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Distributor

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Make and break-that's the name of the game when it comes to distributors. That's because each unit's rotor is specifically designed to make contact with terminals and to break the contact right after. As its rotor touches a specific terminal or point, high voltage from the ignition coil is passed straight through to the appropriate spark plug. This then causes your spark plug to flash-kicking off fuel combustion in your engine. With that in mind, you can understand why your engine won't be able to function properly, or even at all, without this unit. That is why if you discover that your vehicle has trouble starting, then remember to check your ignition distributor. If it needs to be replaced, then we have a few suggestions. When you're about to place an order for this component, we suggest that you get a replacement that's built specifically for your vehicle's make and model. Look for OE-style replacement distributors that meet or even exceed OEM standards. That way, you can expect your replacement to function just like your original. Plus, OE-spec distributors are easy to install, since they're basically have the same size and fit like your old equipment. This makes component mounting a quick and hassle-free process. If you're looking for trusted brands that manufacture aftermarket and performance distributors, then we suggest that you check out Auto Parts Warehouse catalog. We carry distributors from great brands like AC Delco, Accel, and Snap to name a few. Locate your replacement distributor at our site now.

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How to Choose the Right Distributor

When you start to have problems during engine ignition, there's a good chance that the vehicle distributor is already damaged. The distributor is responsible for distributing high-voltage electricity to the cylinders at the correct time in order for engine ignition to happen. If you begin to experience hard starting, misfiring, or stalling, the ignition distributor has to be replaced. But before you do, there are some things that you should look into when buying a replacement distributor.

What type of distributor system does your vehicle have?

If your vehicle was built in 1975 or earlier, it's most likely that it's equipped with a mechanical ignition system, which is also known as original distributor cap style. You can always upgrade this to a high electronic ignition (HEI) without any problems with compatibility. Although it's recommended that you buy an aftermarket replacement, there is nothing wrong if you choose a second-hand distributor as long as it's sold by a licensed dealer.

Meanwhile, for vehicles built in the late 1970s and early 1980s, an electronic ignition system is used. This system is usually equipped with an electronic ignition module. In case your vehicle has one, you can upgrade to an MSD Ultimate HEI without encountering compatibility issues.

But for vehicles that were built during the late 1980s and early 1990s, a distributor is no longer necessary; hence, the name-distributorless ignition system. If your vehicle belongs in this category, you only need to replace your spark plugs at 60,000-mile intervals.

How do you use your vehicle?

If you use your vehicle for racing most of the time, then you need to choose high-performance distributors. Race cars generally use this type of distributor because it is specially made to meet the demands of a racing vehicle.

However, if your vehicle is intended mainly for street driving, it's better to spend on a distributor without the race-only features. These features can cost you more and can affect your vehicle's overall drivability.

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The DIYer's Guide to Distributor Installation

Hard starts, misfires, and frequent stalling-these are just some of the symptoms of a bad distributor. The distributor is responsible for delivering high-voltage electricity to your engine spark plugs, thereby starting the fuel combustion process. With a malfunctioning distributor, you can expect a number of engine problems. This is why it's highly advised that you replace a damaged distributor immediately. Use the instructions below to correctly install your new distributor.

Difficulty level: Difficult

Tools that you'll need:

  • Flashlight
  • Spark tester
  • Replacement distributor
  • Screwdriver
  • Paper and pencil
  • Distributor cap
  • Spark plug wires
  • Timing light

Step 1: Prop your hood open, then start your engine.

Step 2: Locate your distributor and disconnect its distributor cap using a screwdriver.

Step 3: At this point, you should see the rotor. The rotor can act as your guide on where the new distributor will be installed.

Step 4: With your pencil and paper, make a diagram that indicates where all the distributor's electrical wires are positioned. This way, you can easily reconnect all these wires once you start installing your new distributor.

Step 5: Disconnect the wires that are connected to the distributor.

Step 6: Make two marks on the old distributor. This will allow you install the new distributor the same way as the old one. The first mark must match the distributor housing and the engine mounting point. The second mark must be made to show the position of the rotor inside the distributor. It's crucial that you mark these points properly because there's a good chance the engine won't start after the new distributor is installed.

Step 7: Loosen the bolts and screws securing the distributor housing to the vehicle engine. Remove the distributor housing carefully. Take out all the fasteners that are keeping the old distributor in place.

Step 8: Put all the marks that you've made in step 4 on the new distributor. Place the new distributor in the engine assembly, and make sure the position of the rotor and housing remains the same.

Step 9: Reinstall all the fasteners that were removed in step 7. Don't tighten all the fasteners completely, because you'll have to adjust the position of the new distributor later on.

Step 10: Reconnect all the wires that were disconnected in step 5.

Step 11: Replace the distributor cap and spark plug wires.

Step 12: Check all the connections, and start the engine.

Step 13: If the engine fails to start, stop the engine and slightly rotate the newly installed distributor. Turn it away from the mark. Restart your engine. If it still won't start properly, continue rotating the distributor until the vehicle finally starts.

Step 14: Once your vehicle's engine has already started, let it run for a few minutes before stopping it.

Step 15: Attach a timing light on the number 1 spark plug.

Step 16: Set the ignition timing based on the recommendations found in the vehicle manual. The timing mark can be changed by slightly rotating the distributor housing.

Step 17: Fully tighten the fasteners of the distributor.

You can now test the newly installed distributor by taking your vehicle out for a drive. A new distributor should improve your vehicle's acceleration and response.