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Timing Your Engine

This is a lesson on timing, Bob's style! Not a guarantee...:(
Before doing any of the following, if you have points, they must be accurately adjusted! Point gap effects timing! Requires a dwell-tach.

Please use the Ebay links above to find a timing light, dwell tach, and vacuum pump to help you with your tune up!

If you have a good running engine and just want something to go to the corner and back, just make sure your mechanical advance and vacuum advance is working.
Well that is all good and fine, but if this is what you do, you may have a fine running motor, but you are losing a bunch of power, and it is hand in hand with mileage! Yes you are losing both...:(

So let's give it a basic performance ignition tune-up:)

Now the first test drive... Don't hook up your vacuum advance, take it out and find a hill. load the engine and see if you can make it "ping". If you can, you have too much timing too soon and must back it off somewhere.
Don't break any laws!

Now it's running just great, but you didn't drive it too far so you didn't notice what a gas hog you had! We fix that with the vacuum advance. The only time the vacuum advance works is when you come off full throttle and begin to build vacuum for cruising. Your engine load decreases, vacuum increases and the engine gets more advance. On most older engines the vacuum is "ported" vacuum which means it is not in use when the engine is at idle. On many newer engines the vacuum is kept in at an idle to reduce emissions.
Note: Vacuum advance does not hinder performance. Most "race cars" do not use them because they spend all their time at full throttle and would not have the opportunity to benefit from one. Any vehicle which spends any amount of time at part throttle benefits immensely from a vacuum advance!

What you are looking for from your vacuum advance is all the timing you can get without the "ping"! If you are running a lower compression engine, you may not be able to get a ping. Do not exceed 55 degrees total advance. Total is initial plus mechanical plus vacuum. This means you are probably looking for close to 20 degrees of vacuum advance. The closer you can get to the 55 degrees without the "ping", the better you mileage. You can modify most vacuum cans with a small file to allow the control rod to travel farther.

It's O.K. to hear a rattle while you are playing with it, but don't rattle it unnecessarily.

You are doing this on a nice spring afternoon, cool temperatures allow more timing! What this means is you did a lot of work getting it just right and next weekend when it gets hot and you go cruising your baby develops an annoying "ping". You may have to back off your timing a bit on a hot day. You may want to gaurd against the problem by assessing your temperature and allowing a few degrees buffer. I would suggest to be a fairly safe cruiser about 32 degrees initial and mechanical and probably 50+ total with vacuum.

Benefits of an After Market Distributor!
These specifications can be used as good starting point on any automotive engine.

So, this Sunday, open the garage door crank up the tunes, grab whatever you keep in your cooler and enjoy bringing in your timing.
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