Ford Flywheels and Flexplates
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Ford flywheels and flexplates are apparently a very vexing topic for many people working on engine or transmission swaps like I was. As I researched the details for myself, it became very apparent that it's a confusing topic for many folks and that there are various sites out there that attempt to explain it. Since I had to read a bunch of sites to decipher things, I decided to start my own page to pull all this together in one place.

NOTE: This page is specific to the (now) older Windsor Ford V8 engines, and my specific work was on 302/5.0L engines. That same basics should work on the 351/5.8L engines, and the 289 engines as well, but, I have not confirmed that. The information on this page does NOT apply to the later 4.6L, 5.4L, and other "modular" engines! Extrapolating this information to anything else should be done only after careful comparison of actual parts or other authoritative sources of information. Using the wrong flywheel or flexplate on your engine can - quite literally - destroy it due to excessive vibration due to the wrong balance weight, so use common sense and lots of care in selecting the flywheel to use. I am not responsible if you break your engine, transmission, or anything else as a result of you using the information on this page. This information is for educational purposes only, and has no warranty or guarantee of being correct for your particular needs.

 

Overview

As far as I can tell, there are two basic ways that the flywheels and flexplates differed - size (diameter and number of teeth) and the amount of imbalance that they contain (Many/most Ford V8 engines are externally balanced from the factory). The size matters because it determines the number of teeth on the flywheel and has to match the starter location that is cast into your transmission bellhousing. The amount of imbalance matters because the entire rotating assembly is balanced together, and externally balanced engines put part of the balance weight onto the harmonic balancer and onto the flywheel/flexplate. If you put a flywheel/flexplate with the wrong imbalance on your engine and run it, your main and rod bearings will take a serious pounding due to the vibrations and will likely give out in just a few miles of driving.

From my research so far, it seems that manual transmission applications (flywheels) and automatic transmission applications (flexplates) generally used the same sized pieces, and they will both be the same size, at least as far as the ring gear goes. For example, you can talk about a 164 tooth flywheel or flexplate - there does not appear to be unique sizing for automatic vs. manual setups. That's not to say that the automatic vs. manual transmission units were the same in any given year and model of car, just that they happen to be available with the same tooth count on the ring gear in various applications.

 

Details

The table below shows the nine different possibilities you have. It is important to note that not all of these combinations were ever used by the factory, so it is entirely possible you will need to get aftermarket parts to make your combination work. In addition to the two different imbalances used by the factory, there are also places that offer flywheels and flexplates with zero imbalance (also referred to as "internally balanced" on some sites) - these are used when building a custom motor. I mention it because that stuff is out there -  so be aware of it if you are working on a custom high performance motor that you do not know the entire history of. Also, the 148 tooth units are very rare and not even mentioned on many pages/sites I came across in my research. Apparently, they were only used in a few "small" vehicles like the V8 Mustang II installations. You may not be able to find this size flywheel/flexplate in the 50oz or "none" imbalance configurations, at least not easily. The others possibilities should all be readily available from either OEM or aftermarket sources. Reproduction flywheels for stock configurations are readily available - flywheels are considered a "wear" item and they do need to be replaced once in a while, so you can get them pretty easily it you look around a bit for them.

  Transmission Flywheel/Flexplate Requirement
164 teeth 157 teeth 148 teeth
Engine imbalance 50oz Possibility #1 Possibility #2 Possibility #3
28oz Possibility #4 Possibility #5 Possibility #6
none Possibility #7 Possibility #8 Possibility #9

To figure out what you need, start with your engine and find out what amount of imbalance you need. Then, figure out what size unit you require to match up with your transmission bellhousing. Now you know what flywheel or flexplate you need. Write down exactly what you need, and make sure you get the right unit. Research each item individually to make it easier on your brain, then when you get a clear answer on both of them, write it down for later reference, and use that information to select the right part for your needs.

 

Interesting Tidbits

Here are some Interesting and possibly useful tidbits of information I ran into while researching this.

  • AOD transmissions used a 164 tooth flexplate.
  • Mustang T5 transmissions used a 157 tooth flywheel and a 10.5" or 10" clutch disc.
  • Ford light-duty trucks often used a 164 tooth flexplate and an 11" clutch disc, though some heavy-duty trucks used much larger clutches.
  • C4 transmissions could have used any of the three tooth count flexplates depending on the bellhousing used. In original applications, it roughly corresponded to the "size" of the vehicle the transmission came in.
  • C6 transmissions could have used either the 157 or 164 tooth flexplates, depending on which case it had. As with the C4, the size of the flexplate generally seemed to follow the size of the car it was used in.
  • Ford changed the imbalance on the 302 (otherwise known as the 5.0L) engines in 1981. Some sources list this change as 1980 in a confusing way, but all of the reliable data I found said 1981 was the first year of the new 50oz imbalance motors. Thus, if your motor was built before 1981, then it's a 28oz imbalance motor. If it was build in 1981 or after, it's a 50oz imbalance motor. If you are not sure, use Google to find ways to check for sure what you have.
  • Ford did not change the imbalance on the 351W (otherwise known as the 5.8L) engines - they stayed at a 28oz imbalance. This means that mixing a late model flywheel or flexplate between a 5.0L and 5.8L engine is a bad idea. The same goes for the harmonic balancers...
  • If you are looking at custom/aftermarket parts, they may specify "internal" vs. "external" balance. Internal balance means there is zero imbalance in the flywheel or flexplate, and these should only be used on a custom motor that is internally balanced.
  • Visual comparisons of the 164 and 157 and 148 tooth units should be very obvious as to which is which. If you have a known unit laying around, you can use it to compare against an unknown unit to see what it is.
  • Once you know what to look for, you can easily tell the difference between 28oz and 50oz imbalance pieces by looking at the back side. The 50oz units will have a much larger weight on them. Comparing an unknown unit against a known unit is easy, and various websites have good side-by-side photos of the differences you can educate yourself. Use Google to find some samples and educate yourself if you want to be a good junkyard spotter.
  • Starters can interchange between 164 and 157 tooth flywheels in many cases, but not all cases. Check the original application data for the transmission you are using to verify. Remember that the starter is bolted to the transmission bellhousing and not to the engine. For example, late model Mustangs (1986-1993, for example) used the same starter for manual transmission applications (157 tooth flywheel) and automatic transmission applications (164 tooth flexplate).
  • You can change between the different balances, but it's expensive. You can do this if you are willing to have your motor re-balanced (which basically requires tearing it down like you would for a full rebuild) and you are willing to replace various parts (like the flywheel and harmonic balancer). It can be costly to re-balance the motor separately from a rebuild, but it can be done in some (most?) cases if needed. I'm only mentioning it because some folks are doing oddball/custom motor work or fitting a swap into an "unusual" body that dictates size requirements, and it's a possibility to keep in mind.

