What is the Ford Firing Order, and Why is This Important?
The standard order for the spark plug firing is 1-5-4-2-6-3-7-8. Restorers should double-check the firing order for the specific engine in their vehicles before attempting to work on them. The best place to find this information is in the owner’s manual with the car. (Please note that the 460 engine was used in several marine applications, and the firing order may differ in these engines).
The Purpose of Firing Order
In a V8, the cylinders are arranged in two banks on either side of the engine. Each cylinder is numbered 1-4 (passenger side) and 5-8. The cylinders do not fire sequentially because of damage to the crankshaft. Engineers have run multiple tests to determine the optimal sequence to provide balance and power to the engine.
As each piston rotates, the electric signal comes from the rotor to the spark plug through a spark plug wire. The electrical current triggers the spark plug to fire. This spark inside the chamber ignites the mixture of air and fuel (the gasoline has come into the chamber by being sprayed by a fuel injector). The resulting explosion fills the chamber with exhaust, forcing the piston back down and allowing the next cylinder in the firing order to rotate the piston up, allowing its spark plug to fire. All eight cylinders follow in their designated firing order until the order repeats with cylinder 1.
The goal is to compress the fuel/air mixture to produce the maximum combustion needed to power the wheels when the spark plug fires.
The Purpose of Rotors and Spark Plug Wires
Every spark plug knows when to fire by an electrical pulse from the rotor located inside the distributor. The rotor looks like a small clock and rotates through eight contact points. Each time the rotor makes contact with the point, it sends the electric pulse via a spark plug wire to the plug. The plug fires. The process repeats itself repeatedly, providing power to the wheels, which send power to the drive train. The rotor turns counterclockwise, so the contacts inside the distributor are arranged in the engine's firing order.
How to Put the Spark Plug Wires in the Right Firing Order
Putting the spark plug wires in the correct order is relatively easy, but it requires some concentration. The easiest method is to change the plugs one chamber at a time. Simply disconnect the wire from each chamber, remove the plug, insert the new plug and reconnect the loose spark plug wire. Replacing the wire from the cap to the plug one at a time as well
will prevent any confusion or miswiring.
What Happens If I put the Wires on Wrong?
If the wrong cylinder wire is connected to the wrong plug and an attempt to start the car is made, the engine will misfire and idle roughly. If more than two wires are disconnected, the car will simply not start.
Often the spark plug wires are numbered, and that identification can be used to help arrange the wires from the correct connection on the cap to the correct plug. Trace each wire from the plug to the appropriate connection on the distributor cap.
What is the History of the Ford 460?
As part of the 385 family of engines, Ford produced the 460 from 1978 - 98. As the longest-lasting big block engine Ford produced, it was nicknamed the “Lima” V8 for the location of the plant where it was manufactured (Lima, Ohio).
The large motor was used for various full-sized and mid-sized vehicles (as well as muscle cars) during the early to mid-1970s. While the car did see a lot of usage in passenger cars, the primary use was as a truck engine, buses, and other commercial or recreational vehicles.
While the engine provided great power, they tended to guzzle gasoline. During the second oil embargo, Ford felt the pressure to downsize its fleet, as the American consumer was enamored of the smaller, more efficient four-cylinder engines. Ford phased out the 460 in 1978, preferring to use the motor for truck applications. Eventually, the introduction of the Powerstroke Diesel and the overhead-cam Triton V8 retired the Lima.
Over the years, the engine has seen almost yearly changes to horsepower and fuel efficiency. Initially offered as an exclusive engine for the Continental Mark III, the engine offered 365 hp and 485 lb/ft of torque. In 1972, spurred by concerns over the engine's reliability, with constant complaints of leaking timing chain covers and failed water pumps, Ford redesigned the 460 and expanded the application for use in the Mercury Marquis and Colony Park.
The success of sales spurred Ford to widen the use of the engine to most of the Ford lineup a year later. It would not be long before Ford decided to use the motor for commercial and church van applications, which it continued to do until 1996.
The engine was also a favorite among hot rod enthusiasts. Primarily due to the prevalence of the engine, with a plentiful supply of parts and accessories, the engine provided a big block alternative that married itself to the light frames of hot rods. Ford produced a crated engine until 1997, but many purveyors continue to offer remanufactured 460 units for car enthusiasts to purchase and install. Even today, if you venture to the drag strip, you will likely see a 460 big block in a Mustang or Funny car capable of putting down outstanding numbers.
Eventually, the Ford 460 was replaced by the 6.8 Triton V10, which Ford continued to use in truck applications until 2011, and in E-series vans up through 2019.