How-To: Quick Timing Belt Alignment
Written by: Brian Schulteis aka "Una"
(c) Copyright 2006
Want a fast way to re-align your timing belt after removing the head? Going by the book requires pulling all the pulleys and plastic covers off the bottom of the engine. There IS an easier way!
STEP ONE: Get the cam sprocket where it needs to be. The little whole should be pointing upward, and the two arrows should be aligned with the seam on the cam cap. Obviously I took this picture after the belt was back on. Pay no attention to that minor detail.
STEP TWO: Rotate the crankshaft to top dead center. Don't worry, our motors are non interference, you won't bend any valves. Try to get the mark as close to the 0 in your window as possible. Automatic owners.. Be aware your torque converter has TWO marks.. Make sure you have TDC by shining a light down the sparkplug hole on cylinder 1. Your piston should be easily seen. Manual tranny owners don't have this problem. As you can see in my picture, I was about 1 degree off, as I took these pictures after installing my belt, my head must have been shaved a tad knocking the alignment out a small amount.
STEP THREE: Remove the 13mm bolt that holds the distributor still, along with the bracket it holds down. Remove the cap from the distributor so you can see the rotor. Now pull the distributor out of the block. Look down the hole and you'll see a slot in there, using a large screwdriver (make sure the timing belt is nice and slack) rotate that slot to be parallel to to front of the block.
STEP FOUR: You can now re-install your timing belt. Make sure the three items you already aligned remain aligned while you install the belt. Make sure your tensioner is loose before you try to put the belt on. Once it's up on all 3 pulleys, tighten up your tensioner. How tight? I try to get it so it's got no slop, but also no tension, you don't want to be trying to stretch the belt at all, you also want it tight enough that it's not going to jump a tooth. So get it somewhere in between those two extremes. If you see it flapping a little with the engine running, it's probably just right.
STEP FIVE: Point the rotor on your distributor towards the 10 o'clock position and re-install. You'll probably have to wiggle the rotor a little as you insert it to get the distributor drive to drop into the slot. The slot is perfectly centered, so you don't have to worry about having that 180degrees out. Once the distributor is in, re-install the holdown assembly, and position the flat side of the distributor parallel to the block. That's all there is to it, re-install the cap, put the spark plug back in cylinder 1 if you had to remove it and put the plug wire back on it. Make sure the two pickup wires coming off the distributor are plugged in. With the flat side of the distributor parallel to the block like this, your timing will be very very close. You'll have no problem firing up your engine. Make sure you check the ignition timing before you drive your car though, as it's not perfect.
NOTE: This technique was not created by me, I'm not taking credit for it. I'm simply illustrating and publishing the technique to save fellow TurboDodge enthusiasts some time and work. Feel free to email me with comments/corrections.