4 upgrades you must do before you track your f20c

4 upgrades you must do before you track your f20c

About a month ago as you know Patrick blew his s2000 at Buttonwillow. (that is if you follow the blog) if you didn’t know, now you can read all about it by clicking the link below!


So hopefully now you’re all caught up. As many of you know Patrick’s S2000 is his daily, so getting it all back up and running was a priority for sure. A few days after we returned from Buttonwillow he had already ordered a replacement f20c long block. He received the long block about a week later, and we immediately got to work on making sure his new engine would provide him many years of use and abuse. Before he even thought of putting in the motor he knew that there was 4 major things that plague AP1 s2000’s, which we all know is the F20C that he had to swap out. This article will go into detail about all 4 of those things.


(you will notice in the picture above there is a rear main seal, we didn’t show the how to install this, sorry. But it was replaced)

  1. AP2 retainers
  2. Oil pan baffle
  3. Timing chain tensioner
  4. Check the oil squirter banjo bolts.

So for the first phase of getting your F20C track ready, you need to change out your stock AP1 retainers, and replace them with OEM AP2 retainers. The AP1 motor is notorious for developing cracks in the OEM retainers on the intake side. This is basically a ticking time bomb in your engine. When the retainer decides to finally give up, your engine is pretty much toast. For sure your piston is going to hit your valve, and the retainer is going to break into pieces spreading metal bits throughout your valvetrain. It is unsure of the exact reason that this is such a common issue with he AP1 (F20C), but some contribute it to the fact that the OEM F20C’s intake cam is a very aggressive high lift cam. It’s also said that the OEM F20C retainers are a bit thinner and lighter than the F22C, which aid its ability to rev it to 9K stock, but comes at a price since they prematurely crack and fail. The cracks only seem to happen on the intake side not the exhaust side, but it’s best that you just replace all AP1 retainers with AP2 ones. You’re already going to have all the valvetrain taken out so you might as well since you’re already in there.

Here is what cracked ones look like!


I tried my best to capture it, but you get the idea. Below is a picture of the 3 bad ones we found (on the left) compared to 3 good ones (on the right)


Note that these were actually in the motor he had just purchased. So someone was actually driving around with these cracked for who knows how long!

Let’s begin the actual process of replacing the AP1 retainers with the AP2 ones.

things you’re going to need.

  1. nylon rope
  2. OEM AP2 retainers
  3. OEM keepers
  4. valve spring compressor tool. LINK TO VALVE SPRING COMPRESSOR TOOL
  5. engine assembly lube

Step 1:

Removing the whole valvetrain. Start by taking the spark plug wire cover off, removing the coil packs, remove the dipstick, disconnect the PCV, disconnect the breather, loosen the valve cover bolts, and remove the valve cover. You should go ahead and remove the spark plugs now as well since later on you will be putting rope in the cylinders.



Once the valve cover is completely off it should look like this


Step 2:

loosen the clearances on the valves as you would if you’re doing a valve adjustment. The goal is to loosen them quiet a bit to take a pressure off the cam caps, valvetrain, and cams. This makes removing and reinstalling everything very easy.


Step 3:

Removing the cam caps, valvetrain, and cams. start by loosening the out sides and work your way inward in a cross pattern ( like you would tighten or loosen head studs )


The cam caps are held in by dowels that make them a little difficult to get off. DO NOT pry anything, just wiggle back and forth gently loosening the dowels and it should start to come apart. If it is still not coming loose, you can take a smaller screwdriver and insert it into where the cam cap bolts were and gently pry back and forth. (but please use caution to not go crazy and damage the cam caps)


Once you have gotten the whole valvetrain completely loose and its ready to come off. Take caution as the rockers will want to slide off the rocker bars, the cam caps will come apart, and the Vtec locking pins will also easily fall out of the rocker arms so be cautious. Take your hands and put one on each side of the outside most cam caps, and press inwards keeping tension on the whole valvetrain, and rockers so they don’t fall off. * PRO TIP which we didn’t do. Take a rubber band and wrap it around the three rockers arms (1 per intake for each cylinder and 1 per exhaust for each cylinder So a total of 8 rubber bands, this will help keep the Vtec locking pin in the rockers. If this falls out and you don’t notice your car will not hit vtec, and you will have to take it all back apart again.


Above it what you have taken off should look like. PAY ATTENTION to which cam is which (intake/exhaust), and the orientation of the rocker arms/valvetrain assembly, this must go on the same exact way it was taken off because the cams have worn in the metal a certain way. Putting anything in backwards would cause premature ware and possible engine failure. The cam caps are numberd with arrows so you really can’t mess those up. F20/22C motors are easy to do this to because they don’t have a timing chain/belt that go around the cam gears.


