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Got a buddy of mine about to install his distributor and remembered there was an awesome thread about distributor installation/setup in here. Anybody got a mirror of it on another site? Any way to get it back. I would really like to forward him the link to read over.
 

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Some of the really good stuff that Paul Wright put in the best of tech got wiped out. Unfortunately, Steve was not able to restore it. Hopefully somebody copied it. Paul is off on a trip until the 24th, so he won't be able to help until then, if he has another copy that he can repost.

Randy (wishes they had been copied somewhere else too!)
 

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Mike & Paul... if this isn't the thread you'd like to have displayed, feel free to delete and replace with the info of your choice... i was hoping to be of assistance with this one i had in my files :)



here's one from... http://corvettefaq.com/engine.asp


written by:

Lars Grimsrud
How to Install Your Chevy Distributor
(Point-Style Distributors. HEI systems can be installed using similar techniques, but photos in this article do not apply)


A distributor can actually be dropped into a block in virtually any orientation and made to function by re-arranging the spark plug wires to match the installation. You will see this approach to distributor installation quite frequently, and it is a sure-fire tip-off that the engine builder/distributor installer didn’t have a clue about how to do the job right.
GM always installed the distributor in a specific orientation, and always used the same distributor cap “tower” for the #1 spark plug. By following this procedure, your distributor will be installed in the correct factory position for a professional appearance.

1. Bring the engine up to Top Dead Center on the Compression Stroke and align the timing mark on the harmonic balancer with the 8-degree mark on the timing chain cover (or wherever you want the engine to fire. 8 Degrees is a good starting point for an initial start-up, but you can set it anywhere from 6 to 12 degrees before top center).

To Find Top Dead Center on the Compression Stroke with the engine in the car:
a. Remove the #1 spark plug
b. Disconnect the coil wire from the distributor cap and ground it
c. Have a helper plug the #1 spark plug hole with a finger.
d. With the starter, slowly “bump” the engine over until the helper feels air being forced by his finger.
You are now coming up on the compression stroke. Align the timing marks as noted above.

To Find Top Dead Center on the Compression Stroke with the engine out of the car:
a. Remove the valve cover on the driver’s side of the engine to expose the valves for cylinder #1.
b. Rotate the crankshaft until the timing mark approaches top dead center. Observe the exhaust valve.
c. If the exhaust valve is moving as you are approaching top dead center, you are on the exhaust stroke.
You need to rotate the crankshaft one more time.
d. If neither valve is moving as you approach top dead center, you are on the compression stroke.
Align the timing marks as noted above.


2. Install the rotor to the distributor.
3. Hold the distributor body in the orientation show in figure 1 relative to the engine/block and drop the distributor straight down into the block. Pay no attention to rotor orientation at this time. If the rotor is aligned with the oil pump driveshaft, the distributor will drop all the way down and seat. If the rotor does NOT line up, the distributor will not drop all the way down.
4. If the distributor does NOT drop all the way down (chances are best that it won’t), pull the distributor up out of the block just enough to disengage the rotor from the camshaft gear, and turn the rotor a little bit. Drop it down again. Repeat this until the distributor drops all the way down and the rotor engages with the oil pump.
5. The distributor will now be all the way into the block, but the rotor will not be properly aligned. You can now pull the distributor up until the cam gear disengages, turn the rotor JUST A HAIR (half a cam tooth), and drop it straight back down again. The rotor will now move one tooth over, and the chamfer on the oil pump shaft will allow the oil pump to line back up. The distributor will drop all the way back in again, with the rotor moved over one tooth. (If it doesn’t work, try rotating the rotor the opposite direction.) Repeat this operation (I call it “walking the distributor”) by lifting the distributor up, slightly moving the rotor, and dropping it back in until you’ve “walked” the rotor around to its correct position as shown in the figure below. Once you get the technique down, you can do this very quickly – much quicker than trying to align the oil pump driveshaft with a screwdriver while looking down the hole. The screwdriver technique also requires that you pull the distributor ALL THE WAY OUT to fiddle around with the screwdriver several times until you get it right. So try my “walking” technique: it’s quick and accurate.
6. Once you have “walked” the rotor into position, you should be able to obtain the orientation of the distributor body and the rotor as shown in Figure 1. Install the distributor hold-down clamp and bolt. Snug it, but leave it loose enough that you can rotate the distributor smoothly.
7. Attach an Ohm-Meter (continuity tester) between the distributor primary lead wire (the wire coming out of the bottom of the distributor body) and ground (any point on the engine). Rotate the distributor body SLIGHTLY clockwise from the orientation shown in Figure 1 until you read continuity (points are closed – giving continuity to ground). Now, SLOWLY rotate the distributor body counter-clockwise until the points JUST break open (loss of continuity on the ohm meter). The instant the points break open is the ignition firing point. Tighten your distributor hold-down bolt at this point. Your distributor body and rotor should now be aligned like Figure 1 (or VERY close).
8. Slip your distributor cap onto the distributor. Notice which “tower” is the #1 plug wire. With a felt marker, place a little mark on the distributor body at the #1 tower position. Pull the cap back off, and verify that the rotor is pointing to this mark (or VERY close). If it’s not, you’re most likely off by a tooth. Repeat the installation steps.
9. If everything is aligned (and it will be if you followed these steps), install the cap and install the plug wires as shown in figure 2.
10. Start the engine. It will fire and run immediately if the above steps have been followed.
11. Set the dwell to 30 – 31 degrees (always set dwell before setting timing. Changing the dwell changes the timing).


