Cam phaser DIY Experience

Jon2099

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Long time lurker, first time post--it's kind of long.

I've learned a lot from posts on this forum and wanted to post about my experience completing cam phaser replacement in my driveway this past weekend to contribute something back. I have a 2018 MaxXLT with HD tow. I have 95k miles.

My symptoms were the typical clatter at startup, and the hot idle knock. Both got worse quickly from when first noticed. It took me about three months from deciding I was going to do it, to ordering parts, and getting most of them in. I put about 2k miles on it during that time. I also never got the driver side valve cover nor the intake gaskets that go between the valve cover and the heads--still on backorder. Ford officially says it's okay to reuse those gaskets, and while I was concerned about having a cracked driver side cover, ultimately it looked good. I was willing to risk it at this point because if I still need these they're at least near the top of the engine and I can just do these later rather than putting this off longer.

I used all Ford/Motorcraft parts. In addition to the phasers I replaced the chains, guides, tensioner arms, tensioners, timing gear on the crankshaft, water pump, thermostat, VCT solenoids, spark plugs, high-pressure fuel tube, and belts. Of these if (and only if) I needed to save costs and now having seen the condition of the parts I would have kept the originals in this order--timing gear sprocket on camshaft--no real wear here, timing chain guides and tensioner arms--not much wear, VCT solenoids--on top of engine at least and I had no reason to think they were bad, just old, tensioners--I've not heard of them going bad, but if they do they're hard to get to, chains--the new ones did seem tighter with less tensioner travel, though. With my miles and age I definitely would replace all the other stuff. My water pump was close to being ready to leak, not from the bearing, but there was about a two inch section of gasket that had pitting and corrosion of the mounting surface under it. Thermostat was original. Spark plugs didn't look bad, but did have a slightly larger gap.

There were a few things that don't really get mentioned that caused a little more temporary grief than the obvious things. Here are the few things I encountered that I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere. I know they sound dumb, and maybe you have a better idea for dealing with them. I'm not saying any Ford engineer would be happy with how I did it, but it worked.
1. The bracket at the front of the valve cover on the passenger side that has heater hoses and both turbo tubes attached. I didn't disconnect the passenger side tube from the intercooler, and I think I would if I did it again. I wouldn't have had as much trouble fighting with that bracket which didn't seem to have as much play as I needed to get stuff out of the way.
2. The stud at the bottom of the front cover that holds the transmission cooler tubes and an electrical bundle. It's long and requires more movement from the brackets it holds than they're willing to give easily. In the end I ended up cutting about 3/4 of an inch off of this stud so that I didn't need to move the bracket it held as much when putting it back together. I just pried and fought with it taking it off. It didn't need that extra length anyway--at least in my mind.
3. When putting the crankshaft pully back on I didn't have a special tool. I tapped it on a little, got a thinner washer than the one that holds the pully on and was able to get the bolt started. I pressed it in by hand slowly until it went far enough that the engine wanted to turn, then I used an impact to seat it.
4. The front cover. I would not have been able to meet the 35 minute max time from applying the gasket material to having it fully torqued without a power ratchet of some type. You start by torquing 6 bolts, then you torque the other 18 bolts, then you go back and torque all 24 of them, all in a specific order. I used my air ratchet to get the bolts run in, then I went through torquing them. I did it in just under 34 minutes. I also didn't use the special alignment pins. What I did do was try a couple of dry runs of positioning the cover with no sealant, then once I added the sealant I used the two bolts where the guide pins would go to help position it. That was no problem at all. If I had needed to, my plan was to go purchase two similar bolts at the hardware store and cut the heads off to slide the cover over them. Not needed, though.
5. The magnetic grabber was a useful tool and I recommend getting one if you don't have one. Knowing that I have on occasion dropped things I replaced the VCT solenoids while the front cover was off. It would not have been a happy moment if I had dropped one of those bolts down in the front cover.

