Distributor Install for first start. Double check my work!

Small Block Mopar Engine

  1. Fawkes

    Fawkes Well-Known Member

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    I know, I know, another distributor question... I just need some feedback on if I have mine set correctly for a quick first start.

    In the past I have always dropped distributors in on TDC of compression stroke, balancer at 0°, point rotor to #1, and never had an issue. BUT this is my first time building a motor, and first time breaking in a cam and I want it to go smoothly.

    Motor is a basic/budget built ‘74 LA 318. Bored .40 over, mild head work, Comp XE262 cam, Edelbrock performer intake, Holley 600, and factory ignition system. I have verified the balancer 0° mark is accurate.

    What I’ve done is rotate the engine to TDC of the compression stroke on #1, turned the balancer BACK to 20° BEFORE TDC, then installed the intergear and distributor pointing towards #1 cylinder. A reluctor tooth is aligned with the pickup, and the rotor is underneath the #1 tower.

    Does this sound suitable for a first start and cam break in? Timing will be adjusted after I get it running, fuel system will be primed, and I will be using a good Lucas break in oil and following the 2000rpm for 20+ Min break in procedure. Please let me know if any of this sounds way off, and I apologize for a newbie question, ignition timing has just always been a weakness for me even though I’ve always had good luck in the past dropping distributors in on TDC. Breaking in the motor is weighing on my mind as the day gets closer!

    Thanks fellas

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    • Captainkirk

      Captainkirk Old School Mopar Warrior

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      I've always had good luck with the following; set the timing mark on #1 compression at your desired setting. Insert the dizzy with the rotor pointed in the general direction you want it to point. Install the cap and back off the distributor housing. With power on and the #1 spark plug laying on a good ground with lead connected (where you can readily see it), rotate the dizzy housing back towards the rotor until you see the plug spark, then stop. Snug the clamp bolt down and it should be ready to fire right where your timing mark is set. FWIW, I leave the distributor out until I'm ready to fire it, and immediately beforehand pull the oil pump drive gear and use a long shaft with an electric drill to spin the oil pump over until I have positive oil pressure and flow, then slap in the gear and distributor right before lighting it off. This way you have pre oiled the lifter galley and main bearing prior to your first revolution.
       
      Last edited: Mar 12, 2021
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      • Captainkirk

        Captainkirk Old School Mopar Warrior

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        Oh, and don't forget to put the #1 plug back in!
         
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        • flyfish

          flyfish C8H18+N2O = :-D

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          What you described is exactly what I would do. Good luck, and keep water plus a fire extinguisher near by......
           
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          • 67Dart273

            67Dart273 FABO Gold Member FABO Gold Member

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            Op the only thing I can fault your method is NOT to turn the engine "back." "Hit" the mark you want going CW, what I do:

            Stick my finger in no1 hole or look at the valves if covers are off. Rotate engine, feel for compression, then watch carefully for marks and stop engine at point at which you want timing using a wrench to rotate CW

            The rotor will be APPROACHING the no1 tower 'corner to corner' make sure it is not past going to no8

            You have the rest. Give it plenty of advance for cam break in. You do NOT want the thing to heat up, and a clue is watch for overheating exhaust= retarded spark
             
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            • Fawkes

              Fawkes Well-Known Member

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              Good point, I actually "came up to" 20 BTDC so that the slack was taken out of the chain.

              I have a mopar priming rod, and I go out and prime the engine every couple weeks or so, making sure to rotate the crank so that each head is sufficiently oiled. When I get the engine in the car, i will prime it once more right before the first fire, and make sure i am getting a good spark by turning the distributor outside of the motor.
               
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              • AJ/FormS

                AJ/FormS 68 B'cuda fb, Form S clone ... 367/A833/3.55s

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                After it fires up and is running at 2000 or more;
                First thing is to look for fuel leaks, and if you find one , shut it down and fix it.
                Then, with the engine again running at 2000 or more; and
                with the V-can plumbed to the sparkport,
                right away advance the timing until the rpm plateaus and just back it up a touch- don't even look at the timing. Then look for leaks again. and wait. Keep the rad misted if you have to.
                After the break in, you can set the timing.
                 
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                • pishta

                  pishta I know I'm right....

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                  I say let it get warm! Break in is the crucial time for the cam and the rings. If you don't let it get warm (running a hose into the pump instead of a proper radiator,belt,fan set up) your cheating. Warm is not HOT. Let the stat do its thing.
                   
                • j par

                  j par Well-hung Member

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                  Maybe I missed it but I didn't see where the oil was being primed?...
                  My wife has done this with me so many times she knows the sound the drill makes and says there it is! LOL when it starts flowing out of one head and then I turn it and when it starts flowing out of the other she goes there it is!...
                  Then I stick the distributor in after setting it top dead center on number one and do everything you said...
                   
                • Captainkirk

                  Captainkirk Old School Mopar Warrior

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                • oldkimmer

                  oldkimmer FABO Gold Member FABO Gold Member

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                  R u sure ur on #1 compression? Are the dots on the gears both at 12 o’clock? Kim
                   
                • Fawkes

                  Fawkes Well-Known Member

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                  Cam was installed dot to dot. Verified #1 was at TDC with my thumb over the hole and felt compression. Prior to putting the heads on, I verified the 0 degree mark on the balancer was accurate.
                   
                • j par

                  j par Well-hung Member

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                  I have the valve cover off and look at the #1 rockers...
                   
