How to Install a Ford Ranger Distributor

by Don Bowman

The Ford Ranger utilizes two distinct types of ignition systems. Both systems are identified as "thick film integrated systems" (TFI-1V). What differentiates the two is the location of the ignition control module (ICM). The first type has the ICM attached to the distributor proper while the second has a remote ICM situated on the driver's fender well. The latter with a remote ICM only contains a camshaft sensor (CMP) and a rotor. Since neither of these type distributors house the necessary parts to manually adjust the timing and advance, Initial base setting is all that is necessary. The ICM coupled with the computer will make these adjustments.

Pull the coil wire out of the coil and move it away from the coil so it can't jump and arc to the coil tower. Pull the number 1 spark plug wire off the spark plug. This is the closest spark plug to the radiator on the passenger side of the engine. Remove the spark plug using the spark plug socket.

Find the compression stroke on the number 1 cylinder. A helper is needed to turn the key to the start position in increments of a fraction of a second at a time. The idea is to turn the engine just a few degrees at a time while accomplishing this procedure. Place a finger over the spark plug hole for the plug just removed. Have a helper bump the engine over with the ignition key a little at a time until pressure from compression can be felt forcing its way out of the cylinder past your finger. Stop at this point and turn the key off. Install a socket on the crankshaft pulley bolt and use a ratchet to turn the engine clockwise until the timing mark on the crankshaft pulley is aligned with the 0-degree mark on the timing plate located on the timing chain cover. The engine is now on the top of its compression stroke on the number 1 cylinder.

Reinstall the spark plug and the plug wire on the spark plug. Push the coil wire back into the coil tower. Install a gasket on the distributor base and insert the distributor into the block with the rotor pointing directly at the number 1 cylinder. Lift it up and rotate the rotor. Try again if necessary until this is accomplished precisely.

Install the distributor hold-down clamp and tighten with a socket. Plug the ICM connector into the side of the distributor if it happens to be a remote ICM. Install the distributor cap and tighten it with a screwdriver.

Items you will need

About the Author

Don Bowman has been writing for various websites and several online magazines since 2008. He has owned an auto service facility since 1982 and has over 45 years of technical experience as a master ASE tech. Bowman has a business degree from Pennsylvania State University and was an officer in the U.S. Army (aircraft maintenance officer, pilot, six Air Medal awards, two tours Vietnam).