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Vulcan Camshaft Synchronizer Replacement


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32 replies to this topic

#1 Spridget

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 03:25 PM

If your Vulcan is chirping, squeaking, or squealing from the driver's side of the engine bay, this is for you.


The Camshaft Synchronizer assembly is basically an ignition distributor body without the points assembly. Instead, it uses a trigger tooth and pickup sensor (Camshaft Position Sensor) to time ignition spark.
  • Disconnect negative battery cable from battery.
  • Remove intake accordion tube.
  • Disconnect throttle body from upper intake manifold and position to the side.
    • Some manuals suggest removing the upper intake manifold completely. This does allow for more access to position the wiring harness out of the way. However, you should replace the intake manifold gaskets if you remove the manifold.
  • Disconnect coolant crossover tube from lower intake manifold.
  • Disconnect camshaft position sensor plug.
  • Remove camshaft position sensor by loosening the two small bolts.
  • IMPORTANT!!! Note the position of the trigger tooth!!!
    • Mark the position of the trigger tooth in relation to the synchronizer body. A Sharpie or White-Out works great.
    • Also mark the position of the synchronizer body in relation to the engine. This will give a general mark to align with when inserting the body.
  • Remove camshaft synchronizer hold down bolt.
  • Clean dirt and debris away from the base of the synchronizer.
  • Lift the synchronizer up and out of the engine.
  • Lubricate the new synchronizer by squirting oil into the oil holes. Lightly oil the gear and lower oil o-ring.
  • Gently lower new synchronizer into the engine.
  • Align the synchronizer. The trigger tooth MUST be in the same relative position to the synchronizer body as the old assembly.
    • With the synchronizer body aligned to the engine, make fine adjustments clockwise or counter clockwise to align the trigger tooth to the synchronizer body.
    • Refer to the marks made on the old assembly and position the new trigger and body exactly like the old one! The trigger position relative to the body must be the same as the old assembly!!!
    • To get the alignment of both the body to engine, and tooth to body, it may require raising and lowering the synchronizer several times. The cam gear will turn the trigger a few degrees as the synchronizer is lowered into position. Before lowering, set the tooth about 10 degrees counterclockwise to your mark on the synchro body.
  • Install the synchronizer hold down bolt.
  • Install the position sensor.
  • Reconnect sensor plug.
  • Follow the reserve steps 4 through 1.
* NOTE * These instructions are specifically based on using a NEW MOTORCRAFT unit. Aftermarket parts may not fit as well. If you use aftermarket, MAKE SURE YOU USE THE SUPPLIED ALIGNMENT TOOL. It is usually included with aftermarket units (I wonder why?).

Most manuals state to set the engine to TDC on cylinder #1 before removing the old synchronizer.

Attached File  02070004.JPG   123.79KB   176 downloads
Attached File  02070006.JPG   97.35KB   161 downloads
Suck, squeeze, bang, blow. Repeat.

#2 andrewp

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 10:00 AM

This is a great post that accurately describes the replacement I'm going through. Excellent advice to follow. There is one other symptom though, that will cause you to make this repair. That is if your Camshaft Positioning Sensor breaks and causes damage to the vane/tooth on the Camshaft Synchronizer. Under these conditions the check engine light would be on and you most likely would receive an error code P0340.

And I just have one question on this issue. I got the replacement in but can't get the vane just right. THe vane does not appear to be fine adjustible since it is controlled by the gears down below (can only move in approx 26 degree increments). So if this is off a few degrees - is it more important to exact align the vane to the body or the to the engine?

Edited by andrewp, 23 November 2010 - 10:03 AM.


#3 rudedog

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 11:40 AM

THe vane does not appear to be fine adjustible since it is controlled by the gears down below (can only move in approx 26 degree increments).

quite the contrary, it has exactly the same adjustability as the earlier model distributor equipped engines. You'll notice they are in the same place. all that is needed is to loosen the hold down and twist back and forth.

So if this is off a few degrees - is it more important to exact align the vane to the body or the to the engine?

It really does need to be with in a very "few" degrees. Otherwise the injectors fire at the wrong time i.e. too soon or too late.

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#4 andrewp

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 12:36 PM

quite the contrary, it has exactly the same adjustability as the earlier model distributor equipped engines. You'll notice they are in the same place. all that is needed is to loosen the hold down and twist back and forth.


I know I can adjust the body by loosening the hold down bolt and turning it back and forth. And I got that in the right position. But the vane is off and I don't see how to adjust that as its position is tied to the gears below, so I don't think I can adjust it 2-4 degrees but only in 26 degree increments. Or is there a way to adjust that too?

#5 rudedog

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 03:33 PM

ahh, I gotcha, no. it can only be moved one "tooth" at a time.

