550M timing belt service... - Ferrari Life
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post #1 of 27 Old 12-12-2012, 01:16 PM Thread Starter
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550M timing belt service...

Just getting into doing a major service on a 550M, including cam seals and degreeing the cams...If there's interest, I'll post more photos and narrative along the way.
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post #2 of 27 Old 12-12-2012, 03:39 PM
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Ah, the old coat hanger degree wheel pointer.


I have the whole set.
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post #3 of 27 Old 12-12-2012, 03:55 PM Thread Starter
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Ah, the old coat hanger degree wheel pointer.
I have the whole set.
Usually I'm a bit more formal, but the factory pointer tool was $576. Perhaps you did notice that it was of the "extra thick" variety? LOL!

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post #4 of 27 Old 12-12-2012, 04:05 PM
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Works for me. Would love to see more photos.

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post #5 of 27 Old 12-12-2012, 04:20 PM
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Just getting into doing a major service on a 550M, including cam seals and degreeing the cams...If there's interest, I'll post more photos and narrative along the way.
David, please do post more!

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post #6 of 27 Old 12-12-2012, 04:25 PM
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I love these threads: Post away and spare no pixels, nibbles, bytes, or bits.

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post #7 of 27 Old 12-12-2012, 09:55 PM
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I stumbled across a Helms remark on the lack of accuracy of the factory alignment marks, specifically on the 550 in this conversation. The '98 I finished timing the other day had the same result. Bank 1-6 was very close, Bank 7-12 was no where near (relatively speaking).

I remeasured 3 times to make sure my coat hanger was reading accurately as well. Are you finding the same thing with this engine?

I've always understood the marks to be assembly reference points and not reliable cam timing reference points.


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post #8 of 27 Old 12-13-2012, 09:31 AM
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I stumbled across a Helms remark on the lack of accuracy of the factory alignment marks, specifically on the 550 in this conversation. The '98 I finished timing the other day had the same result. Bank 1-6 was very close, Bank 7-12 was no where near (relatively speaking).

I remeasured 3 times to make sure my coat hanger was reading accurately as well. Are you finding the same thing with this engine?

I've always understood the marks to be assembly reference points and not reliable cam timing reference points.


They can be very inconsistant but not so sure any more so than any other Ferrari motor. I have seen marks so far off I rechecked my work three times to be sure I didn't just do something dumb.

On some days they must have had Ray Charles making the marks. Good thing the valves are small and the cams dont have a lot of lift or a lot of valves would get bent during the degreeing.
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post #9 of 27 Old 12-13-2012, 10:49 AM
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I haven't seen it specific to the 550 either, TR, 355, 308 etc, It was convenient in this conversation.

A little off topic, but it brings me to the thought of how hard does one need to work to make owners realize these cars aren't perfect..let alone "right" out of the factory a lot of times.

Cam timing probably not right at initial assembly, alignments usually off from the factory, dealer detail shops offering wet sand and buff service before delivery... Talk about an unfinished product. Imagine the PDI expenses if dealers actually went through new cars and set them up before selling them...

How long do the cars see usage before all of these get addressed. A Ferrari is like a pair of sneakers, the more they wear in and get adjusted the better they feel...


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post #10 of 27 Old 12-13-2012, 11:27 AM
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I haven't seen it specific to the 550 either, TR, 355, 308 etc, It was convenient in this conversation.

A little off topic, but it brings me to the thought of how hard does one need to work to make owners realize these cars aren't perfect..let alone "right" out of the factory a lot of times.

Cam timing probably not right at initial assembly, alignments usually off from the factory, dealer detail shops offering wet sand and buff service before delivery... Talk about an unfinished product. Imagine the PDI expenses if dealers actually went through new cars and set them up before selling them...

How long do the cars see usage before all of these get addressed. A Ferrari is like a pair of sneakers, the more they wear in and get adjusted the better they feel...


This is one area I really have to give FNA a pat on the back. At least when I was still inside they had a couple of good dedicated guys at 250 Sylvan Ave doing a pretty good job going over the cars before the dealers ever got them. I remember hearing some real horror stories about the cars before we ever saw them. QA in Maranello is a joke, Some of those cars were lucky to get on board a ship under their own power. In the US Ferrari has to pay parts and labor for warranty work so they spent a few bucks trying to give us cars that we could actually sell without major work. In most of the rest of the world Ferrari only pays for parts costs on warranty claims so they really don't care what kind of garbage product they ship. It is up to the individual importer or dealer to sort out on his nickel. That is also why Italy and Germany get new models long before we do. They were very up front about that. Problems cost them more money and reputation here than there so Italy and Germany are the beta testers.


