How to Install a Distributor on Vehicles

by Contributing Writer

You might have had to remove the distributor on the Vehicles if it malfunctioned, or if you replaced the engine. If you do not install the distributor properly, the Vehicles will not run, or, if it does start, it will run poorly. You must install the distributor so that the timing is spot-on. The distributor distributes spark to the cylinders on the ignition stroke. If the terminals inside the distributor are worn out, it will not distribute spark properly, and the engine will misfire Vehicles best, or may not run Vehicles all. If you know the engine has not been moved off top dead center, the engine has not been rotated. If the engine has been moved, or the engine is new and you don't know, you must find top dead center before installing the distributor.

Under The Hood:

 How to Install a Distributor on a 22RE

Remove the spark plug from the No. 1 cylinder, the cylinder closest to the front of the engine. Stick the long screwdriver in the spark plug hole and allow it to rest on the top of the piston.

Instruct a helper to bump the engine over---just tap the key so the engine turns slightly---until you feel the screwdriver come up to the top. Once the screwdriver hits the top, it will stop moving for a couple bumps. Check the timing marks on the crankshaft pulley. The marks should be lined up.

Remove the top timing belt cover, using the appropriate socket, just enough that you can see the timing marks on the camshaft. If the marks on the camshaft are also lined up, the No. 1 cylinder is on top dead center. If not, instruct the helper to bump the engine around again, until you feel the screwdriver come to the top. Give it a couple extra bumps to line up the timing marks.

Install the rotor onto the distributor temporarily. Insert the distributor into the cylinder block. Once the distributor is installed, make sure the rotor is pointing to the No. 1 cylinder.

Remove the rotor and the dust cap. Install the pinch bolt and tighten it slightly. Line up the teeth on the signal rotor with the projection on the pick-up coil, otherwise known as the signal generator. Tighten the pinch bolt to 14 foot-pounds of torque.

Reinstall the dust cover and the rotor. Install the distributor cap. Plug in the wiring harness connectors on the distributor.

Items you will need

  • Long screwdriver

  • Set of sockets

  • Torque wrench

 How to Install a Distributor in a 1998 Honda Civic

Distributor Removal

Use the screwdriver to remove the mounting screws on the distributor cap. Leave the spark plug wires attached and set the cap to the side.

Using the ratchet, extension and 12mm socket, remove the mounting bolts on the distributor.

Slide the distributor out of the engine. It may be necessary to twist it while pulling it out.

Distributor Installation

Install the rotor onto the new distributor. Coat the O-ring with clean engine oil.

Align the drive lugs on the end of the distributor with the camshaft. Slide the distributor in place. It may be necessary to rotate the rotor to perfectly align the drive lugs.

Install the bolts on the distributor and tighten them. Install the distributor cap and tighten the screws.

Items you will need

  • Screwdriver

  • Ratchet

  • Extension

  • 12mm socket

  • New distributor

  • New distributor rotor

 How to Install a Distributor on a GMC Savana Van

Open the Savana's hood and use a socket wrench to unplug the negative cable from the battery.

Use the sticky notes to label each spark plug connection and coil lead in the order that it was connected to the distributor. Disconnect all of them from the distributor. Disconnect the electrical wiring harness at the bottom of the distributor as well.

Loosen the cap screws and remove the distributor cap. Using a marker, mark the rotor-to-housing and housing-to-engine block positions so that they can be matched during installation. The position of the distributor is very important.

Loosen and uninstall the distributor's bolt and clamp and pull it out from the engine.

Install the new distributor in the engine, making sure that is properly aligned according to the markings.

Install the clamp and bolt and tighten the bolt to 20 ft.-lbs. with a torque wrench.

Reattach the distributor cap and its fasteners and reconnect the distributor's electrical wiring harness.

Attach the spark plug connections and the coil leads in the correct order and reconnect the negative battery cable. Close the hood.

Items you will need

  • Socket wrench

  • Sticky notes

  • Philips head screwdriver

  • Marker

  • Torque wrench

 How to Install a Distributor in a 2002 Chevrolet Silverado V6

Pop the hood. Position your assistant in the driver's seat with the key in the ignition, but with the engine turned off. Shine the flashlight down onto the crankshaft pulley on the bottom of the engine and locate the timing marks on the pulley and the engine. Have your assistant quickly turn the truck on and then off to "bump" the engine over until the timing mark on the pulley and the 0 degree timing mark on the engine line up.

