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Engine won't turn over after replacing lifters

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Old 12-03-2017, 03:41 PM
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Engine won't turn over after replacing lifters

I replaced the lifters due to having a loud lifter tick. Put everything back together and the engine just won't turn over. It tries and tries but just doesn't get that final step. The first time I tried to start it, it turned over a few times and stopped. The second time I tried, it turned over a few times and then had a backfire and stopped. The next 10 tries since then, just keeps turning over a few times and gives up. It turns over about 5-6 times before giving up and stopping.

Everything seems to be in order and there's nothing obviously wrong. The serpentine belt spins (albeit slowly) when it's trying to crank over. No problem with the belt. There's no obvious engine failure noise (like a cam installed wrong, or timing chain messed up, anything like that). It almost seems like a fuel/spark issue. I double checked the coil packs and they're installed flush and plugged in. Unfortunately with the car not turning on it's quite hard to diagnose anything. I'm also wondering if maybe the battery is weak, but it's only been out of commission for 3 days so that really shouldn't be an issue. I may buy jumper cables and try that just to rule out the battery.

Anyone have any suggestions? Is there any use in doing anything like turning the crank bolt by hand? Again the belt is spinning and it's cranking so I don't think it's something mechanical preventing the start. Thanks.

P.S. I'll have a lifter DIY to post on this forum if I can ever get this thing started again.
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Old 12-03-2017, 03:54 PM
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OBD scanner is showing no codes either. Think I need to stop trying to start the engine as the entire garage smells like fuel at this point.
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Old 12-03-2017, 04:59 PM
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Timing sounds off, I would go back over it and see what you did wrong, double check everything is installed properly in time and of course check and make sure electrical like coils are attached correctly.

I would not keep spinning it over if the timing is out, the gas smell means either it is not firing the plugs at all or the timing is so far off that it is firing the plugs out of phase and not lighting off the fuel.
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Old 12-03-2017, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by roadkillrob View Post
Timing sounds off, I would go back over it and see what you did wrong, double check everything is installed properly in time and of course check and make sure electrical like coils are attached correctly.

I would not keep spinning it over if the timing is out, the gas smell means either it is not firing the plugs at all or the timing is so far off that it is firing the plugs out of phase and not lighting off the fuel.
Without going back in and pulling the valve covers again, I'm certain the timing is perfect. It was at 40 degrees top dead center. I put the straightedge tool on the back of the cams to lock them at 40 degrees. Then the holding tool at the front of the cams to again confirm 40 degrees. Then the holder tool on the cam adjusters to lock them at 40 degrees. Those 3 were all in perfect sync which, I believe, is the exact way to confirm timing is correct. I can pull the valve covers and check that all again but I can't think of any reason why the timing would be off.

Is there any way to check timing without pulling the valve covers? Is there anything more to timing other than what I just listed?

I'm checking the coils now. All seems fine with them.
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Old 12-03-2017, 05:25 PM
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If you were at 40deg and used the timing tool on the front and back you physically can't screw up orientation. It's impossible.

Did you use a set screw in the adjuster? If so, did you remove it?

Are all the cam sensors plugged in, no pinched wires?
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Old 12-03-2017, 05:30 PM
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It sounds like timing to me as well. A friend had a similar problem with a E46 M3. Was convinced he got the timing right, but after going back in, he found it was incorrect.
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Old 12-03-2017, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Jasonoff View Post
If you were at 40deg and used the timing tool on the front and back you physically can't screw up orientation. It's impossible.

Did you use a set screw in the adjuster? If so, did you remove it?

Are all the cam sensors plugged in, no pinched wires?
I did have a set screw in the adjuster but it was a little bit too small of a thread so it just sat in there instead of being threaded in. I did remove it. Could that be my problem that it wasn't threaded? It did not seem to really "do" anything but that could be my mistake.

All cam sensors are in, no pinches.
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Old 12-03-2017, 06:03 PM
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Removed and reinstalled all the ignition coils to make sure they were perfect. Charged the battery to 80%. Disconnected the battery to reset everything. Tried to start again - same results. I'm now getting a strong fuel smell if I try to start it.

