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98 Contour 2.0L Zetec VCT - no power.

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  • 98 Contour 2.0L Zetec VCT - no power.

    Driving at about 30mph with no prior symptoms, this Contour suddenly lost all (90%+ anyway) power. The engine continued to run and didn't sound bad. I was able to limp it into a parking lot. At this point, the engine started and idled fine but application of the gas just inched the car foward and back (drive and reverse). It also had a growly (deep low sound) exhausty sound at the motor when I'd rev the engine in park.

    Since the repair shop was only a half mile down the road, I decided to try to inch it there rather than call for a tow. Eventually, the car was able to gain more speed (up to 30 mph) but then completely died (the engine stopped) as I pulled into the lot. At this point the car would no longer start. A shop mechanic, only by opening the hood and cranking it over, diagnosed that it needed a timing belt and quoted $850 to fix it.

    Long story short, I had a friend of a friend DIYer try to fix it at a reduced ($500) rate. He said the timing belt was tight but shredded on one side. He replaced the TB but said there were issues with the VCT solenoid which, of course, would require more $$$. He wasn't confident and so we parted ways.

    So - I'm trying to wrap my head around what happened and what really needs to be done. Currently, the engine runs terribly rough and dies soon after starting it - which makes me think its not properly timed. My questions are these:

    1. What may have originally caused the loss of power?
    2. Could this same problem have then damaged the TB?
    3. With a new TB, shouldn't the engine run fine again regardless of any problems with the VCT solenoid?
    4. Any other input is appreciated - except for the part about hiring someone I dont know... that lesson I've learned well.

    Thanks all.
    98 GL Zetec 2.0L VCT

  • #2
    1. The loss of power was probably that ur timing belt jumped a tooth or a few teeth possibly.

    2. yes

    3. yes and no, the VCT system varies the timing + or - 1degree, so it is critical that everything is lined up INCLUDING THE VCT SYSTEM.

    4. If the VCT wasn't set correctly, ur engine should run fine, except you will get DTC's for the VCT system (check engine light)

    he did a really sh**ty job because it sounds to me that he didn't even get the base timing set correctly so your engine can't run right.

    Sorry for being so blunt, but the PCM can only compensate so much for offset timing and contours are very picky and the timing has to be perfect.

    Timing a contour isn't to difficult: in a VERY SMALL nutshell:
    1. buy around 30$ tool kit (includes flat bar for cams and pin for VCT system)
    2. Get to the timing belt (Hardest part is getting to it)
    3. install toolkit and replace belt (telling how to install is a whole other article...which is on this site)
    4. Reverse step 2

    Look under ZETEC HOW-TO and ZETEC Maintanence, you will find lots of info regarding changing a timing belt.
    4cyl auto 95 Contour GL (with that weird teal color)

    Scotty Does Know!!!


    • #3
      Thanks Scotty. I appreciate the insight - and bluntness.
      98 GL Zetec 2.0L VCT


      • #4
        Originally posted by homeuser View Post
        Thanks Scotty. I appreciate the insight - and bluntness.
        Anytime dude, don't mention it.
        4cyl auto 95 Contour GL (with that weird teal color)

        Scotty Does Know!!!


        • #5
          Someone should try to time an engine to within one degree with a rubber belt. They would find out it is virtually impossible. The belt stretches more than that in give and take error just turning over by hand. VCT moves way more than 1 or 2 degrees in actual operation, motor will never see that amount as changing the exhaust dilution enough to notice. Anything within 2-3 degrees max error should work fine, as long as the PCM viewed working range is within the VCT mechanical limitation. PCM will re-index the 'zero' point based on the physical lug location that cam sensor picks up on. That lug location and the range of VCT cylinder are in lockstep together, that's why loosening VCT sprocket can get you problems.


          • #6
            baby steps...

            So - I'm trying to tackle re-timing this thing myself. I'm nothing close to a mechanic but I'm working through some pretty decent instructions to see if I can manage it. Can someone point me to the location of the right-hand and left-hand engine support insulators? The instructions I'm following say to loosen their center bolts two turns before I remove the engine front support insulator (which I can see from above).

            Is my understanding correct that:

            A) the front engine support is on the passenger side
            B) the right-hand support is near the front bumper
            C) the left-hand insulator is at the firewall side of the engine

            Also, are the right and left hand insulators accessible from underneath the engine (which I presume), or from above?

            I'm likewise trying to follow the timing belt "How-to" (which has really helped thus far) but it doesn't mention removing the front engine support insulator which I apparently have to remove to get the upper timing belt cover off.

            Thanks all!
            98 GL Zetec 2.0L VCT


            • #7
              You only need to remove the passenger side motor mount (support) a block of wood and a floor jack is also a good idea used under the oil pan.

