By on December 24, 2014



But wait…there is less???

Sajeev writes:

As the Christmas Spirit draws near and Pistonheads relax with thoughts of good vehicular cheer…screw it, I’ll get to the point:

Can timing chain rattle on start-up magically resolve itself after a mere tune up?

Sajeev continues:

Yes, after changing plugs, fuel filter, PCV valve, and a very necessary cleaning of an ancient K&N filter. The vehicle in question is my lightly-modified 1995 Lincoln Mark VIII LSC with 180,000 miles.

The early 32-valve, teksid block Ford V8s suffered from an obnoxious (yet harmless) timing chain rattle on start-up.  I’ve owned this car for 11 years and, like all of its ilk, the rattle almost always rears its ugly head. Even after switching to Mobil 1 Synthetic.

That is, until this tune up.



I’ve been driving the Mark for 100+ miles over 4 days to-and-from work and Christmas shopping destinations: the timing chain has yet to rattle on start-up.

It’s the textbook definition of “added perk” to go with the improved idle, extra power and 1-2 MPG fuel economy improvement normally earned via tune up. But it’s still running the same oil and the outside temperature/weather hasn’t changed. This makes absolutely no sense, and Google agrees with its lack of click-to-quick-resolution.

Perhaps the Mark remembered what the MKS looks like, deciding to straighten up/fly right as it’s the last Lincoln that people would maybe-kinda give a crap about? (oops, sorry LS fans)

Off to you, Best and Brightest.


 Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.



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31 Comments on “Piston Slap: Riddle Me This, Timing Chain Rattle...”

  • avatar

    Well ;

    MERRY CHRISTMAS anyways .


  • avatar

    Maybe it wasn’t timing chain rattle. Is there anything else in that motor that could mimic it that might have been fixed during the tune-up?

  • avatar

    I think the timing chain broke, so no more rattle ;-)

  • avatar

    Be careful and keep monitoring that rattle. If it comes back consistently you could have blown out tensioner gaskets as is common, or even a broken guide. If the rattle is most noticeable after the car has sat for a few days, it could be the tensioners bleeding down and taking a moment to get pumped up with pressure again. It could be that you’ve driven it consistently enough to not let the tensioners bleed down. Keep monitoring it, you don’t want something like a broken guide to ruin any of those 32 valves.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Your suggestion makes sense.

      Or maybe it’s the opposite, in which the engine now has slightly better oil pressure when starting. Nice weather (warmer oil) could be helping also.

    • 0 avatar

      Good advice, will do.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, chain tensioners are almost always oil pressure operated and the first few seconds at start up when the tensioner is bled off can be the most catastrophic. If the chain is loose enough, it can break the guides and then its free to whip around at will. I’ve seen a handful of the Toyota 22re engines as well as a few others actually wear through the timing cover into coolant passages. Small blocks are usually not as prone to this but they are still susceptible. One of my winter projects is to tear into the wife’s Mustang (4.6) and investigate the obnoxious cold start rattle it began producing late this summer.
      Also, I would not run a K&N on anything I own. They are a performance oriented element and sacrifice filter efficiency to achieve it. Cummins performed a test on their filters years ago and K&N regularly failed to meet Cummins minimum filtering requirements. To this day, if an engine comes in for repairs with a K&N filter, they will void your warranty without question. You may get away with running one on a pavement queen but even then I wouldn’t risk it. Their efficiency ratings are minimal at best.

      • 0 avatar

        Re K&N:
        I think everything depends on your climate. In the desert, bad news in my view.
        But in any damp climate, no big deal. A buddy in Cleveland ran a 283 Chevy for 100,000 miles with no filter at all.

        • 0 avatar

          The question is, why would you run any filter that could potentially sacrifice engine longevity? You can dust an engine in very short order under the right circumstances, and I can’t think of one good reason to take that chance. Aftermarket filters and intakes are one of the biggest scams on the market. Its hard to beat OEM filtration efficiencies, and unless you are running a highly modified engine the CFM requirements are generally met using the factory set up. I have seen Cummins, Power strokes, and Duramaxes all run on a dyno pushing over 300 lb ft above factory torque out put using the factory intake and exhaust. Despite what the aftermarket would like you to think, the vast majority of people who fall for intake upgrades don’t need them and sacrifice filter efficiency for the couple of horsepower they may or may not have gained.

