If it like a 98 there are 2 slots on the far end of the cams.remove spark plug #1 closest to the timing belt and set to tdc....then align the two slots so you can get a straight edge into both at the same time....i use a piece of keystock.....place the belt on and thats it....really qiute simple
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you need a chilton repair manual.it will show and tell you how to replace timing belt tensioner.you need engine lift or crane chain hoist to support engine while you remove front engine mount to remove timing cover.you need basic mechanic tool set.dont try this task without repair manual hard to do.
You don't have to replace it but you have to take the belt off to remove the water pump for the extra $30.00 i would recomend changing the belt too, unless the belt has been changed less then 20,000 miles ago .
This can be a big problem if it is a Non Interferrance Motor, meaning that when your timing belt broke you engine basically free wheeled during slow down. This can bend the intake and exhaust valves, extended cranking on motor trying to get it to start after the belt breaks can also cause this. You can get a Chiltons manual to have a guide in replacing the timing belt, i can say i know the motor in your car is a dual over head cam engine. These can be a little more difficult to do if you have never replaced a timing belt. May be best to take it to a professional that can test the head and make sure that no valves are bent before you pay for the belt and timing tensioner.
FIRST,as long as you line up the pulleys BEFORE you take off the belt its relatively easy.if you feel, you are competant, get on and do it....with brakes they are so simple/logical,as long as you take your time and replace exactly as it comes apart,you will have no problems,WE are here to help if you get stuck.
Sounds like you are correct and the timing belt is worn. To replace the belt will cost you around $200. The Mercury Mystic and Ford Contour clone are very unreliable vehicles and my advise is to walk away. There are much better cars that you can buy in this price range.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT I THINK ITS YOUR ALTERNATOR! THIS IS TYPICAL FOR THE MYSTIQUE OR SHOULD I SAY (MISTAKE). NOTHING YOU CAN DO , ITS AN ELECTRICAL DESIGN FLAW. THE CARS ARE TO ELECTRONIC FOR THEIR ALTERNATORS OUTPUT. OF COURSE THIS IS MY OWN ASSUMPTION. THEY ARE AN ELECTRICAL NIGHTMARE. HOWEVER I DID FINALLY FIX THE PROBLEM I HAD WITH MINE.( I SOLD IT!)
you almost never need to reset timing. To do it, you remove a timing "jumper" block which disconnects the computer from the distributor. Then, you can check "base timing" with a timing light. It should be 10 degrees. Then, during computer self test, it should jump to 27 to 33 degrees. You need a "Star Tester" to do this part.