EL Falcon Hybrid Camshaft Timing

Last week we came across an interesting fact – a number of early 1998 model EL Falcons were fitted with a ‘revised’ I6 engine which would eventually be the engine of choice for the AU Falcon.

The reason that this came to our attention was that we had a reader (Hi Ron!) who was following the E-Series Falcon Head Gasket Replacement Tutorial and had trouble with setting the camshaft timing.

Ron was able to send through some pictures of his engine which showed that the camshaft lobes were not in the correct position when the timing was set using the ‘normal’ straight six Falcon method. Also of interest was the two yellow links in the timing chain itself.

And the incorrect cam lobe positions –

After a bit of digging around we were able to locate some information that explained the differences in Ron’s engine compared to most other E-series Falcons. Here is the email that was sent to the Ford dealers around the country –
4.0L Engine Revision

As of January 1998, EL Falcon will be fitted with a revised I6 engine. The revision will be completely transparent as far as the Customer is concerned (no change to engine appearance, power output fuel economy, service requirements, etc). It will also be transparent to you as far as basic engine maintenance and diagnostic procedures are concerned.

However, where internal engine repairs are to be performed, it is important that the Technician realises the difference and is aware of the unique engine re-assembly procedures and specifications.

Interchangeability of parts between the old and the new level engines is not possible except where replacement part numbers are unchanged. Do not attempt to fit new level parts to the new engine, or vice versa.

Vehicle Identification
There will be a period during January 1998 when both the old and the new level engines will be used at the Assembly plant. Thus the vehicle build date may not necessarily identify the level of engine fitted to the vehicle.

Old level engines can be identified by a 95DA of 95DT casting on the cylinder head and a 96DA casting on the engine block.

New level engines can be identified by a 96DA or 96DT casting on the cylinder head and a VR2A casting on the engine block.

Note: Approximately 1,600 of these new engines will have the old level head and valvetrain fitted. The same idetification method may be used to individually identify new/old level heads.

Generally speaking, the engine dissassembly/assembly procedures are unchanged. The main difference is the size and shape of various internal components. It is important that only new level components are used as replacement parts as in many cases the old level parts will not fit or will lead to the failure of other components.

With respect to major engine repairs, the main points that you will need to keep in mind are:
-revised hardware tightening torque specifications (some components are now ‘torque to yield’).
-revised bolt tightening sequences.
-revised camshaft-to-crankshaft timing procedure.

Lash Adjuster Removal
The procedure for lash adjuster removal is unchanged. However the retaining ring has been deleted so that the piston may separate from the main body during removal if care is not taken. It is still recommended that the lash adjuster not be dismantled.

Parts Information
The following list identifies the upgraded parts used in the Falcon I6 engine

-Engine Block (identified by VR2A casting instead of 96DA)
-Crankshaft Sprocket
-Idler Sprocket
-Idler Sprocker Bolt (black finish)
-Timing Chain
-Crankshaft Main Bearing Caps
-Main Bearings
-Con Rod Nuts & Bolts (WR2A stamped on bolt) – torque to yield
-Flywheel Bolts (auto trans only)
-Cylinder Head (identified by 96DA or 96DT casting insted of 94DA or 95DT)
-Camshaft Sprocket
-Camshaft Sprocket Bolt (black finish)
-Inlet and Exhaust Valves, Guides, Springs and Stem Seals
-Rocker Arms and Washers
-Rocker Shafts and Supports

Torque To Yield. Components MUST be discarded and replaced if removed or loosened.

-Con Rod Nuts : 25Nm, then rotate an additional 90 degrees.
-Camshaft & Idler Sprocket Bolts : 20Nm, then rotate an additional 40 degrees.
On the chance that another one of our readers has one of the 1600 or so EL’s fitted with these ‘revised’ engine I asked Ron if he could supply some images for an article and thankfully he agreed.

So basically the only changes that will be seen by someone following our guide will be the change in the procedure for setting the camshaft timing, the camshaft sprocket bolt torque setting, the presence of two yellow links in the timing chain and the fact that the lifters or lash adjusters are not a sealed unit and are able to be dismantled.

The image below, although very ordinary I admit,?shows the correct camshaft timing settings. Instead of lining the mark up with the left-hand side of the cylinder head deck the timing mark is centred between the two yellow links. Further down you will see Ron’s engine with the cam timing set correctly.

And the CORRECT cam lobe positions looking from both sides of the engine-

The jury is still out on timing chain tensioner adjustment and setting procedure, as of this time I have not been able to find out weather or not there is any change from the ‘old’ engine but the investigation is on-going.

So if you have a late-model EL and are contemplating doing this job yourself please be mindful of these changes and if you spot a timing chain with two pretty yellow links in it be sure to follow the timing procedures set out here.

