2.3L timing belt replacement or check

Here is the complete procedure to replace or check your Ford 2.3 Liter timing belt with some helpful tips on the job. Removing the timing cover and replacement of the timing belt is a straight forward job that can be easily handled. To learn when you should replace the timing belt go HERE. Follow the service steps below and it will be easy and save you money and time.

Before starting a 2.3 liter timing belt replacement, you might want to consider replacing the following parts also as you will access to them during this replacement: Radiator hoses, heater hoses, water pump, thermostat, crankshaft seal, timing belt tensioner, radiator or radiator flush, tensioners, fan blade, fan clutch, drive belts. Many of these parts can be ordered online in advance at a great savings. This is also a good time to check (or at least look at) the drivers side coil pack.  This coil pack is buried in the engine and is subject to heavy deterioration and a bitch to get to later. When in doubt, replace it.

The biggest tip I can give you is to first read all the steps and look at the diagrams below below before you start.  If you charge head first, you will make more work for yourself and this may require you to buy special tools. 


1. TIP: If your engine has a lot of grease and dirt on it, now would be a good time BEFORE you start, to clean it.  It is not necessary, but will make the job easier, cleaner and much easier to check for damage, leaks and/or bad parts.

2. Check for any trouble codes and then disconnect the negative battery cable. Rotate engine clockwise and position cylinder No. 1 on TDC (Top Dead Center) of compression stroke. Ensure "I" mark on the crankshaft pulley aligns with TDC mark on outer timing belt cover.

3. Remove the rubber inspection plug in timing cover (at camshaft level).  Looking through the rubber plug hole of outer timing belt cover, ensure camshaft sprocket timing mark (triangle shaped) aligns with the inner pointer. If you do not see the timing mark on the camshaft pulley at all, you maybe on the wrong stroke, rotate crank another 360 degrees and check again. See Fig. 1.  (If timing has "jumped" this will not line up perfectly, just leave it for now and keep crank on TDC)

4. TIP: If this is your first time to do this type of work, snap a few pictures on your cell phone or camera of what you are about to take apart.  Take them from several angles.  Use labeled plastic bags for small parts or screw bolts back into the hole from where they came.

5. It is not necessary to remove the fan shroud or upper radiator hose, but, it will make the job easier if you do. You may need to remove the radiator if your balancer puller has a long screw. Before loosening or removing the belts, break the cooling fans nuts loose, but do not remove (you will thank me later).

6. Loosen the drive belt belt tensioner. Remove drive belts and check condition (mark them for their location). Remove cooling fan, fan clutch and pulley (the fan and clutch can be removed as one assembly). Check cooling fan for cracks and damage. Drain cooling system.  Remove the belt tensioners (NOTE! one bolt may have pipe dope on it when reinserted) and check that the tensioner pulleys operate freely and do not growl or feel "rough" when spun, if they do or are damaged replace them.

7. Check again that timing is still at TDC.  Remove timing cover.  It "snaps" on.  Use a screwdriver to unsnap the locks. Do yourself a favor and snap a picture(s) now! Put the rubber plug back in timing cover before you lose it.

8. Inspect the water pump while you have all this apart.  If it is leaking or the shaft has up and down movement you might want to replace it while you have this apart.  Check that lower radiator hose and where the heater hoses attach to the water pump, if they are swollen replace them.

9. Remove harmonic balancer (crankshaft pulley) retaining bolt.  TRICK: While the bolt is out, use a small drill and drill a dimple in the center of the head of the crankshaft bolt.  This "dimple" will allow you to keep your balancer pulley tip centered on the bolt and stop it from moving around as you use it. You will need to also remove two bolts on the crankshaft pulley in order to attach your balancer puller bolts (thread them in well). Reinsert (screw) your crankshaft bolt in about 1/2 way, attach your puller and start removing the pulley, as you near the end of travel, stop, remove the puller, unscrew more of the crankshaft bolt and repeat until you have the pulley off. Remove crankshaft pulley. Take another picture.

10. Loosen timing belt tensioner bolts. DON'T TAKE THE BOLTS OUT. Using Camshaft Belt Tensioner (T74P-6254-A) or equivalent (a bar clamp works great), release spring tension on belt tensioner (Rotating belt tensioner away from timing belt), then tighten the adjusting bolt to hold tensioner in the released position.

11. Removing timing belt:
You will note that the timing belt is trapped behind a large washer on the crankshaft and the washer is trapped by the crankshaft position sensor.  Do not remove or loosen the sensor.  By simply cocking the washer some and pulling it slightly forward, the belt will slip out with a light pull.   Remove the belt. Spin the timing belt tensioner by hand and check condition and/or replace unit. Take some time and clean the area where the new belt will go.

12. If the crankshaft seal is leaking, now is your chance to replace it.

13. Verify that all pulleys (gears) are pointing to their indexing marks.

14. Install new timing belt.  Slowly, release the tensioner upon the belt.  Do not tighten the bolts yet.  The tensioner must be able to move to take up the slack in the next step. TIP: Write the date and mileage of the replacement with "white out" on the timing cover for a record.

After replacing the timing belt and applying the tensioner in step 14, rotate the crankshaft clockwise by hand (screw in crankshaft bolt and use wrench or socket) 2 full BELT revolutions, stop at TDC and check the timing marks again. Check that all pulleys align to their proper indexing marks. If all is good, tighten the tensioner bolts. (after rotating, it has taken all the slop out of the belt). Lightly grease the crankshaft shaft and lube the inside mating surface of the crankshaft pulley. Very lightly grease the crankshaft seal lip if it was replaced. Grease the washer base of the crankshaft bolt (this helps to get the proper torque). Install the balancer using the crankshaft bolt to "press" it on (reverse of step 9 above). Torque to specs. I used 120 ft/lbs.  Button it all back up. If you are replacing the water pump, remember to screw the fan studs in before you install it.

16. Refill the cooling system.  Make sure all the hoses, tubes and connectors are reattached, start engine.  After about 15 seconds, turn it off.  Recheck the timing.  Turn the engine by hand till the crank is at TDC.  Remove the inspection rubber plug and verify that the timing mark on the camshaft sprocket is at the pointer, if it is, congratulations you got the belt on correct, if you do not see it at all, rotate the crank another 180 degrees and recheck, if you see the timing mark but it does not line up, you may be a tooth off and you will have to reinstall the belt.

17. If all is good, start engine and run till the thermostat opens.  Top off the cooling system. The engine may sound rough as the computer will need to "learn" all over again. This should settle down.  Check for leaks.


Here is some links for parts:
Tension spring


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