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Uh oh. What did I do?

2138 Views 48 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  plplplpl
2004 Honda Pilot and I’m changing my first timing belt.
I did a bunch of research and carefully aligned everything top dead center to the best of my ability.
But I couldn’t get the engine to start.
Now when I try to align the camshaft (closest to the cabin/ furthest from the radiator, it wants to “spring” past top dead center. I can almost set it, but it rapidly lunges forward- or backward.
I fear that I have ruined the engine somehow. Fingers crossed.
I took the video below- it’s hard to see what I’m talking about, but you should be able to get the idea.
Help? Thoughts? Mechanics prayers (ha)?

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There are Real Mechanics here who will respond, but here's some basics to get you going again:

1. As long as things still turn easily, you probably haven't damaged anything.
2. The cams won't always cooperate with you. You can turn them backwards to re-align if you need to. Just don't force anything. A fixed breaker bar may be a better tool for the job than a ratchet. Make sure the plugs are at least loose, so you're not pushing against compression.
3. You have to spin the cranks around at least twice to be sure that your cams are aligned. The marks should be perfect every time they come back around.
4. A Pilot will run with a cam that's slightly out of time (like one or two teeth). Unless you suspect you made a massive error, your diagnostic time may be better spent looking for another problem, vs. fussing with the belt. Check the basics: spark, fuel, air, and work from there.
5. When you feel anxious or upset about a mistake while working on a car, stop, step away and relax. The odds of doing real damage accidentally are far lower than for something you might do if you're not thinking clearly and act rashly.
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What is the springy thrust on the cam telling you?
That's the valve lifter pressing on the cam lobe as the lobe passes the high point. It's normal.

Unless I'm missing something, your goal is to get all three marks (crank and two cams) to align with their partners. Unless you've gotten one of the cams wildly out of time by turning it manually, they should be within 90 degrees or so of alignment.

Get the cams aligned. Get the belt back on and tensioned. Turn the engine over at least 4 rotations by hand to make sure everything turns smoothly and stays aligned. If not, you'll have to re-pin the tensioner and do the belt again.

Once that's done, you can start looking for reasons why it won't start, because you'll know that the cams and crank are in time with each other and the motor can spin without wrecking itself.
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I agree that it doesn't look right from the pictures.

One of the best tips I got (probably here, maybe the Eric the Car Guy video) was to buy an extendable mirror so that you can see the marks straight on, up close.

As soon as you get off-axis (like the front cam pic) you really can't tell anything.

Pull that tensioner again and follow @royalbiggster 's advice.
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