A BIG Thank You goes out to Ron for taking the time to supply these images.

21 thoughts on “EL Falcon Hybrid Camshaft Timing

  1. Hi Craig,

    As luck would have it, I have one of those ELs with the two yellow links. Now how do I set the timing right? Do I turn the crankshaft clockwise until the timing mark in the cam sprocket is between the two yellow links? Do I also at the same time need to line up the timing mark on the crankshaft with the right hand mark on the timing case cover? Any help would be appreciated. Do you have a .jpg of the above diagram?



  2. Hi Gilbert,
    Unfortunately I don’t have a good image of the timing setup for these ‘hybrid’ engines but I’ll do my best to explain how to set it up.
    The timing marks on the crankshaft have to be lined up first. (the pulley ‘knotch’ and the right hand mark on the timing cover).
    This will place the two yellow links in the timing chain at one of two places – either below the cylinder head surface and basically out of sight (in which case the crankshaft has to be carefully turned 360 degress with the chain being held reasonably taught to achieve correct valve timing) or the two yellow marks in the chain will be above the head surface at approx. the 11 o’clock position as shown in the picture above. This is correct and the camshaft pulley and bolt can be fitted to the camshaft once the pin in the camshaft is aligned with the hole in the camshaft pulley.

    Clear as mud? Ok, good! In a nutshell if the two yellow links in the chain are at the position shown in the picture above when the crankshaft marks are lined up, the timing is set correctly.

    I hope this helps, but please let me know if you need further help.

  3. Hi Craig,

    Many thanks for your quick reply. I am in the middle of doing my head gasket replacement at the moment so your help is much appreciated. Currently my setup is as per the first picture on this page ie the notch on the camshaft sprocket is below the yellow links. How do I get it to look like the second picture with the notch on the camshaft sprocket between the two yellow links. When I try to move the crankshaft the camshaft sprocket moves as well. You mention turning the crankshaft and holding the chain taut. Does that have anything to do with it? By the way do I move the crankshaft clockwise or anticlockwise?



  4. Gilbert,
    Sorry I should have explained it a bit better!

    To get the camshaft sprocket timing mark between the two yellow links first you need to line up the crankshaft timing marks and then loosen the camshaft sprocket bolt (re-check the crankshaft timing marks after loosening the bolt as they will move), then remove the timing chain tensioner so the chain has a little bit of slack in it, then carefully remove the camshaft sprocket bolt and remove the timing chain and sprocket from the camshaft as one unit, being sure to keep some tension on the timing chain.

    You can then ‘rotate’ the camshaft sprocket to the position needed between the two yellow chain links.

    You will either need another set of hands or tie the timing chain/sprocket to the catch on the bonnet for the next step (this keeps some tension on the timing chain so it doesn’t slip on either the crankshaft or half-shaft sprockets in the timing cover).

    Now we need to rotate the camshaft to a point where the pin in the camshaft will line up with the hole in the camshaft sprocket in it’s new position.

    Refit the camshaft sprocket and refit the bolt and timing chain tensioner, check the timing marks line up, rotate the engine one full revolution clockwise (360 degress of the crankshaft) and re-check the marks. If the knotch on the camshaft sprocket is no longer between the two yellow marks it is a case of re-doing these steps until things are right.

    I think that just about covers it, again if there is anything more that you need to know please leave another comment.

    Oh yeah, normal rotation on these engines is clockwise.

  5. Hi Craig,

    Many thanks for that. As I am removing the head and replacing with a reconditioned one, should I stop at the point where you “?rotate? the camshaft sprocket to the position needed between the two yellow chain links.” Otherwise do I have to do this then do it again (by it I mean release the timing chain tensioner, undo the sprocket bolt) after I have zipped tied the chain to the camshaft sprocket (after setting TDC). I would rather undo the timing tensioner and sprocket bolt once. Just a question I guess about the sequence of events here. Your help is much appreciated.



  6. Hi Gilbert,
    Sorry for the delay, I’m back on deck and slowly emptying my inbox!

    Ok, seeing as though you are replacing the cylinder head with a reco unit you only need to set your valve timing up – crankshaft mark aligned with the right hand mark on the timing cover, your camshaft mark up the top and to the left between the two yellow chain links, secure the camshaft sprocket to the chain (the good old zip ties work well), loosen the camshaft bolt but don’t completely remove it at this stage.

    Remove the chain tensioner and store in a safe place, completely remove the camshaft sprocket and let the sprocket and chain sit down on the chain guides and continue to remove the cylinder head.

    You will probably find that they will want you to remove your camshaft and rocker gear which you can then transfer to the ‘new’ cylinder head when you get it. I suggest fitting the head to the engine block first, without the camshaft and rocker gear attached and when the time comes sit the camshaft in position making sure that the pin lines up with the hole in the camshaft sprocket and then fit the rocker gear. You may find that the valve spring pressure is too much to turn the camshaft easily if you need to line up the pin and hole once the rocker gear is fitted.