At this point the only thing I have to blame seems to be that set screw in the cam adjuster. It seemed at the time that all I needed to do was have a screw in there to generally keep it in place, but that it wasn't 100% vital to have something screwed in there. I bought a M5-8 screw like every guide told me to but it just did not screw in there, so I just had it inserted but not screwed. I'm guessing that was much more of an issue than I thought it was and that could be what threw off my timing and why the car won't start.

If I want to go back in there and put in that safety screw and re-adjust, is everything still at 40 degrees TDC other than the cam adjusters? Or do I need to basically do the whole job over again - turn the crank, turn the cams, put the cam holder tools in, etc.? It may be as simple as: remove phaser bolts, insert safety screw, install new phaser bolts, remove safety screw.

Last edited by jaspirr; 12-03-2017 at 06:18 PM.
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Old 12-03-2017, 06:19 PM
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No, not the problem. That set screw just keeps the gears aligned so it can be re-assembled. If you forgot the screw it could have made it loose affecting the timing.


Are you smelling fuel because it's turning over without ignition?

Are there any codes on specific modules?
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Old 12-03-2017, 06:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Jasonoff View Post
No, not the problem. That set screw just keeps the gears aligned so it can be re-assembled. If you forgot the screw it could have made it loose affecting the timing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MFNZGtqvJk

Are you smelling fuel because it's turning over without ignition?

Are there any codes on specific modules?
Hmm.. That screw is supposed to be in there to keep the gears in the same position to a) keep timing in check b) make reinstallation easier. Jaspir said he kept the screw in though. Even if it sat in there, it should have held the timing in place.
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Old 12-03-2017, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Jasonoff View Post
No, not the problem. That set screw just keeps the gears aligned so it can be re-assembled. If you forgot the screw it could have made it loose affecting the timing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MFNZGtqvJk

Are you smelling fuel because it's turning over without ignition?

Are there any codes on specific modules?
I watched all of that guy's videos. A few of his videos led me to the conclusion that the safety screw was just sort of a placeholder and just had to be inserted there, not necessarily screwed in place. Given that I clearly did not have a safety screw screwed into the adjuster, but instead just had a smaller screw inserted into it, does that mean I threw the timing off?

I'm not sure how to diagnose why I'm smelling fuel. There does not seem to be any spark. I don't know why there seems to be no spark. I didn't touch the spark plugs. I just removed and reinstalled the ignition coils, which were working just fine when they were removed so there is no reason they shouldn't be working now. Every electrical connection is plugged in and I've extensively searched through the engine bay 10 times to confirm that. What else should I be checking other than the ignition coils if I'm not getting any spark?
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Old 12-03-2017, 06:44 PM
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Aren’t the front cam adjuster tool specific for driver and passenger? It may just be the magnetic sensors acting up and not reading properly.

Did you lubricate the lifters with oil? Similar to the link below? I know it’s for a different engine but they are pretty well similar.

Last edited by go team; 12-03-2017 at 06:50 PM.
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Old 12-03-2017, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by AMG3.2 View Post
Hmm.. That screw is supposed to be in there to keep the gears in the same position to a) keep timing in check b) make reinstallation easier. Jaspir said he kept the screw in though. Even if it sat in there, it should have held the timing in place.
Does the safety/set screw have to be installed while the phaser bolts are torqued down? What if you tighten the phaser bolt without the screw in? It doesn't seem to have any effect - the phaser bolt is just pushing the cam adjuster tight against the cam, it's not spinning the adjuster or modifying the timing. The clamping plate is in place keeping the cam adjuster in that exact position while it is tightened down.
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Old 12-03-2017, 06:52 PM
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Originally Posted by go team View Post
Arenít the front cam adjuster tool specific for driver and passenger? It may just be the magnetic sensors acting up and not reading properly.

Did you lubricate the lifters with oil? Similar to the link below? I know itís for a different engine but they are pretty well similar.
The cam tools work on both sides. You physically cannot do it wrong because it would not fit if you tried to do it wrong.