My phasers were pretty bad, but they were the CB release. When turning the engine over with a wrench three of them appeared bad--would cause the cam to jump and click--both intake and the drivers side exhaust (exhaust wasn't as bad, and maybe I saw the effect of the intake jumping instead). They appeared to fail all around the same time. I wonder if when one goes bad, the strain of it fluttering or its possible change in oil flow causes the other on the same head to fail?

At any rate, I'd definitely do it again if needed. It's a big job but I'm satisfied with the quality of the work and replacing all the parts I did compared to someone rushing through it and doing just the minimum--provided it's not under warranty. I wouldn't do it if someone else would do it at no cost to me. I'm not a professional mechanic, but I've always done a lot of my mechanical work and approach jobs like this with an attitude that I can follow instructions, I can turn nuts and bolts, and at every single step I can make sure I'm satisfied with the result or figure out what I need to do to be satisfied before going on to the next step. Just take it one step at a time. It took me about 20 hours. I'm sure plenty of that was referring back to the manual to get torque settings--every bolt has them. Here's a list of the parts I ordered. Prices are for the quantity ordered, not each.

Engine Timing Chain Tensioner hl3z6l266c 1 $37.65
Guide hl3z6b274a 1 $21.24
Engine Timing Chain Tensioner hl3z6l266a 1 $43.66
Tensioner Arm hl3z6k255b 1 $18.36
Manifold Gasket hl3z9h486a 6 $5.34
Valve Cover Gasket hl3z6584a 1 $7.73
Valve Cover Gasket ml3z6584g 1 $9.44
Fuel Pump Mount Bolt w714498s900 2 $1.20
Fuel Pump Gasket aa5z9e583a 1 $0.93
Engine Coolant Thermostat hl3z8575b 1 $23.72
Thermostat Housing O-Ring hl3z8527b 1 $2.68
Water Pump jl3z8501b 1 $84.24
Sealant Silicone ta357 1 $25.13
Gasket br3z6020a 1 $2.05
Seal xw4z6700aa 1 $8.99
Solenoid hl3z6m280a 4 $135.48
Water Pump Belt br3z8620s 1 $25.25
Serpentine Belt hl3z8620a 1 $15.96
Timing Chain hl3z6268a 2 $76.22
Guide hl3z6b274b 1 $22.68
Tensioner Arm hl3z6k255a 1 $18.00
Engine Timing Camshaft Sprocket hl3z6c525cd 2 $76.00
Engine Timing Camshaft Sprocket ML3Z-6525-A 2 $76.00
Bolt hl3z6279a 4 $4.76
Crankshaft Pulley Bolt hl3z6a340a 1 $1.46
Spark Plug sp550x 6 $34.26
Water Outlet Bolt w503280s437 2 $0.72
Crankshaft Gear hl3z6306a 1 $35.95
Tube Assembly hl3z9j323c 1 $21.48
 

m3olsen

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Thank you @Jon2099 for a thorough write-up. Question: I didn't notice the VCT units themselves in your parts list. Are they the Engine Timing Camshaft Sprockets? I would have thought VCT units were much more expensive...
 
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Jon2099

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Thanks for the warm welcome. Yes, the VCT units are the camshaft sprockets. It turns out I got the newest intake units and the slightly older CD units for exhaust. When I ordered, Ford recommended the CD units for the Expedition, probably to avoid having inventory sitting around. The CD's weren't available for the intakes then, so they subbed the newer ones. At any rate being a few months after I put my order in I'd probably try to get the latest release of all of them now even though the exhaust seem less likely to fail.
 

Shaggy

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Long time lurker, first time post--it's kind of long.

I've learned a lot from posts on this forum and wanted to post about my experience completing cam phaser replacement in my driveway this past weekend to contribute something back. I have a 2018 MaxXLT with HD tow. I have 95k miles.

