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How to set and advance your ignition timing 

 

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 Post subject: How to set and advance your ignition timing
Posted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 3:38 pm 
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The process of setting the timing seems to be a source of confusion and the Ford workshop manual is not particularly clear about the process either. Hopefully this step-by-step guide will show you how to set your ignition timing to standard, and also how to advance your timing. There are plenty of threads about which fuel to use with timing changes, but this will just cover the task of changing the timing with a few pictures. There may be other ways of doing it, but this works for me.

To set the timing, the engine must be running in ‘timing mode’ which requires you to initiate the self-test when you start the car. It will go through a few phases which will be described below, then it will enter a 2-minute phase where the timing can be set. It is important to wait until timing mode is started as the position of the timing mark varies significantly as the test modes change. If you try and set the timing too early, you will end up with a spark that is approximately 15° retarded. You car will run poorly and be inefficient to drive. It is not uncommon for timing to be set incorrectly this way.

In the Falcons, the timing mark on the crankshaft damper has to line up with the timing tab when the engine is running in timing mode. If it does this, the base timing is set correctly at what is considered TDC. This is the normal setting. You can then advance or retard the timing by moving the distributor slowly, which will offset the timing mark on the crankshaft damper from the tab. Once you have everything in place, the whole process only takes a few minutes.

Before you start, have the following:
- 13mm socket and extension bar (for the distributor locking bolt)
- Timing gun. Mine was an inductive type that connected to the battery terminals for power. At the other end it had a small clamp that goes on the number 1 spark plug lead to trigger the light. Other types connect directly to the spark lead for power
- A tape measure
- Some masking tape
- A small lead to short the self test connector pins. The pins are quite small so I made a short wire with a female blade terminal on each end, then cut each terminal in half down the centre. It looks like this and works well:
Image

If you follow the steps below, you should be able to set your timing easily.

1. Get the car to normal temperature then turn it off. If you plan to advance your timing, I would suggest having either 95 or 98 fuel in the tank already.

2. The self test connector is under the dash on the right hand side. The two left pins need to be connected to start the test process. The top left is the self test input and the bottom left is an earth pin. Attach your lead to these two pins.
Image

3. Check that you can see the timing mark on your crankshaft damper and also the tab sticking out from the block. It should look like this. Clean off any oil or grease.
Image

4. Find the distributor locking bolt and put your 13mm socket onto it. It is back from the distributor itself and you can see it between the second and third intake manifold sections. It sits a fair way down, so the extension bar is handy to ensure you have free movement to loosen and tighten it.
Image

5. Determine where you want your ignition to be set. If you want standard TDC timing then go to step 9. If you want to advance the timing, continue.

6. If you want to advance your timing, you will need to offset the mark on the crankshaft damper with the tab on the engine block. I measured the standard crankshaft damper at about 174mm diameter. Using a bit of school maths, each degree on the crankshaft damper will be about 1.5mm distance on the outer surface.

7. I wanted to set my timing at 5° before TDC (advanced). Therefore, the crankshaft damper mark had to sit about 7.5mm from the tab (5° x 1.5mm = 7.5mm). As the engine turns clockwise, advancing the timing means the crankshaft damper mark will sit to the left of the crankshaft damper tab. If it is to the right the timing will be retarded. Determine how much you want to advance your timing, then figure out how many millimetres the offset will be.

8. To make marking this offset easy, I got a piece of masking tape and put two lines on it at 7.5mm apart. Then I put the tape on the crankshaft damper with the left line on the crankshaft damper mark. When I change the timing, I want the right line to align with the timing tab and this will mean I have the ignition set at 5° before TDC.
Image

9. Loosen the distributor bolt so that you can move the distributor. I found it easy to push the TFI module gently as it kept may hands a bit further away from the hot engine and coolant pipes.