  • avatar

    Perhaps the Ghost of Christmas Past came and fixed it?

    But yes there are lots of things that could have mimicked that noise that a tuneup could have solved.

  • avatar


    The rattle came back last night, albeit very quietly and for about half a second. It was dead silent again this morning, both cold and hot (I restarted in the parking lot just to see).

    I thought about deleting this post, but I figure it’s still good conversation for some of the B&B.

    • 0 avatar

      The best test will be once its sat overnight. Once the engine has been running and warmed up, the tensioners can stay primed for several hours. It also spends on how stretched the chains are.

      • 0 avatar

        Dead silent when waking it up this morning. I am sure the rattle is worse when it sits around for days.

        • 0 avatar

          That’s a good sign that the tensioner gasket(s) are probably shot. When you have the time, I recommend getting a timing set for it and replacing the chains, guides and tensioners before it gets any worse. Every time I’ve had one with the rattle, I’ve found a tensioner gasket blown out or a broken guide, usually around where a mounting bolt goes through.

  • avatar

    My experience with timing chains applies to the GM 2.2 liter Ectotec L-61, but the principals can be applied to all engines with a roller chain driven camshaft and hydraulic chain tensioner. If the tensioner is accessible from the outside of the engine, it can be removed for inspection. Sometimes small particles become trapped between the piston and the cylinder bore and impede movement. It is also possible for sludge to form here. Cleaning to provide free movement will sometimes improve the situation. Yes, the oil will drain out of the tensioner when the engine is inoperative. It will take 1/2 to 3/4 second for oil to reach the tensioner and push on the piston to tension the chain. If the rattle time is longer than this, then the tensioner has reached the end of its stroke and the chain has “stretched” to the point that it is no longer fully tensioned. As the engine warms up, the chain may aquire more tension from varying expansion of the block and head vs. the chain. The chain is not really stretching. Each of the 100+ link pin joints is wearing a little bit every time it flexes. If each one wears a couple of thousandths of an inch then the chain gets a bit longer. There will also be some wear of the guides. The only cure when all this happens is to replace the chain, guides, and tensioner.

    • 0 avatar

      Wish I had acted as you recommended a few years ago. Was going to tell Sajeev that the rattle could stop suddenly….. but with very bad consequences. Threw the chain on my vue (2.2) and it was done. Happy to see it go really. It was either a car worth bragging about or it was broken. Come to think of it, it would probably still be here with over 300k if I had changed the chain and I would have spent a couple grand more on computers, clutches, or transmissions. Now that I think of it, I wish it had broken earlier. I’ve had worse experiences with cars but they had one thing in common. An Olds nameplate.

      The Toyota 3.0 may not be everyones favorite engine but it is non-interference. A big seller for my 4Runner.

  • avatar

    Is the chain tensioner accessible? Maybe just replace it? BMW’s M62/M62TU would do this. The chain tensioner is a $50 part, and easily accessible.

  • avatar

    The 4.6 Modular engine–don’t know if this one qualifies–has a known problem with their tensioners. If the proper oil and filter aren’t used–5W-20 is required, and Motorcraft is preferred–the tensioners may not, well, tension quickly enough and this can cause the guides to break. See:

    • 0 avatar

      The early 4.6s used 5w-30, I’m kinda concerned this motor will leak like crazy if I switched now.

      IIRC, there was no oil burning problem ever with the DOHC versions, and the early SOHC oil burning was valve guides that wore after 100k.

      From what Mark VIII owners with 300+k on the clock say, the rattle is just an annoying sound. I should be fine for another decade or so…then maybe an LS, 5.0 stroker or Coyote swap.

      • 0 avatar

        If it didn’t start leaking after you switched to full synthetic then it probably wouldn’t with 5W-20. You might try the 5W-20, since its base viscosity will be somewhat less than that of the 5W-30, and that might make a difference (though with the mileage your engine probably needs a bit thicker oil anyway).

        The article’s–in the link I posted–point about the drainback valve in the filter is logical, except on the 4.6 in my Mustang the filter is mounted nearly vertical–opening up–anyway, so the drainback valve probably doesn’t contribute much.