My symptoms were the typical clatter at startup, and the hot idle knock. Both got worse quickly from when first noticed. It took me about three months from deciding I was going to do it, to ordering parts, and getting most of them in. I put about 2k miles on it during that time. I also never got the driver side valve cover nor the intake gaskets that go between the valve cover and the heads--still on backorder. Ford officially says it's okay to reuse those gaskets, and while I was concerned about having a cracked driver side cover, ultimately it looked good. I was willing to risk it at this point because if I still need these they're at least near the top of the engine and I can just do these later rather than putting this off longer.

I used all Ford/Motorcraft parts. In addition to the phasers I replaced the chains, guides, tensioner arms, tensioners, timing gear on the crankshaft, water pump, thermostat, VCT solenoids, spark plugs, high-pressure fuel tube, and belts. Of these if (and only if) I needed to save costs and now having seen the condition of the parts I would have kept the originals in this order--timing gear sprocket on camshaft--no real wear here, timing chain guides and tensioner arms--not much wear, VCT solenoids--on top of engine at least and I had no reason to think they were bad, just old, tensioners--I've not heard of them going bad, but if they do they're hard to get to, chains--the new ones did seem tighter with less tensioner travel, though. With my miles and age I definitely would replace all the other stuff. My water pump was close to being ready to leak, not from the bearing, but there was about a two inch section of gasket that had pitting and corrosion of the mounting surface under it. Thermostat was original. Spark plugs didn't look bad, but did have a slightly larger gap.

There were a few things that don't really get mentioned that caused a little more temporary grief than the obvious things. Here are the few things I encountered that I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere. I know they sound dumb, and maybe you have a better idea for dealing with them. I'm not saying any Ford engineer would be happy with how I did it, but it worked.
1. The bracket at the front of the valve cover on the passenger side that has heater hoses and both turbo tubes attached. I didn't disconnect the passenger side tube from the intercooler, and I think I would if I did it again. I wouldn't have had as much trouble fighting with that bracket which didn't seem to have as much play as I needed to get stuff out of the way.
2. The stud at the bottom of the front cover that holds the transmission cooler tubes and an electrical bundle. It's long and requires more movement from the brackets it holds than they're willing to give easily. In the end I ended up cutting about 3/4 of an inch off of this stud so that I didn't need to move the bracket it held as much when putting it back together. I just pried and fought with it taking it off. It didn't need that extra length anyway--at least in my mind.
3. When putting the crankshaft pully back on I didn't have a special tool. I tapped it on a little, got a thinner washer than the one that holds the pully on and was able to get the bolt started. I pressed it in by hand slowly until it went far enough that the engine wanted to turn, then I used an impact to seat it.
4. The front cover. I would not have been able to meet the 35 minute max time from applying the gasket material to having it fully torqued without a power ratchet of some type. You start by torquing 6 bolts, then you torque the other 18 bolts, then you go back and torque all 24 of them, all in a specific order. I used my air ratchet to get the bolts run in, then I went through torquing them. I did it in just under 34 minutes. I also didn't use the special alignment pins. What I did do was try a couple of dry runs of positioning the cover with no sealant, then once I added the sealant I used the two bolts where the guide pins would go to help position it. That was no problem at all. If I had needed to, my plan was to go purchase two similar bolts at the hardware store and cut the heads off to slide the cover over them. Not needed, though.
5. The magnetic grabber was a useful tool and I recommend getting one if you don't have one. Knowing that I have on occasion dropped things I replaced the VCT solenoids while the front cover was off. It would not have been a happy moment if I had dropped one of those bolts down in the front cover.

My phasers were pretty bad, but they were the CB release. When turning the engine over with a wrench three of them appeared bad--would cause the cam to jump and click--both intake and the drivers side exhaust (exhaust wasn't as bad, and maybe I saw the effect of the intake jumping instead). They appeared to fail all around the same time. I wonder if when one goes bad, the strain of it fluttering or its possible change in oil flow causes the other on the same head to fail?