    Once you have everything in place again – camshaft sprocket, tensioner etc I suggest turning the engine two complete crankshaft revolutions and checking the timing marks again, just to be sure.

    Hope that makes sense?!

  7. Hi, I have a xh 4.0 and i am trying to find a pic of the timing marks set up. A desription would also help. I cannot get access to a service manual. thanks

  8. Hi Graig.
    Recently I purchased an EL Fairmont, as it turned out it had a lot of issues mainly due to running with no thermostat. I have resolved most of these but still lacking in power and a slight miss under power in 3rd( top gear)2800 to 3000 RPM.
    I read this article “EL Falcon ‘Hybrid’ Engine Camshaft Timing “ and checked the cam timing mark and sure enough they are out the yellow mark is about 2 /3 teeth to the lift of the line, witch is about 12o.clock and the little dot is lined up with the head surface. Also the spark plug leads have been repositioned in the distributor cap ! and the ign timing is advanced as far as the dizy will move. Do you think I will have to pull the front cover off and start from scratch or dos the position of the crank , idler and chain , not mater as much as the crank and cam sprockets?

    Thanks Chris

  9. Hi Chris,
    Personally I would be trying to avoid removing the timing cover as it is a pain in the neck job, but having said that the position of the idler is important as it runs the distributor.

    I think your best bet would be to set the camshaft timing correctly by removing the timing chain tensioner and ‘walking’ the chain around the camshaft sprocket until it is lined up and then see if you can reposition the ignition leads on the cap so that you have a range of advance and retard adjustment.

    I realise this is not correcting the problem as such and if you have the time (and the patience!) a better solution would be to remove the cover and as you say start again with lining everything up properly. You can easily count on around six hours to remove and refit the timing cover, not fun!

    Hope that helped.

  10. Many thanks for that. As I am removing the head and replacing with a reconditioned one, should I stop at the point where you “?rotate? the camshaft sprocket to the position needed between the two yellow chain links.” Otherwise do I have to do this then do it again (by it I mean release the timing chain tensioner, undo the sprocket bolt) after I have zipped tied the chain to the camshaft sprocket (after setting TDC). I would rather undo the timing tensioner and sprocket bolt once. Just a question I guess about the sequence of events here. Your help is much appreciated.

    It is true.

  11. Hi Bob,
    Yes, you are right, stop at the point where the valve timing is lined up, remove/release the timing chain tensioner, zip tie the chain to the camshaft sprocket and remove the sprocket bolt. Once you have the replacement cylinder head, refit the camshaft to the replacement head – you may have to rotate the camshaft until it will line up with the locator on the sprocket.

    Hope that helps!


  12. hi i have a 1990 ea ford its backfiring through the carbi and wont start. i’ve just changed the head. can you help please?

  13. Hi Guys,

    I’ve been hunting around everywhere and keep finding conflicting information. I have a complete head of a 99 AU series 1 falcon that i am wrecking. The key question is can i fit the whole head of the AU on to the 97 EL falcon that i am repairing. Any information would be great.


  14. Hey Gavin,
    I know for sure that the AU head gasket is a direct fit onto the earlier block and I have heard that the AU head will fit the EL bottom end but please don’t take that as gospel. As I said I have only heard that, I haven’t seen it with my own two eyes! My advice would be to ring an engine reconditioner. Any reasonably busy shop would have dealt with more than a few Falcon heads and should know the differences, if any.

    Hope that helps!

  15. Hey Craig,
    I just bought a 2nd hand engine for my el fairmont. Lo and behold its one of these vr2a engines. I had a stage 3 crow cam in my old engine and fitted it to the new engine with my rocker gear. Rattled like a bastard. When i went to fit the old rocker gear from this engine, the rocker gear didn’t line up properly. The spacing seems to be different on the rocker arms. I’m going to fit my old head as this seems to be the only way i can still use my cam. I presume i will still have to follow the above procedure for timing?

  16. Hi Dane,
    Interesting! If you use the old head, rocker gear, camshaft and camshaft gear I believe that you should be able to line the harmonic balancer up to top dead centre and use the ‘old’ method of setting the valve timing, i.e. camshaft gear mark just above passengers side of the head.

    When you get everything in position send me a pic of how the number one cylinder camshaft lobes are sitting and we should be able to confirm this.


  17. In process of replacing timing case gaskets in a au series 2 an can’t get bottom chain guide back in place as to drop the sump enough I need to drop the gearbox. Is this bottom chain guide necessary?

  18. Do I need to follow this guide for the el hybrid timing if I’ve got an older el head “95dt” on the newer el block?

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