I have a 1952 Ford pickup–6 cyl. just replaced the timing chain–12 pins on the chain --ok–as this is a 4 stroke engine–my ? is at what point should the spark on the dist.open at top dead center–open -close-open as the exhaust stroke hit’s TDC??

You have the camshaft in time. Check the distributor rotor to confirm that it is pointing toward the #1 spark plug wires terminal. If so, complete the reassembly of the engine and then set the point gap and then the timing. The ignition timing cannot be set at the chain.

It is pointing at the #1 plug–I could be a tooth off–just get a pop --won’t start:(((

Without the rotor and wires on there, how do you know it’s about to “open the points” for the #1 plug?

rod, why do you say the cam is in time, it does not look right to me. As I recall, it was pretty universal to have the two dots pointing toward each other with #1 @ TDC. That is the dot on the crank gear would be at the top and the dot on the cam gear would be at the bottom. That was for all vehicles.

Both valves on #1 would be fully closed and the valves for #6 would both be partially open. Temporarily put the distributor cap on the distributor and mark on the side of the distributor where the #1 spark plug wire goes. After confirming the valves, remove the distributor cap and line up the rotor with the #1 position you just marked on the body.

Insert the distributor in until you feel the gears start to mesh, pull back slightly and rotate the rotor back two teeth. You have to do this by feel. Then slide the distributor in and the rotor should turn to the mark you made. If not, pull out and adjust and try again.

Once the distributor is in, rotate the engine to the position that you want the initial timing set to. On this type engine you can rotate them backwards for a little bit. You should be looking at 4-8°BTDC. Check your specs. Now rotate the distributor body until the points just begin to open and clamp it down there. It should start right up and the timing should be within one degree of where you want it (vacuum line disconnected).

I’m assuming the cam/crank timing marks are properly aligned per the Ford spec. And the distributor timing is at least close, by the proper tuning of the distributor so that the ignition rotor is pointing to number 1 at the crank pulley mark TDC. But it still won’t start?

hmmm … well, it is possible you have it set up 180 degrees off. Remember on a 4 cycle engine there are two times each cycle when the number 1 cylinder hits TDC. At the top of the compression stroke, and the top of the exhaust stroke. There’s no way to tell which one you have just by looking at the crank pulley. They will appear to be identical.

You want it set up so the ignition rotor is pointing to the number 1 cylinder wire on the top of the compression stroke. The way to tell is to remove the number 1 spark plug, put a wooden dowel in and watch the dowel move up and down while an assisant turns the crank pulley (in the correct forward direction for the engine) by hand. Once you get the idea of when piston is nearing the top by looking at the dowl, then remove the dowl and listen if there is a big air flow out of the spark plug hole on this upstroke. If not, then that is probably the exhaust stroke, which is the wrong one to align to. Try it. Eventually you’ll determine which is the compression stroke, then align to that.

Caution: Be very careful. Don’t place your finger near to or blocking the spark plug hole. It could get sucked into the hole if it is there during the downward phase of the piston. The suction forces are very high. I think I heard one mechanic here say they use the adapter hose part of their compression tester and listen for the air flow from the hose.

Rod, my apologies, the cam timing is correct. Ranito2, just follow my instruction for the distributor and it should start right up.

@Keith, that Ford engine and a few other engines over the years timed the camshaft by counting links from mark to mark or often using bright links.

To set the ignition timing without a timing light a 12v test light will work. Set the crank at the desired timing mark and connect the timing light to the coil (-) and battery (+) and move the distributor slowly alternating from clockwise to counter clockwise until you find the exact position where the light goes out. That is the position where the plug will spark. But first you might need to confirm that the distributor is not 1/2 turn (180*) out. If cranking results in popping it is likely that the distributor needs to be reset. Have you had the distributor out?

quick way to test for TDC is to stuff a shop rag in the plug hole of the #1 cylinder, when it pops out you’re there.

I’ll second @RodKnox that older Ford engines weren’t properly timed with the “dots” pointed at each other but rather by counting the number of links between them.

You’re showing your age @asemaster.

@RodKnox What age would that be? I’m only 43! Does that mean I’m wise beyond my years or that I liked messing around with old cars?

Well I learned something. Never would have guess the dots don’t point at each other. That’s why nobody pays me.

On my 70’s Ford V8 truck the alignment dots – when properly aligned – point to each other. In other words, an imaginary line segment drawn between the two sprocket centers intersects with both dots. But the procedure according to my manual says it is more than just aligning the dots. To verify the chain timing you have to go through a routine where the slack is taken up in both directions, one by one, by hand turning the crank slightly backwards, then slightly forward.

Whether this applies to a 50’s Ford, I have no idea.

I took a look at my 52+ Motors book and it clearly shows the dots and the 12 pins between. Also shows aligning the dots, just depending on what engine, and well past 52 and V8 too. It was news to me.