interference engine. This means the valves are not capable of touching the pistons at any time. If your belt breaks, there will not be any valve damage. There are reliefs cut into the top of the pistons that allow clearance for the valves if the belt breaks. Most engines are interference and will cause several hundred or even thousands of dollars of damage when a timing belt breaks. Most shop manuals list the ZX2 as interference but it is not. Many people seek out this how-to because a mechanic has informed them that they have valve damage and quoted a repair price over $1000.

    This can be done by people that can change their own oil. But, if you have any doubts about yourself then it would help to have someone more experienced then you to help. The average you can save doing this yourself, $250-350.

    Note: if you have issues with the timing belt walking off the gears, then you may have a worn or tapered lower timing gear. The early engines had a two-piece design that was prone to this type of failure. You can update it to the later one-piece model. The part numbers for all the pulleys are listed at the end of this how-to.

    I do offer a video how-to of this procedure for $13.50 shipped in the US. I will ship to Canada for an additional dollar. The disc also includes timing kit (the pulleys) install, VCT gear delete, and front oil seal replacement. There is a review written of this video on the bottom of the 2nd page.

    A. Cam lock tool. Can be made from flat-bar stock (9" long, 3/4" wide, and 3/16" thick) or bought at some part stores. carries it.
    B. Metric socket set and box end wrench set.
    C. Jack and jack stand of course.
    D. Lug nut wrench or equivalent socket to remove the wheel.
    E. Large adjustable wrench.
    F. Set of allen wrenches.
    G. Haynes or similar manual for torque values.

    Getting started:
    1. Put the passenger side of the car on a jack stand and remove that wheel. Remove the plastic splash guard that covers the bottom of the car and the passenger side. These are 10 mm bolts.

    2. Remove the serpentine belt then remove the crank pulley. This can be done without an impact gun. Use an impact gun if you have one, but if you don't, then follow this procedure. Use the correct socket for the crank bolt (I think it is 18 mm) with an extension and breaker bar. Put the breaker bar and socket on the bolt and brace the breaker bar against the lower control arm. I used another jack stand and a few small boxes. The idea is to have the bar snugly pressed against the control arm and propped up from underneath so it sits square with the crank bolt. Now, dis-connect the 3-wire connector at the ignition coil so the car won't actually start. Make sure the car is not in gear and no one is standing near the breaker bar. Bump the key about a second in the start position. This should break the bolt loose and now you can go remove it. You can view a video of how to do this on YouTube or My Space <===== Those are links by-the-way.

    3. With the crank pulley off you can now see the timing belt gear. Remove the splash shied cover that is behind the crank pulley. It is held by two 8 mm bolts I believe. Also remove the upper timing belt dust cover. These are 8 mm as well.

    4. Remove the valve cover. Start by dis-connecting the VCT connector on top and remove the spark plug galley cover if you have one. These are 8 mm bolts. The valve cover is held on by 8 mm bolts as well. The one on the passenger-firewall side has a stud on it and will require the use of an 8 mm wrench or deep well socket. Do not let the gasket touch the ground. Soak the gasket in WD-40 so it will swell back to original shape and you can reuse it.

    5. If your belt broke then you'll have to skip this step. This step is mostly to make it easier to set the cams at TDC since you can move them both with the crank and get the crank set at the same time. Now we set the cams/crank at TDC. TDC is Top-Dead-Center. It is the highest point in the cylinder that the #1 piston reaches on the compression stroke. If you have the cam locking tool, it will only slide into the back of the cams (driver side) when they are set at TDC. You may have to rotate the exhaust cam several degrees to get the cam locking tool to slide into the exhaust cam. This is normal because of the nature of the VCT. If you need to rotate the cams to get the locking tool in, then put the crank bolt back in the hole and turn the entire crank with that bolt. After the locking tool is able to fit into the intake cam (firewall side) then use a large adjustable wrench (or 15/16" open-end) on the exhaust cam (there are flat spots near the belt for the wrench to fit onto) to rotate the exhaust cam.

