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Setting the Timing


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Take off the valve cover so you can see the valve train.

With a big socket wrench, turn the crankshaft pully bolt (clockwise only!!!) until the timing mark on the pully is right at the 0 degree timing mark. Look at your camshaft sprocket -see the pin that locks it to the small stub that sticks forward to drive the distributor? That pin should be right at 12 o'clock - straight up. If it's near 6 o'clock, turn your crankshaft one full turn (clockwise again!) back to 0 deg. Now that pin should be at 12 o'clock. And the rocker arms for cyl #1 ought to be on the low portion of the cam lobes. If they are not, your index pin is busted and MUST be replaced. If the lobes are okay but the pin isn't right at 12 o'clock, you need to move the chain one link or more. By stuffing a long wood dowel down the front of the engine inside the "loop" of the timing chain you should be able to press the tensioner (on passenger side of engine) in a little to get slack in the chain. Now walk it over the camshaft sprocket to get that pin at 12 o'clock. Keep the driver's side of the chain tight when checking the pin; the passenger side will get tightened by the tensioner later. If you find you can't get the pin right at 12 o'clock by moving the chain on the camshaft sprocket - i.e. if it seems like you "need half a link adjustment" then the crankshaft drive sprocket needs to move one link. You'll have to get some play in the chain and get it to slip one tooth on the crankshaft way down there.

It runs but shakes? Let's try something simple first: the plug wires & plugs. Take them off one by one and check them completely. Then, make sure your plug wires on the distributor are ordered 1-3-4-2 since that is the firing order - it's NOT 1-2-3-4 on the distributor cap!


If the plug wires appear to be in order, use a timing light to verify each cylinder is making spark. Or, with the engine off, unplug one spark plug wire and hold the end near a good ground. Start the engine and note how it runs - if it shakes as much as with all 4 plugs connected, you know you've unplugged a dead cylinder. If it shakes worse, shut it off, plug that wire back in, and try the next cylinder.


To remove the balance shafts, you need a kit available mail-order or from many machine shops. Basically, you remove the balance shafts by sliding them out the front of the engine - you may have to cut them as you pull them out if the radiator & A/C stuff are in the way. Then, the bearings are replaced with dummy inserts that plug up the bearing's oil supply. A small chain and stubby shaft replace the balance shaft and shaft drive chain that used to drive the oil pump. It's not a hard job, but I don't know how easily it can be done with the engine still inside the car.


If you have the front off the engine, look closely at the sprockets and chains. You should see plated links on both chains - line those up with the little drilled marks on the sprockets to get the crankshaft, camshaft, and balance shafts lined up properly.


Once you have the camshaft pin at 12 o'clock while the crank is at 0 deg on the timing marks, and there is no slack in the driver's side of the timing chain, you have the basic crankshaft to camshaft timing set properly. Don't worry about those "plated links" the factory manual talks about - they line up only at engine assembly.


Now to line up your distributor. Take the cap off and pull the distributor out a bit. Notice how it "walks" back as the gears disengage... eyeball how much it moved. Manually turn the rotor until it points to the #1 plug wire. Then turn it enough to reverse how much motion you eyeballed when taking it out. As you re-insert the distributor, you should see it turn such that the rotor is pointing to the #1 plug wire as the gears finish engaging. Set the distributor so that it's centered in the adjusting slot and tighten the nut just a little bit for now.


Remove the spark plugs and unplug the round electrical connector coming from the distributor. Let the starter spin the engine a few times to get the tensioner back in position. Then manually turn it to 0 deg on the crankshaft again and double-check your 12 o'clock pin. (or, if it's 6 o'clock, turn the crank one full turn...) Check your distributor is still pointing to #1 wire. If all is okay, plug the connector and spark plugs back in and try it out. When it warms up, adjust the distributor timing to 10 deg BTDC with a timing light and then tighten the nut.


Note: if you have to move the timing chain much, there is a good chance your balance shaft chain is now out of sync. If you still have balance shafts that is. You'll know if the engine runs properly but is vibrating. If that's the case, your only option is to open up the front of the engine and manually set both chains using the plated links as described in the manuals. This is a bit of work.



Tip from kev:

...timing the engine, position your #1 cylinder at TDC and then orient your cam so that the roll pin in the cam gear is facing 12:00 (towards the sky). Install your head (you may have to turn your camshaft so that the hole in the end of the cam is also facing 12:00) and bolt on the chain. You engine will be timed at TDC now. All you have to do is install the distributer. I usually use trial and error to align the rotor to the #1 plug wire on the cap. If I remember correctly, the rotor point will face at about 10:00.


Written by: Unknown, modified by kev

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