 

Pictures

157 tooth flywheel sitting on top of a 164 tooth flywheel - you can see the 164 tooth flywheel peeking out from behind the 157 tooth flywheel, showing the size difference.

FordFlywheels01.jpg (2848608 bytes)

 

164 tooth flywheel (left) and 157 tooth flywheel (right) - you can see the size difference if you look closely. You can also clearly see the clutch operating area on the smaller flywheel on the right. A bigger clutch means more holding power with less force, which is why you often see the larger 11" clutches and 164 tooth flywheels used in the trucks and larger cars, and the smaller 10" or 10.5" clutches and 157 tooth flywheels used in the smaller cars.

FordFlywheels02.jpg (2317484 bytes)

 

Rear of 164 tooth flywheel. Part # is E8TR-AA. This flywheel was removed from a 1989 F150 with a 5.0L and a 5-spd manual transmission and uses an 11-inch clutch. It is a 50-oz imbalance flywheel. Note the size of the imbalance weight in the upper right area of the flywheel. Because this flywheel is larger in diameter than the 157 tooth unit below, the weight has to be a bit smaller to achieve the same balancing effect.

FordFlywheels03.jpg (2828046 bytes)

 

Rear of 157 tooth flywheel. Part # is E1ZR-6360-AA. The writing on it claims it to be a late-model Mustang piece (unconfirmed as of yet), and it is a 50oz imbalance flywheel. I believe this flywheel uses a 10" or 10.5" clutch. Note the size of the imbalance weight in the upper right area of the flywheel. Because this flywheel is smaller in diameter than the 164 tooth unit above, the weight has to be a bit larger to achieve the same balancing effect.

FordFlywheels04.jpg (2740110 bytes)

NOTE: Previous versions of this page were in error on the captions for the last two pictures. They incorrectly said the imbalance weight was in the upper left area of the flywheels pictures - they are actually in the upper right area. The text above has been corrected. Kudos to Dan Harris (TigerDan) over at Ford Truck Enthusiasts for spotting the error and letting me know about it so I could fix it. Apologies to earlier readers who must have assumed I was lysdexic, or drove themselves crazy trying to make sense of the mis-matched photos and text. Sorry. I would like to point out that it took someone a year after I posted the page to point the error out to me. Shame on everyone else for not taking their chance to harass me about my mistake and get immortalized here as a sharp-eyed and helpful reader the way Dan did! :-) Thanks, Dan! Many future readers of this page have you to thank!

 

This is a 164 tooth flexplate from a 1993 5.0L with an AOD transmission. It is a 50oz imbalance unit. In the first picture, you can see the large weight to the upper left and the large "window" in the lower right. I believe this is the side that faces the engine - you can see the clean area from the crank flange with the minor grease staining around it. In the second picture, you can see the window to the left and the discoloring from the welds for the weigh on the right. I believe this is the side that faces the transmission - you can see the clean spots from the bolt heads and washers at the crank flange mounting.

FordFlywheels05.jpg (2373270 bytes) FordFlywheels06.jpg (2635069 bytes)

 

This is an example of a what I believe is 157 tooth flexplate that would fit a 1979 F100 with a C4 transmission. It is a 28oz imbalance unit. The weight is slightly smaller than in the previous unit, and there is no window on the opposite side to make the weight have more of an effect. The picture is taken from RockAuto.com as an example since I didn't have any of these around to take pictures of. Their online parts catalog with pictures is awesome, and so are their prices.

FordFlexplates03.jpg (48668 bytes)

 

For reference, this is a comparison of a 28oz harmonic balancer from a 1979 F100 with a 302/5.0L and a 50oz harmonic balancer from a 1985 Mustang with a 302/5.0L. The 28oz unit is on the left (more rusty/less greasy) and the 50oz unit is on the right (more greasy/less rusty) in both photos. Notice they both use the same 4-bolt pulley mounting. Notice the subtle difference in the size of the imbalance weights and the location of the rubber ring in relation to the inner hub by looking carefully at the top section of each of them in the first photo. The 28oz imbalance unit has the rubber ring further out from the center and has less metal removed from the outside of the rubber ring at the top. The 50oz imbalance unit has the rubber ring closer to the center and more metal removed from the outside of the rubber ring at the top. This difference in imbalance due to the different amounts of "missing metal" from the outer ring is what makes them different imbalances.

Ford302and5.0LBalancer1.jpg (2877222 bytes) Ford302and5.0LBalancer2.jpg (2902160 bytes)


Comments? Kudos? Got some parts you'd like to buy/sell/barter/swap? Nasty comments about my web page so far? You can email Mike or Debbie.

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Page last updated 03/10/2010 11:19:04 PM