See Figures 1 through 7
The 2.3L Mustang engine utilizes a timing belt to drive the camshaft from the crankshaft's turning motion and to maintain proper valve timing. Some manufacturer's schedule periodic timing belt replacement to assure optimum engine performance, to make sure the motorist is never stranded should the belt break (as the engine will stop instantly) and for some (manufacturer's with interference motors) to prevent the possibility of severe internal engine damage should the belt break.
Although the 2.3L engine is not listed as an interference motor (it is not listed by the manufacturer as a motor whose valves might contact the pistons if the camshaft was rotated separately from the crankshaft) the first 2 reasons for periodic replacement still apply. Ford does not publish a replacement interval for this motor, but most belt manufacturers recommend intervals anywhere from 45,000 miles (72,500 km) to 90,000 miles (145,000 km). You will have to decide for yourself if the peace of mind offered by a new belt is worth it on higher mileage engines.
But whether or not you decide to replace it, you would be wise to check it periodically to make sure it has not become damaged or worn. Generally speaking, a severely damaged belt will show as engine performance would drop dramatically, but a damaged belt (which could give out suddenly) may not give as much warning. In general, any time the engine timing cover(s) is(are) removed you should inspect the belt for premature parting, severe cracks or missing teeth. Also, an access plug is provided in the upper portion of the timing cover so that camshaft timing can be checked without cover removal. If timing is found to be off, cover removal and further belt inspection or replacement is necessary.
CAMSHAFT TIMING INSPECTION
- Locate and carefully remove the access plug from the upper portion of the timing cover.
- Turn the engine CLOCKWISE (in the normal direction of rotation) to set the engine at Top Dead Center (TDC) of the No. 1 cylinder by aligning the O mark on the belt cover with the O mark on the crankshaft pulley.
If no timing mark is visible through the access cover when the O marks on the crank pulley and cover are aligned, the engine may be on No. 1 exhaust stroke and not the compression stroke (the camshaft is 180° away from No. 1 TDC). If so, the crankshaft must be rotated one full turn to bring the No. 1 piston back to the top and the camshaft around to close the No. 1 intake and exhaust valves.
- With the O marks aligned, look through the access hole in the cover to assure that the timing mark on he camshaft sprocket aligns with the pointer on the inner belt cover. If the belt timing is incorrect, the timing cover and belt must be removed for further inspection, possible replacement and correct installation. For more details, please refer to Engine & Engine Overhaul of this repair guide.
- If timing is correct, re-install the access plug.