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                  • yellow rose

                    yellow rose Overnight Sensation FABO Gold Member

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                    Ok, you have some issues. One is you have no idea where the cam is timed. Lining up the dots doesn’t mean a thing. There are dozens of threads on here about degreeing a cam and how to do it. It needs to be done. I wouldn’t fire the engine until I pulled it apart and degreed the cam.

                    And, you have not verified TDC yet. Blowing your thumb off the plug hole is about as accurate as lining up the dots and throwing the timing gear on. You can be off 10 degrees (or more) and not have a clue.

                    In summary, you have no idea what your cam timing is. And, you don’t know if your damper and timing cover are correct.

                    The former affects performance. The latter affects ignition timing. Again, I say start over and fix it now, because when it doesn’t run like you think it should you’ll get the same answers I just gave you.
                     
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                    • fishmens67

                      fishmens67 Well-Known Member

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                      should be pretty close . Fire it up. good luck
                      FWIW you can ignition timing and carb adjustment close for initial start-up, but it will take some tinkering to maximize.
                      If you lined the cam dot to dot at true top dead center of #1 piston and damper mark. the cam will be close enough with a good gear set. imo
                       
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                      • oldkimmer

                        oldkimmer FABO Gold Member FABO Gold Member

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                        It’s been done that way since I can remember. Still done many times a day in shops everywhere. After all it’s not a total race effort. Kim
                         
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                        • cosgig

                          cosgig MoBro Inc. FABO Gold Member

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                          -20btdc seems a little early. I always set mine at -12btdc, but I’m sure it will fire and be adjustable from there.
                           
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                          • fishmens67

                            fishmens67 Well-Known Member

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                            I missed that. if the distributor hasn't been recurved it will have too much mechanical in addition to the 20 before TDC
                            set timing at 5-10 degrees before TDC if using a factory curved distributor.
                             
                          • Fawkes

                            Fawkes Well-Known Member

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                            Thanks for the advice everyone, after I prime it again I will set it around 10 BTDC for the initial start. I got the engine in the car a couple hours ago, so I still have plenty to button up.

                            As far as degreeing the cam, I had considered it going into the build but it's not something I was overly confident in, and figured dot to dot would be my safest bet, after all it is what Comp recommends if you choose not to degree it. I'm not expecting this mostly stock 318 to make more than 250-270 HP on a good day, so degreeing a cam and gaining an extra 5-10HP isn't worth the risk to me. This engine ran great before, and the cam was installed dot to dot. In the future as I get more comfortable with building engines I will get more adventurous, but for right now seeing this thing move under its own power again will be enough to put a smile on my face!
                             
                          • Rapid Robert

                            Rapid Robert Well-Known Member

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                            No apology needed for ANY question (we are here to help & be helped). you have everything dead on. Just me I would reclock the intergear so the rotor is pointing forward & slightly toward the pass side & plug in #1 there to maintain the OE plug wire layout which lets the wires lay the neatest & be the shortest lengths (especially helps if custom cutting lengths) but this is by no means required & you are dead on the way you have it. I would preoil it with the 5/16 hex & you have to get it to 2 specific points in the dampener rotation for the oil to reach the heads when preoiling. the DR head valve train oils when the dampener is 20 deg ATDC #6 compression & the PASS head oils at 90 deg (1/4 turn) BTDC #1 compression. You can use the timing tab as a ruler to get to 20 & there might be partial slits on the damper to get to the 90. If no partial slit you can cut a strip of paper 5.694" to use as a ruler for the 90 deg one and 1.265" for the other one if the tab as a ruler wont work for you. It "appears" that both are being oiled constantly when running but that is because they are lining up so quick when running. You would pull the intergear to preoil so that would be an excellent time to reinstall/reclock it with the rotor forward & slightly to the pass side but again not even close to being a dealbreaker. I am not sure what the total timing should be on breakin (I need help there). grab several helpers: one up top to check for fuel leaks, one underneath to check for oil/coolant leaks, you working the throttle & timing light. any issue dont ponder it just shut it off IMMEDIATELY then fix it then restart to 2-2500 RPM.
                             
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                            • oldkimmer

                              oldkimmer FABO Gold Member FABO Gold Member

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                              Actually the drive gear points to to the drivers side 2nd intake bolt. I’ve never set them to the passenger side. Kim
                               
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                              • 70dart340

                                70dart340 Well-Known Member

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                                I didn't catch that until you brought it up. I've always pointed it to the driver's side forward intake bolt. Kinda broad, I know, but with all the distributor/timing/carb combinations, this will get her to light off and break in the cam. I like the tip about the spray bottle , too.
                                 
                              • Fawkes

                                Fawkes Well-Known Member

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                                Just a quick follow up for anyone who comes across this thread in the future. I set the inter gear and distributor with the balancer at 10 BTDC after priming the motor again, and the car started immediately on first fire, right on the money. The motor didnt even make a full revolution before it fired up. I broke the engine in for 30 minutes, RPM varied between 2000-3500. Temp never got over 200, and the car had great oil pressure, 70 psi on start up and 40 psi after it heated up. I backed the idle down after 30 minutes, and got the timing to a spot the car seems to like. It runs smooth and is quick to start. I am going to change the oil in the next couple days and inspect the oil and filter really well, but so far I am pleased! Thanks again everyone, as always the advice from you all has been invaluable, and its nice to get second opinions and have someone double check my work!
                                 
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                                • Captainkirk

                                  Captainkirk Old School Mopar Warrior

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                                  Ask and you shall receive!
                                   
                                • RustyRatRod

                                  RustyRatRod I was born on a Monday. Not last Monday. FABO Gold Member

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                                  Sounds like you done good!
                                   
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