How to Set Points With a Fluke Meterby Chris Stevenson
The Fluke meter is a sophisticated automotive test multimeter that has several functions that can measure electrical resistances, ohms, current flow and dwell angle degrees. It has a digital readout screen and a number of lead connectors, along with a rotary selector switch that affords different settings for various applications. The Fluke meter can be easily calibrated to check the ignition points for the proper dwell angle, or degrees of distributor rotation, that governs the opening and closing of the ignition points.
Set the transmission selector of the vehicle in "Park" for an automatic, or "Neutral" for a standard gearbox. Set the emergency brake and raise the hood. Consult your vehicle repair manual for the location of your coil, or coil pack, if so equipped. Find the negative (-) terminal on the coil or coil pack and remember its location.
Insert the red lead wire in the socket of the Fluke meter, which is denoted by a "VU" symbol on the lower part of the meter case. Insert the black lead into the socket jack directly below it, which is marked by a "COM" symbol. Attach the red lead to the coil or coil pack negative terminal. Attach the black wire lead to a good ground source, like the outside body case of the distributor. You can also attach the black lead wire directly to an engine bolt.
Turn the rotary switch on the Fluke meter so the pointer aligns with the (%) symbol, which is accompanied by a small diagram of an angle representing degrees. If you have a 4-cylinder engine, the meter is set for this position by default. If you have a 5-, 6- or 8-cylinder engine, you must press the small tab button, which is located on top of the rotary switch, to step through the cylinder selection process. Press the button the number of times required to arrive at the cylinder selection for your engine, which will be displayed on the screen.
Start the engine and let it idle. Pick up the meter and look at the digital readout on the screen. The digital number that appears will represent the amount of dwell angle expressed in degrees. For example, you might see 30, 32 or 34 degrees, depending upon your type and make of engine. Refer to your vehicle repair manual for the correct degree angle number required of your engine. A lesser degree angle number equates to a wider point gap. The narrower the point gap, the higher the degree angle number will be.
Place an Allen wrench through the distributor cap window if your cap has this feature. Turn the Allen wrench in the appropriate direction, which will give you the correct angle degree number, according to your manufacturer's specifications. If you have no external adjustment for the points (i.e., no window), shut the engine off and use a screwdriver to remove the distributor cap. Unscrew the cap screws or turn the screws so the hold-down retaining pins face outward.
Disconnect the coil wire from the top of the cap and ground it against the engine. Use a slot screwdriver to loosen the adjustment and mount the screws to the points. Do not mount the screws so loosely that the points move freely over the distributor base plate--you need them slightly tight. Place the slot screwdriver in the adjusting slot on the points, have an assistant turn the key to the "Start" position and allow the engine to crank.
Turn the screwdriver to open or close the points, but do so in very slight increments until you reach the proper dwell angle number displayed on the screen. Shut the engine off. Tighten the ignition points mounting screw and adjustment screw. Start the engine and recheck the number on the display. Shut the engine off and disconnect the Fluke meter. Replace the distributor cap and tighten down the hold-down screws, or turn the retaining pins inward to lock the cap in position.
- Place a standard transmission in neutral when performing this test.
Items you will need
- Vehicle repair manual
- Fluke multimeter
- Allen wrenches
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