    6. Now with everything set at TDC you can remove the old belt. If the belt has already removed itself (broken) then you still have to loosen the tensioner. Below the intake cam gear you will find the tensioner. It has a small notch on the front with a place to put an allen wrench and a 10 mm bolt sticking out. You have to loosen the 10 mm bolt. It is a small space and this is where a long 10 mm box-end wrench comes in handy. Loosen it about 3 turns and push that allen slot down (it rotates) and this will release tension from the belt. Slide the belt off. To make belt install even easier, loosen the bolt enough to pull the tab out of the back plate. This will give you more slack to work with. If you are replacing the tensioner, as you should be, then remove the bolt completely and remove the tensioner.

    If you have a pre-99.5 with a two piece crank gear, replace this gear with the single piece gear. Part number is at the end of this how-to.

    6a. Ford put out a TSB that fixed some of the issues with the new belt walking off of the cam gears. The problem is that the new belt would bunch up between the gears a bit when the springs loaded the cams and the VCT was being actuated. The fix is to set the cam gears neutral to the new belt. You'll want to remove the cam locking tool to prevent breaking the back of the cams out. Use a large wrench to hold the intake cam in place while you use a Torx bit (T55 I think) to loosen the intake cam bolt.

    You only need to loosen it enough so that you can move the cam gear free of the cam. Now, use the wrench and the same bit to remove the oil plug from the VCT hub. Put some rags below the hub to catch the bit of oil that will come out. Now, the exhaust bolt can be seen inside the hub. It is an 'E' (inverse torx) bit. I've always just used a 12-point 16mm socket. Loosen the exhaust cam bolt enough to move the VCT hub (exhaust cam gear) free of the cam. Put the lock tool back into the cams and continue with the next step.

    6b. IMPORTANT!! If your belt broke or skipped you'll need to reset the VCT gear. Follow the steps in 6a. to loosen the bolts then continue with the steps in 6b..

    * Remove the VCT gear (exhaust cam gear) bolt and set it aside. Pull the VCT gear off, you should see something like the picture below.

    Notice that there are three holes next to each other and then one larger hole by itself. This larger hole is where the VCT gear tab sits. This larger hole is supposed to be facing straight up like this:

    * Once you have the hole facing up you re-install the VCT gear. There is a tab on the back of the gear that has to go into that hole. You should be able to feel it seat into the hole. If you install the bolt and tighten it with the tab anywhere but inside that hole, your car is not going to run. You'll have to find a replacement gear as well because it will bend that tab. Below is a picture of that tab:

    * Once you have the VCT gear back on and the bolt finger tight, continue with the rest of the steps. Since you removed the VCT plug and oil came out, if you turn the engine over by hand after you get the belt on, you'll hear the VCT clunk and the cam won't move with the belt but will snap into place as you turn. This is normal because VCT uses oil pressure to actuate the cam. Since you drained the oil and the engine is off, there will be no oil pressure there. It'll actually click when you start the car for a second until it fills back up with oil.

    7. Now we install the new belt. Make sure your crank is at TDC. You can use a screwdriver to locate TDC on the crank. Remove the spark plug from cylinder one (closest to the timing belt) and carefully insert a long screwdriver. Rotate the crank and watch the screwdriver move. When you get to TDC on number one, the screwdriver will travel up then start back down. You should notice that once it reaches the top and before it starts back down, that the screwdriver doesn't move for a few degrees when you turn the crank. That point is TDC. The key-way on the crank gear should look similar to this:

    Notice it is pointing nearly straight up? It'll be facing about 12:10 because the engine has a slight forward tilt so it'll actually be facing 12 o'clock in relation to the engine.