10. Check that you have not left any cables or tools where they can get caught once you start the engine. You can see the socket extension in the top right of the photo.
Image

11. Start your engine.

12. The self test should then start. If you don’t notice any change in RPM, check your little lead under the dash has not come off. The self test will then make the engine do the following:
- Stumble for a second
- Run at high RPM (approx 1300-1500) for a while
- Run at a lower idle for a few minutes. The test is now telling you the error codes (if you had a light or unit plugged in) and depending on how many codes it has to get through, it can take a few minutes. You can try your timing light and you should see the crankshaft damper mark sitting a fair way to the left of the timing mark. It is also likely to be moving around a bit. THIS IS NOT THE TIMING MODE, and will cause the ignition to be off by about 15° as I mentioned earlier if you set the distributor position at this point.
- It will stumble, then sit at a different RPM. It is now in timing mode and you have 2 minutes to set the timing. You won't need long.

13. Gently move the distributor and you will see the timing marks (and your tape) move relative to the timing tab. Line the timing mark you want to use (either the crankshaft damper one or your masking tape one if you are advancing the timing) with the timing tab, then tighten the distributor bolt. In the photo below you can’t see the mark on the masking tape, but the mark is aligned with the timing tab at this point. Notice how you have to look on an angle to ensure they line up properly.
Image

14. Disconnect everything and go drive!

Check for detonation and pinging. If you get these, you may need higher octane fuel or you may have advanced your timing too far. Some people have issues, some don't. If you take note of which way the distributor has to rotate to retard the timing, you can bring your timing back a bit on the side of the road if you can loosen the distributor locking bolt, then set it properly when you get home and have the timing light.

Any suggestions/improvements are welcome, this is only what has worked for me.
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 Post subject: Re: How to set and advance your ignition timing
Posted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 4:02 pm 
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Good work Thomas. Your efforts are much appreciated. :)

 

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 Post subject: Re: How to set and advance your ignition timing
Posted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 4:44 pm 
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But I don't have a Dizzy......... :cry: :cry: :cry:

 

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 Post subject: Re: How to set and advance your ignition timing
Posted: Sun Feb 09, 2014 12:07 am 
Getting Side Ways
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 Post subject: Re: How to set and advance your ignition timing
Posted: Mon Apr 21, 2014 3:08 pm 
Oompa Loompa
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This is great.
I have been putting it off until now.
showing that dizzy bolt is what I needed mostly.
Thanks for the effort!
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 Post subject: Re: How to set and advance your ignition timing
Posted: Wed Aug 24, 2016 5:00 pm 
Getting Side Ways
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hey i know this an old post but i have just rebuild my XH and trying to set the timing,

My issue is that the previous owner had done a manual conversion on the car and still using the auto ecu,

So if the idle speed controller is connected the car runs at 2000rpm all the time and i cant tell when it goes into timing mode for me to adjust,

should i just let it idle at 2k for 2mins and then try adjusting or is there something else i can try

Thanks
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 Post subject: Re: How to set and advance your ignition timing
Posted: Wed Aug 24, 2016 9:51 pm 
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Has the previous owner done the wiring/resistor mods so the auto ECU sees neutral, and auto transmission temp as normal ?
Otherwise you'll experience high idle, and the thermo fans run flat out.

 

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 Post subject: Re: How to set and advance your ignition timing
Posted: Thu Aug 25, 2016 3:47 am 
Getting Side Ways
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snap0964 wrote:
Has the previous owner done the wiring/resistor mods so the auto ECU sees neutral, and auto transmission temp as normal ?
Otherwise you'll experience high idle, and the thermo fans run flat out.



thermo fans run flat out, and idle is at 2k when isc is connected,

what wire needs the resistor?
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 Post subject: Re: How to set and advance your ignition timing
Posted: Thu Aug 25, 2016 12:24 pm 
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Have of the read of the conversion guide by Voxace.

 

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97 EL Futura S/W: LPG, Alarm, LED int Lts, Trip Comp, F/Lane Dome Lt, Climate Ctrl, T5 Conversion

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