Unbolt the intake tubing from the throttle body using the flathead screwdriver. Unplug the electrical harness leading to the distributor by hand. Remove the distributor cap from the engine with the wiring connected using the Phillips screwdriver, then lift it off the distributor.

Mark a line across the distributor and the intake manifold with the paint marker so that you can align the new distributor to the engine. Make sure the line is underneath the rotor so that you can keep things aligned properly.

Unbolt the distributor from the engine using the 3/8-inch ratchet and socket. Lift the distributor out of the engine bay. Transfer the mark from the original distributor to the replacement using the paint marker.

Slide the distributor into the distributor hole so that the mark on the distributor is about 42 degrees counterclockwise to the original mark. Use the protractor to ensure that there are approximately 42 degrees between the two marks. Push the distributor into the engine. As the distributor goes into the engine, it will rotate, aligning the two marks. If the two marks don't align, pull out the distributor, reposition as necessary, and reinstall. Bolt the distributor in place with the 3/8-inch ratchet and socket.

Install the distributor cap onto the distributor with the Phillips screwdriver. Reinstall the wiring harness to the distributor by hand and then reinstall the intake tubing with the flathead screwdriver.

Items you will need

  • Flashlight

  • Assistant

  • Flathead screwdriver

  • Phillips screwdriver

  • 3/8-inch ratchet and socket set

  • Protractor

 How to Install a Distributor on a 2.9 Liter

Open the hood and secure it in place. Pull the side clips off of both sides of the distributor cap to loosen the cap from the distributor. Pull the cap off of the top of the distributor with the spark plug wires still attached to the cap. Place the cap on top of the engine.

Locate the firing order number sequence that is stamped on the top of the engine. The firing order for the 2.9 liter engines is 1-4-2-5-3-6. Locate the number one spark plug on the front of the engine. Pull the plug wire off of the spark plug and remove the spark plug from the number one cylinder hole with a ratchet, extension and a spark plug socket.

Shine a flashlight through the number one cylinder hole and make note of where the top of the piston is. The top of the piston must be at top dead center before the old distributor can be removed and the new distributor installed. Place a large socket onto a 1/2-inch drive breaker bar and turn the big bolt head in the middle of the crankshaft pulley clockwise until the number one piston is at top dead center. Use the flashlight when turning the crankshaft to see when the top of the piston has reached top dead center.

Screw the spark plug back into the number one cylinder. Tighten the plug down tight with the ratchet, extension and spark plug socket. Place the spark plug wire back over the top of the spark plug.

Move back over to the distributor. Make a note of the direction that the rotor inside of the distributor is pointing. Make a chalk mark on the side of the distributor housing straight across from the pointed end of the rotor. Make another mark inside of the distributor housing straight across from the pointed end of the rotor. Make the last mark on the side of the engine straight across from the marked areas on the distributor. This will enable the new distributor to be installed in the exact same direction as the old distributor.

Loosen and remove the hold down bolt that secures the distributor inside of the distributor housing with a open end wrench. Pull the old distributor out of the housing. Lay the new distributor next to the old distributor. Mark the new distributor housing and the inside of the housing in the same locations as the marks on the old distributor.

Insert the splined end of the new distributor into the distributor hole with the chalk marks on the distributor lining up with the chalk mark on the side of the engine. Gently twist the distributor back and forth until the splines on the bottom of the distributor fall in place within the gears inside of the engine. Ensure that the rotor inside of the distributor is pointing toward all three chalk marks.

Screw the hold down bolt back through the hold down clamp on the new distributor housing. Tighten the bolt down tight with a open end wrench. Place the new cap over the top of the distributor and lock it down with the side clips. Transfer the spark plug wires from the old cap to the new cap one at a time by using the old cap as a diagram. Once all of the wires have been transferred, place the old cap on the ground.

