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TIMING CHAINS: Roller or Link?

Posted By simplyconnected 10 Years Ago
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simplyconnected
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In 1959, roller timing chains were all but unheard of.  Every 292 was fitted with a new link-type timing set, and they served their purpose well past the warranty period.

Over many miles, your engine wears, and starts hesitating.  It no longer gives that instant response that it did when it was new; something every car owner makes gas pedal adjustments for at every green light.  Many of today's 292's are still running on original parts, but a 'major' overhaul is inevitable.

  Today, link-type chain sets are still readily available everywhere.  In the racing world, roller chains reign supreme.  Roller sets are preferred over gear sets, too.  Link chains are still available at a third the price of a roller set, but are seldom used because roller sets last so much longer.

Here is discussion from the "Accelerator Pump Problem" link:

Ted (4/3/2009)

simplyconnected (4/1/2009)
Roller timing chains don't stretch nearly as bad as original chains, which makes them last three times longer.  You can tell a roller chain; it looks like two rows of bicycle chain side-by-side.  Original chains look like 'fingers' that grow and shrink as they flex around their sprockets.

Dave.  My experience has been that the link chains actually stretch at a slower rate than the roller type of chains.  I examined this in detail back in the Seventies and found that the stretch occurs specifically through the links themselves but this only applies to those applications where the link chains are actually wider than the alternative roller chain setups for the same application such as on the Y-Block or FE Fords.  A link chain in most applications simply has more connecting links between each pin thereby making the link belt type of chain more robust and less prone to stretching as compared to a roller type of chain that uses fewer connecting links between pins.  On those engine applications where the link chains and roller chains have the same number of connecting links, then the wear factor at the gears themselves becomes critical thus making a link chain the less desirable setup.  Friction or drag related to the two types of chains is a completely different topic however as the roller type of chains wins this contest easily.  And the different types of roller types of chains haven't even been touched upon here although chain elasticity has been brought up to a small degree.

Ted, I agree that link chains stretch at a slower rate, but they also stretch MUCH farther than a roller set.  I have a well-worn set from my 292.  Here's a picture of the original cam sprocket:

The chain was VERY sloppy, but what does the sprocket 'witness marks' tell?
*  First, the finger-grooves are on the leading AND lagging sides of each tooth.  If cam drag (valve train, oil pup and distributor gear train), were in one direction only, the wear pattern would be heavy on one side and light on the other.  These are about equal.
*  Crud at the bottom shows, the chain fingers stopped about half way down.

Here's a crank sprocket:

Again, same story.  This is the DRIVING GEAR, but it has wear on both sides, but only half way down each tooth.  I can tell the direction of rotation.  I can also see the wear from when the cam was actually driving the crank (when the driver got off the gas from high revs).

Double roller chain sets don't wear like this.  They don't have fingers that fold up.  Instead, they use hardened steel pins with bearing-sleeves that reduce friction by turning freely.  A roller chain incorporates much more precision but costs three times more than a link chain.  In this case, you get what you pay for.

Our 292's aren't a hot item any more, so fewer manufacturers make aftermarket parts for the Y.  The double roller chain is out there, but much harder to find than link chains.

This one is going in my Y-Block next week.

Dave

Royal Oak, Michigan (Four miles north of Detroit, and 12 miles NORTH of Windsor, Canada).  That's right, we're north of Canada.

Ford 292 Y-Block major overhaul by simplyconnected

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If anyone tells you that timing chain slop has nothing to do with your ignition timing, don't believe it.

You can see leading-edge sprocket wear  on both sprockets, from the pictures.  Coupled with chain stretch, your cam will lag its original timing at least six degrees before jumping a tooth or coming off. 

Timing slop shows when you use your timing light.  The damper pulley mark tends to jump around, which is exactly what happens when you're driving down the road.  When starting from a light, you always get that gas pedal lag because the cam is so far retarded.

That 'tight engine' feel always comes back as soon as you change your timing chain.

