Question about 1988 Ford Econoline

2 Answers

How to set timing

I bought van from friend, he left

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  • bob johnson Sep 09, 2012

    do you need to set the valve timing or ignition timing ???

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Best way to set ignition timing is with a timing light, but if one is not available, then this method will work.. just takes a little longer...

Locate the ignition distrbutor, and look for a small L shaped bracked with one 5/16" cap screw that screws into the engine block, One end of the bracket rest on a flat surface of the engine block and the other end rest on a ring molded around the distributor housing and sits on the engine block.. loosen this cap screw about 3/4 turn, just enough to rotate the distributor by hand without the distributor moving freely...

Look at the damper/pulley on the front of the crankshaft and a small metal pointer fastened to the front of the engine block that points to the front surface of the pulley. Rotate the engine until you see a series of marks cut into the pulley surface.. Find the mark that is labeled 0 degrees and then find the mark to the left of it marked 3 degrees. Turn the engine until the pointer is matched to the 3 degree mark... Make sure the mark on the pulley that you select arives at the pointer before the 0 deg mark.. This allows the igintion to fire before the cylinder arrives at top dead center (TDC)...

With the timing marks aligned on the crankshaft pulley, rotate the distributor until the points open to maximum gap. Tighten the bolt to lock the distributor and crank the engine...

If the engine accelerates slowly without spark-knocking, then the timing is too slow and needs to be adjusted by moving the distributor one degree farther from TDC.. If the engine spark-knocks when acclerated, then the engine is timed too high, and the distributor needs to be set one deg towards the 0 timing mark...

With a little practice, you should get the timing correct...

Do not try to start the engine if you know the timing is set too high, as it will 'kick' back on the starter and can/will damage the starter and ring gear on the engine flywheel, which will require major repairs...

Posted on Sep 09, 2012

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  • Ford Master
  • 2,122 Answers

Hi Anthony, It is unusual that a vehicle needs the valve timing to be set, unless the timing belt or chain has been replaced so we'll stick to ignition timing for now. It is possible that with a vehicle of the vintage you indicate, that the vehicle has points and condenser. (The old type of ignition system.) Open the distributor cap and if you see inside the distributor a small gubbins that opens and closes while the engine is cranking that will be it. Get replacement contact breakers and condenser. Remove the contact breakers inside and take very careful note of where and how the two cables are fitted. They are insulated by a small plastic insulator and if incorrectly mounted there will be no spark. The insulator directs the currant onto the part which opens and closes, not the base! If you look at the center of the distributor you will see a shaft with angled segments. Each one of those is related to a cylinder. If it has six cylinders it will have six raised sections on that cam and if an eight, there will be eight raised sections. These are called lobes. Fit the new contact breakers onto the base plate and fit the securing screws but tight enough to allow adjustment. Turn the engine until the points are fully open against any one of those lobes. Take a feeler gauge and adjust the gap to 0.45mm and then tighten the screws until the points are locked. Turn the engine until the marks on the crank shaft fan belt pulley align with five degree mark of the pointer. Fit back the cap (do not forget the rotor arm) crank up and the vehicle should start. I'm not very sure of the ignition timing setting. I do know on American vehicles the ignition timing is related to 'dwell angles' which if memory serves is 43 degrees, but I'm not sure. Once the vehicle is up and running you may be able to get more precise data from someone else, but at least it will be mobile. Regards John

Posted on Sep 09, 2012

  • Hi Anthony, Read through the advise given by Bob Johnson, He has given you a more detailed instruction on how to set the ignition timing on your old Ford than I have given. The info contained in his solution is much better than mine. Regards John

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