How to Replace the Distributor in a VW Jetta

by Contributor

If you have a four-cylinder Volkswagen Jetta that's a model from 1990 to 1999, then it has a distributor that you may need to replace at some point. You'll need to move a few things out of the way to do the job, but with a few basic tools you can replace the distributor.

Unbolt with a wrench the upper timing belt cover so you can see the camshaft timing marks. The timing belt cover is a long dark metal cover on the left of the engine block--as you face the engine.

Look on the engine block for the place where all the spark plug wires go, and you've found the distributor. Unsnap all clips and take off the distributor cap and suppressor shield, leaving the spark plug wires attached. Disconnect the sensor connector on the distributor's side with a screwdriver.

Use a breaker bar and socket on the front crankshaft pulley bolt to turn the engine so the "0" mark on the flywheel and the marks on the camshaft line up; the pulley is near the bottom of the engine block. This is Top Dead Center (TDC).

Be sure the rotor lines up with the No. 1 spark plug wire terminal. Make a mark on the edge of the distributor housing that lines up with the rotor when the No. 1 cylinder is at TDC. Mark the location of the distributor base relative to the engine block. You'll need to do this to be sure parts are in the proper place when you replace the distributor

Unscrew the single mounting bolt (on 8V engines), remove the hold-down flange and pull the distributor out. Remove the two mounting bolts (on 16V engines) and lift the distributor out. Use a wrench.

Be sure the engine is at TDC before installing the new distributor, otherwise the engine won't work properly. Line up the rotor with the mark you made on the edge of the distributor, and the marks on the engine block/cylinder head and distributor base.

Put the Volkswagen Jetta distributor in its spot on the engine block. The part number for a new one is 82376N from Parts Train (see Resources), but different manufacturers have different numbers. Give the year, model and engine size when ordering.

Replace the mounting bolt or bolts, as well as the bracket on 8V engines, and tighten. Plug in the sensor plug on the distributor's side of the distributor, replace the distributor cap on the distributor and snap the spring clips into place.

Tip

  • check If your Volkswagen Jetta has a manual transaxle, before beginning the job detach the plastic plug on the transaxle bell housing. This will let you see the timing marks on the flywheel so you can align parts when replacing the distributor.

Items you will need

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