Quick Tip: Carrying a Spare Distributor, Ready-to-Run

Quick Tip: Carrying a Spare Distributor, Ready-to-Run

Most of us are wise enough to carry spare points, condenser, cap and rotor in order to perform roadside repairs in the event of diagnosing ignition problems. Even smarter is carrying a spare distributor, already containing good points (gap pre-set), condenser, cap and rotor.

The reason for this that when you are stuck at the side of the road, time is of the essence; not only do you want to get where you need to go, but it’s dangerous repairing your car on the side of a busy road with traffic racing by. So instead if trouble shooting, one element at a time, whether it is the condenser, points, rotor, etc., you can simply swap out the entire distributor and rule all of the items out in one fell swoop. You can then determine what specifically was the cause back in your garage, safe and sound.

But there is one other suggestions to make your roadside repair even quicker and more accurate, and that involves pre-timing your distributor. Distributor guru, Glenn Ring, made this suggestion to me a few years ago. It involves using a second distributor clamp, pre-installing and timing your spare distributor, and then removing the entire distributor (with clamp) by simply removing the 13mm nut that holds the clamp to the case. Since the distributor is pre-timed, your timing will be within a few degrees – the variance being the left to right movement caused by the distributor clamp hole being slightly larger than the stud on the case – of where it needs to be when you install it during your roadside repair. Ease and peace of mind.

Old cars need maintenance and repairs – are you prepared?

Bosch 010 Distributor

This is run in the engine day-in, day-out.

Bosch 009

An old 009 is used as back-up. The point gap has been set, and the condenser, cap and rotor are in good shape. It has also been lubed and the advance weights are working. The 009 is installed in the engine and the timing is set.

Note that this photo is for illustrative purposes only, as the inductive pickup should be located as close as possible to the spark plug (versus the distributor cap) in order to get the most accurate reading.

Don’t Loosen the Clamp

The distributor is then removed by loosening the 13mm nut that holds the clamp to the case. The timing will then be within a few degrees of where you set it when you reinstall it.


The spare distributor is then wrapped in a rag and sealed in a Ziplock bag, stored with the other spare parts in the “breakdown kit” that is always carried in the car, along with the appropriate tools.

Luck favours the prepared.