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Old 04-06-2015
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Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: San Diego, CA
Posts: 5
Are my wires crossed?

Hi friends, I have on ol beater 1987 ranger 2.3L with a million miles on it that I bought from a guy at work a few months back. The timing belt broke this morning on the way to work.

I got it home and am working on it and I have a pretty good Clymer manual so I am trying to line up the crank, the cam, and make sure the rotor is pointing to the number 1 front cylinder.

The problem I have is that the #1 front cylinder plug wire goes to the distributor cap where the #2 is supposed to go according to the manual!

Is it even possible for it to run with the plug wires being in the wrong place?

So to elaborate I made this little infographic:

The truck has been running like a champ this way??

As I am setting this all up to receive the new timing belt should I reconfigure it to match the manual or leave it like it is?
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Old 04-07-2015
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Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: Vancouver, BC
Posts: 7,606
Firing order is all that counts, 1 3 4 2 for the Lima engines
It is the same on both caps
As long as #1 wire on cap is at rotors position when #1 cylinder is at the end of it's compression stroke all is fine.

You can install any distributor in any position you want as long as you make sure rotor is pointed at #1 spark plug wire when #1 cylinder is at the end of compression stroke/start of power stroke.
Then just install the other spark plug wires in the correct firing order and direction of rotation on the cap.

You can leave it as is or change it, won't matter.

Just for info:
You have a 4-stroke engine, this means a piston must go up and down 4 times(strokes) to complete 1 cycle.
This means the crank shaft must go around 2 full times to complete 1 cycle.
When you do the timing belt you will notice the crank gear is 1/2 the size of the Cam gear, has 1/2 the number of teeth.
Cam only does 1 full turn for a complete cycle, and distributor/oil pump gear is the same size as the Cam gear.................
So the distributor is actually timed to the Cam not the crank.
This is confusing to some since the popular method to time the distributor is using a TDC(top dead center) mark on the Crank pulley, lol.

This is because the camshaft is usually hidden when engine is fully assembled, so it would be hard to use it for distributor timing.
The TDC mark is used since the crank is timed to the Cam and easily seen, but...............the crank turns TWICE for each one turn of the Cam, so TDC mark goes by TWO times for 1 complete cycle, so how do you know which TDC to use?

You don't, just by looking anyways
You can put crank at TDC 0deg then install distributor so rotor is at #1, try to start engine, if it starts you guessed right, if it doesn't then you can do two things(3 really).
1. move the wires on the cap, say you had 1 3 4 2, move 1 to the 4 position, 1/2 way around cap(180deg), then follow firing order so you end up with 4 2 1 3
Or you can remove the cap mark where rotor is now, pull up distributor and rotate rotor 180deg and push distributor back down, so if rotor was pointing at #2 it is now pointed at #3
2. remove #1 spark plug, manually rotate engine, in it's normal direction, have your finger in or near #1 spark plug hole, you will feel air coming out on the compression stroke, once you feel that watch for the TDC mark on crank pulley, that will be the correct TDC to used to time distributor.

Last edited by RonD; 04-07-2015 at 12:50 PM.
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