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Home Emissions ‘Exploring’ Service Needs On The Ford 4.0L V6 Engine

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Rated at a rather anemic 210 horsepower, the 4.0L SOHC V6 is not exactly a high output engine. It also has an unusual overhead cam drive setup.

Unlike most other OHC V6 and V8 engines that drive both overhead cams directly from the crankshaft with a belt or chain, this engine has an intermediate jackshaft in the middle of the block where a pushrod cam would normally be located. the 4.0l sohc engine was found under the hood of many ford and related suvs and light trucks, as well as 2005-’10 mustangs.

A short timing chain on the front of the engine connects the crankshaft to the intermediate jackshaft. A second, longer timing chain behind the first chain connects the front of the jackshaft to the overhead cam on the left side of the engine.

A third timing chain in the back of the engine connects the rear of the jackshaft to the overhead cam in the right cylinder head. There is also a balance shaft in the crankcase of engines used in 4×4 trucks, which is driven by a fourth chain directly off the crankshaft.

Why Ford designed the cam drives this way is anyone’s guess. It probably allowed the engine to be shorter and more compact. But one of the unintended consequences of this fore-and-aft split cam drive arrangement is that it makes the timing chains, guides and tensioners VERY difficult to replace — which makes for an expensive repair when a chain guide or tensioner fails on one of these engines (a common problem on high mileage engines, especially if the owner has ­neglected regular oil changes).

Some of the early engines up through 2002 in the Ranger and Explorer have had a timing chain rattle problem due to the poor design of the original teflon chain guides. The noise is most noticeable when a cold engine is first started, and is usually loudest from 2400 to 3000 rpm.

The same noise problem can also develop in 2003 and newer high-mileage engines as a result of chain guide wear. In some instances, the guide may break and disintegrate and spew debris into the oil pan. This may also cause one of the timing chains to break (typically the front left chain).

Fortunately, the 4.0L SOHC is not an interference engine so a timing chain failure won’t bend the valves. But it does create an expensive repair for the vehicle owner.

Ford issued a TSB for the timing rattle problem and released a redesigned “‘cassette”‘ (the timing chain, gears, guide and tensioner assembly) for the left front timing chain. This timing chain cassette can be replaced without having to pull the engine out of the vehicle.

But, if the engine has a bad rear chain or guide, or a chain guide has failed and throws debris into the crankcase, you will have to remove the engine to make the required repairs. That includes removing the flywheel and flexplate so that the rear cam drive cassette can be replaced, and pulling the oil pan so any debris in the oil pan and oil pickup screen can be cleaned out.

You’ll also need a special tool kit (Ford or aftermarket) to hold the cams and tension the timing chains, and to prevent the crankshaft from rotating while you’re doing the cam drives. You’ll also need the proper puller to get the harmonic balancer off the crankshaft. one of the unintended consequences of the 4.0l’s fore-and-aft split cam drive arrangement is that it makes the timing chains, guides and tensioners very difficult to replace and an expensive repair when a chain guide or tensioner fails.  courtesy: cloyes gears

The redesigned Ford primary timing chain service kit includes an improved chain tensioner and chain guide, chain, jackshaft and sprockets. Kit number 2U3Z-6D256-AA is for balance shaft engines in 1999 to 2001 4×4 Explorer/Mountaineer, 2001 to 2002 4×4 Sport/Sport Trac and all 2002 Explorer/Mountaineer (except engine codes 2G-960-AA and 2G-964-AA). Kit number 2U3Z-6D256-BA is for non-balance shaft engines in 1999 to 2001 2WD Explorer/Mountaineer and 2001 to 2002 2WD Sport/Sport Trac, and all 2001 to 2002 Ranger.

If the head gasket is leaking, replacing the left head gasket can be done with the engine in the vehicle (assuming there is enough room to pull the head). But if the right head has to come off, the only way to remove the head is with the engine out of the vehicle because of the rear cam drive on the right head.