Your motor should look like this. you will have complete access to your retainers.


If you look closely you can see on the second intake valve how the valve stem is more sunk in than the other ones. This indicates that the retainer is cracked allowing the keepers to sink farther into the retainer causing the valve to drop lower into the combustion chamber. NOT GOOD FOR HIGH RPMS. As seen in the pictures above of the cracked retainers it is only noticeably cracked from the under side of the retainer. On this motor that he just recently purchased there was a total of three cracked retainers. there is no way to know until you fully disassemble the valvetrain completely like we have just done. This is why the AP2 retainer modification is a must for anyone buying a used AP1, or used F20C motor.

Step 4:

Pick which cylinder you want to start with, take a 19mm and place it on the crank pulley, rotate the engine so the piston of the cylinder you’re working on is all the way at the bottom. feed the rope into the cylinder, making sure not to let it completely fall all the way into the cylinder (or you’re going to have a bad time, and you might not even be able to get it out unless you pull off the head) we used a 5 foot piece of rope. Now rotate the crank pulley slowly moving the piston back up towards TDC. This will compress the rope enough to take up all the air in the cylinder allowing the valve to not drop all the way into the cylinder once you take the retainer off. You can also use compressed air in the cylinder to keep the valve from dropping, but for the sake of the article and assuming that most DIY people might not have access to an air compressor we did it with rope.



We tied off the rope in a knot to ensure the rope wouldn’t completely fall into the cylinder. We also started off by trying to use the valve compressor tool to remove the old retainer and keepers but it wasn’t working. We decided to do what everyone does and just use a big socket and a hammer.


The socket should be large enough to completely cover the retainer. Allowing the valve and keeper to move into the socket as you hit it and it compresses. * PRO TIP, stick a magnet in the socket then place the socket on the retainer. The magnet will catch the keepers as they fly off. If you don’t use a magnet to catch them, the keepers will possibly fly into the engine somewhere causing major issues if not found. You are going to want to hit the hammer pretty hard to compress the valve spring, so don’t be nervous.


Once the rope is in the cylinder you have move the piston as far up as it can go with out putting too much tension on it. you can now remove all the retainers from the cylinder you’re working on, by using the hammer and magnet socket trick. Then install the new AP2 retainers and new OEM keepers. Keep in mind that for every retainer there is 2 keepers.

Step 5:

Installing new AP2 retainers. You are now going to use the valve spring compressor tool. If you buy the cheap one that I linked above you are going to need to modify it. This involves grinding it a bit to fit around some of the bolts on the intake manifold. It should look like this when properly modified.


Now on to installing the AP2 retainers.


The tool will bolt on like this to pre existing holes in the head. Take your new retainer and place the 2 new keepers on it. This is where there are some different techniques so which ever you prefer will work. Some people use grease to hold the keepers on the retainer. We opted (since there was two of us) to have myself turn the spring compressor bolt tight to compress the valve spring, while Patrick held the keepers to the retainer with his fingers


As I tightened the spring compressor he can feel with his finger as the valve will start to poke thru the retainer and then he can feel ass the keepers “click” into the grove of the valve.


Sometimes two fingers is necessary to hold the keepers in the grove of the valve as I loosen the tension.  The keepers will either lock in or they won’t so you will know if it’s in correctly. Plus you can look at the amount of valve stem showing above the top of the retainer and it should all be the exact same for each cylinder. Also there is NO difference between intake and exhaust side retainers. Just make sure you don’t mix up the valve springs as those are different. (also I realize that this is a different cylinder then we started out on, this is only because its hard to document each cylinder and work on the motor at the same time.)

You are going to do this exact same process for each cylinder of the engine.  Once you have replaced every retainer on each cylinder you are now ready to reinstall the cams, valvetrain, and cam caps.


this is what it looks like with all the new retainers installed.

Step 6:

Reinstalling the cams, valvetrain, and cam caps.

Take the valvetrain and just like removing it keep inward pressure on it to ensure the rocker arm bars don’t come off causing the rocker arms to slide off. Also make sure that the VTEC locking pin doesn’t come out, or again… your VTEC will not work. This part can be very tedious and frustrating. Take you time and don’t be afraid to pull it back off, take a breath and start the process over again. Even with two of us it was challenging. REMEMBER to make sure you have the proper orientation of the assembly and that its not 180* off. There are dowels that allow the assembly to line up properly with the head. Once it’s lined up gently tap with a rubber mallet or a non marring tool of some sort to get it to seat all the way.

