Part fell into distributor hole


Dec 23, 2020
Lake Tapawingo, MO
Hi all -- My 18 year old son was in the process of putting a new intake manifold and carb on his '78 Mustang II 302. A part [sensor] fell down into the distributor shaft hole in the top of the engine before he got that hole covered up. Please save the shaming about not immediately covering that hole, he's young and the lesson was learned, hopefully.

At first he could see the part that fell into the hole and tried to retrieve it with a small magnet on an extendable shaft. As he was attempting to retrieve the part with the magnet it was pulled toward it but then fell deeper. I've been checking some forums to try to determine how to go about trying to find and extract the part and I'm trying to help him with a plan.

When the part fell it was toward the front of the car rather than toward the rear. We are thinking that it fell all the way down into the oil pan vs. back into the engine. I can put the extendable magnet all they way down to the bottom of the oil pan, and have tried to fish around a bit, but no luck 'hooking' the loose part. So, what next?

Is the best bet to start with removing the oil pan? It seems somewhat involved to be able to remove it completely. Can the pan be dropped down far enough without other disassembly to fit the extendable magnet into the pan and fish around in the bottom of the pan? Or does it need to be removed completely? Other suggestions?

Thanks in advance.
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I wish I didn't have all of these balls in the air
15 Year Member
Dec 6, 2005
Marietta, Ga
It most likely ended up in the pan. Fishing with a magnet might work if you're lucky, but pulling the pan is probably the safest bet. It's really not as hard as you may think, and while you're at it you can change gaskets and seals if you need to, so it could actually be a benefit. Here is my thread on how to drop the pan without removing the engine, it should help. Good luck!

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5 Year Member
Aug 11, 2013
Cleveland OH Area
If the pan-dropping sounds like a bit much (oil will be absolutely everywhere no matter what you do), you might be able to get away with just the timing cover - that gives you enough room to get a skinny hand down into the pan or at least a better shot with a magnet. That has its own headaches (if you're planning a water pump now would be the time), and dropping the pan is also a good opportunity to throw in a HV oil pump or at least clean out the sump and strainer, and of course the gaskets. I've found a lot of RTV on the strainer in the past that made me happy I dropped it.

So if it were me, and I needed new pan gaskets, had a dent in the pan, or otherwise wanted to clean up an old engine, I'd go that route. If I needed a water pump or front main seal (or timing chain) I'd go that direction.

Actually, if it were me, I'd probably do nothing. lol If it's a reasonably large sensor it's not going to find its way into the oil pickup and it's not going to climb back up out of the oil. Unless it's enormous it won't find the crank either. So I'd just leave it and hope for the best, unless I really cared about that engine.
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Dang it. I was hoping mine would get 3 more inches
May 14, 2019
I can't believe nobody's asked yet...Pictures Please!
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