How to Convert From Points to an Electronic Ignition

Written by thomas west
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If you own an older vehicle, from say the mid-1970s or older, you know that your vehicle’s ignition breaker points need to be adjusted, cleaned and changed on a frequent basis to keep your engine starting and running smoothly. Most vehicles built after the mid-1970s have an electronic ignition system, which virtually eliminates engine tune-ups and adjustments by replacing the breaker points with an electronic module. If you own an older car with a breaker point ignition, know that in less than one hour you can install an electronic module kit that replaces your breaker points.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Flat-blade screwdriver
  • Electronic ignition module

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  1. 1

    Turn off the ignition using the key. Open the bonnet. Loosen the clamp on the negative ground battery cable with an adjustable wrench. Pull the cable straight up from the battery terminal and push it to the side.

  2. 2

    Locate the distributor in the engine compartment, which is usually mounted at the top of the engine at the front or rear of the block, depending on the make and model of your vehicle. Loosen the clips that hold the distributor cap in place by prying them off the cap with a flat-blade screwdriver. Lift the cap straight off the distributor and lay it aside. Do not stretch or damage the spark plug wires, which will still be attached to the top of the cap.

  3. 3

    Pull the rotor arm straight off the distributor and place it aside. (The rotor arm is clearly visible inside the distributor once the cap is removed.) Remove the existing breaker points, condenser (a small cylindrical device), and the condenser wire to the ignition coil from the interior of the distributor by loosening and removing the retaining screws with a flat-blade screwdriver. Lift the points and condenser from the distributor. Save the breaker point mounting screws to mount the new electronic module.

  4. 4

    Place the new ignition module inside the distributor. Fish the wires from the module through the hole in the side of the distributor from the inside out, making sure the grommet attached to the wires is fully seated in the hole to prevent moisture intrusion.

  5. 5

    Line up the mounting holes in the electronic module with the mounting holes that were used to attach the breaker points to the bottom of the distributor. Tighten the retaining screws with a flat-blade screwdriver.

  6. 6

    Push the magnet sleeve (comes with your new module) over the distributor’s centre shaft, making sure the sleeve fits over the lobes in the shaft correctly. Now push the original rotor arm back over the distributor shaft, making sure the slot in the shaft lines up with the tab in the rotor. Make sure the sleeve and rotor arm are fully seated on the distributor shaft.

  7. 7

    Insure the wires from the module have plenty of slack in the distributor, but at the same time are not touching any moving parts. Place the distributor cap back onto the distributor and push the clips into position until they snap into place.

  8. 8

    Connect the red wire from the new module to the positive terminal on vehicle’s ignition coil, which is usually mounted near the distributor, by placing the connector on the red wire over the positive (+) mounting stud, and tighten the nut with a small adjustable wrench. Connect the black wire from the module to the coil’s negative terminal (-) in the same fashion. Reconnect the negative battery cable, tighten the clamp and close the bonnet.

Tips and warnings

  • After installing the electronic module, magnet sleeve, and rotor arm, turn the rotor to make sure the lobes on the distributor shaft are not touching the module itself. Loosen the module retaining screws and move it away from the shaft, if needed. Tighten the screws.

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