Crank the engine and listen to the sound of the engine. If the timing is off by a little bit, loosen the hold down bolt and turn the distributor either clockwise or counterclockwise slowly until the running of the engine smooths out. Re-tighten the hold down bolt to the distributor housing with the open end wrench and close the hood.

Items you will need

  • 1/2-inch drive ratchet

  • 1/2-inch drive extension

  • Spark plug socket

  • Flashlight

  • 1/2-inch drive breaker bar

  • 1/2-inch drive socket set

  • Chalk

  • Open end wrench set

  • New distributor

 How to Install a Distributor on a Mazda 626

Engine Not Rotated

Lubricate the O-ring with a small amount of clean engine oil, then install it onto the distributor. Install the distributor pursuant to the marks you made when you removed it. Ensure that the drive gear engages with the camshaft gear or the slot in the camshaft.

Tighten the distributor hold-down bolts, using the appropriate socket. Plug in the electrical connector. Reattach the air intake hose. Install the distributor cap (the wires should still be attached, and the cap should have been marked when you took it off). Tighten the retaining bolts, using the appropriate socket.

Reconnect the negative battery cable.

Engine Rotated

Disconnect the spark plug wire from the No. 1 cylinder spark plug, if you know the engine has been rotated, or if you bought a new or used engine and are not sure whether the engine is on top dead center. On the six-cylinder, the No. 1 cylinder is the cylinder nearest the radiator on the passenger side of the engine. On the four-cylinder engine, it is the very front-most cylinder nearest the radiator.

Remove the spark plug. Stick your finger into the spark plug hole. Have a helper "bump" the engine over until you feel pressure on your finger. This means that the piston is coming up to top dead center. Turn the crankshaft pulley, using the appropriate socket, until the timing mark on the crankshaft pulley lines up with the timing mark on the timing cover.

Set the rotor on the distributor so that it lines up with the No. 1 spark plug wire tower on the distributor cap. Lubricate the distributor's O-ring with clean engine oil. Install the distributor and tighten the hold-down bolts with the appropriate socket, ensuring that the drive gear engages with the camshaft gear or slot.

Connect the electrical connector and the air intake hose. Install the distributor cap and tighten the bolts, using the appropriate socket. Reinstall the spark plug in the No. 1 cylinder. Reattach the spark plug wire. Reconnect the negative battery cable.

Items you will need

  • Clean engine oil

  • Set of sockets

  • Set of wrenches

 How to Install a Distributor in a Big Block Mopar

Remove the number one spark plug using a 5/8-inch spark plug socket and a socket wrench. The engine needs to be manually cranked until the number one cylinder piston is at top-dead center, or TDC. To crank the engine, place a long socket wrench with an extension and socket on the main fan belt pulley bolt and turn the wrench so the engine turns. The main belt pulley is located at the front of the engine, in line with the crankshaft, and may be a tight squeeze. Crank the engine manually until number one piston is at its farthest upward stroke; the top of the piston can be felt by inserting your finger, or a small wooden dowel, into the spark plug hole - this is TDC.

Bring the damper timing mark to the center timing arrow by cranking the engine in either direction - the two should already be close when the piston is at TDC. The vibration damper is a metal wheel with a timing mark on the outside rim, immediately behind the main belt pulley. It may be necessary to clean the edge of the vibration damper and the timing arrow attached to the engine block directly above it. Mark the timing mark and the center arrow with white chalk.

Follow the number one spark plug wire to the distributor, which is at the front on Chrysler big-block engines. Mark the distributor cap with chalk to identify the number one spark plug wire location. Remove the distributor cap. When the engine is at TDC, the rotor at the distributor's center should be pointing towards the number one spark plug wire, if not, turn the distributor until it is. Remove the distributor hold-down bolt to move the distributor.

Slide the old distributor out of the engine. When removing, take the old distributor cap off, but leave it connected to the spark plug wires. Note the location of the metal vacuum housing on the side of the distributor.

Insert the new distributor into the engine, being sure to replace it so the vacuum housing is in the same position as the old distributor. In order for the distributor shaft to go into the engine completely, it needs to mesh with the oil pump gear. This may require manually cranking the engine slightly to jiggle the distributor shaft in.