At this point, some might argue that it’s cheaper and easier to simply find a good used engine and replace the old motor rather than repair it. This might be a viable alternative IF you can find a good used low-mileage 4.0L SOHC V6 that can be swapped into your customer’s vehicle. a short timing chain on the front of the engine connects the crankshaft to the ­intermediate jackshaft.

But by the time many of these engines end up in a salvage yard, they don’t have a lot of miles left in them. A better option if your customer is willing to spend the money would be to install a remanufactured engine. A reman engine from a reputable supplier should be completely reconditioned to original specifications and come with an extended warranty.

Some suppliers offer a three-year or 36,000-mile warranty with their reman engines. That’s a better deal than the 30 day guarantee many salvage yards offer (which doesn’t include labor!).

If the engine in your customer’s vehicle has a timing chain rattle problem, and the engine has less than 100,000 miles on it, doing an oil change and using a light viscosity, pure synthetic oil can sometimes quiet the noise.

The lighter oil will flow to the timing chain more quickly following a cold start and reduce the noise somewhat. However, if the engine has a lot of miles on it (more than 100,000) or changing motor oils makes no difference, replacing the timing chain cassette(s) will likely be necessary to quiet the engine.

As we mentioned earlier, this is a rather involved repair procedure so always refer to the Ford service literature for the step-by-step details. If you try to wing it as you go, you’ll likely be in for some unpleasant surprises along the way.

The jackshaft drive gear and cam drive gear retaining bolts are TTY (torque-to-yield) and should not be reused. If you don’t replace these bolts with new ones, there’s a risk of breakage. The rear jackshaft bolt is also covered by a small circular plug on the back of the engine. It looks like a freeze plug but isn’t.

The front left chain ­tensioner can be tricky to extract because of its close proximity to the thermostat housing and coolant sensors. You may have to remove the thermostat housing if you can’t get the tensioner out with a wrench or deep socket.

The left (front) and right (rear) cam drive cassettes for this engine are different, and the design and quality of the parts can vary depending on the supplier. Some aftermarket suppliers buy their cam drive cassettes from the same original equipment supplier that Ford uses, while others do not. Since this is a labor-intensive repair that should only have to be done once, don’t try to save money on a no-name part. Go with the genuine Ford replacement parts or parts from a quality-brand aftermarket company.

Other “fun” parts to replace on this engine include the heated PCV valve on the back of the left valve cover. It’s out of sight and hard to reach with little clearance between the engine and firewall.

If the Check Engine light is on and you’re doing misfire diagnostics on a 2006 and up Explorer, a new scan tool PID that’s available on these ­models is the actual burn time of each individual spark plug. By comparing the spark durations, you can quickly see if a spark plug is fouled or a cylinder has low compression because the burn time for that cylinder will be longer. If you see a cylinder with a shorter burn time, it would tell you that cylinder is running lean or the spark plug gap in that cylinder is worn or set too wide.

On some 2005-’10 Mustangs with automatic transmissions, there can be an annoying vibration at idle, especially when the A/C is on. The problem is not the engine, but an exhaust ­vibration. Ford TSB 05-8-6 says the cure is to install a damper kit to dampen the annoying vibration. The kit is P/N 5R3Z-5F240-A.

The original equipment spark plugs are platinum with a 100,000-mile service interval. Make sure you install the correct replacement plugs because the ones for the 4.0L OHV pushrod engine are shorter and won’t position the electrode the correct distance into the combustion chamber.

Though Ford diehards tend to stick with the original Motorcraft brand spark plugs, any brand of spark plug will work in these engines provided the plug manufacturer has a listing for the engine application. The plug gap is 0.054” on most applications.

The crankcase oil capacity on the 4.0L SOHC V6 is 5 quarts, usually 5W-30 for the older vehicles and 5W-20 for the newer ones. Refer to the vehicle owner’s manual for the recommended viscosity.

