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

jimtmcdaniels

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Hi,
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?:

Vehicle:
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.

Situation:
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.

But:

1.
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.

2.
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

Jim
 

7mopar

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I think the wise hotrod site would not be an option for me without knowing were cam timing was set at the factory. But that would require a good timing chain and gears, degree wheel and a piston stop. Poking holes in pistons or bending valves would not be much of an improvement.
 

65 sporty

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Summit has a bunch of offerings. I would change the set, not just the chain. I have never tried advancing the stock cam in one of these engines, but any help in mileage would be welcomed I bet.

 

7mopar

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Summit has a bunch of offerings. I would change the set, not just the chain. I have never tried advancing the stock cam in one of these engines, but any help in mileage would be welcomed I bet.

I was hoping you could shed more light on this than I could. I have not had a 351w opened up since the mid 1970's. I sure would not have recommended advancing the timing to far then on count of valve clearance. Am not sure about the newer stuff.

Just replacing a chain without the gears has never been a good idea. If the chain is worn the gears are to.
 
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