How to Set the Timing on a 318 Mopar Engine

by Robert Bayly
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In production from the early 1960s to the early 1990s, the Chrysler Corporation's 318 cubic-inch, V-8 engine is found in all domestic Dodge and Plymouth cars and trucks. The timing procedure for the 318 is similar to that of the other Chrysler "LA" series engines. Because the 318 was in production for so many years, it is important to obtain the timing specification for your vehicle's year and model. This information may be on a decal on the radiator support. If not, many auto parts stores can supply you with this information.

Step 1

Park the vehicle on a level, paved surface and set the parking brake. Run the engine until it reaches normal operating temperature. Turn off the engine. Place an automatic transmission in "park" and a manual transmission in "neutral."

Step 2

Remove the wingnut on the top of the air cleaner and remove the air cleaner. Disconnect the vacuum line at the distributor and plug it with a plastic vacuum line plug. Some distributors may have two lines. Disconnect the PCV valve line from the carburetor. If the vehicle has a charcoal canister, disconnect it at the carburetor. Do not plug this line. If the engine has an EGR valve, disconnect its vacuum line at the carburetor and plug it.

Step 3

Look at the crankshaft pulley. The harmonic balancer is large, metal disc that the pulley bolts to. Find the timing marker attached to the timing cover. It sits directly above the balancer. Spray the marker with some parts cleaner and wipe with a shop rag. Dab some liquid paper on the marker to make the numbers easier to see.

Step 4

Rotate the crankshaft with a ratchet and socket. Turn the crankshaft in a clockwise direction until you see the small notch in the balancer. Spray the notch with some parts cleaner and wipe a shop rag. Dab some liquid paper on the notch.

Step 5

Hook up an inductive timing light to the engine. The red lead is clipped to the positive battery terminal; the black lead is clipped to the negative battery terminal. The spark plug pickup lead is clipped over the No. 1 spark plug wire. This is the first spark plug wire on the driver's side of the engine.

Step 6

Loosen the bolt on the distributor hold-down clamp with a wrench. Loosen it only enough so that you can barely turn the distributor. Start the engine. Being careful of moving parts such as belts, pulleys and the fan blade, shine the timing light down on the marker. The light will allow you to see the notch on the balancer lined up with the marker. If the notch is not lined up in the proper position, turn the distributor to move the notch to the proper position. Tighten the distributor hold-down clamp bolt and double-check the timing.

Step 7

Turn off the engine. Disconnect the timing light. Reconnect any lines that were disconnected. Replace the air cleaner.

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