How to Adjust the Timing on a Ford Ranger

by Ron Sardisco
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spark image by Zbigniew Nowak from

The Ford Ranger and identical Mazda B-Series use a high-voltage electronic ignition system. You must be careful not to cross or short any wires or connectors to avoid serious damage to the components. The system of sensors in most models is sufficient to manage the ignition timing without adjustment. Only model years 1993 and 1994 equipped with the 3.0-liter engine can be adjusted. The initial timing adjustment is accomplished by rotating the distributor while the engine is running. Care must be taken to secure any loose clothing from becoming tangled in the moving parts. Ignition timing must change as engine speed increases. On the Ranger, this is accomplished by the vehicle's computer using the Hall Effect of resistance and conductivity.

Step 1

Set the parking brake and place chocks behind the rear wheels. Place the shift lever in neutral, or park for an automatic. Turn off the air conditioner and heater.

Step 2

Connect the inductive timing light to the number-one cylinder spark plug wire. This is the front cylinder on the passenger side. Loosen the hold-down bolt on the distributor, located at the back of the engine, only enough for it to move with some effort. Disconnect the spark output connector, normally located astride the pink wire going to the distributor.

Step 3

Clean the timing marks on the crankshaft pulley and the plate attached to the front of the engine. Use the paint pen to highlight the marks if necessary. Start the engine and warm it up to operating temperature.

Step 4

At idle speed, use the induction timing light to observe the timing indicated by the marks. If it is not reading 10° Before Top Dead Center, rotate the distributor a little at a time until the mark on the crankshaft is aligned with the 10° BTDC mark on the plate. When the reading is correct, tighten the distributor hold down bolt and check the reading again. Continue this procedure until the adjustment holds at the 10° mark.

Step 5

Reconnect the spark output plug. Increase engine speed while observing the timing marks. The position of the marks should change as the engine speed increases to indicate a properly functioning advance circuit. If there is no change, refer the vehicle to a professional for assistance.

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