Once the valvetrain is properly seated and installed, take the assembly lube and spread it on the areas where the cams sit.


It is important that you now set the crank pulley to TDC for cylinder number one. To ensure cylinder #1 is TDC you must rotate the crank shaft pulley and line up the arrow on the timing chain cover with the TDC mark on the crank pulley.


(this is an older picture, but it’s just showing the arrow on the timing chain cover and how it lines up with the mark on the crank pulley.)

To make sure the cams are properly set to TDC Align the two marks on the cam chain sprocket with the cylinder head surface. (see figure A on the image with the #1 on it) also take note of the cam orientation when reinstalling the cams. notice how the two marks on them will point inward towards each other. (figure B on the image with the #1)


Before you install the cams, spread assembly lube all over the rocker arms. With the cams installed it should look like this.


Above you can see how Patrick is making sure all the marks on the timing chain sprocket, and cam gears all line up to TDC for cylinder number one.

Now completely lube the camshaft with assembly lube, and place the cam caps on. keeping in mind the numbers and arrows on the cam caps.


above you can see the numbers on the cam caps, and the direction the arrows are pointing.

Now take the cam cap bolts and dip them in oil before threading them into the head.


Now snug down all the bolts starting in the center and working your way outwards in a crisscross pattern.



Once all the way snugged down you can torque them to specs in the same crisscross pattern starting in the center working your way outward. torque specs are 16 lb/ft


Step 7:

Valve adjustment. I have done a whole previous write up on this so I’m just going to provide a link to, how to do a valve adjustment on a F20C below


also included in the link above is how to reinstall all the valve cover and everything else.


here is a couple of random shots of Patrick doing the valve adjustment.


So now technically your engine should look like this.


WOW that was a lot to take in. But I promise if you just read everything carefully, make sure you are extra careful and patient when actually removing and reinstalling everything this will go smoothly for you. Yes it is much easier when you are doing it on an engine stand like us, but it is possible to do it all with the engine in the car. All in all it took us about 5 hours to completely do it.


NOW let’s move on to the #2 thing you need to change on your F20C before you track it. The timing chain tensioner or TCT for short.


Above is the location of the timing chain tensioner. You can either opt for an aftermarket one such as a TODA, or Ballade sports, or the one like Patrick has… the Billman TCT.

here is a comparison of the OEM unit Vs the Billman one. The Billman one is actually just a tweaked version of the OEM one that is why they look similar.


This, is a very easy install! All you do is unbolt the two bolts holding the OEM TCT to the head, the OEM unit will just slide out. You must also remove the hex head bolt on the side of the head next to the TCT


Once the OEM TCT has been removed DO NOT rotate the engine until the new TCT has been installed.


As you can see above the Billman unit will have a lock pin to keep the tensioner pin locked in the unit until it has been completely installed.

bolt the new TCT into the head and tighten the bolts. Now looking in the hex head hole you removed you can see the pin. Take a pair of needle nose pliers and pull the pin out allowing the tensioner to put tension on the timing chain.


Once you have pulled the pin out, reinstall the hex head bolt. and you have successfully completed the TCT upgrade!


On to modification #3… Oil pan baffle. This is a must because S2000’s commonly have oil starvation issues, so it is very important that you do not skip this step. Patrick has opted to purchase the Moroso weld in kit. But of course there are companies that offer the oil pan with the baffle already welded in. Since either way you’re going to be removing the oil pan you might as well save some money and just buy the weld in, if you can stand to have your car down for a few days while it gets welded, or if you’re lucky enough to have access to a Tig welder.


This is another very easy install. You are literally just unbolting all the bolts that hold it on. To remove the pan take note of the three areas where it is designed to be pried off. DO NOT pry anywhere else as you will scar the mating surfaces and possibly cause oil leaks because it won’t properly seal.

Here are the ONLY three areas to pry from


Once the pan is removed you are going to want to completely clean the block where the pan mates to. So take a razor blade and remove all the old Hondabond chunks, then for the residue left use a scotch brite pad and scuff around the whole thing completely removing all old Hondabond, then spray some brake clean on a rag and wipe down the surface to ensure a proper seal.



Be as careful as possible to not let debris fall into the bottom end of the engine. If you are doing this while the engine is still in the car then that will be easy since the engine isn’t upside-down.

You also want to make sure that you completely clean the mating surface on the oil pan too. He had already previously prepped the oil pan since he had an extra one that he took to get the baffle welded into.

Next you are going to apply a thin layer of new Hondabond to the bottom of the block, them smear around evenly with you’re finger to ensure complete coverage.


