Timing belt replacement problems

So my GF has a 2001 ford zx2 with a 2.0 zetec. Its got about 100K miles on it and it died about a week ago going down the highway, the timing belt was halfway snapped and must have jumped out of place (the computer registerd a camshaft rotation error). Well for the past week I’ve been trying to replace it, but it is so hard to find good info anywhere, the haynes manual sucks, Zx2fast had a tutorial on here that was good though, but still left unanswered questions.

I actually did just finish replacing it, however the car is running horrible. Its shaky and choppy. It actually sounds about the same as a car with a bad spark plug, that sort of helicoptor sound, and shaking on acceleration. (perhaps it could be a spark plug, I haven’t replaced them yet).

As far as I know I did it perfect. I used a perfectly fitting piece of metal to align the cams, and had the crank at TDC on piston 1, tension seems great, all lined up. I also hand cranked the motor a full rotation back to tdc to make sure everything was still lined up. It was very close, the cam closest to the front was just slightly off, by maybe about 4 or 5 degrees, but from what I understand that’s normal

Is it possible that having the timing belt on wrong (perhaps even by one notch) could be doing that?

Also heres my other questions I couldn’t find the answer to anywhere.
2. What’s the deal with the camshaft closest to the front of the car, its like spring loaded or something, was I perhaps supposed to wind up the spring a little or something?
3. Even though I had the cams perfectly aligned, the teeth didn’t mesh perfectly on the second cam, the teeth on the belt were sitting on the teeth of the cam. (as if its 1/2 a tooth too short/long). When I pulled the belt on tight the spring tension rotated it and took up the slack, but is that normal?
4. Does the zx2 have a place to check timing, so I can check if I’ve got the timing belt on correctly?


There is a document that goes over adjusting the timing, I’ll see if I have it in my records.

Edit woa, just saw the date when you posted. Sorry we took so long.

Man, I need to be more active on here…

Your problem is in failing to keep the exhaust cam gear against it’s limit within the VCT actuator. If the engine had been sitting for a while, then the oil would have drained back making the actuator more sensitive or easier to move. It is a common mistake in setting up the VCT motor as opposed to the fixed gears of the non-VCT zetec. Also, the timing belt idler pulley is common failure. I recommend getting the “kit” that includes the belt, idler and tensioner assembly. Have no fear for the valves, this is a free-wheeling engine. One of the principle reasons I chose a ZX2.

This may also help. Have you unplugged the battery for 5 minutes? A simple computer reboot may also help you. If you did everything correctly, mechanically speaking, it might be what you can’t see that is your problem. This should reset even the VCT to 0.0".