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#6 andrewp

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 05:05 PM

Thanks rudedog and everyone else on these forums that help each other. Thanks to you I was able to complete the repair and I just got back from the state air test team and passed. All while keeping my out-of-pocket costs below $150 (plus some inconveniences of course).

The timing now seems better - runs smoother - but when I first turned it over in idle it kept trying to lower down to 1000 rpm but every 20 secons or so would spike back up to around 1500. Over and over until I took it for a ride. Haven't done another cold start.

Also I had not seen my transmission jerk while downshifting to 1st gear so terribly in a while. Maybe it has something to do with the sensor now communicating with the computer which it may not have been doing for some time ( originally found camshift position sensor cracked and wires not attached) ?

Whel that's not as immediate as a concern as I can at least renew my plates now that I passed.

#7 R5008

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Posted 13 March 2011 - 04:09 PM

Greetings all!

I have a 1996 Mercury Sable V6 OHV with about 188K miles. I'm in the process of replacing the camshaft synchro and sensor. The reason: chirping, squeaking, and squealing camshaft synchro. The replacement is from Cardone (I was told) with a plastic yellow alignment tool. I have pretty much the same problem as AndrewP with the alignment of the tool off a few degrees with the engine centerline. I've confirmed that cylinder #1 is at TDC and there is no other camshaft synchro position that will align the synchro with attached tool closer than a few degrees. To make the situation even more confusing the Haynes repair manual for this car has a description and diagram that states "With the housing seated on the engine block, the arrow on the tool (A) must point 38-degrees counterclockwise from the engine centerline ". The Cardone replacement part did not come with any directions for alignment. Everything I've read elsewhere states that the tool must be aligned with the engine centerline with the arrow pointing toward the bell housing. The other interesting thing is that the half-moon shaped alignment key on the plastic tool is about 11-degrees off centerline of the arrow.

I was not able to mark the original senor and synchro with the engine block as somehow the synchro retaining bolt had come loose allowing the whole synchro assembly to rotate clockwise pressing the sensor connector against part of the engine block and hence it was obviously way out of alignment. At the time I hadn't thought to mark the position of the synchro with the sensor but I assumed that if a tool were used it had to have been aligned correctly.

So my bottom line questions are:
1. Is the Haynes repair manual correct about the 38-degree angle in relation to the engine centerline?
2 What is the 11-degree key offset on the tool all about?

Any help will be greatly appreciated! /Richard

#8 andrewp

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 02:45 PM

Its been awhile since I did this repair, but I would go with the 38, I've seen that elsewhere.


Here's another piece of info I found that may help you (I do not know accuracy as I just put mine back the way it was with marks and did not go the TDC route, the pic mentioned is at the linked page):

http://www.taurusclu...o-screw-up.html
"As long as the engine is at TDC - slip the syncro in such that the tang is perfectly centered with the big gap (where the CPS wires attach) - I attached a pic - hope you can see it. "

I do know that the purpose of the offset is to get the tooth (called tang in above post) that turns separate from the housing into the correct position. There are 2 things that need to be in correct position: The overall housing and the timing tooth(Metal tab found in inside top of unit.

Hope this helps. I'm not a mechanic so take all with grain of salt.

#9 R5008

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 05:21 PM

Its been awhile since I did this repair, but I would go with the 38, I've seen that elsewhere.


Here's another piece of info I found that may help you (I do not know accuracy as I just put mine back the way it was with marks and did not go the TDC route, the pic mentioned is at the linked page):

http://www.taurusclu...o-screw-up.html
"As long as the engine is at TDC - slip the syncro in such that the tang is perfectly centered with the big gap (where the CPS wires attach) - I attached a pic - hope you can see it. "

I do know that the purpose of the offset is to get the tooth (called tang in above post) that turns separate from the housing into the correct position. There are 2 things that need to be in correct position: The overall housing and the timing tooth(Metal tab found in inside top of unit.

Hope this helps. I'm not a mechanic so take all with grain of salt.


Thanks for the reply Andrew. I did go with the 38-degree offset and the synchro assembly fit right in and the tool arrow aligned right at the 38-degree mark I'd made with a protractor. The descriptions and diagrams in the Haynes 1996-1998 Taurus & Sable repair manual are accurate.

The car starts and runs better, and with fewer scan codes, but I still have other issues to fix before I can call this repair completed.

#10 ilh

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 06:56 AM

If your Vulcan is chirping, squeaking, or squealing from the driver's side of the engine bay, this is for you.


