Ford 4.6L (281 cu in) firing order — what is it?
Detailed breakdown of the Ford 4.6L engine's firing order.
Back in the 1990s, Ford introduced a new modular approach to upgrade its old crate engines, and one of the instances that stuck for the longest time was the 4.6-liter V8. As the engine held its place in Ford’s family and vehicles from 1991 to 2011, we’ve seen a lot of arguments on the Ford 4.6L (281 cu in) firing order.
With this in mind, we just couldn’t help but notice that a lot of drivers struggle with different variations of the engine and its firing sequence, so we created this all-around guide to help. We’ll discuss the main firing order for the base 281 cu in engine, cylinder positions, and models that had this engine.
Ford 4.6L SOHC firing order
The initial version of the 281 engine was a SOHC (single overhead cam) which means that there was a single cam over the cylinders that acted both as an inlet and as an outlet valve.
The Ford 4.5 L SOHC firing order is 1-3-7-2-6-5-4-8 and it’s the firing order that stuck with the engine for its lifetime of production.
The important thing to note here is that there’s a later version of the engine introduced in 2005. It also had an SOHC system, but this time it had 3 valves and a VCT system. It’s the variable camshaft timing system which made controls the valve opening to optimize fuel consumption and performance.
So, even though it’s a completely different running system, the firing order has remained the same for all the SOHC engines.
Ford 4.6L DOHC firing order
Another version of this engine appeared in 1993 and this time it had four valves – two inlet valves, and two outlet valves. This meant better fuel optimization and the engine operated slightly differently than the SOHC version.
However, the Ford 4.6L DOHC firing order is 1-3-7-2-6-5-4-8 again, which means all the 281 cu in engines of this period had the same firing sequence.
In 2003, a new version of this engine appeared and it was the SVT Cobra engine used in the SVT Mustang in model years 2003 and 2004. It was later succeeded by the GT500, and the engine was tweaked by the SVT (Special Vehicle Team) compartment.
The DOHC 4.6 engine used in this car came with a supercharger, but that didn’t affect the original firing order of the motor.
Ford 4.6L (281 cu in) cylinder diagram
If you have any engine issues on your Ford vehicle powered by a 4.6-liter engine, the first step is to know the firing order. So, now that you know all the engines from 1991 to 2011 used the same firing order, it’s time to discuss the cylinder diagram.
Like many other Ford V8 modular engines of the time, this one has two cylinder banks – the first one with cylinder numbers 1 to 4, and the second one with cylinder numbers 5 to 8. Bank 1 is on the passenger’s side while Bank 2 is on the driver’s side looking at the engine from the radiator toward the windshield.
Ford 4.6L vehicle applications
Being one of Ford’s most widely used V8s of the time, the 4.6-liter engine has appeared in many vehicles over the years.
Even though all of these use the same firing order regardless of whether it’s an SOHC or DOHC engine, it’s still handy to know about the vehicles using this engine so you can make sure you are looking at the right firing order:
- Ford Mustang
- Ford Crown Victoria
- Ford Thunderbird
- Ford F-Series
- Ford E-Series
- Ford Explorer
- Ford Expedition
- Ford Mustang Bullit
Overall, it’s a good thing for drivers that the 4.6-liter engine made by Ford has always featured the same firing sequence. However, having in mind that there were many different V8 engines used at the time, it’s always a good idea to double-check on this, as well as the engine types and vehicles using it.
After going through this guide, we are confident that you’ll have all the pieces of information to properly repair the engine components in your car.