I lubricated the lifters and camshaft with Redline engine lubricant.
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Old 12-03-2017, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by AMG3.2 View Post
Hmm.. That screw is supposed to be in there to keep the gears in the same position to a) keep timing in check b) make reinstallation easier. Jaspir said he kept the screw in though. Even if it sat in there, it should have held the timing in place.
They're just under tension to eliminate backlash. If you don't lock them in before unbolting they could be misaligned and not slide back on properly.

The timing is set by the tool. Even if it was off, the car should still start and potentially misfire. Then you'd just need a re-learn.

Something else is wrong.
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Old 12-03-2017, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Jasonoff View Post
They're just under tension to eliminate backlash. If you don't lock them in before unbolting they could be misaligned and not slide back on properly.

The timing is set by the tool. Even if it was off, the car should still start and potentially misfire. Then you'd just need a re-learn.

Something else is wrong.
I agree - I had three separate timing tools all locked in place at 40 degrees TDC. The flat blade at the back of the cams, the mounting plate at the front of the cams, and the clamping plate on the cam adjusters. From what I've read and watched, if you have all three of those in place then everything is going to be at 40 degrees TDC no matter what. Based on that, I don't think the safety screw on the cam adjusters is what has prevented my car from starting.

So what allows an engine to crank over - and the serpentine belt to spin - but not fire up?
  • It's not fuel related because there's plenty of fuel smell when the key is turned. Plus, the lifter replacement had nothing to do with fuel system at all.
  • I don't think it is mechanical (cams, lifters, adjusters). That would be obvious. There would be a grinding noise, or the engine wouldn't turn over at all. It just wouldn't turn. My engine is trying to start.
  • Spark seems to be the only option remaining. The coils worked when I removed them. Theoretically one or more coils could now be broken? Today I removed all the coils, double checked everything looks perfect, reinstalled them exactly to spec.
  • Spark plugs? Again seems very unlikely. The spark plugs were never once touched during this job. I visually inspected them today and they are intact. Could they have somehow gotten fouled? Again not likely but is possible.
  • Is there any possible thing other than spark plugs or ignition coils? I think I can test the coils with a multimeter, right?
  • I double checked the timing cover, the cam adjuster plugs, etc. No wires are pinched. Unplugged and re-plugged everything.
  • I've searched 10 times and there are no electrical or vacuum connections unplugged.
  • Could it be something basic like oil or coolant? I lost a little bit of each while doing this work (bumped a coolant line by accident). If these were low, the car would still start.
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Old 12-03-2017, 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by jaspirr View Post
I watched all of that guy's videos. A few of his videos led me to the conclusion that the safety screw was just sort of a placeholder and just had to be inserted there, not necessarily screwed in place. Given that I clearly did not have a safety screw screwed into the adjuster, but instead just had a smaller screw inserted into it, does that mean I threw the timing off?

I'm not sure how to diagnose why I'm smelling fuel. There does not seem to be any spark. I don't know why there seems to be no spark. I didn't touch the spark plugs. I just removed and reinstalled the ignition coils, which were working just fine when they were removed so there is no reason they shouldn't be working now. Every electrical connection is plugged in and I've extensively searched through the engine bay 10 times to confirm that. What else should I be checking other than the ignition coils if I'm not getting any spark?
Sorry, missed this.

That set screw just keeps the gears aligned so it can slide back on. But if you locked it down and forgot to remove it, it would have a lot of backlash which could cause issues.

Are you 100000% you were still at 40deg when you re-installed the cams on both sides? The tool makes sure the I and E cams are aligned properly and installed correctly. You can't install them upside down or anything like that. BUT, your motor could have been out of alignment.

If you remove the adjusters at 40deg then turn the motor enough to catch the next tooth you're screwed.
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Old 12-03-2017, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by jaspirr View Post
I agree - I had three separate timing tools all locked in place at 40 degrees TDC. The flat blade at the back of the cams, the mounting plate at the front of the cams, and the clamping plate on the cam adjusters. From what I've read and watched, if you have all three of those in place then everything is going to be at 40 degrees TDC no matter what. Based on that, I don't think the safety screw on the cam adjusters is what has prevented my car from starting.