Royal Oak, Michigan (Four miles north of Detroit, and 12 miles NORTH of Windsor, Canada).  That's right, we're north of Canada.

Ford 292 Y-Block major overhaul by simplyconnected

HoLun
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where do you get that roller set? I have 2 roll master sets, they both have slop worse then my origional links type, i need to get it replace, timing at 500 rpm is all over the place.


Ted
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HoLun (4/4/2009)
where do you get that roller set? I have 2 roll master sets, they both have slop worse then my original links type, i need to get it replace, timing at 500 rpm is all over the place.

The Rollmaster true roller timing sets for a Y were available in shorter sets to compensate for block differences either from the factory or when align honing or boring the mains.  On the Y engines, it’s not uncommon to use a timing set that’s 0.008” shorter than standard to tighten up the ‘slop’ in the chain.  And I'm not aware of any fresh stocks of Rollmaster timing sets out there right now.  You could potentially have the same problem with the truck timing set in regards to slop depending upon exactly where the cam and crankshaft reside in relation to each other.

 

At 500 rpms, the distributor is only running 250 rpms which may not have your weights in a stable or uniform area of operation.  You might check that the distributor springs are both snug to insure that no low rpm ‘slop’ within the distributor is coming into play.  Also check that the weights work smoothly on their roll pins as they are prone to wear and can end up binding or have a ‘kink’ in their movement in the off idle position.

Lorena, Texas (South of Waco)


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Dave:

Thanks for starting the new thread.  We were way off topic on the carb thread.

You told pegleg that you answered my question.  Where is the answer to my kinetic energy question?

Re: your pictures of the sprockets with wear on leading and trailing faces of the teeth.  Wouldn't stretched chain links cause the pitch of the chain to be different from the pitch of the gears and make them wear both faces of the teeth?

I feel no need to continue this discussion, we both have our opinions.  I will use the link chains in my engines, you use the rollers in yours, and we can both be happy.

John - "The Hoosier Hurricane"
http://www.y-blocksforever.com/avatars/johnf.jpg

Ted
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Dave.  Thanks for making a new topic out of this.  This will definitely makes searches on the topic much easier down the road.

 

I’m not out to prove one type of chain is better than the other but simply give another point of view regarding the link versus roller timing chain comparison.  Everyone bear with me on this one as I feel the early morning mental juices starting to flow but could very well end up being random thoughts.

 

But first a little background on timing chain oiling for the Y as there are a couple of key points here to consider.  Early in ’56, Ford simply did away with the oil trough on the front of the block above the lower timing gear which then promoted an increase in timing gear wear as a result of the reduction in lubrication supplied at this point.  Not enough wear that it will be a warranty problem but enough that it will be evident over the long haul when comparing the two oiling approaches side by side in controlled conditions.  The rocker shaft overflow tube on the right hand or passenger side of the engine is where a majority of the timing area oiling was originally designed to be derived from and the lifter valley within block is also cast with a channel or trough in which to promote this.  Pressurizing the rocker shafts also takes away oil from the timing chain area and insteads diverts a majority of the oil that would have normally gone to the front of the engine to the rear instead.  The 3° slant of the engine simply compounds the issue of oil getting to the timing chain area when the rocker arm overflow tubes are either blocked or eliminated.

 

Getting back to the main topic, on a racing or hot street engine a roller timing chain is much more desirable for a number of reasons.  Reduced drag is at the top of the list and especially when a ‘true’ roller timing chain is used.  But the real advantage to a roller chain is the increase in elasticity that’s available with the roller chain design.  Elasticity is where the chain stretches a given amount at the higher rpms but that elongation comes back when the rpms are also brought back.  Picture the chain acting like a rubber band.  This elasticity can be seen with a timing light where after total timing is achieved, the ignition timing actually starts to back up (retard) as the rpms continue to climb.  Where the ignition timing is driven off of a crank trigger, this essentially becomes apparent from idle to whatever rpm the engine is taken up to.  On a distributor with a full curve, this is seen only after full igntion advance is achieved.  The higher the valve spring pressure, the more predominant chain elasticity becomes.

