Introduction: How to Set Ignition Timing

Working on a vehicle can get frustrating but setting ignition timing can help a vehicle run much better. Hi, I’m Adam; I’m going to help you set ignition timing in just 5 steps and less than an hour. Ignition timing is when the spark travels from the distributor to the spark plug in order to ignite the air/fuel mixture. I have two professional years within the auto industry and will help bring the light at the end of the tunnel when working on your project vehicle or daily driver.

Step 1: Getting Started

Before getting started, the corresponding spark plug socket to fit the spark plugs the vehicle contains will be needed along with a ratchet to aid in removal of the number 1 spark plug. First, identify which cylinder is number 1. This can be accomplished by looking at which side of the engine is offset forward slightly. Then position the socket on that spark plug and remove it with the ratchet.

Step 2: Finding TDC

Next, grab a friend that can turn the engine over slowly by hand. The corresponding socket that fits the crank bolt and a ratchet will be needed. Have the friend turn over the engine while a finger is held over the hole that the plug came out. ONLY TURN THE ENGINE CLOCKWISE. Once a puff of air presses against that finger, place the oil dipstick in the hole and continue cranking the engine over by hand. Once the dipstick reaches the point where it stops moving up then stop turning the engine over and place the spark plug back into the hole.

Step 3: Removing the Distributor

Next, remove the distributor. On this Chevrolet 350 C.I. engine, the distributor is on the back of the engine near the bulkhead of the cab. In order to remove the distributor, corresponding wrench is needed to remove the hold down bolt. My application required a 13 MM wrench. Removing the distributor cap is necessary as well, which was two T20 screws. Then look at where the number 1 plug wire connects to the distributor, follow the wire or sometimes the cap will be numbered. Rotate the rotor on top of the distributor to where the #1 contact spot is inside the cap and move it counter-clockwise slightly.

Step 4: Buttoning Up

Now, return the distributor to the hole it came out of and leave the hold down bolt snug so the distributor can still turn but won’t fall out. Next, plug in any wiring that needed to be removed. Place the cap back on the distributor and tighten it down.

Step 5: Finishing Up

Next, grab the friend again and ask them to start the engine. Be ready to rotate the distributor back and forth in order to make the engine idle nicely. If the engine will not start. Start the procedure again. If the engine starts but the distributor is maxed out one way then small adjustments can be made without returning to step one. Simply remove the distributor and move it one tooth opposite the way the cap is maxed out. Final adjustment videos