Timing is Everything

Itís a simple thing, right?  Hook up the timing light, point it at the timing marks, idle the engine with the vacuum line unhooked from the distributor and plugged.

Turn the distributor until the marks are where they should be.  Done.

I donít THINK so Jim!

Ignition timing is a very important part of your tune up.  You know that, I know that, the Goose knows that. 

What happens when the points rubbing block wears?  The timing goes retarded, thatís what.  Why is that you ask?  That is on accounta as the rubbing block wears the points close.  If the points close up a bit then they donít open as soon as they should.  If they donít open as soon as they should then they are reducing the spark lead (advance) and the engine will run retarded.  Running a bit retarded isnít as bad as running too advanced. 


  Yep, really.  Running too advanced will cause pre-ignition.  Pre-ignition if left alone will cause piston melt.  The fire in the cylinder occurs too soon,  too hot,  and viola! Melted piston crowns.  Itís happened,  more than once, to more than one person.  Running a bit retarded (or with the points closed up) will just make the engine hard to start and it wonít develop the power it should.  Within reason,  a engine running with more advance will run better than one running retarded.

  Some people time their engines by running the spark lead up until the engine pre-ignites and then back it off a tad.  This works.  It works well too.  Problem is,  itís dependent on the engine in question being a simple one with conventional ignition (or electronic where we just replace the points with a hall effect trigger or the like). 

  There are those who will say that the above paragraph isnít a good idea.  A thing isnít a bad idea just because some people donít agree with it.  To paraphrase John Steinbeck: ďJust because a thing didnít necessarily happen doesnít mean itís not necessarily a lieĒ.  Or something.

Timing a computer controlled engine with the above method is a bad idea.

There are those who Ďtimeí their engines by using a vacuum gauge.  Not me.

The approved procedure for checking out the ignition system and itís adjustments follows as:

Check the wires.  Look Ďem over.  Start the car at night, in a dark alley  (make sure youíre armed) and watch for sparks.  Yep,  sparks.  Look the plug wires over carefully and see if you see sparking.  If you do, get thee to the parts house and replace the wires.  If you have a plug wire arcing to another plug wire then one of those plugs is either misfiring or firing the inappropriate plug at the wrong time.  Sometimes youíll actually be able to HEAR the arcing.  Bad thing, bad!

Look at the plugs.  Are they burning a nice dark tan color?  Nice and brown?  White is bad!  Black ainít good.  Brown like Triumph Brown is a good thing.

Check the points if you have them.  Take a look at the contacts.  Gap the points properly (unless you have a dwell meter).  .018 points gap will work.  Check your manual. 

NOW youíre ready to check the timing.  Unhook the vacuum line to the distributor (or donít depending on your car).  If you do unhook the line then remember to plug it.  A vacuum leak will cause, among other things, high idle,  run-on when you turn the key off, a very lean condition, pre-ignition and a whole host of other baddies.

Your car is different than mine.  Look in your service manual (or online) to see what the timing should be.  If you adjusted your points gap then your timing will have changed.  The two are related.  If you opened the gap (the usual adjustment) then your timing MIGHT just have come right back into line. 

Keep things in perspective.  Watch what you are doing.  Donít hurt yourself or the Goose.  A good Goose is hard to find.  The Goose is our friend.  Be kind to the Goose.