4.6 Timing Chain Replacement | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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4.6 Timing Chain Replacement


September 20, 2015
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City, State
Perth & Manila
Year, Model & Trim Level
2005 Eddie Bauer Explorer
4.6 Timing Chain Replacement - SUCCESSFUL OUTCOME !

Recently purchased a 2003 Exploder with 4.6 travelled @ 250K Km = 156K miles. :eek:


When I viewed the vehicle, the engine oil was brand new & it drove really well inc the auto shifting smoothly.The engine oil looked like it was a lot heavier than 20 or 30 wt so I drained it & refilled with full synthetic Penzoil 5W30 that was branded as being suitable for engines requiring 5W20.

Prior to actually changing the oil, a rattling sound from the engine appeared that sounded like 'pinging' under load so after 'Internet diagnosing' the problem, it seemed timing chain slap was the most likely cause of the noise.

Being in Australia means that all USA car parts are ridiculously expensive so I purchased from Rockauto.com a Cloyes timing chain kit. Kit + freight via Fedex came to AUD $268 & to purchase locally was around AUD $450 ... so a considerable saving to buy 'ex USA' instead of locally !

When I pulled the rocker covers off I was confronted with lots of new 'clean' oil plus spatters of old black gunk plus there were 'mud' stains inside the rocker covers that looked very old.

Looks to me like it had no oil change for a long time then just recently had fresh oil & filter fitted ... hence new oil over the black gunk ?

After removing the front timing cover, I found the guides to be in near new condition but the RH cast tensioner was not tensioning that chain or holding oil pressure. Ah haa ... there is the culprit ! Upon removing the LH tensioner, I found it FULL of old black gunk ... Which was surprising as it was holding pressure & still tensioning the LH chain.

The chains, guides & tensioners appeared to be near new.

So I started to clean up inside the heads & the black gunk came away easily & the heads were really clean + had what appeared to be new SPS bolts securing them onto the block.

My best guess is ... this vehicle previously had a blown head gasket & was driven around like that for an extended period. At some time the heads were pulled off & maybe faced & reconditioned, a new inlet manifold & radiator were fitted, I assume the chains, guides & tensioners were also replaced. Only dodgy part was the centre of the thermostat had been cut out. The vehicle was full of red dust so it was probably from the HOT North West and some bush mechanic used all his skills to stop it over heating by cutting up the thermostat ?

So fitted new guides, chains & tensioners, lined up the timing marks ... double checked everything ... then triple checked again before reassembling. You don't need any special tools to do this job .. just be careful & follow the instructions to the letter.

Upon turning the key it fired up instantly & the computer fast idled @ 2000 RPM then it settled down to normal idle. All sounded great, nice & quiet .. but when driven, still an intermittent 'pre-ignition' type sound when mild acceleration ... At full noise there are NO 'rattles' etc ... just the sweet sound of a V8 engine !

I also replaced thermostat, tensioner pulley and serpentine belt. the only thing that was in any way noisey on the front now was the water pump ... and when spinning by had has NO real wobble, free play or noisey sound when rotated ... but has slight 'chunk chunk'sound ... not enough that I felt warranted replacement.

Now I'm thinking maybe water pump IS noisey ... just not sure that would make that sound under load & no sound off the throttle ?

Any thoughts as to where I go from here ? I don't believe it is a rod knock ... as it is intermittent ! Vehicle drives beautifully & is not using or losing coolant or oil & air conditioning is freezing cold !

Any input would be appreciated !

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Just chiming in so I can follow your thread.

I've noticed this pre detonation noise as well. Like you said, not when giving it has but normal drive with a little increase in engine load.

If you read Mustang forums, you'll see that there can be issues with the roller followers (rockers.) to the detriment of the engine. I've yet to pop the valve covers again and hate to think one follower is failing and I'm not giving it attention.

But at the same time, it's not a constant sound.

I don't recall this sound before having done my timing. Is it off a half link? My fuel trims are a little funky, is it a vacuum leak issue?

What numbers do your fuel trims run?

Update :)

Update on diagnosing this 'rattle' ...

Pulled the front cover off AGAIN thinking maybe the RH tensioner was not getting enough oil pressure ... but alas ... wasted a whole day & found nothing out of the ordinary ! Tensioners were tight & pressurised with oil ... so that discounts my theory completely !

One thing I finally worked out was this 'rattle' went away at speed ... but in reality, it went AWAY when the torque converter locked up ... I just missed the obvious ! :-(

So I got an auto trans guru to have a look and offer advice ... he diagnosed a collapsed thrust bearing in the torque converter or hardness worn away & we are grinding away on soft, un-hardened metal. This all makes sense now as the 'rattling' got worse when you engaged drive & was less in neutral as there was no load on the stator pushing the thrust bearing then ? :eek:

Sooooo .... mega bucks to pay auto trans specialist to remove & rebuild converter (Quoted min AUD $2K) ... so first thing to do was put the car up on axle stands & drop the tranny sump. What I found was a genuine Ford filter that was pretty dirty on top ... the magnet in the sump had a good 1/4" of blank 'gunk' stuck to it and a few surrounding small slivers of metal ... so slightly relieved as this actually shifts fine without any issues at all, no codes whatsoever ... but this persistent 'rattle' that has to go.

