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Adjusting Ignition Points

How to Adjust Ignition Points for a Tune Up

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Once you've established that your car or truck does have a traditional points type ignition, you need to adjust these points to give your car a tune up.

Before you adjust your points, be sure that you have:

With all of your other basic tune up procedures done, you're ready to adjust the points. Remove the distributor cap (you can leave the plug wires connected) and set it aside. Remove the rotor. Now you're ready.

Important: Always disconnect the battery before you work on your ignition. Damage to you or your car could occur.

  1. Set the engine. Your engine needs to be at a certain point in its rotational cycle to set the points. If you look at the inside of the distributor, you will see that the center shaft isn't round where it contacts the points. It's what we call eccentric, or lobed. This lobe sticking out is what opens the points. We need to rotate the engine so that the distributor lobe is pushing the points apart at their farthest point. If not, there is no way to set the gap. Do this by rotating the engine with a wrench until it's at the right spot.
  2. Loosen the points. There is a screw in the center of the points that locks them into place. You need to loosen this to adjust the points. If you're replacing the points, leave it slightly loose so you can make your adjustments.
  3. Adjust the gap. The "gap" everybody is referring to is the distance between those two contact points at the end of your points arms. The gap is always measured with the points at their most open position in the distributor's rotation. Look up your car's gap in your repair manual (usually just under 2 hundredths of an inch or .019"). Using a feeler gauge, adjust the points until they are just closing on the feeler. You should be able to drag the feeler through the gap with just a little friction felt. Once you've done this, tighten things up and give her a try.

*For a much more technical description of points ignition and its adjustment, check out this page.

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