 

And of course there are two major types of roller chains with one being a true roller and the other being a pseudo roller or ‘wanna be’ for lack of a better description.  The truck roller set for a Y is in the pseudo roller chain category and these are known to wear the sprockets at an alarming rate when not being oiled correctly.  I’ve seen the lower gears when used with these chains with extremely pointed teeth due to the wear after an extended number of miles so these are not impervious to wear either.  It’s just more difficult to see this wear without looking for it as when looking for teeth marks in a gear that’s used a link belt type of chain.  The other problem with the pseudo chains is that the sheaves on the pins can get peeled off if hitting a crank or cam gear tooth just right after a nominal amount of wear has already taken place.  If you’ll look at the sheaves on each pin on a pseudo roller chain, there is a groove where the sheaves clamp around the pins themselves.  It’s these grooves that will get caught on the teeth and allow the sheave to be peeled off of the chain.  But this is something I commonly see with high valve spring pressures and not on the run of the mill daily drivers.  A true roller timing set has machined rollers around each pin which are much larger in diameter than the rollers on a pseudo roller chain and besides being more robust in design, also exhibit less turning friction than that of a pseudo chain.

 

Now let’s switch gears and go back to a link chain.  This is where testing and having some real data comparisons come into play.  In this instance, I’ll use a 428 Ford Super Stocker with a roller camshaft that was used as the basis for testing.  The link chain while used in conjunction with the older nylon toothed style of cam gear actually made more horsepower than with a true roller timing chain setup used in this test.  Extreme care was taken to insure that the camshaft was installed or degreed in exactly the same in both instances.  In this particular test, the improved ignition timing stability obtained with the link chain used along with the nylon toothed gear was determined to be a major factor for the improvement in that spark scatter in the ignition was reduced.  This more than compensated for any perceived benefit of the camshaft retarding at the higher rpms due to the increased elasticity of the roller chain versus that of the link belt chain.  Simplified, there was less ignition timing retard at the upper rpm levels with the link chain than with the roller chain which was the measure at the time for the chain elasticity.  The number of degrees could be translated mathmatically back into a valid stretch value.

 

As I said before, this is just another point of view but much of it is based on prior testing and numerous engine teardowns in controlled or known environments.  But if it’s any consolation, I’ll use ‘true’ roller chains when given the option over a link type simply due to the reduction in friction or overall drag of the timing set.  There is a proven benefit to the elasticity aspect of the roller chains in an engine that runs in a wide range of rpms such as an engine being used in a performance street or road race application.  On an engine operating in a vary narrow rpm operating range, then a gear drive proves to be more beneficial over a chain.

Lorena, Texas (South of Waco)


marvh
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The Rollmaster were available from Romac USA.

The last set I bought was about six months ago from the USA company

the part number is CS4065.

The Australia site list them as made to order

There are different grades of Rollmaster chains.



http://www.romac.com.au/pdf/2005%20C&B%20Product%20List.pdf



The link to the USA site is

http://romacusa.com/



http://romacusa.com/Rollmaster_Applications.pdf



marv
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Howdy, that (fairly worn) timing gear looks like that engine not only didn't get the oil changed frequently, but may have even used an older type oil SA/SB/SC etc. (LOT of sludge)



I'm not trying to make this an oil thread at all but it's at least worth mentioning that todays timing sets (both types) might last a little longer due to better oils and maybe the fact that people change it often enough to prevent a sludge build up like that timing gear has on it.





Cheers,





Rick






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1955 F-600/272/E4OD// Disclaimer: No animals were injured while test driving my F-600 except the ones I ran over intentionally!

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I'm not a salesman, but I occasionally buy & sell items on eBay (never timing chains, eBay name: simplyconnected).  I'm a Ford restorer, relentlessly searching for better products and methods for our common 'labor of love,' restoring Fords.