Install the new rotor to the distributor and check to see if it lines up with the number one spark plug wire on the old distributor cap. Minor adjustments can be made by rotating the distributor in either direction. Re-attach the distributor cap when finished.

Adjust the timing with a timing light according to Chrysler procedure. Keep the distributor hold-down bolt loose during the timing adjustment process, tightening it when the procedure is completed.

Items you will need

  • Wrench set

  • Socket wrench

  • Socket set

  • 5/8-inch spark plug socket

  • Chalk

  • Rag

  • Cleaning solvent

 How to Install the Distributor on a Chevy Big Block

Find top dead center on the No.1 cylinder. Take the spark plug out of this cylinder. On the Chevy big block, the odd-number cylinders, No. 1, 3, 5 and 7, are on the driver's side of the block. The even Nos. 2, 4, 6 and 8 are on the passenger side of the block. Place your finger in the spark plug hole and have a helper crank the engine a little at a time until the compression pushes your finger away from the hole.

Spin the engine by the crankshaft nut, using a 1/2-inch ratchet and a socket. Line the timing mark on the crankshaft balancer with the timing mark on the timing chain cover. Replace the spark plug and plug wire.

Remove the distributor cap with the plug wires attached. Remove the old distributor and place the new distributor where the old one came out, making sure the gasket is in place. Locate the No.1 plug wire on the distributor cap. Make sure the contact on the rotor button is lined up with the No.1 plug wire on the distributor cap. Place the new distributor in the hole, making sure the vacuum advance is halfway between the firewall and the carburetor.

Drop the distributor in the rest of the way in. When it is all way in, be sure the rotor contact points to the No.1 spark plug wire. If the contact on the rotor doesn't line up with the No.1 spark plug wire, ease the distributor up and turn it a notch until rotor contact points to the No.1 plug wire.

Replace the distributor hold-down clamp and bolt. Tighter the bolero loosely where the distributor will still turn. Install the distributor cap with the spark plug wires attached. You will need a flat screwdriver to turn the screws. Fine-tune the timing with a timing light and tighten the distributor bolt. If the Chevy big block misfires, check firing order. The firing order is 1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2.

Items you will need

  • Screwdriver

  • 1/2-inch socket and ratchet set

  • Spark plug socket

  • Rags

 How to Install a Distributor in a 1997 Chevy Blazer 4.3 Vortec

Disconnect the negative battery lead from the battery terminal and position so that it cannot accidently touch the terminal during maintenance.

Rotate the crankshaft damper on the front of the engine to the top dead center position for piston one. The crankshaft damper is attached to the large wheel on the front of the engine centered near the bottom. It has two alignment marks that, when aligned with the two V cutouts in the alignment protrusions on the engine, identify top dead center.

Rotate the bottom of the distributor shaft until the rotor contact aligns with the alignment mark opposite of the electrical input connector. There may be an imprinted 6 instead of an alignment mark. This readies the distributor for use in the 6-cylinder engine.

Look into the distributor hole with a flashlight. You'll see the oil pump drive shaft. Position it into the mating tab on the distributor with a flathead screwdriver.

Slide the distributor into the engine. It should seat fully with the spark plug wire outputs parallel with the firewall.

Install the hold-down bolt at the bottom of the distributor with a 10-millimeter distributor wrench. Torque it to 20-foot pounds.

Place the distributor cap on the top of the distributor and install the cap screws. Torque them to 20-inch pounds with a Torx bit. Attach the electrical input connector to the distributor below the cap.

Attach the spark plug wires. If they were not labeled during removal, trace the wires from the engine. When looking at the engine compartment, the three wires from the left side of the engine connect to the left outputs on the distributor cap in order. From the right side of the engine, the front wire attaches to the middle output, the middle wire to the front output, and the rear wire to the rear output.

Install the wire from the ignition coil to the front of the distributor cap. It looks like a plug wire, but is not lined up like the spark plug wire outputs.

Items you will need

  • 10 mm distributor wrench

  • Flashlight

  • Ratchet set

  • Socket set

  • Torx bit set

  • Foot-pound torque wrench

  • Flathead screwdriver

  • Inch-pound torque wrench