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How to time an engine

There are four main steps involved in setting the timing on a

normal engine utilizing a distributor. Setting the timing on an

engine synchronizes the spark timing with the engine's compression

stroke for maximum efficiency. First, pull the vacuum line off of

the distributor and plug the end of the line. Next, mark the Top

Dead Centre (TDC) mark on the harmonic balancer (the round piece on

the front of the engine) with chalk. In addition, it is a good

idea to chalk the correct mark for the number of degrees to which

you'll be setting the distributor. This specification is usually

found in the owner's manual of the vehicle. The third step is to

actually use the timing gun. Hook the timing gun up to the battery

using the twelve volt alligator clips. Additionally, attach the

gun to the number one spark plug wire with the wire provided.

Usually, a certain engine speed will be designated by the car

manufacturer for setting the timing. This specification should

also be in the owner's manual. You may need to enlist the help of

a friend to sit in the car with his/her foot on the gas. With the

engine running, point the gun at the harmonic balancer and pull the

trigger. If the white chalk lines that you made earlier do not

line up, the timing is incorrect. The final step is the

adjustment. Loosen the bolt that holds the distributor in place

and slightly turn the distributor. Check the timing again and

continue adjustments until the timing is correct. Tighten the

distributor and remove the timing gun. A correctly timed engine

will have increases in performance, economy, and drivability.

Source: Essay UK -

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