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How to Install a Distributor on a 2.9 Liter

by Kevin Mclain

The 2.9 liter engine comes inside of Ford model vehicles such as the Ranger and Bronco. The distributor on the 2.9 engine is the main component that the end of the spark plug wires connect to. The distributor is also one of the main components in the timing sequence of the engine. The distributor and the rotor inside of the distributor must point in the same direction when the number one cylinder is at top dead center. If the distributor is damaged, replace it as soon as possible to keep the engine running properly.

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.

Tips

  • When turning the distributor to even out the timing of the engine, make short turns in either direction to determine which direction smooths out the timing of the engine.
  • Make sure that the spark plugs from the old cap are transferred to the new cap in the same order. This is the reason for transferring one wire at a time to prevent any confusion.

Warning

  • If the number one cylinder and the distributor are not properly timed together, the engine will not crank. The direction of the rotor inside of the distributor must point in the same direction as the old distributor. Thus the reason for the chalk marks.

Items you will need

About the Author

Kevin Mclain has more than 20 years of automotive, home improvement and landscaping experience. He has been writing for various online publications since 2002. Mclain has U.S. Army certification in automotive maintenance and repair, among more than 15 additional certifications related to the automotive field.

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