Author Topic: *THE* definitive guide to leakless FE front timing cover installation.  (Read 12888 times)

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I'd like to share my process for leakless FE front cover installation for those who've had trouble with this on their motors.  It's taken me several attempts but I've learned a lot of "gotchas" and thought I'd share them.

Two things are bound to leak when doing this wrong, the front crank seal and the cover itself, usually antifreeze and sometimes oil. 

Here is my install procedure:

  • Clean both the block and the cover mating surfaces with a razor blade and then with something like thinner to get all the grease off both.
  • Drive out the old and install the new crank seal.  The lip with spring go to the inside of the cover.  Use a seal driver to install the seal, I like to set the cover on a block of wood, set the seal in square, carefully set the driver on the seal and one good whack will get it started squarely into the cover.  If the outer seal gets mangled a bit, you better bet the seal won't do it's job, so drive it out and start over.
  • Reclean the mating surfaces on the cover.
  • Using a few bolts and the gasket you plan to use, mock up the cover on the block.  Remember to put your oil slinger on the crank first if you're planning to use it.  Put the seal and cover on the block, use the crank spacer to hold the cover in place and finger tight screw a few bolts in.  If you're using a lower repair seal with the oil pan still on the block, make sure to mock it up on there too.  If the whole cover appears to sit too high, the bolt holes wont line up and the crank spacer wont easily slide in, you may need to use a thinner lower gasket or no gasket at all.  If you're using a new water pump, now is the time to mock it up too.  I had to clearance the bolts on the back of my pump a bit to get it to clear the cover.  Check that the oil slinger isn't binding up against the cover, if so you've probably got the wrong one, it is installed backwards (the inner part of the slinger should mate against the lower timing sprocket) or the timing set isn't all the way seated.
  • With a bright flashlight, get a good look at the crank spacer.  Visually look at the seal all the way around the spacer.  If you're using a redi-sleeve, it's edge absolutely must not be anywhere near the outer seal lip or it will destroy the outer part of the seal.  If this is the case, give one of the FE parts suppliers a call and get a new crank spacer.  I had this occur and there was no sleeve I could find that was longer to get the sleeve edge away from the seal, so new spacer it was.
  • Look at the bolt that is just below the water pump housing on the upper left of the cover.  It goes all the way into the cooling passage.  Remember this, you'll need to seal the threads on this bolt or a coolant leak will occur.
  • Look at the upper bolt holes, one or more of them may go into the lifter valley, you'll need to seal the threads on these bolts too.  On my 428 block both uppers go all the way into the lifter valley, on my 390 only one did. Now is good time to mock up the rest of the bolts to make sure they are not too long/short and make adjustments if needed.
  • Pull everything back off the front of the motor.
  • Coat both sides of the front timing gasket with Right Stuff.  Use a very thin coat here, it's a bee-otch to get off even with that.  If using a lower timing cover repair seal, do the same to it.  Put a drop of oil into the seal and smear it around.  Make sure the spring on the seal is still there.
  • You remembered your oil slinger, right?  Install that next.
  • Carefully put the timing cover on the block, use the crank spacer to help hold it.  Very carefully slide the spacer into place.  Install the bolts, the small ones go up top, the four larger ones go on the bottom four bolt holes, two per side.
  • Remember the bolt that goes into the water passage, make sure it's threads get a coat of sealant.  The two uppers that go into the lifter valley, same story.
  • Torque the cover bolts to 15lbs.  Wipe any excess sealant off now before it dries.
  • Get out that flashlight again and visually inspect the spacer and crank seal.  What you are looking for here is that the seal did not curl under when the spacer was slid in.  If it did, you need to try to pull the spacer in and out and get it to seat the seal correctly.  If you dont correct this you'll have a waterfall of oil within several minutes after startup.  I had to very carefully use a hook set to pull the seal out because try as I might, I couldn't get it to not curl under when I installed my new crank spacer.  If the spring falls off, don't panic, you can use a hook set and someone with small fingers to get it back on the seal, just take your time.
  • Install the damper.  Again look at that front crank spacer if you're using a redi-sleeve, you'll likely need a mirror as the damper now blocks your line of sight.  If by installing and torquing the damper down the edge of your sleeve is riding on the seal you're hosed and need to pull the damper back off and remove the spacer and get a new one or attempt to locate a redi-sleeve that is longer to get the edge away from the seal.  Install the rest of the front accessories.