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Larry Carley

Larry Carley

Larry Carley has more than 30 years of experience in the automotive aftermarket, including experience as an ASE-certified technician, and has won numerous awards for his articles. He has written 12 automotive-related books and developed automotive training software, available at
Larry Carley

Latest posts by Larry Carley (see all)

  • hogman

    This engine is an interference engine contrary to the expert’s statement above. If a chain breaks or gets out of time, the valves will definitely hit the pistons.

    • Moose

      Amen to that…Gotta love the experts…I have 6 damage pistons to prove it.

      • surfer dude 123

        So I am assuming that purchasing a 2001 Sport trac with 228000 klm with a slight chain noise would NOT be a good buy then?

        • Mark Tennant

          Could be a good buy if it’s being sold cheap enough to allow for the needed repairs

      • ArtOfKicking

        I have a hole in my block on the driver side now. Thank you ford for spending millions in R & D to build a piece of crap. BTW 42 thousand miles on factory approved rebuilt engine.

        • Mark Tennant

          How long is the warranty on it ?

  • Bob Schmelter

    A real good summary of the situation I am looking at. Having a 98 explorer and knowing the engine is basically quite good with the exception of water in the oil, ie head gasket. best to determine which side has the problem makes a big difference because, gulp, having to pull the engine out is a much larger step than I care for. .Is pulling/examining the spark plugs the best way or what device can I test with best to determine which side has the leak?

    • Sean Davis

      A clean plug might mean a blown head gasket or try a compression test,

      • Bob Schmelter

        Ok, thanks! Plan to pull the plugs and see whats up there..

        • Carl

          Look in the spark plug holes, the leaky cylinder will have a “steam cleaned” top visible in comparison to the others.

          • Bob Schmelter

            Also a good way! I just haven’t got to the job yet. Thanks.

          • Okc Dave

            Is everyone forgetting a compression test? Try that.

          • Kram Olegna Somar

            what if you dont have compression tester…
            it is too easy..
            now I ask you..
            if you put a fire with water and gasoline, which of them will burn first?
            obviously gasoline..
            so pull out the spark plugs.. then dry it.. then put it back.. then start the car.. then turn it off… then.. pull out again the spark plugs.. then notice them..
            which of them are wet looking?
            then you can confirm if it is the left ot the right head.. ot maybe both..

    • Rod Gilbert

      When a head gasket blows and water gets into that cylinder it acts like a steam cleaner making the plug like you sand blasted it to clean it off…You will definitely be able to tell the difference from your other plugs..When I was a ford tech, I would put water down the the intake slowly so as not to have to clean all the carbon from the inside compression chamber…Just make sure you don’t put to much water in to fast or you could hydro-lock the motor…Makes it nice not to have to clean baked on carbon off the inside though…Good Luck..Slow and easy, I used about a gallon of water to do this, before disassembly…

  • Bob Schmelter

    A really good article and perfect under my 98 Explorer situation, a head gone bad, water in oil, big back pressure into radiator. What is best way to easily determine which side is leaking?

    • KenFedUpWithPC

      Compression test or pull the plugs one at a time and see which one looks very clean.

  • Dixie

    2002 explorer sport track 4.0L V6 I had a coolant leak and replaced the water pump and thermostat… Still leaking water lots of water seems to be around manifold and left head….. No water in the oil Any suggestions also little triangle crack in manifold housing ford guy says its for water to come out

  • Art

    Can a 4.0 L v-6 SOHC engine out of a 2000 Ford Explorer XLT be put into a 2002 model with a 4.0 L ? If anyone can help…thanks a bunch

    • DMcC

      yep, any 4.0 SOHC long block will work from 97-2010, just swap out the pans and manifolds etc. I have a engine from a 2007 mustang in my 2002 explorer.

      • mike509

        Hi there, would like to replace my engine on 2002 mountaineer, the swap seems like best option, besides the oil pan and manifolds what else needs to be swapped over. Does the engine mount up to transmission. i have AWD willl that make it a problem? Any information would help? What would you look for as replacement. Low mile 2004-2007of better?

