2.3L Camshaft Selection

The least expensive swap is to grab a used roller cam, followers and lifters from a 1989-92 Ranger or 91 and up Mustang if you have a hydraulic cam. The Ranger cam provides very good low end torque starting at 800 rpm and up to about 4500 rpm.

Ranger Roller Cam

Inexpensive Hot Cam Setup

Looking at the cam and rocker arm (cam follower) specs, there's basically 3 versions:

  • Non Roller Cam Engines
    • Have slider rocker arms 1.5:1 ratio
    • Not interested

  • 1989-1994 2.3L Roller Cam Engines
    • Lobe Lift
      • Intake 0.2381"
      • Exhaust 0.2381"
    • Rocker arm (cam follower) ratio 1.64:1
    • Theoretical Valve Lift @ Zero Lash
      • Intake 0.390"
      • Exhaust 0.390"
    • Valve stem 0.3419" dia

  • 1995-2000 2.3L and 2.5L Roller Cam Engines
    • Lobe Lift
      • Intake 0.2163"
      • Exhaust 0.2163"
    • Rocker arm (cam follower) ratio 1.86:1
    • Theoretical Valve Lift @ Zero Lash
      • Intake 0.402"
      • Exhaust 0.402"
    • Valve stem 0.2750" dia

Stock Roller Camshaft Pattern

Lobe Center Separation: 112 deg
Intake @ 0.050: 
- Open: 14.5 deg BTDC
- Centerline: 108 deg
- Closed: 21.5 ABDC
- Duration: 187 deg

Intake @ 0.00  lift: 
- Duration: 248 deg
- Lift: 0.390"

Exhaust @ 0.050: 
- Open: 30.5 deg BBDC
- Centerline: 116 deg
- Closed: 21.5 ATDC
- Duration: 189 deg

Exhaust @ 0.00  lift: 
- Duration: 250 deg
- Lift: 0.390"

It Gets Interesting!

The hot setup is to use a 95+ Rocker Arm (1.86" ratio) with a 89-94 Roller Cam (0.2381" lobe lift). This will give you a valve lift of 0.443" which is pretty dam hot! If you have an 89-94 2.3L, you will have to widen the valve stem ends (0.2750") of the 95+ rockers to fit the 0.343" valve stems.

Ranger Roller Rocker - arrow points to valve stem end (underneath).

Bottom View: end needs to be widened for the wider valve stems of the 89-94 engines.

If you have a 95+ (94+ in Calif) 2.3L engine, it may not be just as easy to replace your cam with a 89-94 roller cam as the 95+ cam has a position sensor. Maybe someone with a picture of the 95+ cam can send one in so we can check the differences?

I had a chance to hit the wreckers and picked up a set of eight 1997 rockers for $16! I've just measured the rockers and they have a clearance of 0.010" (measured 0.285") over the valve stem (0.275"). It looks like you need to widen them to 0.343" to fit the 94 and earlier engines. 0.343" - 0.285" = 0.058" overall which is 0.029" each side.

I did some calculations and figured that changing to the higher ratio rockers will increase the duration of the intake and exhaust by 4 degree overall (2 degrees for the rise and 2 for the fall). The overlap will decrease proportionally by 4 degrees. Putting the new cam specs into DynoSim (engine simulator), it comes out to about 12 hp increase at 4500 rpm and 10 ftlb of torque. Can't wait to find the time to swap in the higher ratio rockers!

Pre 95 Roller Cam with 95+ 1.86 rockers compared to stock 1.64 rockers.

I checked with the local Ford parts counter to see if the camshaft sprocket gear (timing gear), the lifters and the heads had the same part number and they did. That means that they are the same part for all years: 1989 - 2000. This should be a simple bolt-in upgrade. The nice thing about the roller cam is that it just doesn't wear. Junkyard cams and rocker arms look like new after 100,000 miles and cost little!

Note: With any cam/lifter upgrade, you should check for piston to valve clearance and for valve spring bind at full lift. I don't expect any clearance problems but it is always good to check.

Aftermarket Cams

Otherwise there's a lot of cams available for the hydraulic lifter but very little performance cams for the roller cam. Pretty much all of the other roller performance cams trade low end torque for high end power and start working above 3000 rpm which is okay for racing but sucks for daily driving street use.

For performance cams, I did find that Crane Cams makes a good series of Powermax performance cams for the 88 to 98 2.3l with my choice being the #199501 for street/strip:

  • Camshaft - Crane Cam part #199501 (around $400)
  • Valve seals - Crane Cam part #99820-8 (around $18)
  • Retainers - Crane Cam part #99967-8 (around $38)
  • Dual coil valve springs - Crane Cam part #99884-8 (around $72)

Here's a performance roller cam from the Ford Motorsports catalog:M-6250-A237 for a decent price of $275. Unfortunately has been out of stock for the past 5 years. Some aftermarket suppliers carry similar cam grinds (0.420" lift) but they are around US$450 each.

Part Number Type Application Intake/Exhaust duration Intake/Exhaust lift
M-6250-A233 Hydraulic Flat Tappet Good idle with good mid-range horsepower for turbo and naturally aspirated usage 270/270 0.404"/0.404"
M-6250-A234 Hydraulic Flat Tappet Good to fair idle with excellent mid-range horsepower for turbo and naturally aspirated usage 272/280 0.420"/0.420"
M-6250-A237 Hydraulic Roller Follower only from M-6252-A230 camshaft kit Good to fair idle with excellent mid-range horsepower for turbo and naturally aspirated usage 274/280 0.420"/0.420"

Here's a great website that discusses the many cams available: Merkurencyclopedia. Here's a link to how to swap in a Ranger roller cam if you don't already have one.

Advancing the camshaft timing - Advancing or retarding the camshaft timing in relation to the crankshaft will change the power curve range on your engine. You can dial in the performance depending on your application. I finally installed an adjustable cam gear and put it at 6 degree advance. Very nice improvement in the bottom end!

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Copyright February 2011 Eugene Blanchard