DIY - Distributor, Cap, and Rotor R&R -

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DIY - Distributor, Cap, and Rotor R&R


Old 07-16-2010, 03:28 PM
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Thumbs up DIY - Distributor, Cap, and Rotor R&R

Well I just had to pull my distributor to remove a broken bolt, so I thought we could use a DIY on doing this. Jason, could you move this to the DIY section?

I have to give credit to cmckenna, VWandDodge, aim4squirrels, and HeyYou for their invaluable knowledge and for helping me out with this little job. This was my first time pulling a distributor and if you're reading this, chances are it's your first time too I tried to make this diy as straighforward as possible, to limit the chance of somone messing up their truck

Tools Required:

Flat screwdriver
1/4" drive ratchet, 3" extension, and 7MM socket (7MM wrench might be neccessary)
1/2" stubby wrench
Black Marker
flashlight or other light source
Mirror (makes it possible to see what you're doing back there)
plywood to lay on
Beer (# required may vary)

Parts: Carquest brass terminal cap (CQ part #51-1553), and matching rotor (CQ #51-5623)

Time to complete: less than an hour with no problems


Step 1: Remove airbox assembly. I won't go into this as it's pretty straightforward to get it off there. Once that's out of the way, lay your plywood down. I laid it on the rad support, and it rested on a bracket for the A/C lines and the battery hold down. Just keep in mind where your throttle cables are, don't pinch them accidentally. You don't NEED the plywood, but trust me it made this job a helluva lot more easy.

Step 2: Trace all your plug wires and mark the corresponding cylinder number on each end of the wire. I also marked a 'C' on the coil wire just to avoid any confusion later on. I used a black sharpie to mark the # on each boot, but others have suggested masking tape etc. Whatever works for you. This pic shows the firing order and correct numbering of the cylinders:

Once you have all the wires marked, you can start pulling the wires off the cap. I recommend leaving the other end on the spark plugs, this just helps with reassembly.

Step 3: now it's time to get the cap off there. Using your 1/4" ratchet, remove the 2 bolts (1 on each side) holding the cap down. I had to use the 7mm wrench to start the bolts on the old cap, as it wouldn't let me get the socket on there, but the new one was no problem. Once you have the bolts out, just lift the cap straight up off the distributor. You will now see the rotor button perched on top of the distributor shaft:

Just lift this straight up off the shaft to remove it. Here's a pic of my old and new buttons for comparison:

Step 4: You will now see a flat plate below where the cap sat. This is your camshaft position sensor. Carefully lift it up off the shaft and set aside. I just set it off to the side near the brake booster, but you should
Originally Posted by VWandDodge
disconnect it, clean the connectors both on the sensor and the harness, and then apply dielectric grease to the contacts before reinstallation. When I had reassembled my engine, I just plugged it in and was encountering multiple misfires. Once the connections were cleaned and grease applied, it all worked great.

Here's a pic of the distributor after everything is removed from it. You can see the bolt I broke here , as well as the notch for the sensor plate wires

Step 5: *VERY IMPORTANT!* Now you should be left with just the distributor itself there. First, make a mark on the side of the distributor nearest the intake manifold. Make a corresponding mark on the manifold so that you will be able to reinstall it EXACTLY as it came out. Also, take note of the notch at the top of the shaft, and make a mark on the distributor where it is pointing. This is how I marked it, and you can see how useful a mirror is for this I don't have the notch marked in this pic, but just make a mark on the side of the dist where the notch is pointing. There are only 2 ways for this to go back in, you'll see what I mean.

Step 6: Now to remove it. There is 1 bolt and a clamp underneath the dist, this is what holds it on there and in place. Use your short 1/2" wrench to loosen this bolt, then remove the bolt and clamp and set aside. (the cowl makes a wonderful toolbench for this job )

A pic of the bolt in question:

And here is a good pic of the backside courtesy of google. It helped me to know exactly what I was working with back there

Now, once you are confident that you have marked the orientation of the dist AND notch in the shaft, you can pull it out. I had to wiggle it a bit to break it free, but it came out quite easily. Just lift it up and out of there.

A pic of the distributor. Notice the flat notch at the bottom of the shaft, This slips down into a notch in the cam gear, as you can see in the next pic. I highlighted the notch because it's hard to tell that it's there. This is the reason for marking the notch on the top of the shaft, and you can now see how it can go in 1 of 2 ways. As long as you marked it you shouldn't have any trouble getting this notch back in the gear in the correct way.

That's it! I had to remove mine because I broke a distributor bolt off while replacing my cap and rotor, but you are probably replacing it with a new or upgraded part.


Re-installation is pretty much just the opposite of removal, just make sure you get everything back together how it came apart.

