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How to Install the Distributor on a Chevy Big Block

by Jesse Vibbert

The Chevy big block engine distributor is mounted on the rear top center of the engine. Installing the new (high-energy ignition) HEI distributor or removing it to service is fairly simple. The HEI distributor is the best distributor for the big block Chevy because it is the best way to disperse spark among your eight cylinders. Like most moving parts, the distributor wears out, and when it does, it's time to replace it. The Chevy big block engine rotation is clockwise.

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

About the Author

Jesse Vibbert has been a master mechanic and has worked in automotive and truck parts stores for 40 years. He has recently written articles about automotive repair for various websites.

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