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What is needed to upgrade a cam? Can i swap the cam and call it good or do I need a new timing set as well?
 

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1967 Mercury Cougar XR7
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If your timing set isn't worn (you can tell from how much play there is in the chain) you can re-use it just fine. I would very strongly caution you not to use a flat-tappet cam. Most cams and almost all lifters being made today are garbage, and the oil/additives that you need to use even if you get a good set, are no guarantee that it will last. Use a roller cam. Get linkbar lifters, if you have an old engine that came with a flat tappet, unless it's a museum piece.
 

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What is needed to upgrade a cam? Can i swap the cam and call it good or do I need a new timing set as well?
What Grimbrand said. Chinese made with poor quality control and crap steel = bad products.
You didn't say what year/engine. That's always helpful information when you start a thread. If by chance this was a higher mileage modern fuel injected VCT engine that's been swapped in then yes it would be a good idea to change at least some of the timing components.
Conversely, if this is an original classic era engine and it has the nylon coated cam timing gear then get rid of it. Ford coated those gears in plastic for a while at least in the 70s and maybe earlier and later. When they get old from decades of soaking in hot oil and breaking down due to age/heat the plastic breaks off of them and causes the timing chain to skip right over the gear. More importantly those plastic bits clog the oil pickup and give you no oil pressure which can ruin an engine. Ask me how I know about that. I can attest that a 140k mile 460 engine with no oil pressure will idle for 10 minutes and then run under load for 25 minutes before it seizes.
 

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A cam swap needs to be part of a recipe. Match it with intake, heads, compression ratio, carburetion and exhaust headers. If you are lacking one component in the mix you'll just get a poor running engine.

Lots of guys throw a cam in and regret it later.
 

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Timing sets are cheap. No reason to re-use an old one.
 

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Timing sets are cheap. No reason to re-use an old one.
Even 5 years ago, I would've agreed with that - but a lot of parts these days are pretty sketchy. I try to use as much 'old' stuff as I can get away with, these days! If it's worn, then "duh", yes, replace. =)
 

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I’m in the “replace ‘em” camp. If I’m going to open it up and replace the cam, and other associated parts, the timing components are getting a treatment too.
 
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I've replaced the cam twice in my '69 302 and I replaced the timing set both times since it would be wrong to be "in there" and not renew something as cheap as a timing set.
 

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I've replaced the cam twice in my '69 302 and I replaced the timing set both times since it would be wrong to be "in there" and not renew something as cheap as a timing set.
I only agree with that if the mileage was high enough to justify it otherwise it's just a waste of parts and $, plain and simple. This has even more consequence if it's an older performance timing set that wasn't made of modern chinese steel of dubious quality.

I totally agree with Grimbrand about keeping any old stuff that you know was made and bought before this modern era of inferior products in our awful disposable society. I bought a Ford Racing small block double roller 9 index timing set back in 1994 that was installed in a 302. I'll bet it's made better than anything similar that you'll probably find today. You can bet that timing set will get reused by me until it nears at least the 50k mile mark.

There's plenty of testimonials and news articles online about steel products coming out of China that don't prove out to be the alloys or of the quality that were specified and ordered. This has been going on for many years now. Few companies have the backbone to make an issue about it because $ and profit rule over giving the consumer genuine or quality products that will last. If it breaks before it's time corporate America is more than happy to sell you another.
 

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There's plenty of testimonials and news articles online about steel products coming out of China that don't prove out to be the alloys or of the quality that were specified and ordered. This has been going on for many years now.
Geez! Is there no place left on earth to buy good quality parts?
 

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Because this is very relevant in here, I would like to add that the problem is not really "China" here. There are plenty of capable people and even companies over there that do make good parts.

Here's the problem. Imagine that an American company makes a part. Then a Chinese company copies it, and sells a very comparable product for less, because their labor is cheaper. The American company goes out of business. Then another company undercuts the first company in China, making a part that isn't quite as good, but costs even less money, because of inferior quality, lower grade metal, whatever. And so on. We keep voting with our dollars, buying cheap crappy parts, and eventually all the "good" companies except for a few overpriced examples are out of business.

We get exactly what we pay for, eventually. Bummmer.

Right now, flat tappet cam lifters are 100% garbage, except for a few very overpriced examples that cost way more than most roller lifters. This is in part due to modern oils not supporting flat tappet cams. Timing sets seem to be having trouble these days too, but there are still plenty of good ones available.
 
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