  • Wile E Coyote

    Are the bear8ng cap bolts torque to yield? I am building g a 4.0 SOHC and there is nothing in the Ford Shop DVD that says the bearing cap bolts cannot be reused, but they are to be torqued to a certain value then torqued again 57 degrees.

    • derp

      That means they’re torque to yield.

  • tim roe

    I have 2004 ford explorer idles and runs rough keep throwing code misfire cylinder 1 and gylinder 6 any help please ?

    • Shawn

      Sometimes it can be as simple as a plugged fuel filter that can cause this. Misfire can be caused by a shortage of fuel.

  • andre

    i just bought an explorer advanced trac rsc 2007 i changed the mass air flow sensor and i still have that rattling sound . can somebody help

    • Mark Tennant

      You need to find a mechanic who is trustable. Then be prepared to spend a lot of money to fix that engine

  • Gary

    can a 2000 4.0 in a 4×4 run in a 2001 2×2 sport? the 4×4 motor has a balance shaft?

  • Paul Shellenhamer

    i have a 2330 ford explorer with 4.0 sohc just rebuilt the heads due to timing failure have it all back together and now have what seams to be a Leakey exhaust in chamber 4 anyone know of a fix without pulling the head again?

    • amarkel

      Pull the head.

      • Paul Shellenhamer

        I said without point that had

      • Paul Shellenhamer

        Sorry darn auto correction I mean without pulling that head off the block

  • Ross Cypert

    How do I tell if it is the right or left head. Is it from the driver seat or from the front looking at the engine? If I am looking at engine it is the head on the right side. Is this the one that is replaceable without pulling the engine?
    Thank you for any and all help!

    • Tim

      In keeping it simple r

      egardless of the point of view where you are looking at it from; the left head is always the drivers side and right had is on the passenger side

      • dubrennoc

        Not in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

  • nino

    I have a 2003 mountanair 4.0 cylinder 1 2 and 3 misfire thinking a jumped timing chain

  • nino

    I have spark did a back pressure test I have injector pulse I have compession

  • Cobus Stander

    Hi guys, I have a 4.0 V6 Ford Ranger, which had a loud rattle. After opening engin, we found that nr 6 valve was bend and the chain tensoners was broken. After replacing all sprockets and chains as well as doing the heads, the vehicle was missing. After opening, the nr6 valve was bend again. We accepted that the engineers made a fault, so we redid the heads, ensured the timing was fine. After starting again, the missing was ok but there was a soft rattle, which we assumed was a lifter. After taking it for a short drive, the engine missed again. The fricking nr 6 valve was bend again???? Any ideas??

    • Bob

      Might sound a bit weird but if its only one valve you might find one of the lobes on the camshaft has moved or the shaft twisted so the timing marks all align and none of the other valves bend but the lobe lifting that valve had changed a few degrees heard of something similar on a bike happening

  • I’d like to know why its so hard to get a straight answer on whether or not this is a interference engine? So many people say it is, so many say it isn’t. is there a specific year where it is or isn’t? Why is it so complicated to get a straight answer?

    • Okc Dave

      It’s not complicated. When ford switched the cologne 4.0L to SOHC, in ’97 (there were also ’97 thru ’99 or so that could have used the older non-SOHC, OHV instead, it varies by model it was in), it was an interference engine and stayed that way until it was retired / replaced by the 3.7L. There are no 4.0L Ford SOHC that aren’t interference engines.

  • david love

    this is an interference motor. I bent the valves in my 2000 model 4LE series motor. I rebuilt the upper end and was told the motor was not an interference motor. I torqued the heads back down and my cams were not set yet. I bumped the motor to bring TDC and bent valves.