Some restorers are nearly militant about keeping everything 'bone stock.'  That's not me, I like electric WS wipers, disk brakes, and I'd never dream of loading up my family in the '59 and running the freeway with bias-ply tires and no seatbelts.

I am grateful for this forum, where restorers freely help other restorers in their passion.  You guys have a treasure-trove of experience, resources, and talent, and I am very pleased to be welcomed here.

HoLun (4/4/2009)
where do you get that roller set? I have 2 roll master sets, they both have slop worse then my origional links type, i need to get it replace, timing at 500 rpm is all over the place.

HoLun, I simply called Tee-Bird Products in Pennsylvania (800) 423-3723, and spoke with Salesman, Ellis.  He hooked me up with this American-made timing chain set, out of Elgin Illinois:

I probably paid too much, I don't know, but I think Tee-Bird is in the ballpark.
My engine machine shop owner had a Millings catalog listing for this timing chain number, but NOT the sprockets (very strange).  Millings calls it "heavy duty."  We'll see.

Hoosier, this is America!  We're all free to exercise our personal preferences.  If you like link chains, everyone carries them at a very reasonable price.  Enjoy.

Ted, you have a wealth of background and knowledge regarding timing chains.  Thank You for sharing your experiences, testing and using both chain types.  I believe the more info we all get, the better we can make educated choices.  I too, remember the days when cam sprockets were 'nylon.'  After years of heat and stress, the polymers would bake out, they broke apart, and pistons tried closing valves.  GM was the first, Ford followed.  It wasn't pretty.  If that wasn't ugly enough, Ford used rubber timing belts, starting with Pinto in '71, and Escort in '81.  I owned both.

Rick, I agree.  This was an 'unknown' engine I bought from a man parting out his '59 Galaxie in the Boston area.  He drove the car into his shop, put it up on a hoist, and after noticing extensive frame rot, decided to part the car out.  I bought the engine, Cruise-o-Matic, steering column, brake pedal support, and driveshaft.  He threw in a T&C radio and all the linkage.  After engine teardown, the lower end looked beautiful, but I bored the cylinders .060"

My stock 1959 292 was oil-starved in two areas, rocker arm shafts (and all the rocker arms), and timing chain.  Those little tubes did a good job of diverting oil away from the rocker arms and down the holes.  Consequently, dirt and varnish plugged all the rocker arm holes because oil pressure was at atomspheric (zero).  This was a stock 292 Cleveland Engine.  McTim's video convinced me to plug those tube holes with NO relief holes, which forces oil through all the rocker arms.  The old timing chain sprocket pictures shown above, speak for themselves.

But this is a new day.  Romeo and Windsor modular engines have always used roller chains; 4-valve engines use four, two long and two short.  For sixteen years I beat the crap out of my 351W, fitted with a roller chain (on Edelbrock Performer RPM heads, driving daily to Ford Rouge, Dearborn).  Wear: negligible.  Certainly not nearly as bad as every link chain I ever owned, regardless of brand.

Certainly, today's time proven technology with better materials are far superior to the resources they had back in the '50's.  Ford's accomplishments were amazing, considering what they had to work with.

Dave Dare
Ford Motor Co., Dearborn

Royal Oak, Michigan (Four miles north of Detroit, and 12 miles NORTH of Windsor, Canada).  That's right, we're north of Canada.

Ford 292 Y-Block major overhaul by simplyconnected

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the thing is, my block is not align bored, I dont know why it has that much slack in the chain, I am gonna email rollmaster and see if i can get the shorter chain only before i try a new stock HP set.



also, how do i determent slack vs length to purchase?



when I swap out to the lighter springs i made sure the weight pivot freely, and i have verified with a timing light that at 500 rpm the weights are not moving, so the only thing i can think of now its the slack of the chain. or there might be too much backlash on the disturbitor gear




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