    Make sure the cam lock tool is installed and that the cams are locked. Install the belt starting at the crank gear and working in a counter clock-wise direction. This can be a bit difficult because the new belt is not stretched at all and will prove difficult. You may be tempted to try prying it on with a pry bar (or screwdriver), please resist the urge to do that. After you cuss a lot and the belt slides on make sure it sits just inside the gears the entire length of the belt. Now you can apply tension. Slide the tab into the back plate. Tighten the tensioner 10 mm bolt up just a enough to keep the allen key from falling down under its' own weight. Behind the tensioner is a back plate with a notch cut into it. You can see there is a line it is supposed to point to. Make sure it is pointing to it when you start to put tension on the belt by rotating the allen slot counter-clockwise. Now you need to hold that allen slot with the allen wrench on that index mark (usually around the 3 o'clock position) while you tighten the tension bolt. It is a very small space to work in and it will make you mad, but it has to be done. Get the bolt good and snug, 18 ft-lbs. Don't over tighten it, it might break off.

    7a. Now that the belt is installed, you have to tighten up the cams gears. Starting with the exhaust cam gear, use a wrench to hold the cam still (leave the lock tool in, but hold the cam in place so you don't break the slots out) and tighten the bolt up to 30 ft-lbs. Now, hold the intake cam still and tighten the bolt up to 50 ft-lbs. Remove the lock tool and tighten the exhaust cam bolt up to 80 ft-lbs. Install the oil plug into the VCT hub and tighten it up to about 15-20 ft-lbs. All of this sets the cam gears to neutral and prevents the belt from bunching up in the center during VCT operation.

    8. Now you can put it back together. If you haven't already done so, remove the cam locking tool. Rotate the crank with the crank bolt one full turn to make sure the belt isn't going to bind on anything. If all is well then you put everything together the way it was removed with the following notes:

    A. Re-connect your coil plug if you removed it, some people forget then get scared when the car doesn't start.
    B. When you install the valve cover, you need to wipe the head mating surface down to make sure it is clean. Here is the torque pattern and sequence.

    Thanks to ZZZX2 for that picture.
    C. This would be a great time to install a UDP
    D. When you install the crank pulley, use some medium strength Loc-tite on the bolt to ensure it won't come off. Just get it as tight as you can. The engine will move but that is fine. The Loc-tite will keep it from coming back out.

    Torque Values & Part Numbers:
    Torque Specs
    Idler pulleys: 35 ft-lbs
    Tension pulley: 18 ft-lbs

    Part Numbers for pulleys:

    Timing Belt Tensioner

    Pulley (later model, 99.5+)

    Pulley (Upper Timing Belt Pulley Pre 99.5)

    Pulley (Lower Timing Belt Pulley Pre 99.5)

    Timing Belt

    Crank Gear (single piece)

    There is a part from Ace hardware that can be used as a lock tool. You can used the UPC code to find the part at your local store. UPC 038613114265

    I did this from memory, so if you find that I missed anything, please let me know so I can correct it. As always, if you feel grateful enough to pay, my Pay Pal Addy is:

    -Another quality how-to brought to you by ZX2Fast.

  • #2
    A couple of things

    1. Remove the water pump pulley before removing the serpentine belt.
    2. I have never found that you need to 'reset' the vct if the belt breaks.
    3. For about $20 one can get the cam locking bar AND the crank TDC locking pin. Not only does it find TDC without question, by merely turning the crank clockwise it holds it at TDC, very handy when installing the belt as the crank often moves. In my experience it works very well, and most of us just want to do the job just once.
    4. In my experience, tensioning the belt too tight is the primary cause of the cam walking off of the pulleys and shredding itself against the engine covers. Tension per spec and NO more.
    5. It is a good idea to replace the idlers and tensioner when replacing the belt.

    Best of luck

    Contours are transportation, good transportation but just transportation at the end of the day.


    • #3
      Look at the plastic pulleys close, the cracks will be very small at first, but if cracked at all change pulley. Once cracking they do not last much longer at all.