  • Susan Murray

    Buying a extended warranty policy for my 2002 ford explorer xlt 4.0 4wd with 139,500 miles. The warranty for 5 yrs. Covers only the lubricated parts inside the engine, trans, and housings etc that were damaged by oil lubricated covered parts. Please help. Is it worth the 5yr. 100,000 mi. Warranty for a single woman? Thanks

    • RobMorris

      Old explorers are a dime a dozen and you can probably replace yours with another for less than your extended warranty will cost

  • jason

    are you able to swap a cylinder head from an OHV engine onto an SOHC engine?

    • Seriously

      No. and not vice versa either…

  • simon

    My ford ranger V6 4l with automatic gear box doesn’t has enough torque in the reverse gear.This follows a sudden banging noise while the vehicle gear box level was in the reverse mode .The vehicle is still running smooth in the drive mode . Please help guys,thanks

  • Cecilia Rios

    Thank you for all this info!

    I have a 2000 ford explorer xlt v6 4.0 SOHC and my car has been making a terrible clicking noise for weeks. I took it to a mechanic who said my timing chains are loose. He knew I couldn’t afford that repair so he recommended I use a thicker oil like 5w-40 so the thicker oil can help the chains catch on. I am about to do an oil change this week. I was thinking of using that thicker oil and changing the tensioners for the chains to see if that could help. What would you suggest?

    • Mark Tennant

      If the oil change helps, great. If not don’t waste money doing a little fix when you know it needs all the chains

      • Okc Dave

        Did you read anything anyone has written?

        1) He was going to do an oil change. Switching to a different viscosity is FREE. However, many make the opposite suggestion that since it rattles most at cold startup, the answer is use a thinner synthetic oil so it flows to the tensioners faster, particularly since these engines have a higher than normal surge RPM when first started.

        2) It doesn’t need the chains either way. Unless the chains start banging really bad, they aren’t the problem, rather it needs the tensioners and cassette guides replaced. People just replace the chains ‘cuz it’s common sense when you have to pull the whole engine to do all the cassettes.

        3) With an old vehicle needing such a repair, it’s often no longer worth as much as the repair cost, so any little bit of money that makes it last a little longer, is just buying time till you find a replacement vehicle. Far better to have that time than to make a hasty choice because yours just died and you have to have a way to get back and forth to work.

        However like I already wrote, people were reporting better results from a lower viscosity synthetic, not higher viscosity. Some people also hold the accelerator pedal down for a few seconds when starting the vehicle (then release it) to starve it of gas so it cranks over more revolutions before it starts, pumps more oil before the high surge RPM from starting. However, that is obviously harder on an old starter and not the best bet in cold weather when you may need every bit of juice the battery has to get an old vehicle started, unless you feel like refurbishing that system too, or at least cleaning off the cable ends, starter stud and battery terminals which is FREE.

  • Catbird

    2006 Explorer; 4.0LV6; 115K; Bring it to shop with a slight tapping sound. 2 weeks later, new oil pump, new cam shaft, new timing chain set and (they say unusual) sheared timing shaft “key”. Still can’t find replacement key…$1400…maybe drive for another few years?

    • Mark Tennant

      Yes if it’s fixed now and running, you should be good for a long time . Hopefully the shop will warranty their work. Which shaft sheared its key ? Why couldn’t it be found ? All parts are readily available for this engine

      • Catbird

        Finally got truck back and it runs like new. 90 day warranty. There is a “tightness” to the engine when accelerating that I had forgotten about. I am unsure about the trouble they had finding the key, maybe that was a way of buying them some time to finish up. I asked for the story of why the thing went down and was told that he didn’t know for sure but presumed that the oil pump failed slowly, restricting flow to the camshaft. That was where the “tap” was originating and why the shaft was pressing against the alignment key. If I had not brought it in when I did, there would have been more damage. Funny, I never received a oil pressure warning of any sort.

    • texashaus

      I have a 4.0 had to replace timing chains had to use two 3lb hammers to help pull off harmonic balancer

  • Marvin Giron

    I have a Ford Explorer Sport V6 4.0 OHV, I’ve been having a lot of trouble removing the harmonic balancer. I’ve tried to use a Pulley, it just doesn’t budge. Any advice?

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