At any rate, I'd definitely do it again if needed. It's a big job but I'm satisfied with the quality of the work and replacing all the parts I did compared to someone rushing through it and doing just the minimum--provided it's not under warranty. I wouldn't do it if someone else would do it at no cost to me. I'm not a professional mechanic, but I've always done a lot of my mechanical work and approach jobs like this with an attitude that I can follow instructions, I can turn nuts and bolts, and at every single step I can make sure I'm satisfied with the result or figure out what I need to do to be satisfied before going on to the next step. Just take it one step at a time. It took me about 20 hours. I'm sure plenty of that was referring back to the manual to get torque settings--every bolt has them. Here's a list of the parts I ordered. Prices are for the quantity ordered, not each.

Engine Timing Chain Tensioner hl3z6l266c 1 $37.65
Guide hl3z6b274a 1 $21.24
Engine Timing Chain Tensioner hl3z6l266a 1 $43.66
Tensioner Arm hl3z6k255b 1 $18.36
Manifold Gasket hl3z9h486a 6 $5.34
Valve Cover Gasket hl3z6584a 1 $7.73
Valve Cover Gasket ml3z6584g 1 $9.44
Fuel Pump Mount Bolt w714498s900 2 $1.20
Fuel Pump Gasket aa5z9e583a 1 $0.93
Engine Coolant Thermostat hl3z8575b 1 $23.72
Thermostat Housing O-Ring hl3z8527b 1 $2.68
Water Pump jl3z8501b 1 $84.24
Sealant Silicone ta357 1 $25.13
Gasket br3z6020a 1 $2.05
Seal xw4z6700aa 1 $8.99
Solenoid hl3z6m280a 4 $135.48
Water Pump Belt br3z8620s 1 $25.25
Serpentine Belt hl3z8620a 1 $15.96
Timing Chain hl3z6268a 2 $76.22
Guide hl3z6b274b 1 $22.68
Tensioner Arm hl3z6k255a 1 $18.00
Engine Timing Camshaft Sprocket hl3z6c525cd 2 $76.00
Engine Timing Camshaft Sprocket ML3Z-6525-A 2 $76.00
Bolt hl3z6279a 4 $4.76
Crankshaft Pulley Bolt hl3z6a340a 1 $1.46
Spark Plug sp550x 6 $34.26
Water Outlet Bolt w503280s437 2 $0.72
Crankshaft Gear hl3z6306a 1 $35.95
Tube Assembly hl3z9j323c 1 $21.48

Awesome write up! Thanks for posting up here on EF!
 

Speed 330

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Thank you @Jon2099 for a thorough write-up. Question: I didn't notice the VCT units themselves in your parts list. Are they the Engine Timing Camshaft Sprockets? I would have thought VCT units were much more expensive...
I bought the whole timing kit and an oil pump from a Ford Place in New Jersey online and I got 650 bucks and everything gaskets all the vvts
 

ROBERT BONNER

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Great write-up. Hope I never have to do it. Having to do that much work at 95K would make me want to go picket Ford Engine Engineering in Dearborn for a week just for personal satisfaction. Maybe even call all of the 3.5L valvetrain engineers' mothers and tell them to disinvite their sons/daughters to Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas. kidding...not kidding
 
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Jon2099

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HI Robert, I agree. Like any large company, quality isn't job one, nor will it every be. Quarterly stock price is job 1 and there really is no job 2. Ultimately until quality impacts that, and it appears it is now with all the recalls and expensive warranty work, it will just be viewed as the cost of business. All the high-tech stuff is nice. This engine is about half the size of the 6.8 I had in my Excursion, and it makes more horsepower and does a lot better on mileage while having a great torque range for towing--all nice, but the things that enable that add complexity and because of the way Ford introduces this technology, we're the testers. Some of it works pretty good--I like the aluminum body and the interior comfort while some of it is a total mess, like the cam phasers. I think Ford's testing/proving program is insufficient and some things are rushed to market without knowing how they'll perform in the real world. Torturing an engine on a test stand is nothing like daily use by millions of drivers and it won't reveal the way an engine will fail in daily use. Cold starts appear to be a big factor in the cam phasers, and will never show up no matter how many straight full horsepower dyno hours you put on it.