So what allows an engine to crank over - and the serpentine belt to spin - but not fire up?
  • It's not fuel related because there's plenty of fuel smell when the key is turned. Plus, the lifter replacement had nothing to do with fuel system at all.
  • I don't think it is mechanical (cams, lifters, adjusters). That would be obvious. There would be a grinding noise, or the engine wouldn't turn over at all. It just wouldn't turn. My engine is trying to start.
  • Spark seems to be the only option remaining. The coils worked when I removed them. Theoretically one or more coils could now be broken? Today I removed all the coils, double checked everything looks perfect, reinstalled them exactly to spec.
  • Spark plugs? Again seems very unlikely. The spark plugs were never once touched during this job. I visually inspected them today and they are intact. Could they have somehow gotten fouled? Again not likely but is possible.
  • Is there any possible thing other than spark plugs or ignition coils? I think I can test the coils with a multimeter, right?
  • I double checked the timing cover, the cam adjuster plugs, etc. No wires are pinched. Unplugged and re-plugged everything.
  • I've searched 10 times and there are no electrical or vacuum connections unplugged.
  • Could it be something basic like oil or coolant? I lost a little bit of each while doing this work (bumped a coolant line by accident). If these were low, the car would still start.
First I would verify you can install the timing tool on both sides with the engine at 40deg.

I left my plugs in as well. My motor moved on me when unbolted the adjusters (probably from cylinder pressure) so I had to put it back at 40deg when I re-installed.
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Old 12-03-2017, 07:38 PM
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Perhaps you blew a fuse for the ignition coils while reinstalling. It doesn't sound like timing is off to me. If you are smelling that much fuel I would HIGHLY recommend doing a flood-clear while cranking to avoid hydrolocking. To do so, crank the car with the accelerator pedal all the way to the floor, engaging the WOT detent. Keep in mind once it DOES start, it will go WOT, so you will want to let off quickly once it finally fires. Make sure you have the cam adjuster solenoids plugged in at the solenoid AS WELL as the smaller connectors midway down the valve covers, and make sure you didn't swap exhaust/intake(they are not keyed)

Good luck!
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Old 12-03-2017, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by ec_nova View Post
Perhaps you blew a fuse for the ignition coils while reinstalling. It doesn't sound like timing is off to me. If you are smelling that much fuel I would HIGHLY recommend doing a flood-clear while cranking to avoid hydrolocking. To do so, crank the car with the accelerator pedal all the way to the floor, engaging the WOT detent. Keep in mind once it DOES start, it will go WOT, so you will want to let off quickly once it finally fires. Make sure you have the cam adjuster solenoids plugged in at the solenoid AS WELL as the smaller connectors midway down the valve covers, and make sure you didn't swap exhaust/intake(they are not keyed)

Good luck!
I don't think the exhaust sensor cable is long enough to reach the intake. But that certainly would prevent it from starting.
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Old 12-03-2017, 07:51 PM
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Agree on the motor moving as nothing is keeping it in place. Hoping this car starts right up!
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Old 12-03-2017, 08:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Jasonoff View Post
Sorry, missed this.

That set screw just keeps the gears aligned so it can slide back on. But if you locked it down and forgot to remove it, it would have a lot of backlash which could cause issues.

Are you 100000% you were still at 40deg when you re-installed the cams on both sides? The tool makes sure the I and E cams are aligned properly and installed correctly. You can't install them upside down or anything like that. BUT, your motor could have been out of alignment.

If you remove the adjusters at 40deg then turn the motor enough to catch the next tooth you're screwed.
How would I verify that I am still at 40 degrees TDC when re-installing the cams on both sides? By checking the crank pulley?

