How to Hook Up a Timing Light

by MJ Knoblock

Timing lights are a diagnostic tool used on cars without computer-controlled ignition to help the mechanic find the correct setting for ignition timing. Proper timing on a car improves fuel mileage, engine longevity and performance. The device resembles a gun with a flat front and three wires hanging from it. These are connected to the battery and spark plug wire prior to use. To determine which spark plug wire is connected to the first piston, check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the firing order diagram of the engine. Hook up a timing light properly to set accurate timing, avoid arcing of electricity and prevent engine damage.

1

Lift and prop the hood while the car engine is off.

2

Disconnect the vacuum line from the distributor and plug it with the pencil tip. Be sure not to break the lead. Rest the pencil in a safe place.

3

Grasp the red wire alligator clip on the timing light. Hook it to the positive battery terminal of the vehicle.

4

Locate the black wire on the timing light and attach it to the negative battery terminal.

5

Connect the trigger clip, also called the inductive pickup clamp, to the first spark plug wire. If there is an arrow on the clip, turn the clip in the designated direction.

6

The timing light is now ready to use. Engage the help of a friend or family member to get inside the car and start the engine so you can use the timing light.

Tips

  • check Check your timing light against a digital engine analyzer for accuracy. Compare the two below 2,500 rpm.
  • check Do not allow the trigger clip to contact anything other than the first spark plug wire.
  • check Follow the light manufacturer’s instructions or arrows when they dictate pointing the trigger clip in a specific direction. If this is not done, the timing information will be inaccurate.

Items you will need

About the Author

A former community newspaper reporter, columnist and photojournalist in Virginia, MJ Knoblock holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has been writing for more than 20 years.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images