That is my proceedure that has thusfar worked very well.  The most important things I've noticed are the two bolts that go into the lifter valley not being sealed, the one bolt going into the coolant passage not being sealed, a crank spacer redi-sleeve that chews up the outer crank seal or a crank seal that curls under when the spacer is installed.  Any of those will cause a leak quickly on startup.


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Re: *THE* definitive guide to leakless FE front timing cover installation.
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2012, 12:02:37 PM »
I would add one comment to your excellent procedure (which pointed out some things that I've never noticed, by the way).  If you look at an old Ford service manual you will see that they have an alignment tool to install the front cover.  It is basically a sleeve that fits over the crank, and the outside diameter fits into the seal bore on the front cover.  Using this tool you achieve perfect alignment of the cover opening to the crank.  Without it, you can have a misalignment, because the bolts holding the cover on will allow the cover to move around somewhat.  If you don't get it perfectly aligned, some parts of the seal will be compressed against the crank more than others, and the parts of the seal with less compression against the crank can weep oil.  Using the tool, you bolt on the front cover before putting the crank sleeve in place.

I made one of these tools quite a few years ago on my lathe, and use it for every FE timing cover.  This tool has eliminated front seal leaks on my engines.
Jay Brown
- 1969 Mach 1, Drag Week 2005 Winner NA/BB, 511" FE (10.60s @ 129); Drag Week 2007 Runner-Up PA/BB, 490" Supercharged FE (9.35 @ 151)
- 1964 Ford Galaxie, Drag Week 2009 Winner Modified NA (9.50s @ 143), 585" SOHC
- 1969 Shelby Clone, Drag Week 2015 Winner Modified NA (Average 8.98 @ 149), 585" SOHC



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Re: *THE* definitive guide to leakless FE front timing cover installation.
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2012, 01:09:59 PM »
That sounds like an excellent tool.  Along with all the other parts you're working on, these would be a great addition to the FE specialty tool arsenal.  I'd gladly buy one. 


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Re: *THE* definitive guide to leakless FE front timing cover installation.
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2012, 01:13:32 PM »
^^^ I read about that alignment tool in a few books but could not locate one in time for my reassembly. I simply installed the cover with a good application of right stuff and a few bolts finger tight. I then carefully slid the spacer in. I checked the clearance all the way around by eyeball and made adjustments by tapping the cover with a dead blow mallet until it looked like even spacing all the way around. Had to make some smaller adjustments as I added and tightened the remaining bolts as the cover will move a bit as the sealant gets compressed.

Thanks for the reminder on those through holes drdano. I'm a bit embarassed to say I forgot all about them when I installed my cover. Looking at this pic right after I pulled the block I can clearly see daylight through the two upper holes and it sure looks like there is a little coolant leaking from the second hole on the left side.

Honestly, I probably used too much right stuff and I know some got pulled down the bolt threads as I installed them.. that probably inadvertently saved my bacon on the through holes as I've seen no leakage so far. I'll be keeping my eye on them as I break the motor in though.   


Tried to scan the page with the timing cover alignment tool (step 16) and it came out pretty lousy:

But you can read the part number FWIW.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2012, 01:41:04 PM by amdscooter »


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Re: *THE* definitive guide to leakless FE front timing cover installation.
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2012, 07:40:10 PM »
I have not had issues on the frontside but then again i use the right stuff and alot of it. And redi sleeves never hurt.