I did not check the crank pulley. Once I set the crank pulley to the 40 degree mark, I never touched it again. Here's what I did after replacing the lifters and putting the cams back in:

I put the flat blade on the back of the cams, to verify that both cams were not upside down and so that they were at 40 degrees:

https://imgur.com/yGBTyvk


Next I installed the holding device on the front of the cams which is supposed to again verify they are at 40 degrees:

https://imgur.com/CLk93tJ

Finally I placed the clamping plate on the cam adjusters. I screwed the clamping plate into the block using the two guide screws. In the picture the guide screws are just loosely screwed in, but I did tighten them fully. This of course took a long time of adjusting the spinning wheel so that the clamping plate fit perfectly:

https://imgur.com/XnMDcMt


Once all three of those pieces were on, I torqued the cam phaser bolts to 45nm and 90 degrees. Then I removed all three pieces and put everything back together. After tightening the phaser bolts, I did not touch the cam or the adjusters again. Just put the covers back on them.

At no point during this process did I check the crank pulley. I was under the impression that when these three timing devices are in place, that the engine must be at 40 degrees TDC; that there is no way you can install these three pieces unless the engine is at 40 degrees TDC. Is it possible to install these three pieces correctly but the engine is not at 40 degrees TDC?

Last edited by jaspirr; 12-03-2017 at 08:30 PM.
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Old 12-03-2017, 08:19 PM
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Just reading through these posts.
I agree it does sound like timing from what you've said but a quick check is . . .
Try taking one of the spark plugs out and see if it sparks (Or just pull a lead and use a spare plug if you have one).
I assume you know how to do this, but for those who don't, the plug must be earthed and and don't just hold it with your hand to the earth or you will get a jolt. You can use a jumper cable connected to a good ground (not the battery) and with the other end grip around the outside of the metal part on the plug. Plus the insulated handle of the jump lead gives you an insulated grip to hold it with (Please note wet, damaged or cheap jump cables could still give you a jolt).

If so, does it spark at the correct time on the compression stroke for that cylinder?

If it sparks, well, and at the right time at least you will know it's not electrical and if you can smell that much petrol it's not the fuel supply (unless it's flooding it).
If you got this far without finding a fault then it's back to timing for another check.
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Old 12-03-2017, 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by ec_nova View Post
Perhaps you blew a fuse for the ignition coils while reinstalling. It doesn't sound like timing is off to me. If you are smelling that much fuel I would HIGHLY recommend doing a flood-clear while cranking to avoid hydrolocking. To do so, crank the car with the accelerator pedal all the way to the floor, engaging the WOT detent. Keep in mind once it DOES start, it will go WOT, so you will want to let off quickly once it finally fires. Make sure you have the cam adjuster solenoids plugged in at the solenoid AS WELL as the smaller connectors midway down the valve covers, and make sure you didn't swap exhaust/intake(they are not keyed)

Good luck!
Thanks - I've been worried about the fuel smell. I did your flood-clear thing. Still smelled fuel afterwards, I assume it will take some time for that to go away.

For the others, here's a video of it trying to start:


It gets close to cranking over but just can't quite get there. You can hear that stuttering when it wants to fire up. Does this mean that it's getting at least some spark?

I'm considering just giving up and taking the car to a mechanic, but I don't even know what I would tell the mechanic at this point. Could be as simple as spark plugs or could be as complicated as going all the way in and removing the cams.

Edit: I also have to say, the overwhelming support on this forum has been great. 5 hours ago when I turned the key and the car wouldn't start I felt completely screwed and clueless. I thought my post would get 1 or 2 replies. The amount of knowledge on this forum is insance.

Last edited by jaspirr; 12-03-2017 at 08:52 PM.
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Old 12-03-2017, 09:22 PM
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The crank pulley TDC doesn’t have any tool holding it in place except for making sure the alignment markers line up. It still could move when you are lining up the adjusters. I think that Tasos on YouTube has said you can only be off by 1 or 4%. Dont quote me as I can’t remember!

the cam phaser torque doesn’t sound right? Shouldn’t it be 115Nm?

Last edited by go team; 12-03-2017 at 09:51 PM.
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