      You can leave the bottom pulley on right hand side down by crank off on '98 model. I did not put another on mine when one shelled out there. One less to come apart on you. Plastic pulley about as stupid an idea as any I've heard anyway on timing belts. With belt quality nowadays the belt lasts longer than the pulleys, that's just plain wrong. You MUST retime by slipping sprockets if you leave that bottom pulley off.


      • #4
        1. Why would I need to remove the water pump pulley?
        2. Lucky you, I have found this, as well as many Ford dealerships, which is why they put a TSB. Do what you want to do here, or do it the right way.
        3. For less that $20 you can get the lock tool from a hardware store and set TDC as outlined in my how-to. Or, you can buy a possibly useless peg. I've demonstrated time and again that not all TDC pegs work on all Zetecs. If you insist on using one, verify TDC with a screw driver as well, or just use the screw driver in the first place.
        4. The spec? There is no spec. You use the index marks and that is that.
        5. Yes, it is a good idea.


        • #5
          1. I had to remove my water pump pulley to get the middle cover off.
          2. Stand by the not having to reset the vct. Never have done it. Don't remember though, is it in the same tsb as the cam belt replacement? If not please also post that.
          3. For about $20 you can have the cam tool and pin. Most of us just want to do the job just once. Using the tools ensures that you get it good enough. Most folks on the list are not professional mechanics. I have no doubt that your method works for you and others, but for the rest of us.....
          4. To spec meant for one to align the marks, the caution here is make certain that one does not adjust it to the tight side because you think that it might be 'better'

          Contours are transportation, good transportation but just transportation at the end of the day.


          • #6
            You do indeed have to remove water pump pulley to get to one of the middle cover bolts.


            • #7
              1. I see no reason to remove the middle cover on the VCT engine. I've done one non-VCT engine and don't remember if I had to take the cover off or not.

              2. Again, lucky you. I've posted the TSB for you before, scroll to post 39: Seeing that I've personally fixed 2 previously timed (by other shops) ZX2's by only resetting the VCT, I'll continue to do this way. I've also fixed mine this way because the belt would walk off and Ford replaced the tensioner pulley for free. I put the new pulley on and belt still walked. I went back and they printed the TSB for me, I followed it, and my belt doesn't walk. Funny how that works, huh? If you don't like it, feel free to write your own how-to. Pay special attention to the OP's comments in the link above and how the video he got from me actually helped him. He also already had the TSB because he was researching this before I posted about it. How is it this guy with limited experience knew about this and someone that has been working on cars 30+ years didn't? Oh, I know, you already think you know everything.

              3. Since you aren't paying attention, not all TDC pins are created equal. I own a TDC pin purchased from that WILL NOT set the crank at TDC on any of the Zetec blocks I have. The pin sets too deep and puts the crank about 30* BTDC. Like I also said, if you want to use the pin, make sure you are at TDC with a screwdriver too. You don't have to be a mechanic to use the screwdriver since I explain how to do it here.

              4. Since every timing belt I do is too spec and I still have experienced the belt walking, there has to be another cause. Guess what, it usually is the VCT not being set. I'm not the only one that has fixed belt walk this way. Literally thousands of people have used my how-to (last I looked the one on Team ZX2 alone had 45,000 views) and a handful of them have told me resetting the VCT cured their belt walk. So, the conclusion is, not all belt walk is caused by VCT but since some is, re-set it and eliminate that as an issue.


              • #8
                The quick check for proper reset position is camtool in cams and exhaust rotated forward (advance) to internal stop. If it is there then it IS reset right. If all marks are dead on at that time I guarantee no VCT codes on startup. Rotate the cam first, do not do it with camtool in place, will damage parts. I check for being on internal stop every one I do.

                I like the middle cover off to better view the ENTIRE belt run while slow rolling motor around.


                • #9
                  Thank you i need to this before the pos breaks