How to Set the Timing (non-HEI)


When you think about it, setting the timing at idle speed makes no sense at all: You don’t operate your car at idle, and timing changes as the rpm changes. Fact is, the timing spec at idle speed is provided as a simple way for most people to set the timing, and is not a good procedure for optimum performance.
Small block Chevys (and most other GM performance V8 engines) perform best when the total timing (full centrifugal advance plus the initial timing setting with vacuum advance disconnected) is all in by 2,500 – 2,800 rpm and is set to 36 – 38 degrees. If you have an adjustable timing light, this is very easy to check. If you don’t, you need to scribe a 36-degree mark on your harmonic balancer. Here’s how:
Measure the circumference of your harmonic balancer using a sewing tape measure (or other flexible tape measure). Get it as accurate as you can. Take this measurement and divide by 10. The number you get is the distance to 36 degrees. Measure this distance CLOCKWISE from your existing harmonic balancer timing mark and place a clear mark on the balancer.
Remove your distributor cap and rotor. Remove the 2 centrifugal advance springs. Install the rotor and the cap (without the springs). Disconnect the vacuum advance.
Start the engine. It may kick back a little due to the advance coming in immediately without the springs. If you’re using an adjustable timing light, set the light to 36 degrees advanced. Now rev the engine just a little while observing the timing marks with the light. It shouldn’t take much rpm to peg out the advance without the springs installed. With an adjustable light set at 36 degrees, align the stock timing marks with “0” when the timing is “pegged out.” With the non-adjustable light, align your new 36-degree mark with “0.” Rev the engine a little to make sure the timing will not advance any further. Shut it down.
Pop the cap and rotor and re-install the springs. Put everything back together, but leave the vacuum disconnected. Start it up. For future reference, make a note of the timing setting at idle. This is your new curb idle timing spec. Now give the engine a few quick rev’s past 3,000 rpm and verify that the full timing (36 degrees) is coming in. If it’s not, you need to change to a softer set of springs until you get full 36-degree advance before 3000 rpm. (NOTE: A stock set of springs will usually not allow full centrifugal advance to come in before redline rpm. If you have stock springs installed, don’t rev the engine beyond its limits to try to force full advance in.)
Shut it down and hook up the vacuum. Now do a road test.
The 36-degree 2500 rpm advance curve is optimum for performance, but may require premium fuel. Lug the car around, and punch the throttle at low rpm while listening for detonation (“engine knock”). If you’re getting any audible knock, you MUST retard the timing. Retard the timing in 2-degree increments until engine knock stops. Engine knock will seriously damage engine components if not corrected. If you get no knock, you may see slightly improved performance at 38 degrees total timing. This is particularly true if you’re running at high altitude.
If you have no engine knock under acceleration, but the car “chugs” or “jerks” at cruising speed (light throttle application), you are getting too much vacuum advance on top of the mechanical advance. You may need to change out the vacuum advance diaphragm with an adjustable unit available from aftermarket sources. Adjust these units so that you get the most vacuum advance possible without any “chugging” or “jerking” at cruise speed.
Your timing is now set for best possible performance. Make note of the new setting, and use this for your future tune-up work.
 

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Here are the pictures from my old post, reloaded.

When removing a distributor that's going back in, (like when swapping intakes) it's helpful for rookies to mark #1 position on the cap.
If you are installing a new distributor or just installed a new cam, you'll need to rotate the engine until it's at TDC compression. Note that a 4 stroke engine has two TDC's. The one that coincides with the cam dots lining up is TDC exhaust. If you installed a cam then rotate the engine one full revolution to TDC compression.

It is helpful to install the distributor at base timing instead of exactly TDC. Once you find TDC move the balancer back to 10 degrees BTDC (or 8 or 12 or whatever is your base timing). Drop the distributor in with the rotor lines up with the #1 terminal.

The Chevy firing order is:
1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2 clockwise when viewed from above.

The odd number cylinders are on the drivers side and even on the passenger side. #1 and #2 are the front cylinders on each respective side.
 

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This has been the most helpful walkthrough i have seen thus far, thank you, I have just completed a cam and top end change , and was scratching my head hoping I would install the distributor correctly, this has been most helpful, thank for the help.
 

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DriveWFO said:
You can use whatever terminal you want as long as you keep the plug wires in the correct order.
Actually you use whatever terminal the ROTOR is pointing at after you have dropped the dist in the motor. If after you have installed the dist. it is not pointing at a terminal you need to move the dist by 1 tooth. and then see if it lines up with a terminal....if not try again...once the rotor lines up with a terminal that terminal is for the number one cylinder and then you wire the other cylinders based on the firing order....

BTW If you have the motor at 10 degrees advanced when you do this instead of TDC it makes intial start up WAY easier;)
 

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as mentioned way up at the top by WFO & 69novaSS... it's all in the way ya plug it. you can basically stab the distributor in any location and wire it accordingly. they do it "this" way for consistency. all mechanics basically know looking that "this" is number one... know what i mean ???

that image looked OK to me....
 

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So, in essence, When cyl #1 is at exhaust TDC, the rotor should be pointing at the number one plug wire ?
 

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NO.
The spark plug fires during the end of the compression stroke, not the exhaust stroke. Put the balancer at 10 degrees before TDC compression (both valves closed) and check the rotor. It should be pointing at the #1 terminal. It may be easier to use a Magic Marker to draw a vertical line from the cap to the distributor body, like in my picture.

Many people don't realize that the balancer goes around twice for every firing cycle. The spark plug fires every other revolution of the crank. The distributor goes at half speed so it goes around once per cycle of the firing order.
 

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This is a really good thread for doofuses like me. I do this about once every 5 years and can NEVER remember how it works!:p Thanks Paul and Johnny and everyone else!

Dave
 

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on my balancer I have one that say vertical tdc, or would when 0 on the balancer and 0 on the timing tab line up be tdc assuming I'm on the compression stroke? Then rotate back ccw to get my base number?
 
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