Ignition Timing

It takes minutes and can transform the way your classic runs.

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Before you start

Before you start

Set the points gap first Refer to your workshop manual for the correct setting. As long as your distributor is easily accessible and you've got the right feeler gauge, this is a five-minute job.

Attach the power leads on the timing light to the car's battery, and then clamp the light's plug connection to the HT lead for number one cylinder. Check your manual to see whether you need to disconnect the vacuum advance to the distributor. If so, cover the open end with masking tape to stop air being drawn in.

Getting a reading

Locate your engine's timing marks. Most commonly, these are a set of 'teeth' near the crank pulley. One tooth will represent TDC; the others will represent degrees before TDC. There will be a notch on the crank pulley -the idea is to align this notch against the teeth with the engine running. Before starting the engine, and if it's accessible, dab some white paint on the notch and the tooth you'll be trying to line it up with. This makes both of | them more visible.

In this case, the ignition timing was 14 degrees before TDC at 600rpm. Set the timing light and start the engine. Aim the light at the teeth and crank pulley - the strobe effect 'freezes' the latter and enables you see where the notch is in relation to the teeth. Be aware that despite appearances, certain components are still moving very fast, so keep your hands and clothing clear.

Adjusting the timing

If you need to adjust the timing, loosen the distributor clamp and slowly rotate the distributor. This will alter the timing. Continue rotating it until the notch on the crank pulley I correctly lines up with the timing marks.

Bear in mind that you might not have a timing mark that exactly indicates the engine's required advance angle. For example, on the pictured engine, the marks represented 5,10 and 15 degrees before top dead centre. The timing had to be set at 14 degrees, so it was adjusted until the notch on the crank pulley was positioned just above that final tooth.

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