Classic/Antique Car Repair/QUESTION TIMING


Brad Hi hopefully you can help me  I have a question in regards to timing a car that dont have a timing mark or vacuum.   I tried to get a car started and believed the timing was off and removed the distributer Im now basically starting ffrom ground one.  Is there an accurate way to time a car, I have tried just about everything.  Is it possible to walk me through this step by step.  Thanks for your help. Ken

The basic steps to set up timing a distributor are straight forward but require a little work. The first thing it to locate number one firing position. This is a straight forward procedure. The simplest way is to remove number one spark plug. Hold your thumb over number one spark plug hole and bump the engine over with the starter until you feel compression blowing your thumb off the hole. Caution, do not stick your finger in the spark plug hole. Inset a thin long screw driver or wire coat hanger into number one hold and with a wrench on the front pulley bolt rock the engine back and forth slightly until the piston is at top dead center, or the top of its stroke. If you have done everything right you should not have to turn the engine more than a quarter of a turn. The second method is easier if you can get a look at the valve springs. On overhead valve engines remove the valve covers, on a flat head engine remove the side plate under the intake manifold. This method will not work on a Ford flat unless you remove the intake manifold. Now take the firing order for the engine, for instance a simple 6 cylinder firing order is 1-5-3-6-2-4, and divide it in half, 1-5-3 / 6-2-4. Number 6 is the valve that we want to watch. When number one is at top dead center firing stroke the valves on number 6 will be in what I refer to as rock position. That means that the exhaust valve is just closing and the intake is just opening. Using the wrench on the crankshaft nut turn the engine slowly until the two valves for number 6  are in this rock position, and number one is in firing position. Now mark the crank pulley and the timing case cover so that you can get the engine back to TDC if you need to. Drop the distributor in. Set it so that if you turn the engine just a bit in the proper direction, the points will just open. You want the points just on that point of opening when the engine turns just past TDC. Now install the rotor and see what terminal on the cap that the rotor is pointing to. That is number one. Wire the cap in the direction of distributor rotation with the proper firing order. This will give you a basic timing of TDC. If there is no factory timing mark on the engine you can use your vacuum gauge or a tachometer to set the timing.  

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Brad Sears


All automotive including antique and collectible. However if the car has been modified I can only answer in general terms and maybe get you pointed in the right direction.


Automotive tech instructor. Syndicated auto columnist 1970's though the early 1990's. Syndicated auto radio talk show, Ask Brad About cars, CBS Radio 70's through 90's TV Show "Last Chance Garage" 1980's PBS-TV syndicated. Auto instructor for the following companies: Fram Autolyte Holly Carter AMF Ford Motor University Of Conn Blue Hills Technical School Sugar River Technical Center Grew up in a family garage in Needham Mass and turned wrenches from the age of 14.

Manchester Union Leader, Nashua Telegraph, Motor Service Magazine, Yankee Magazine, Popular Mechanics (Saturday Mechanic early 80's), Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and lots more.

More than I care to remember. Basically Franklin Technical Institute in Boston, Northeastern University, Fitchburg State Teachers College, Tufts University, and a lot of factory schools along the way.

Awards and Honors
Moto Award winner. And much more.

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