Top Dead center issue

77 Must-Stang

Member
Jan 29, 2007
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19
18
My 77 Mustang ll has a 1980-1984 302 V8 engine by the block numbers. It was running good but, the idle didn't seem good enough so, I played with the carb adjustments. Also turned distributor a little bit here and there. That's when I found vacuum leaks. Put caps on them. Now it bucks and chokes when driving. I went to Elder Brock carb site to watch video. Says I have to check timing first. I find the TDC numbers on the passenger side but there is no timing pointer. I found top dead center in #1 cylinder but, my rotor points to #4 cylinder. I marked TDC on balancer but, its at 12:05 drivers side at "ATC" letters. There is no room for a pointer on drivers side. Could the Harmonic Balancer be on wrong?
Appreciate all the help
 
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HemiRick

I'd be looking at jacking under the house
Jun 28, 2020
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Cyl #1 can be anywhere on the dist. just depends on how it was installed. You can make it right by just pulling it out and putting it back in pointing to the right #1 and then fix the wires to suit. ATC means After Topdead center. BTC before. Sounds like you may have the wrong timing pointer.
 

77 Must-Stang

Member
Jan 29, 2007
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Hi, there is no timing pointer on car. The only place it could go on is passenger side. No room on drivers side. Tried picking u[p distributor an putting it in right position but, it wont point that way.
 

General karthief

wonder how much it would cost to ship you a pair
Mod Dude
Aug 25, 2016
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Without a timing pointer you are stabbing in the dark, get it? Stabbing ? You know 'the dizzy' ? Tough crowd, anyway.
You should be able to bolt a pointer from a 79 up 5.0 on, then you can find TDC on the balancer and check the #1 piston and the balancer are both TDC, then stick the distributor with the rotor at #1 plug wire, crank it, set the timing with a timing light then move on to the next problem.
 
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LILCBRA

I wish I didn't have all of these balls in the air
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Without a timing pointer you are stabbing in the dark, get it? Stabbing ? You know 'the dizzy' ? Tough crowd, anyway.
You should be able to bolt a pointer from a 79 up 5.0 on, then you can find TDC on the balancer and check the #1 piston and the balancer are both TDC, then stick the distributor with the rotor at #1 plug wire, crank it, set the timing with a timing light then move on to the next problem.

OR....
You can bring cylinder 1 to TDC, put a pointer wherever you can easily access it, buy an appropriate timing tape and stick it to the balancer in the proper orientation. The balancer only goes on in one orientation, so it's not the balancer. If it's an 80-84 engine, the markings were most likely visible in the intended car, now everything is different compared to what it was designed for.

And I'm with @HemiRick - what do you mean it won't point that way? I'm guessing you're trying to leave the rotor in a fixed position while setting the distributor in place and the vacuum advance mechanism is hitting the intake. If that's the case, scratch that idea. If I'm understanding what you're saying correctly, it was probably swapped out at another time and wasn't installed properly to begin with. Bring #1 to TDC, then install the distributor so the rotor aligns with the #1 terminal, problem solved. Then, if your marker doesn't align with the TDC mark on the balancer, adjust the marker so it does. Then time the engine accordingly. If you can't install a marker because it's inaccessible, revert to what I said at the top of my reply.
 
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77 Must-Stang

Member
Jan 29, 2007
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Hi, I got my passenger side timing pointer and timing tape. Installed pointer last night. I thought the pointer would be father out on the balancer. I am at TDC right now. The red tape lines up with the TDC letters but, that's drivers side. The passenger Black marker line is where pointer is. Distributor is pointing at #4 cyl. If I turn it by hand to where its supposed to be, #1 cyl. It wont start. Its not original engine so, other owner must have known how to time it his way. Now I just have to put timing tape on and time it. Cars garaged in cellar so, wife complains of fumes. I love them! CT a little cold out so, I'm going to keep checking weather.
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Enzio

Dang it. I was hoping mine would get 3 more inches
May 14, 2019
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That will not work for you. You'll need to disconnect the two wires and vacuum line from the distributor. Remove the distributor. As you pull it carefully out you'll notice the rotor spin. That's due to the helical gear meshing with the cam shaft. You will then move the rotor over to the #1 position minus the approximate difference it moved when you pulled it out. Then slowly and carefully put it back in. Repeat if you're rotor is too far off the #1 position. Then you can set the timing.
 
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Enzio

Dang it. I was hoping mine would get 3 more inches
May 14, 2019
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Oh and you're going to want the timing tape on the passenger side with your new pointer.
 

LILCBRA

I wish I didn't have all of these balls in the air
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Side note on removing/replacing the distributor: be careful of the oil pump drive shaft. It is possible that it can stick in the distributor and pull out with it. There's not much you can do if it does pull out, you'll just have to be careful that it doesn't fall in in a way that prevents you from removing it by hand to install it back into the engine. Been there once, it's a major PITA when it happens. Hopefully you won't have that problem.
 
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77 Must-Stang

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Jan 29, 2007
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I've removed the hold down clamp and turned it to the #1 cyl position at one point, Trial and error, car wont start then. Thanks for the heads up!
 

Enzio

Dang it. I was hoping mine would get 3 more inches
May 14, 2019
803
627
103
65
Minnesota
Thanks, Appreciate every ones help here ! Learning as I go like you guys did . :nice:
Yep! If you succeed you'll be smiling like crazy. Remove the vacuum line and plug it with a golf tee or similar when your setting the timing with a timing light. Then replace it on the distributor when your done.
 

extra_stout

Mustang Master
Aug 27, 2018
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I'm not sure if I get everything right, but if you don't have a timing pointer with an matching(!!!) marking on the balancer, you need to get true top dead center to get the new timing tape correct.
As far as i understand you don't have any indication where TDC could be (not your fault).
Here is the method described how you can do it with a piston stop tool, which is the way I would do it if the head should stay on the engine:
(Method1 and Method2 are actually only one Method)

If you want to get a goof performance of the engine you need it that precise.
Piston Stop Tools are available for different spark plug thread sizes...
 
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