The sump ...

The magnet Gunge ...

Wiping the gunge ...

The filter external...

The filter internal ...

The filter after draining is incredibly heavy ... I think it is full of gunge itself ... may even be the original factory filter as the pan doesn't look like it has ever been off ???

So getting the torque converter out ... without a vehicle hoist ... OMG ...what a job ! I took what I thought was the easy way out & took out the transfer case first. Some of the bolts were near on impossible to get to because of the fuel tank ... but lots of patience & the tools hitting the floor regularly and out it came :) I used a floor trolley jack to support it & some webbing strap tie downs anchored to the chassis just in case the jack toppled over :eek:

Getting the transmission out was an exercise in wishing the retarded engineers who design these vehicles should be FORCED to actually work on & repair these cars !!! Same system ... floor trolley jack & webbing slings and got the trans out & lowered enough to remove the torque converter. Tranny is hanging in the slings with the jack under the sump whilst I get the converter re-built !

Looking forward now to getting it back together & see if my 'rattling' noise is gone ... if it was just a 'noise' .. I could have lived with it but having ground metal being made every drive & circulating inside my 'working perfectly fine' auto trans did NOT fill me with joy ... hence the P.I.T.A job of driveway repairs.

I have 12 litres of full synthetic Penrite 'Mercon V' compatible ATF to go back in.

I have new Motorcraft sump filter & have already installed a 3/8" Magnefine filter on the return line out of the trans cooler.

I'm hoping that the new synthetic oil plus the new filter plus the Magnefine will get rid of the rest of the suspended ground metal & clutch disc material left inside the transmission and I can get a few more Km's out of the 'Exploder' before it lives up to it's name !!! :D

Really interested in what you find. After reading your post, I paid more attention today. Spent about 2 hours round trip on the freeway. The rattling noise is definitely present at higher speeds.

At idle, or low speeds, it's not there at all.

Heard back from the transmission shop today about the progress on the converter at the specialist re-builders ... upon opening it up they found the entire lock up clutch friction material had separated from the piston and was just floating & getting broken up inside the converter. They took photo's that I will upload once I get them.

Trans shop guy suggested cutting open the Motorcraft filter & see how blocked it was with friction material from the lock up clutch disintegrating itself ... so I did, here is what I found :eek:

This to me looks like it was completely blocked ... definately was a huge restriction for oil to flow into the pump ... I'm thinking that was what some of the 'hydraulic' noise was, caused from this restriction ?

Also fabricated a timber cradle to sit under the trans, bolted to my trolley jack to support & help me guide the trans back in place, once the converter gets back ... measured the angle off the back of the engine & cut the supports 50mm out of level which should sit the trans at the correct angle to mate back up to the rear of the engine ... a whole lot easier than balancing it on top of my trolley jack as it was on the way out ! :D



Wow! I like that trans holder!

Success :)

Mission Accomplished !!!

Got my torque converter back yesterday afternoon from being re-built ... they fitted a new modified 'Sonnax' piston with friction material affixed & removed the standard factory fitted 'clutch plate'. Apparently this is a quite common modification for 5R55S/W transmissions as the standard clutch rattles quite often ... & the only cure is to remove it !:D

Was extremely vigilant about getting the torque converter snout seated into the front of the trans & rotated it until it moved back in a good 3/4". I then used my home made pine timber cradle to offer the transmission up to the back of the engine. I needed to square up the bell housing to the block so I added an additional feature to the cradle ...

Put a couple of bolts through the bell housing into the block to guide it all home and was onto the dowells. The bolts from the converter plate almost lined up with the flex plate, only needing a little bit of rotation. Did up a couple of bolts hand tight then went behind & wriggled the trans forward & snugged home. THEN I had a big smile knowing it was all in correctly !!! Fitted up the rest of the bolts & the converter nuts then onto the transfer case fitting & finished putting everything back where it came from originally.

Having this home made timber cradle made re-fitting the transmission & transfer case a one man operation ... this whole exercise in DIY has saved me in the vicinity of AUD $1400 ! :D

So after a whole day plus yesterday afternoon ... the big test ! ... fired it up & *voila* absolutely NO noise !!! Will let the car down off the jack stands in the morning & test drive to see the real results of a newly rebuild & modified converter, new pan filter & 12 litres of Mercon V has on an old high mileage 5R55S ???

Well done :)

Still working out good?

Yes ... Running perfectly ! **** changes now with new full synthetic fuid & new filter are great. I'm very happy with saving AUD $1400 by doing the job myself ! :)

Great post! It gives you a good feeling fixing your problems and best of all...saving yourself some $$$