Valve Train Problems  4            3-16-14

Fixing The Distributor


While my heads were being worked on and a new cam was being made, I had some time to work on other things so I turned my attention to my distributor. Remember how rusty it was but I wasn't going to buy a new one? My plan was to clean up my old one and also try to prevent the rust problem from happening again.

I took my distributor completely apart for two reasons. One, it needed some serious cleaning and two, I had nothing to loose by trying something new. Here you can see some of the parts that would need to be cleaned or replaced. And after looking at what you can and can't buy for parts, I found that the reluctor wheel (bright orange part that looks like a gear) was not a part you could buy.

So what do you do when you can't buy a new part that you need? Well sometimes you just have to come up with your own idea of what you think might work or fix what you have. And in my case, I was going to clean up my reluctor wheel and paint it. Read on to see how it comes out.



The first thing I needed to do was remove the reluctor wheel from that shaft. Now if I had a press this would be much easier, but when you don't have a certain tool, you improvise. In this case I used my vise along with two pieces of aluminum to support the reluctor wheel, lots of WD-40 and then used a few items that I had laying around to tap the shaft out.

The shaft is hollow with a thin wall so priority number one was to be 'very careful'. It's easy to remove something like this, but to not hurt anything in the process is quite another story. With some light taps with the hammer at first, I found out the reluctor wheel was pressed on...or should I say, rusted on pretty good. Light taps turned into some heavier hits but shortly after the shaft started to move. A few more blows and they came apart. Let's put these parts aside for now and come back to them a little later.






I was trying to hold my distributor with one hand and work on it with the other and after a few minutes of this I thought of another way. I took a scrap piece of wood, put it in my vise, drilled two holes in it, used my distributor hold down to keep the housing from moving and just like that, it was like having three hands to work with  :-]



I'm going to replace a few parts here and the magnetic pickup was first on the list. After removing the two very rusted screws, I tried to remove the pickup by hand but it won't move. I wasn't sure why so it was time for a little persuasion.



I found a small amount of silicone behind this assembly which is why I had to use force to get it out. But that makes sense because of the environment these components have to live in. By using a small soft faced hammer and a few taps, it came loose. Now the wires that go to the pickup have a plug on the end which means it won't go through the housing. What needs to be done here is cut the wires and then it comes right out.



This kit comes with everything needed to replace your magnetic pickup along with new hardware as well. Note the wires don't have a plug on them. You have to snake the wires through the housing first, and then snap each wire into the plug making sure to get them in the right order. All you do is look at your old plug and match up the wires to the correct socket. Piece of cake!



Reassembly is straight forward here and I even put a dab of silicone behind the magnetic pickup just like it had before. The new hardware sure does look nice compared to my old rusty stuff.



I cleaned my reluctor wheel with a wire brush and then wiped it off with lacquer thinner. The reluctor wheel looks to be made out of cast iron which is probably why it was so rusted in the first place. After the wheel was nice and clean, I sprayed two coats of silver paint on it to keep it from rusting again. I don't know how long this will last but I'm sure it's better than nothing.

To press the reluctor wheel back on the shaft, I used my vise to perform that task. I used a 1/2" bolt on the left side that went down the I.D. of the shaft, along with some washers to give the spring pins some needed clearance between the vise jaw and pins (blue lines). This was so I didn't end up bending any of the pins while assembling. On the other end I used a hollow bushing to drive the reluctor wheel on the shaft (arrows). After a few cranks of the handle, it was back together. I also used a small amount of light oil on the shaft before I pressed the reluctor wheel back on. This worked out well and everything looked good afterwards.



Here you see a few more new parts. The box on the left has some spring weights, weight pads and some spring bushings. The other box has a new cap, rotor and plug wire clamp.



As I was taking the distributor apart and I was removing the old weights and bushings, I noticed the weight pads both had cracks in them. I bought this kit mainly for the weight pads but used everything in the kit, which worked out good because I didn't have to clean up the older stuff.



Here you can see the distributor all put back together. I'll have to say it sure does look a whole lot better than before. There's one more thing that needs to be done before we can check this part off the list.



According to the specifications that came with the magnetic pickup, I needed to make sure that the distance between the reluctor wheel and pickup were the correct distance apart. The tolerance was between .018 and .030 of gap between the two surfaces so I grabbed some feeler gages and went to work.

The magnetic pickup has enlarged holes so you can move it a small amount to attain the correct gap. Once you have it in spec, you just tighten the two bolts and locknuts and that's it. I set mine towards the center of the tolerance and turned my distributor to check each spoke on the wheel to make sure I had it set right. This procedure reminded me of adjusting the points on my old distributor that I had years ago. Those were some good times.



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