              But I will say this. You have to free wheel both cam gears on this setup. Lots will say no no no, I'm sorry but from my own experence with these engines both VCT and Non VCT 2.0L it makes it 1000 times easier to get timing dead on. That also includes using a locking kit to lock-up the cams and the crank shaft.

              The VCT itself is neutral when not active, it will only retard timing on the exhaust cam, this is not for power, this is to lock exhaust gases in the piston chamber alittle longer to cool it down, this is how they did away with the EGR valve on that engine. It's pretty much on/off operation thew oil pressure controlled by a solenoid it's not a duty cycle solenoid so it doesn't controll travel of the VCT just turns it on or off.

              Free wheeling the VCT will not get you into any trouble at all. Most people will think they have to preload it when they take the belt off and see the VCT snap back, this is just the spring return.

              If you don't free wheel the sprockets, after you do manage to fight the belt on trying to get the slack over to the side with the tensioner, and then you tension the belt you'll most likely find you will have a problem getting the locking bar out of the end of the camshafts. Thats because now you have all this pressure trying to force the cams to move backwards.

              I'm not a know it all, but I know how to time this engine dead on. Get the locking kit, or a bar that fits and a bolt that will lock the crankshaft or the pin that comes with the kit.

              Access to a airgun will make taking the crankshaft pully bolt off a walk in the park, if it's a MTX no problem with a breaker bar put it in gear and have someone hold the brake. If its a ATX well then you have to find a way to lock the flywheel. Usally taking the starter out.

              For the cam sprockets you will need a torx T55. On the VCT a 12point deepwell 16mm socket will work on the inverted torx inside after you take the oil cap off the outside. Also there is flats for a wrench on the camshafts. Never use the locking bar to hold the cams while tightening or loosening the sprocket bolts.

              After you free wheel the cams and everything is locked up. You can start on the right side of the engine at the crank sprocket going up to the exhaust sprocket over the the intake and then just pull on the belt on the tensioner side to pull the slack out and slip it onto the tensioner, then you can tension the belt to the marker on the tensioner. You will see the cam sprockets rotate backwards as you do this. Then tighten up the cam sprocket bolts while holding the camshaft with a wrench.

              After that, remove the locking tool from both cam and crank and spin the engine clockwise by hand using the crank pully bolt. Do it 4 rotations which is 2 engine cycles. And if everything was done correctly you should be able to reinstall both locking tools. If done any other way I highly doubt you will be able to reinstall the locking tool into the end of the cams.
              98 Mercury Mystique LS 2.5L MTX 141k
              88 Katana 600cc 5200k


              • #8
                Thanks JD. That helps.

                Lastly, since a new timing belt is already installed - though (I think) the timing is off since it runs so poorly - do I need to actually remove the new belt or just loosen everything up, set the cams and crank properly and reset the timing... or must a remove the belt and reinstall it?

                Thanks again to you all.
                98 GL Zetec 2.0L VCT


                • #9
                  Jeez this is complex on these cars! When I did the timing belt on my 1995 SHO I just lined up the dots on the sprockets/crank with the timing marks on the belt... Went in through the splashguard to get access to everything. Sheesh, silly Zetecs...
                  -00' Contour SVT #1245 of 2150. Trubendz Borla exhaust, BAT Catted Y, Spec shifter, Injen CAI, NPG Big Brakes, Modded Sunroof.
                  -98' Mustang GT. PI Engine, exhaust, Cobra front bumper/R hood, 3.73s, deep dish Bullitt rims, lowered, lots of other stuff.


                  • #10
                    Thanks all.

                    Just wanted to say thanks to all who have posted timing belt info/tips/etc. - on this thread and throughout the site. This weekend, I managed to retime this engine and get it running smoothly. I wouldn't have been able to pull it off except for the resources and tips here.

                    Thanks again.
                    98 GL Zetec 2.0L VCT


                    • #11
                      Makes you wonder why someone would charge $850 for this job, for someone who knows what they are doing, it is like a one hour job.

                      One thing I did was put my own timing marks on the camshaft sprockets when they were aligned with the slots, so if I do replace the belt, I won't have to pull the stupid valve cover.
                      1996 Contour GL, Zetec 2.0, 4 speed automatic (CD4E)


                      • #12
                        I guess I spoke too quickly. The Check Engine light eventually came on and it's a bit sluggish. I think the timing is a bit off. Looks like I'll be doing this again. =/ I rounded up a TDC pin (didn't use it on the first go 'round) and will give it another try. Any tips on getting the plug out so I can install the TDC pin? I see the plug below the #4 cylinder but getting to it has been terribly frustrating so far.
                        98 GL Zetec 2.0L VCT


                        • #13
                          Your turning the right bolt correct. It's kinda bellow that sensor. Never really had one stuck into the engine block.
                          98 Mercury Mystique LS 2.5L MTX 141k
                          88 Katana 600cc 5200k