Valve Setting Procedures for a 351 Ford Windsor

Written by john willis
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Ford's 351 Windsor is a small block V8 engine that is often modified and used as a platform for race engines. The process of setting the valve adjustments might vary somewhat from car to car, especially if the valve train has been heavily modified. Overall, however, the 351 Windsor has remained basically the same engine from its beginning in 1962 to the early 1990s, when it was phased out of production.


Before you start, disconnect your battery so there's no possibility of the starter engaging and turning the engine as you're working on it. Pay attention to the mechanical hazards of your open engine. As it turns it can severely injure hands and fingers. Stay aware of fire hazards as well.

Parts Removal and Access

Make sure you have a clean, tidy work area. It's helpful to have clear, sealable bags or other containers to store parts so they don't get lost. You also need good light. Consider a hanging light for your engine bay. Pen lights and head-mounted camping lights are helpful as well. At this point you can remove your valve covers and timing chain sprocket cover, and stow the parts neatly.


Your valves will be fully open or fully closed when the timing marks on the timing chain are aligned vertically. This is known as "TDC," or "Top Dead Center." As you follow the adjustment procedure, you can use a straight edge to line these marks up.

Adjustment Procedure

Locate the number one cylinder. Rotate the engine manually until its exhaust lifter moves. Adjust the exhaust rocker nut to zero clearance between valve and rocker. Turn the engine again. Stop when the intake lifter stops closing. Repeat the procedure and adjust the intake rocker nut to zero clearance. With a feeler gauge, verify that the gap between the rocker arm and stud is 0.060 when the valve is fully opened and fully closed. Repeat this procedure for each cylinder.

Replace Parts

Replace your valve covers and timing chain cover. Replace your battery leads. Note that some DIY mechanics repeat the valve adjusting process shortly after each adjustment to ensure the valves were seated properly and didn't move slightly with a few heat cycles.

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