How to Use the Timing Light on a Dodge Ram

Written by sam jenkins
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How to Use the Timing Light on a Dodge Ram
Using a timing light on a Dodge Ram is a good way to tune for power and fuel efficiency. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

The Dodge Ram was in production from 1981 to 2010 before being sold under the Ram Trucks brand. The truck is named for the Ram bonnet ornament that first adorned Dodge cars in the 1930s. Keeping a Dodge Ram truck in proper tune is easy with the help of a timing light to set the ignition timing.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Timing light
  • 1/2-inch wrench
  • Chalk

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  1. 1

    Determine whether you have a small block or a big block engine. Small blocks have the distributor at the rear of the engine, while big blocks have the distributor at the front.

  2. 2

    Loosen your distributor. At the base of the distributor will be a hold-down clamp, which is bolted to the engine casting. Loosen this bolt with your 1/2-inch wrench just enough so you can rotate the distributor. Be careful not to rotate the distributor too far from its original location as you test the looseness of the clamp.

  3. 3

    Remove the vacuum hose that attaches to your distributor. This is the hose that controls your vacuum advance. Remove the hose at the distributor end and stick a bolt, nail or other small object into the hose to prevent a vacuum leak.

  4. 4

    Locate the timing marks on the timing chain cover. Big blocks will have them on the passenger side of the engine and small blocks on the driver's side. Both will be next to the harmonic balancer. The balancer is behind the bottom pulley at the very front of the engine. The balancer will also have one or more timing marks etched into it. Clean this part of the balancer and apply chalk to highlight the timing marks.

    If you are having a hard time getting at the timing marks on the balancer, rotate the engine by bumping the starter with your key. Be sure to remove the coil wire before doing this to ensure the engine doesn't start. This is the wire that goes into the centre of the distributor cap. Remember to replace this wire afterward as it is necessary for your engine to run.

  5. 5

    Put on your parking brake and start the engine.

  6. 6

    Attach the timing light. Your timing light has three wires. Two of them are clamps: one black and one red. These attach to your battery, with red going to positive node and black to the negative. The third wire is the spark pickup. This attaches to the No.1 spark plug wire, usually by clamping around the wire. The No.1 spark plug wire is the front-most wire on the driver's side for both big- and small-block engines.

  7. 7

    With the engine running and your timing light attached, point your timing light at the harmonic balancer from the passenger side and pull the trigger. The timing light will flash in rapid succession. It will flash once every time a spark is sent to the No.1 spark plug. With the timing light shining on your harmonic balancer, you can will see a timing mark on the balancer hovering in one spot.

  8. 8

    Turn the distributor clockwise. Note the direction that your timing mark travels. This is the direction to advance your timing. It differs from year to year, but your engine should be set to between 10 and 12 degrees advanced, or before top dead centre. Rotate your the distributor until the mark on your balancer lines up with the 10-degree mark on your timing cover in the advanced direction. Note that your idle speed RPM might increase.

  9. 9

    Tighten down the distributor clamp. Reinstall the vacuum line and readjust your idle speed if necessary.

Tips and warnings

  • If you drive your car after setting the timing and a ping is noticeable, retard your timing 2 degrees at a time until the ping goes away.

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