To reinstall the oil pan there should be 2 dowels that line up the pan correctly with the block. Again take a rubber mallet and gently tap until seated. Then reinstall all bolts holding the oil pan. Once all bolts are snugged down, begin in the center going in a crisscross pattern moving outwards. Factory torque specs are 8.7 lb/ft. Be very carefully not to over tighten as these can snap easily.



The #4 and final thing is more of a check just to make sure rather than replace. You are going to be checking the oil squirters to make sure the banjo bolts have 4 holes in them, as opposed to 2 holes. In very early productions of the S2000 the banjo bolts holding the oil squirters for each cylinder only had two holes in them. This would not provide adequate oiling causing premature failure under extreme conditions. There was actually an official recall issued by Honda to replace them with a 4 hole banjo bolt. Since this issue was remedied pretty early in the production of S2000’s its not very likely that you have a 2 hole banjo bolt. But its better safe than sorry, and you already are going to have the oil pan off so, you might as well check. You can easily check the oil squirter for cylinder #4 without having to remove anything. Just unbolt it and check the banjo bolt. If you have 4 holes you’re golden, simply reinstall the squirter and the banjo bolt and you’re good to go. Now if you have 2 holes on your banjo bolt unfortunately its going to be a little more work, as you are going to have to remove the windage tray to gain access to the other three oil squirter bolts. We had 4 holes in the banjo we check so we didn’t have to go any further, so I do not have a how to for replacing the 2 hole with the 4 hole ones. But honestly its seems pretty straight forward once you have gotten the windage tray out of the way.


In the above pictures it kind of hard to see… but in between the crank shaft deep down  in there you can see a bolt holding the squirter on. The squirter has the small metal tube coming out of it aiming oil into the bottom of the piston area.

This is what the bolt and squirter look like.


and here is Patrick reinstalling the squirter and bolt after we found the good news of him having the 4 hole banjo.



We also installed a new throttle body gasket. To remove the old paper gasket and completely clean the mating surface we use out trusty razor blade, and scotch brite.


The cool thing about the Throttle body gasket for the AP1 is… Its actually a B series P73 type r gasket.



Another thing that Patrick did was swap from an AP1 valve cover to an AP2 valve cover. The differences between the two is that the AP2 valve cover has a threaded PCV. This allows you to thread and AN fitting into it so you can run a catch can without having to weld a bung.


AP1 on the left, and AP2 on the right!

here is what it looks like with the AN threaded in


By this time it was getting late. we still had to degrease and pressure wash the engine to clean it all up. It was going to be too loud to run the pressure washer since it was already 2:00am. We decided to call it there and then he would come over the next day to clean the engine, and install the new spark plugs.


So here we are the next day… We plugged all the holes, and taped off any sensors or other orifices where water might get in. Changed out the spark plugs, and replaced the Vtec solenoid gasket.


Patrick Sprayed some Adams Polishes degreaser, we scrubbed a little with some nylon brushes.


Had some supervisors overseeing what we were doing.


Once the degreaser sat for a few minutes, he sprayed it off… What we were left with was nothing short of a miracle. I have cleaned my fair share of engines in my day, but the night and day difference of how this came out was unbelievable!


Lastly here is some comparison between a dirty B20 and a super clean F20c


Even Rigs approves.


To finalize everything up, I would say that this is a little more of an advanced project. I recommend having some sort of knowledge of how engines work, and possibly you have done a head gasket or cam install on some other motor previously. I break it down as much a possible, but if you forget to do one thing, put something in backwards, do not properly seat the keepers/retainers, or drop debris in the engine it can spell total disaster. I would say that this project should take a good full Saturday and Sunday to complete, and I even suggest not relying on your car to get you to work on Monday incase something goes wrong when you go to start it (have back up transportation just incase). Keep in mind that you should purchase all of this stuff and have it all sitting in your house before you even think of embarking on the project because there is a lot of stuff you’re swapping out and once everything is apart, you’re not going to want to put it back together unless you have all the new replacement parts. Think about replacing as much stuff as you can since you’re going to have the motor pretty torn down as well… gaskets, other parts that would possibly wear out, and new fluids. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, at least after reading the whole thing you are aware of the stuff that you need to get taken care of before you start tracking your F20C, and you know why it is necessary to do each thing.

Like always I’m here to help. You can DM me on instagram @functiontheory, you can email me, or you can comment on here and I will get back to you. ALSO as an added bonus if you live in Las Vegas and would like to do this to your s2000, let me know I would love to help you do it. for free of course!

And PLEASE like, comment, and share. It helps to make sure people are seeing all this good information that i’m continuously trying to put out!














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