With the coming of the new car season, many of us 5.0 stang lovers are finishing up our projects. Sadly the most common error when completing a head/cam/intake upgrade, is the incorrect installation of the distributor. I have seen many people say "My car is running like crap after H/C/I, I think my timing is off...."
Here is how you will PROPERLY install your distributor so that you get the correct stab every time... no more "I think I'm one tooth off!"
Start by removing the #1 spark plug. (thats the one closest to the front of the motor on the passenger side.)
Find 0° on your balancer and mark it. In the following picture you will see three blue lines and a black area on my balancer. The black area is ATDC, otherwise reffered to as retarded timing. Each blue mark, starting at 0° are in 10° increments.
Place your finger over the #1 spark plug hole, then turn the motor over (clockwise) until you feel air push out of the spark plug hole. You have now found the compression stroke. Now, look at the balancer. Observe where the 0° mark is. If the mark has passed the end of the timing indicator, DO NOT TURN THE MOTOR COUNTERCLOCKWISE. This will infact create slack in the timing chain and will cause you to set your timing incorrectly. Turn the motor clockwise, not once, but TWICE around and bring the 0° mark up to the end of the timing indicator. You have now set the motor at 0° TDC on cylinder #1.
(disclaimer: I am holding the timing indicator because I clearly do not have the timing cover installed.... deal with it)
Now find the #1 plug wire on your distributor.
Mark the distributor so that when the cap is removed, you will be able to see where the #1 wire should be. I used a black sharpie to do this.
(To avoid confusing some of you, I would like to note that I did not remove the distributor to mark the #1 location on the body of the distributor, I merely spun it around... because im lazy like that...)
Remove the cap and extend the marker line into the inside of the distributor.
Check the alignment of your distributor in relation to the block. Little known to most, Ford actually provides you with a 0° referance and a 10°BTDC referance point. If you look closely at the base of the distributor you will see a clear cut line in the block. there is a matching mark on the distributor base. This indicates roughly 10°BTDC. The edge of the casting to the left of this mark is 0°.
Set the mark on the distributor to the 0° location.
Now look at the orientation of your rotor in the distributor itself. If the distributor is lined up with the zero mark on the block, your rotor should line up with the marker line you made, like this...
Anything else is incorrect. You can fix your alignment by lifting the distributor to the point where the rotor stops turning. (the gear on the distributor shaft that mates with the camshaft is curved and will cause the rotor to turn to the left as you pull it out. Do not remove the distributor all the way, but just enough to turn the rotor in the distributor.. If your set too far towards the left, simply turn the rotor slightly to the right and press the distributor back down into the block. If it will not slide back down, do not panic... Just continue to press down on the distributor while slowly moving the rotor to correct its position. When the gears mesh, it will slide down and turn towards the right on its own.
Once you have properly aligned the rotor inside the distributor like shown above, turn the distributor so the mark at the base and the mark on the block line up. This will get you close to 10°BTDC, only a timing light will get it perfect.
If you discover your rotor is oriented as the two following pictures, please review the last two steps we covered and correct it.
This is incorrect...
This is also incorrect. Please review the previous two steps and align the rotor properly.
I hope this has helped give you a more visual representation of how to properly stab your distributor. If you have any questions regarding this How To, please PM me.