        • 0 avatar

          Oh it did, in the usual 4.6 place. (oil filter adapter gasket)

          I’m not changing oil types until I change the motor. And it’s usually pretty hot down here, I’m okay with thicker oil in this application.

          • 0 avatar

            5-30 and 5-20 have the same viscosity at ambient temps. They are both 5 weight oils, the -30 just has more viscosity improver so it doesn’t thin as much at operating temp.

    • 0 avatar

      2v and 4v Modulars should never be run on 5-20 oil unless they are race only. They were designed for use with 5-30 and nothing in the engine changed when they switched to recommending 5-20. The reason that they switched the majority of the fleet to 5-20 was CAFE, and that was only on engines that the did durability testing that showed that the engine could still meet the 150K durability requirement.

      One of the engineers that did durability testing for Ford engines in that time period is semi active on the Marauder forum and that is his recommendation based on comparing 4v (and other engines) that were run on 5-20 vs those ran on 5-30 after tear down inspection.

      So DO NOT put 5-20 in your 4v 4.6.

      It was the 2v motors that had tensioner problems that resulted in a service action. Ones that have had the repair done are identified by …x painted on the valve covers in white.

  • avatar

    Merry Christmas to you Sir, I hope this holiday season you can make up with your brother and put all your past differences and his lack of panther love aside for the Xmas season, if not for that do it for the children.

  • avatar

    Ok, here’s the thing. I have an ’07 Mini Cooper S with about 65k on it. When I bought it used, I found through Carfax that it had 3 recalls, including one for the timing chain. I took it to a Mini dealer and they replaced the entire assembly under the recall. 10 months later the engine developed this horrendous rattle. I took it to a local wrench and he said the timing chain was shot and needed to be replaced. I related the earlier replacement and said to call them as it should be still covered. I called the Mini dealer, 110 miles away, and they said bring it in. So, I drove 100 miles very carefully, keeping the revs as low as practical without impeding traffic. The first thing they did was check the oil, something which I had done 3 days earlier. The advisor says after checking again that I was 3 QUARTS low. The car only holds 4.5 qts. The problem was how I read the damn dipstick. There is a Youtube video on reading this asinine dipstick in a Mini. Anyway, fills up the oil, rattle gone, hasn’t returned in 3,000 miles! I do check it once a week now.

  • avatar

    I have a ’98 LSC. It doesn’t rattle, but my previous ’95 did. The ghost in the machine. Have another nog and ignore it – every other Mark owner does. Merry Christmas

  • avatar

    Ah yes, timing chains. When someone invents guides that don’t get chewed by them and last forever, I shall rely on timing belts, quieter, not prone to stretch and part of the maintenance schedule.

    The man on the street, aggravated by the cost of a scheduled belt replacement, would rather play poker with a timing chain, whose demise is entirely unpredictable in these days of oil thinner than Evian, particularly when a single-row chain is hardly good enough for a bicycle, let alone two or four cams and much higher lineal velocity..

    Chains – out of sight, out of mind till poof! You’re on your own.

    • 0 avatar

      99 Continental 32 valve Intech 215k all original except for 2 spark plug replacements, one serpentine belt. Motorcraft 5w20 semi synthetic. No leaks, no noise, no smoke. Factory air filtration. AX4N on the other hand I’ve overhauled once. Only other parts on the vehicle beyond brakes and fluid maintenance has been a pair of rear air springs, lower front ball joints, right front hub and bearing assy, front stabilizer links and a serp belt. I’d love to find a way to put a 6F50 in it because the only weak spot in it is the transmission.
      98 Grand Marquis 170k same type of maintenance and not a peep out of the motor.

  • avatar

    I found the oil filter to be more important in reducing or eliminating timing chain noise on startup than the kind or viscosity of oil.

    All recommended oil filters for this engine have anti-drainback valves, but some work better than others. WIX filters seemed to be more effective than others. The last 50,000 miles I drove my Mark VIII I had no timing chain noise.

    It’s a real project to change the tensioners on this engine. When I had a class on designing for serviceablilty, back in 2000, they used the Mark VIII as a bad example in a number of areas, and that was one of them.

    As an aside, I found some notes about the modifications I made to the air suspension. Sajeev, if you are interested, e-mail me, [email protected] . Shimming the air springs increased the spring rate nicely, especially at the rear.


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