Step 1: Apply a small amount of grease to the distributor O ring, line up your top notch with the corrsponding mark you made earlier, and fish it straight back down in there. You might have to try a couple times to get the shaft seated down in the notch in the gear, I was like a teenage boy tryin to find the hole his first time for a couple minutes

Step 2:
After you get it seated down, line your distributor-to-intake marks up again, then reinstall and tighten the clamp and bolt.

Step 3:
Carefully reinstall the sensor plate. Theres only 1 way it will sit in there, with the wires at about 11 oclock when looking straight down at it. Theres a notch in the dist body for the wires, so you can't screw this part up

Step 4: Slide the rotor button back onto the distributor shaft, making sure that it is seated correctly in the notch.

Step 5: Install the cap. Note that the #1 terminal is marked, orient the cap so that this terminal is at about 7 oclock position. note the two screw mounts on the dist housing, one is square(passenger side), the other rounded, so this should be hard to mess up too **NOTE: be careful tightening the bolts on the cap, do not overtighten! I obviously broke one off when replacing my cap, and it didn't take much force at all.

Step 6: Now that the cap is on, you can begin replacing your plug wires. Start with #1, and continue around the cap following the firing order in the pic earlier in this post. (The firing order, as well as distributor rotation, is molded clearly into the top of the intake manifold also) Lastly, replace the coil wire onto the center terminal. Route the #8 wire so it goes straight down over the valvecover and crosses the other wires at a 90* angle. (see this post:

Step 7: Before reinstalling the airbox, start the truck up and make sure it runs smooth with no misses. If it idles and runs roughly, shut it off and recheck your plug wires. If all your wires are on in the correct order and it is still running badly, you may have incorrectly positioned your dist, or have the dist shaft in backwards. If it runs nice and smooth, install the airbox, and take er out for a test drive


A friendly discussion about how the timing works on these motors:
see this thread for more info

Originally Posted by cmckenna
The only issue is if you can't get the diz aligned right for whatever reason. The timing of the dwell and Hall sensor will be out of timing to the PCM sync value thus requiring moving the diz around or resetting the sync value at the PCM level.

Originally Posted by VWandDodge
The distributor (body) on these trucks can be turned any which way and it will not affect the timing. All that matters is that it is stabbed back where it was prior to removal.
Originally Posted by cmckenna
I know what your referring to- yes, on the older vehicles this was the case however, while it doesn't control the timing in the same manner as on an older vehicle that uses vacuum advance, if you rotate the distributor, the terminal will either be behind or ahead of where it should sit normally. Regardless of the diz rotation, the coil timing remains unchanged but, since the dizzy now sits off the alignment mark, the spark traveling into the cap, into the rotor will not be aligned to the terminal 100%. That's part of the problem- cross-arcing if it's out far enough to, latency issues etc.

It will also change the timing relationship relative to CAM position on the Hall sensor which is critical to time the CPS to the CKPS respective to the EFI system thus changing the sync time intervals in relationship to the injector pulse width thus messing up the timing between those systems.

So, while it most certainly will not advance or retard the timing as that is controlled by the PCM by means of turning the coil ON / OFF, by other means, it will impart a negative affect on the timing.

Originally Posted by aim4squirrels
Yes, but moving the outer housing out of alignment with the inner ring causes a change in fuel sync, which is when the injector fires. Any greater than +/-20* and the PCM loses fuel sync and the engine won't run, or runs like crap. Because the disty runs off the cam, which is turned by the crankshaft via the timing chain, any slack in the timing chain will cause the fuel sync to bounce around and the engine won't run as smooth.
Originally Posted by cmckenna
Sure, you are correct, the dizzy will not change ignition timing, however, you can PUT it out inadvertently due to incorrect clocking of the distributor.

It's not adjusting the timing but rather MIS-aligning the dwell CKT, the Hall CKT, and lastly, the terminal in the cap.

If one were to rotate the cap clockwise 90, it would have a serious impact on the timing and, as AIM pointed out, it would not run at all.

The PCM has a failsafe mechanism programmed in that <IF> it reads the OFFSET value and, it falls outside operational limits, the PCM will trip the ASD relay and kill the EFI system. It is programmed to do so as a means of if that condition were to manifest, it normally means that the timing chain let go and lost the CAM to CRANK position thus resulting in mechanical damage or, injectors firing at the wrong time etc.

Again, to clarify, the timing will BE OFF if the cap is moved and, depending on how far it is moved, will throw the PCM CPS input sensor data off to the CKPS, which further domino affects down the line. Now, a slight bit off, the PCM can adjust if it falls within the upper and lower set-point values.

At which, point, it will still run but, it wise to use a DART or DRB III tool to reset the timing and the Dizzy to ensure it's accurately set.


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