Ask the Expert: Why do I need special tools for setting cam timing on many of today's engines?

Q: Why do I need special tools for setting cam timing on many of today’s engines?

A: Engines in today’s vehicles are very different from engines in the past. Remember when an engine had a carburetor, points, condenser and a distributor? With the use of a tachometer, dwell meter and a timing light you could have it running pretty smoothly. As emissions and fuel mileage requirements became tighter the engine design had to change also. Carburetors have been replaced with fuel injectors, points and condenser with control modules and the distributor has been eliminated, still not enough to keep up with emission and fuel mileage requirements.

Engine designs have become very high tech. The engine computer or computers are not only controlling fuel injection and ignition timing they are monitoring various inputs and outputs of the engine. Having the cam timing close is no longer an option, it has to be perfect for the engine computer to do its job to maintain emissions and fuel mileage requirements. Incorrect cam timing can cause the "check engine" light to come on or there may be strange drivability issues. Any time you service a timing belt or chain, remove a cylinder head or service the valve train, the cam timing has to be reset to OEM specification.

OTC has a vast assortment of cam timing kits and individual tools available for most Ford, GM and Chrysler vehicles on the road today. Included with the cam timing tools are the OEM procedures for using the tools to set cam timing. Visit your OTC tool distributor or go to for a complete listing of cam timing tools and applications.