1998 Ford Contour Change Timing Belt

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While the manufacturer has not recommended a mileage interval for changing the timing belt on a 1998 Ford Contour, experienced technicians recommend changing the belt at 60,000 miles, according to Autodata’s timing belt book. The engine is an interference engine, which means that should the timing belt stretch past its useful life or break, the valves will most likely contact the pistons, causing extreme engine damage. This procedure uses special tools that are available at the dealership.

Tools Used[edit]

Set of wrenches
Floor jack
Jack stands
Set of sockets
Lug wrench
Chalk or correction fluid
Long screwdriver
6-inch board, 2-by-4-inch
Camshaft alignment tools Ford #202-564
Set of Allen wrenches
Crankshaft timing pin Ford #303-574
Torque wrench

Change Timing Belt[edit]

  • Disconnect the battery ground cable, using a wrench. Raise the front of the Contour with the floor jack, then support it with jack stands. Remove the right-front wheel, using the lug wrench. Remove the lower splash guard for the engine and the right, inner fender lower splash guard.
  • Mark the direction of rotation on the accessory belt, using chalk or correction fluid to draw an arrow. Loosen the accessory belt tensioner with a wrench, then remove the accessory drive belt. Unbolt and remove the water pump pulley and the accessory drive belt tensioner, using the appropriate size sockets.
  • Loosen the crankshaft pulley bolt. Number the spark plug wires so you know where they go when you replace them. Pull the spark plug wires of the plugs, then remove the spark plugs. Carefully slide the screwdriver into the number 1 piston hole until it contacts the piston. Turn the crankshaft until you feel the piston (via the screwdriver) come all the way to the top of the piston bore. At the same time, watch the timing marks on the crankshaft. The engine is on top dead center when the mark on the crankshaft pulley lines up with the mark on the 5 o’clock position on the block, next to the crankshaft pulley. If the marks line up, but the piston is not all the way to the top of the bore, turn the crankshaft once more and everything will line up.
  • Remove the crankshaft pulley bolt and the crankshaft pulley, using the appropriate sockets. Make sure the crankshaft does not turn while you are removing the pulley. If it does, repeat Step 3. Remove the lower timing belt cover.
  • Loosen the bolts on the left and right engine mounts. Do not remove the bolts--they need only to be loosened enough so that the engine can move a little bit. Unbolt the radiator overflow tank, but do not disconnect the hoses. Lay the overflow tank out of the way. Disconnect the cruise control cable with the appropriate socket or wrench. The cruise control cable is located on the throttle.
  • Support the engine by placing the 2-by-4-inch board on the floor jack. Slide the floor jack under the engine and jack it up until it contacts the bottom of the engine. Remove the front engine mount, using the appropriate socket.
  • Remove the power steering pipe bracket, the upper timing belt cover and the front engine mount bracket, using the appropriate sockets. Disconnect the accelerator cable and the cruise control cable from the valve cover. Remove the valve cover.
  • Slide the camshaft alignment tool into the slots at the rear of the camshafts. Loosen the tensioner bolt, but do not remove it. Turn the tensioner clockwise with the appropriate-size Allen wrench, releasing tension on the belt. Unscrew the tensioner retaining bolt four turns. Unhook the tensioner bracket from the metal clip behind the tensioner.
  • Remove the plug from the center of the exhaust side camshaft (the right camshaft when you are looking down at the engine) by unscrewing it. Using the appropriate wrench, hold the camshaft by putting the wrench on the hexagon-shaped end of the camshaft where you removed the plug. Loosen the retaining bolts on both camshaft sprockets. Remove the timing belt. Check the valve on the number 4 cylinder. The camshaft lobe should be facing inward.
  • Install the crankshaft pulley, making sure the notch and the pointer are lined up. Remove the plug from the engine block, next to the motor mount bracket. Install the crankshaft timing pin. Adjust the crankshaft until it rests against the timing pin. Make sure all the timing marks stay lined up. Remove the crankshaft pulley.
  • Install the new timing belt around the crankshaft sprocket, working your way counterclockwise, keeping the timing belt tight on the side opposite the tensioner. The timing belt route goes on the inside of the two idler pulleys, then around the outside of the camshafts and the inside of the tensioner. Check to be sure the crankshaft is still pushed up against the timing pin. Hook the tensioner bracket on the metal clip.
  • Turn the tensioner counterclockwise with the appropriate-size Allen wrench, until the pointer is lined up with the mark located halfway between the 12 o’clock and 1 o’clock position. Tighten the tensioner bolt to 18.5 ft-lbs. of torque, then remove the Allen wrench.
  • Hold the camshaft by putting a wrench on the hexagon part of the shaft. Tighten the intake sprocket retaining bolt to 50 ft-lbs. of torque. Tighten the exhaust sprocket retaining bolt to 44 ft-lbs. of torque. Remove the crankshaft timing pin and the camshaft alignment tools.
  • Hold the exhaust camshaft by placing a wrench on the hexagon part of the camshaft. Torque the exhaust sprocket retaining bolt to 89 ft-lbs. of torque. Turn the crankshaft almost two turns (slowly). Reinstall the crankshaft timing pin. Turn the crankshaft clockwise until it touches the timing pin. Reinstall the camshaft tool in the camshaft slots to make sure it slides in smoothly. If it doesn’t, remove the belt and repeat the procedure.
  • Remove the camshaft tool and the crankshaft timing pin. Install a new plug into the exhaust camshaft sprocket and torque the plug to 27 ft-lbs. of torque. Install the plug into the crankshaft timing pin hole and tighten it to 18.5 ft-lbs. of torque. Install the rest of the parts in reverse order of removal. Tighten the crankshaft pulley bolt to 85 ft-lbs. of torque.

Tips & Warnings[edit]

  • The firing order for the 1998 Ford Contour is 1-3-4-2.
  • Do not turn the crankshaft or camshaft when the belt is off
  • Do not turn the crankshaft or camshaft by the sprockets--use a wrench or sockets.
  • Be sure the timing marks are lined up perfectly before you start the Contour, else you risk damaging the engine.