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Old 06-01-2021, 12:45 PM   #1
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1996 351w - Timing Chain replacement choices & should I advance the OEM cam timing?

Hi,
Any advice please on timing chain replacement selection AND if at the same time, advancing the cam timing can improve OEM cam mpg & power without any trouble?:

Vehicle:
My stock 1996 Ford ClubWagon E350 extended body w/stock 351w & towing package and highway axle ratio of 3.54. I plan on keeping my van for many years.
I live and operate mostly at 6,000 Ft here in Colorado, used for personal use, road trips and seasonal towing of a 3,500 Lbs trailer.

Situation:
I see the OEM dual roller timing chain definitely has some slack(I’m in the middle of replacing the timing cover gaskets and water pump gaskets because of leaking coolant from gaskets).

SO I suppose I really should replace the chain while I’m in here.

But:

1.
I’m looking for advice/to choose either just a new chain OR new chain w/ crank & cam sprocket kit.
Brands quality seems can be questionable and places like rockauto have a large confusing selections where beefier ones or racing ones seem like a good idea but only the pros are mentioned, what are the cons?.
I don’t know the quality of the OEM parts to compare to the aftermarket offerings.
Also I don’t know for sure which chains are compatible with the OEM sprockets if I reuse them..
I do know there might be chains that won’t stretch as fast as my OEM chain has.
Seems brand Cloyes has more offerings but quality has gone down(more made in China). Melling brand seems to still be quality.

Rockauto has a hand full of offerings.
https://www.rockauto.com/en/catalog/...ing+chain,5724

Looking at price differences, it seems the best offering without a large price jump is the Cloyes high performance Street true for only $2 more than their standard or heavy duty offerings.
I'm slightly suspicious from experience with manufacturers not being forthcoming with the cons of a particular product.
I mean like is it possibly overkill in that it may require cover altering or is noisy or too heavy.

2.
Also, I see some of the kit’s crank sprocket has several key holes to advance the cam timing:

AND I've read on some forums posts they strongly recommend advancing the cam timing, stating that most OEM cams(including late model vehicles) are retarded about some 4 degrees, for minor emissions reduction.
But that sadly this OEM cam retard also reduces our engine’s mpg and power, sometimes considerably..
Yet other forum posts say this is not true or only for certain engine years.
So I don’t know where my 1996 351w.might be in this consideration.
It is said that often Street level aftermarket cams are 4 degrees advanced by default.
Also that advancing the timing moves the HP and Torque peaks down to a lower RPM which is desirable for take off and street use.

I did find what seems a wise hotrod site, said to simply do a compression test on a cylinder(cranking with the factory cam timing setting).
Then take new readings after in 2 degree increments, advance (or delay) and find the timing setting with the highest compression and go back to that highest setting for the best mpg and power.

Ok so any wisdom is very welcomed so I can move forward successfully..

Thank you

Jim
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Old 06-01-2021, 06:06 PM   #2
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Might be good to post or look at ford-trucks.com forum. Had a 351 and did a water pump and timing belt many years ago. Kept it all stock with OE quality parts (I am a believer for that type of job)...Not directly answering your question, but had difficulty sealing oil and water leaks...Local mechanics used Gascacinch gasket sealant that was related to contact cement for the water pump part.....Put it together carefully.....

cheers
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Old 06-01-2021, 08:40 PM   #3
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If you want a reliable motor, keep the timing stock. That motor can run hot as it is under heavy load, which it almost always is when it's stuffed in a van.

I do recommend better breathing. Open up the intake box, and put in a good cat-back. Doing just these will let it out-pull a stock 460 (I had one of those too), without adversely affecting the engine's longevity. The probably help it, because it won't be so choked up.
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Old 06-01-2021, 09:26 PM   #4
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My experience with engines has been its never a cut and dry proposition when it comes to modifying an engine. When you start altering cam timing you run the risk of damaging valves if you go to far. If you are successful in altering the cam timing and you realize a low end benefit, you will also notice a loss in the upper RPM range.

Personally i stick with stock timing and leave the performance mods to the people that are building task specific vehicles such as drag cars or stock cars, etc.... These people build an engine to perform a specific task at peak performance, be it flying down a 1320 at 160 mph or flying around a circle track at sustained RPM.

I dont do those things anymore, so what i want is reliability and all around reliable performance in different driving conditions and scenarios. When it comes to hopping up a daily driver versus building a performance vehicle my rule of thumb is "what you gain on the bottom end, you usually lose on the top end. Peak performance is always a compromise it seems.

As far as which timing set to buy, its hard to say in todays world with declining quality control and so many components being imported from China etc.... I think i would stick with something made in America, not that made in America means what it did 30 or 40 years ago.
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Old 06-01-2021, 11:06 PM   #5
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Always...new sprockets with a new chain!
As recommended, I wouldn't adjust the timing it's never going to be a fast van.
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