1987 Motorhome - getting the correct idle/timing - 460 Ford Forum
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-23-2019, 06:09 PM Thread Starter
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1987 Motorhome - getting the correct idle/timing

I have 1987 E-350 cutaway, C-6 3-speed automatic, carbureted 460 with all the smog equipment and the vacuum octopus intact and as far as I know, functioning properly. I bought it at around 53k and it has about 56k on it now.
In an effort to address a lack of power/increase in temperature under load issue it’s had since I bought it, I’ve gone through the fuel system:
Put on a remanufactured carb, replaced fuel return valve; in-line filter on the frame; fuel pump, blew out the lines and cleaned the tank.
Gone through the electrical system:
Plugs, ceramic coated wires, new cap, coil and ignition module.
New air filter, too.
Keeping it in second up hills helps, but I have to mash my foot to the floor to get the secondaries to open up; then it pulls like crazy and I have to back off, starting the process again. But hey, it took us from MA to Lancaster County PA and back.
The last bit I had to try was the timing. It was about 6 or 8 degrees BTDC, and I read 10-12 was the place to be. I tried to move that sucker for two years but it was corroded in place. Had enough in December ‘18 and with a sawzall, tiny chisel and a 3-pound sledge, I got that thing out. New one went in the right way and she started right up. I set my timing to 10 degrees BTDC (at operating temp, dropped to under 800 rpm, in neutral, vac advance unplugged and the line capped). Purrs like a kitten. I went to plug in the vac line and it dies immediately.
Okay, I figured I’d have to adjust the idle back up to where I dropped it from. I keep upping the idle until it no longer dies. I get to a point where it doesn’t die (around 1200, which I think is high) and it runs like crap: engine shaking/backfiring occasionally. I unplug the vac and bring it back to 800 and put the timing light on to see what it does. I realize the vacuum source is manifold and the timing wants to advance A LOT. I try to lower the idle, but no matter how much I back off the screw, I cannot get lower than 700-750.
What am I overlooking?
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-23-2019, 06:17 PM
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Put a timing light on it , plug and unplug the vacuum line to the vacuum advance and watch the timing . sounds like the timing is retarding with the vacuum hooked up, if it is the pickup is wired backwards - swap the orange and purple wires around
Frank
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-23-2019, 09:06 PM
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hi, WHEN YOU HAVE THE timing light on it watch it if it bounces around the chain is bad.. Also their may be a big spacer under the carb if you didn't change the gasket too it is notorious for leaking at the back where the PCV is hooked to. If you turn the mixture screws in the motor should die. if it don't you have a vacuum leak
good luck
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-24-2019, 06:21 PM Thread Starter
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Frank Merkl:
Thank you for chiming in - I appreciate it. The timing is advancing. I went from 10 BTDC to past 30 BTDC before it dies (VERY quickly). I checked those wires. They are different colors on the replacement distributor, but they appear to be in the same place (there's a wedge shape on the dizzy wall plug that looks the same).
pedal2themetal45:
Again, thanks for your input. The timing is rock solid - no slop. Today, I took some carb cleaner (and then some starting fluid) and doused the area around the carb, the EGR, the octopus, the smog crap - nothing. I had a fire extinguisher just in case - though at this point, I'm tempted to let it burn. I've had problems with the vacuum delay valve (it was partially melted when I got it and hadn't realized it for more than a year after owning it), but my connections have been solid.
The big thing I did since I last drove it all over the place was put in a new distributor and advance the timing a touch. Kinda peeved I can't at least get back to where I was.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-25-2019, 11:05 AM
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So the vacuum advance is advancing the timing over 20 deg when connected? Since it's manifold vacuum you're using,I'm guessing the new dist is set up for ported vac.If you didn't cut it half,try using the old advance,set the timing to factory specs and work up from there to see if it helps. Those reman dist fit in the hole but they could be about anything. Or...try it the way it sits with ported vacuum.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-27-2019, 11:39 AM Thread Starter
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thermod:
Thanks for commenting. I got the distributor from RockAuto, so no one there was able to help me understand what it is I have, though I can say it certainly looked the same and moved the same. I've also looked online to see what comes up with regard to distributor set-up and came up empty there too. That old advance is now a mess, so it is unusable. Then I tried using ported vac on it. It idled okay, and I gave it a few light revs and it seemed alright. After it started getting warm, I put it in gear to see if it would move out of its parking spot, and with the e-brake still holding on, the motor had something to work against. However, once I got into the throttle, there was a backfire out the carb and it died. I'm a little leery of pushing it and braking something inside to motor. Once I get a replacement vacuum delay valve I broke when I was checking the octopus, I'll hook up everything the way it was and back off the distributor advance to 8 or 6 BTDC, where it was before all this nonsense, and see where that puts me.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-27-2019, 04:50 PM Thread Starter
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What if, when I put the new distributor in, I was a cog off?