BTTT - Admins, why is this not a sticky?! You have to use the search function to find this write-up! :lol:

Used this to fix my father's '07 tonight. Thanks Spridget for this old, but still very good, write-up.
The only thing I had trouble with was the strange plastic cover for the wiring loom that was conveniently overtop the synchro... Pain that was! I ended up undoing the clips and using a flat-blade screwdriver to help push it up over the fuel rail so I had access to the synchro.

The gear was healthy but the bearings were definitely chirping... Cost $295 for the Motorcraft part but it's worth every cent of the piece of mind, knowing that pop won't lose oil pressure coming home from work any time soon :)
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#11 Vulcanator

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 01:24 PM

Yes sticky this please!

#12 Bull Geek

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 08:57 PM

Stickyed.

And yes, great writeup Like! Too many Vulcans out there need this repair done...I hear them at traffic lights plenty of times.

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#13 Zeptoplix

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 01:23 AM

I have to emphasize here that this is a maintenance item that should be adhered to. If you do not know the history of the part on a used car, replace it. It may chirp, but then if its too far gone it may not make noise at all and just fail. If it says replace at 100k miles do it. The Cardone price (is that still current) is reasonable, the write up is here to help you do it, there is no reason to take a chance on it. You may get away with it. You may not... i think you would rather be changing this $200 part on top than the $500 part known as the engine you remove from below.

Think about it.
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#14 ilh

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 04:02 AM

I have to emphasize here that this is a maintenance item that should be adhered to. If you do not know the history of the part on a used car, replace it. It may chirp, but then if its too far gone it may not make noise at all and just fail. If it says replace at 100k miles do it.


Agree completely. Pop's 07 has 130K kms... only 80K miles but he complained of his car making a strange chirp. I couldn't hear it that day, but I wasn't about to take any chanches. Rolling the dice on a part which is a known weak point on his daily driver is something that I won't be caught doing. Synchronizer came out the next business day.

By the way, thanks Nick for the sticky :)

Edited by ilh, 01 February 2012 - 04:03 AM.


#15 SoNic

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 06:40 AM

The relative position between th evane (flag) and notch in th ebody gives the ignition timing - the spark "advance" if you want. In the old carburated engines, there it used to be the distribuitor cap and the contact for ignition. Timing was adjustable by rotating that assambly by hand followed by bolting down of the holding clamp. The new PCM-controlled cars maintained the same gears - they drive the oil pump below with the hex at the end of syncronizer.
In my case (Explorer engine, almost identical syncronizer), I just took a picture of the syncronizer when I removed the sensor and install the new one in exactly the same position. Because the oil pump shaft has a hex, that leaves practically just one option to "insert" the syncronizer on the helicoidal gears.

I did try a "Dorman" brand and that WOULD NOT mesh to the gears inside. I did buy a Motorcaft one online (cheaper than dealer) and that is a different quality. No problems inserting it.

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#16 Pintig

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 10:31 PM

Yes sticky this please!



True that!!! Just did mine about 2 months ago.. With that said, if I messed up the timing by missing a tooth or two during realignment (TDC) would that cause my engine slight miss without being obvious? Right after that repair I did, my coolant reservoir developed a hole, had to replace that then the hose leaked I had to cut and trim. Now I am running slightly hot, temp gauge is half way as opposed to being a quarter up from C... had coolant back up the reservoir and overflowed the other day too... Hopefully its not an HG issue, just thinking about it makes my stomach churn!




#17 Spridget

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 02:17 AM

There aren't that many teeth on the synchro gear, so off by one or two teeth is a big deal. I would expect a CEL at least. The sensor works within a narrow range, so it will correct for slight misalignment, but not a tooth or two, maybe a degree or two. You would notice if the synchro was misaligned.
Suck, squeeze, bang, blow. Repeat.

#18 Spridget

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 02:20 AM

Too many Vulcans out there need this repair done...I hear them at traffic lights plenty of times.


My head turns every time one drives by the house and I think sad thoughts knowing another Taurus is destined to die an early (preventable) death.
Suck, squeeze, bang, blow. Repeat.

#19 steveg1988

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 06:58 AM

I plan on doing mine at 180k, replace the entire shaft,and the sensor. Just to get it done and over with. I am also going to do my plugs,wires,clean the intake at that time.

#20 SoNic

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 12:07 PM

There is nothing that wears inside the sensor itself, it has a magnetic pick-up. Just change the mechanical part.

There aren't that many teeth on the synchro gear, so off by one or two teeth is a big deal. I would expect a CEL at least. The sensor works within a narrow range, so it will correct for slight misalignment, but not a tooth or two, maybe a degree or two. You would notice if the synchro was misaligned.


Actually the teeth don't matter. You adjust the timing by spinning the OUTSIDE part till you get the correct alignment, and then you lock it by press it down with that big bolt. See my picture above.

Edited by SoNic, 15 April 2012 - 12:10 PM.





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