1996 351w - Timing Chain replacement choices & should I advance the OEM cam timing?

Discussion in 'Engine & Performance' started by jimtmcdaniels, Jun 1, 2021.

  1. jimtmcdaniels

    jimtmcdaniels Junior Member

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    Jun 1, 2021
    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?:

    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.

    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.


    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.

    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.

    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

  2. Roush PSD Interceptor

    Roush PSD Interceptor Straight Piped Diesel Staff Member

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    Nov 28, 2010
    Ringgold, Georgia

    Welcome to Ford Full Size

    Something I didn't see mentioned was mileage on the 1996 Club Van.

    Seriously consider replacing the timing Sprocket in high mileage
    with the High Performance Cloyes Chain - 9145 for only $12.48

    Those Sprockets receive teeth wear when chains have stretch in
    them at higher mileage.

    Depends on your terrain driving.

    Smaller tire size will help take offs, larger tire size with long flat hauls.

    Helpful for those not wanting to do a rear end gear change.

    All those filter and fluids in top shape, maintenance intervals.
  3. ak_cowboy

    ak_cowboy Penguin Hunter

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    Nov 28, 2010
    Cloyes is a good company and I would feel totally fine running their kit.

    In regards to the cam timing, your best bet is to find an engine shop with a dyno. That way you can find the exact timing for the hp/torque that you want. And usually an increase in power will help mpg since the engine is running more efficiently.
    Roush PSD Interceptor likes this.
  4. stonedg

    stonedg Junior Member

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    Dec 28, 2018
    Your advancing the cam will be guessing at best unless you degree the cam in order to know exactly what you have. Only then can you do the figuring to find out what the difference is between straight up and any degree of advance.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2021
    Roush PSD Interceptor likes this.

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