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Distributor swap question


NAXJA Forum User
Hey all,

I have a 97 4.0 Manual, and my distributor is squealing. I understand that must be the bearings going bad, so I've bought another and I'm getting ready to swap. I'm not a mechanic, and I've never worked on a distributor or anything timing related before. Trying to understand the process as clearly as I can, but in my head this seems pretty simple. I'm worried I'm oversimplifying, so I need a sanity check.

The new distributor comes with a plastic pin in it to keep it in a particular orientation when installed. It orients the rotor between 5 and 6 o'clock which looks like it lines it up to the #1 plug spot on the cap. I verified that my old distributor has a hole in the distributor body where that plastic pin would have originally been. Since that's true, wouldn't the process essentially be:

  1. Manually crank the engine until I can get the old distributor to line up the holes for the pin. Maybe drop a bolt or nail in there to be sure it passes through
  2. Put the trans in gear so that the engine won't turn from that point
  3. Pull out the old distributor, clean everything up
  4. Drop in the new distributor with a new gasket, making sure that the rotor is back in the original spot (or very close)
  5. Punch out the plastic pin, button everything up and test
I've seen where you need to find TDC for C1 to get everything to line up, but if I have these holes to orient everything the same (which seems to be TDC anyway), I don't really need to go through all of that, do I? I should just need to make sure the new distributor goes in the same way the old one came out, and the alignment holes will accomplish that, right?
No need to mess with cranking the engine or putting the trans in gear. You just need to make a good note of where the rotor is pointing before you pull the one one out (take a picture), and make sure that it's pointing the same angle after you drop the new one in. Note that the gear is spiral wound, and the rotor will turn some as you drop it in place.

Some good info on index here, including a correct diagram of where the plug wires go.