As far as how far do you go with a customer car? Its up to them. Some are happy if it just runs well enough to get down to park in front of the local cafe so everyone can admire it and some are willing to pay what it costs to actually make it run right. I never ram anything down anyones throats. It is a matter of what their standards are. The good thing about no longer being in a dealer and having far more business offered than I can do though is I can be selective. The cafe show off crowd and the bling mobile crowd are not part of my business plan. As a shop owner you have to remember that every car out there you work on is an advertisement. What is it you want to advertise? A patched up POS? Its true you cant fix it any better than your are being paid to do but you can choose who's paying.
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post #11 of 27 Old 12-13-2012, 11:31 AM
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Brian- Does that mean you are stuck with lock and swaps or do you just not accept that kind of work? I know that once you have made your own timing marks, you can lock and swap if everything lines up OK, but how about for the first time you change belts?

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post #12 of 27 Old 12-13-2012, 11:36 AM
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...I can be selective. The cafe show off crowd and the bling mobile crowd are not part of my business plan.
Now Josh, don't you go getting any highfalutin ideas!

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post #13 of 27 Old 12-13-2012, 11:45 AM
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Brian- Does that mean you are stuck with lock and swaps or do you just not accept that kind of work? I know that once you have made your own timing marks, you can lock and swap if everything lines up OK, but how about for the first time you change belts?


Depends a lot on the model, the cars history and the overall job.

456, 550, 575 etc are not super sensitve to cam timing like a TR or a 355 is. If either I degreed it before or no one has ever been into it, it is a belt service and not a major service and it runs well with no check engine lights I will just put on belts.


Anything that has been opened up prior except by a very few other mechanics or anything with running issues needs to be degreed.


TR, 348, 355, F40, 288 are very fussy and I wouldn't consider it.
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post #14 of 27 Old 12-13-2012, 11:51 AM
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Now Josh, don't you go getting any highfalutin ideas!
LOL! Don't worry David, I always try to stop just shy the point of diminishing return.

Really greats points Brian, thanks for sharing that perspective. Sadly, none of that is very surprising.

I like one of Helm's other remarks, "It runs great compared to what?!". A lot of these guys have no idea what they could get for their money, I believe. Without having a car sitting here to use as a demo...it's awfully difficult to help them understand the value sometimes.


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post #15 of 27 Old 12-13-2012, 12:10 PM
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I would love to follow along, please, post away
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post #16 of 27 Old 12-13-2012, 01:50 PM
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Brian, Josh- Thanks for the insights. Mine is due for belts this summer and will have to be unbuttoned for weeping cam seals, but is very strong. Might as well have them degree it and I will know for sure.

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post #17 of 27 Old 12-13-2012, 02:38 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ECSofVirginia View Post
I remeasured 3 times to make sure my coat hanger was reading accurately as well. Are you finding the same thing with this engine?
I'm not at that point yet, but have always put little faith in these marks. As the stakes are pretty high, I find multiple checks are always prudent. Brian's comment about Ray Charles making the marks was very funny! I did a Boxer engine recently where 3 of the 4 marks were very close to spot on the references; whereas the 4th, clearly Mr. Charges was called in. I just couldn't believe what the degree wheel was telling me versus the reference marks. But, as you know, once true TDC is verified, you can indeed trust what you read.

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Originally Posted by ECSofVirginia View Post
I've always understood the marks to be assembly reference points and not reliable cam timing reference points.
That's how it has been spelled out in the WSM...This 550M, my own car, ran exceptionally well. However, due to a pissing cam seal, hence cams coming out, I wanted to go through this exercise. On client cars, it depends...and my philosophy of when to degree, or not, mirrors that of Brian. In the 30 years that I've been serving these cars, you can get a pretty good idea of what's running right versus 'just pretty' if you catch my drift...

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post #18 of 27 Old 12-14-2012, 08:42 AM
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Makes great sense. Once you've drivena couple acrs that are set up right, you can really feel the motor liven up after 4k. Cars with cams ont he amarks always feel a bit more flat.

I'm glad I'm not the only one setting cams up in what appears to be "outer space". It makes mer nervous everytime, until I drive it..


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post #19 of 27 Old 12-17-2012, 12:16 PM Thread Starter
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It sure looks like the last Dealer service was a "lock and swap" as the degree wheel tells a bit of a different story...I guess it was one of those 10% off specials that Brian has referred to in the past. With the 1-6 bank now dead on, we're moving over to set-up the 7-12 bank.

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post #20 of 27 Old 12-17-2012, 01:13 PM
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Makes me wonder if there is not some free horsepower in there somewhere. On the Superamerica, they took the 575M cams with the same lift and duration and advanced the timing 6 degrees. They also raised compression minimally (11.0-11.2), but the advanced timing probably helped raise the hp part way from 515 to 540. Cam timing goes from -7/56 intake, and 36/13 exhaust on the 575M to
-1/50 and 42/7 on the SA.

What do you pros think doing that to 550 or 575M cams would do to performance?

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