At any rate, thanks for your comments, they added some humor to the discussion. I'll be sure that no Ford Engineers are at our Thanksgiving table this year.
 

ROBERT BONNER

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HI Robert, I agree. Like any large company, quality isn't job one, nor will it every be. Quarterly stock price is job 1 and there really is no job 2. Ultimately until quality impacts that, and it appears it is now with all the recalls and expensive warranty work, it will just be viewed as the cost of business. All the high-tech stuff is nice. This engine is about half the size of the 6.8 I had in my Excursion, and it makes more horsepower and does a lot better on mileage while having a great torque range for towing--all nice, but the things that enable that add complexity and because of the way Ford introduces this technology, we're the testers. Some of it works pretty good--I like the aluminum body and the interior comfort while some of it is a total mess, like the cam phasers. I think Ford's testing/proving program is insufficient and some things are rushed to market without knowing how they'll perform in the real world. Torturing an engine on a test stand is nothing like daily use by millions of drivers and it won't reveal the way an engine will fail in daily use. Cold starts appear to be a big factor in the cam phasers, and will never show up no matter how many straight full horsepower dyno hours you put on it.

At any rate, thanks for your comments, they added some humor to the discussion. I'll be sure that no Ford Engineers are at our Thanksgiving table this year.
I worked there for 23 years in Operations Management. I worked from the factory floor to Advanced Manufacturing and Feasibility (Manufacturing planning prior to BOD approval) and everything in between. Actually, the problem always has been not enough focus on balancing short and long term profitability. If Customer Satisfaction is not competitive, there is no profitability. You make all of your money on the high satisfaction vehicles. You're net profitable if vehicles without satisfaction don't take it all away. There are two categories in customer sat things gone wrong: build and design. The frustrating thing about nearly all of the customer sat issues I read about on this forum is that they are design related...meaning the manufacturing guys built them to design intent and then they failed/didn't work as intended/dissappointed customers. Powertrain Product Development was never strong at Ford; but, it appears to have basically fallen off of a cliff. It doesn't matter how complicated something like the engines or the 10 speeds get, there are processes to prove them out including millions of cold start cycles. Your 6.8L V10 Excursion was way more complicated than an '84 Bronco; but, my guess is the official Things Gone Wrong at 3 months in service and 3 years in service were much lower than on today's Expeditions....AND much lower than on the '84 Bronco....Trust me....they likely knew about many of these Expedition issues when they launched things. The processes would have caught them, and for the ones that they didn't know about....simply reading forums like this and doing the dealer field work would have informed them and should have demanded fixes that work. It's not magic, it's the process. No, I fear that somewhere there were people who simply didn't care, primarily because they didn't understand, or care about profitability. It rarely costs more to make things work than it does to make them break. And broken things tick off customers.

One of the reasons I left was that the integrity in many parts of the organization had slipped substantially during the 23 years I was there.
 

JohnSC

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I worked for a large corporation through the 18980s and 1990s. Coming into that period, corporations focused on employees and customers. They realized that those two groups were their llifeblood - creating and then selling goods and services and supporting things that went wrong. Some time during those two decades, some rich people discovered it was profitable to buy companies and sell off the pieces as most corporations are worth less than the sum of the parts. To combat that, corporations began to focus only on this quarter's profits - to show that the value was in fact too high to be dismantled. As soon as the quarterly numbers dropped, the stock price plummeted and the vultures moved in. So happy customers no longer matter as long as this quarter's production turns into sales.

Yes I had a couple of corporations dissolve while I was working for them. It was not a happy time. I am not sure how one of the automakers would be dismantled - there is too much need for the products. But they are affected by the "perform this quarter or else" mentality. I am not sure that redesigning the products to fix issues like the cam phasers matters to the decision makers.
 
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