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-29-2019, 11:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YellowStone View Post
What if, when I put the new distributor in, I was a cog off?
That's a possibility but not an issue if you still have enough travel on the dist to set the timing correctly.The rotor can go down anywhere as long as the firing order and #1 correspond.
Back to your problem...rising temp- It's hard to over heat those things if the fan clutch is OK and the giant radiator is clean and I might have it cleaned for assurance.Is the cat converter still on it? If so, might be plugged causing your power loss.Start at the beginning.It was running halfway decent till you changed a bunch of stuff,sooo,something you replaced almost has to be the problem.You'll figure it out.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-01-2019, 04:06 PM Thread Starter
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I thought about that more after the idea originally came to me. I figured the important part was the relationship of the rotor to the cap/distributor body, rather than the rotor to any particular position to the engine block.
I hooked up the new VDV & set the timing back to around 7 BTDC. Still dies. I figure SOMETHING has to be wrong with the advance on this distributor.
I reached out to Cardone, the (re)manufacturer. If you saw the first e-mail I received in reply, you'd understand why I have no faith in them at all. So, I went to the local Federated and that guy would have sold me the same part. Meaning, I believe I have the correct part and that there isn't some strange set-up needed. The Federated guy recommended two things: put #1 at TDC and make the distributor look like the picture in the service manual; and check for continuity in the wires coming out of the stator if you wiggle the wires. Well, for laughs, I've got the engine set at #1 TDC and may take the distributor out and put it back in - just to say I tried it. As for continuity, I couldn't get a signal out of the plug at all (while there are two wires going from the stator to the plug, the plug has three prongs - I tried various combinations of the three).
Thermod:
I changed a bunch of stuff then ran the heck out of it last year (ME, NH, PA). Only after traveling all year and putting it away did I take out the distributor - This was the one change I made since it ran okay.

Let's say I re-set the distributor in the block (like the service manual shows) and, like I expect, there will be no change: Does anyone have something else to try before I just throw another distributor at it?
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-02-2019, 05:24 PM Thread Starter
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Turns out ol' Stan from Cardone wasn't totally useless. On top of sending me the directions to time the engine from the shop manual (thanks, Stan, but I own the 5-volume set and I'm already past that point), he sent me a page from ALLDATA. On a chart titled "Engine degrees at rpm, no load, in addition to basic timing setting. Mechanical advance distributors only." there are two distributors listed for the 460: Number E3HE-BA and E4HE-AA (the hyphen stands for 12127, the part number for all Ford distributors). Not only that, but it lists both the total and centrifugal advance for each (32.0-41.3 Total, 14.5-18.8 Cent for E3HE; and 34.0-43.3 Total, 10.5-14.8 Cent for E4HE).
What I don't know is: Are there any others? Is there a vacuum advance rating? Which did mine have originally? If there was a tag on the distributor it's gone now, and the only number stamped on the body is 12127 - not a lot of help.
What this does is give credence to the idea that one size does not fit all. So, if any old-timers know any old-timers who know their heavier trucks.....
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-03-2019, 06:44 AM
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You may need to limit the vac advance travel.On some older fords,the canister had a removable end where you could adjust the tension with shims and adjust the travel with different lengths of slugs in lieu of a better word.You might try this...
https://www.summitracing.com/parts/crn-99607-1
for the tension and limit the travel with a screw in the plate under the rotor. Hard to explain how to do this but I'm sure there's a U tube vid that covers it. If you're convinced that's the problem.
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-04-2019, 03:28 PM Thread Starter
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SOLVED!
thermod: you were correct. The innards were not the same between the two distributors. I hacked up the plate the stator sits on, and messed up the plug something fierce on the old distributor, but the vacuum canister & rod; and the weights underneath the stator plate were still usable. I switched everything this morning. She started right up, I timed her to 10 BTDC, and she held idle at 30BTDC when I plugged the distributor back in.
It remains to be seen if the slightly advanced timing has an effect on drive-ability, but bottom line: I'm out of the doghouse!
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