How to Time a SOHC Honda


The 1997 Honda Civic used a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with a single overhead camshaft (SOHC). The ignition timing for the engine is 12 degrees and it can be set with a procedure similar to the timing procedures on other engines. You will need some basic automotive tools and patience to carry out the procedure. Be careful not to damage any parts in or around your engine when timing your Honda engine.

Things You'll Need

  • Timing light
  • Wrench
  • Jumper cables
  • Wheel chocks
  • Make sure your car is parked in an area with enough space to work on the engine. Ideally, you should park your car in your driveway or a parking lot. Put the key in the ignition and turn your car on.

  • Turn off all accessories in your car including the car's lights. Exit the car and put wheel chocks under the front and back tires of your car for safety purposes.

  • Enter the car, firmly apply the emergency brake, put the transmission in neutral and bring the engine to a warm idle speed of 750 rpm by pressing on the gas.

  • Exit the car with the emergency brake firmly engaged, allowing the engine speed to decrease, and open the hood of your Honda.

  • Locate the engine control module on the right side of the engine. It should look like a large computer chip. Use it to turn the warm idle speed option on and keep your engine warm.

  • Attach the timing light to the battery by placing the red clips on the positive terminal first, then the black clips on the negative terminal. Next, attach the timing light clamps to the spark plug wire labeled Number One.

  • Shine the timing light on the pulley connected to the engine's main crankshaft. Compare that timing to the timing marks on the distributor housing. The distributor housing is connected to the SOHC, more simply known as the camshaft, and the engine's oil pump. The distributor housing has a cap on top and the metal part located outside of the cap should have a mark or dent known as the timing marks.

  • Use a wrench to loosen the distributor lock-down bolt at the base of the distributor housing, disconnect the distributor vacuum hose and plug it into the electronic control module. You may have to pull back a plastic protector to gain access to one of the ports on the engine control module.

  • Use jumper cables to ground the carburetor switch by placing the red clamps on the switch and the black clamps on a metal ground.

  • Rotate the distributor housing with your hand until the timing marks align with the timing indicated on the pulley; 12 degrees is the factory recommendation. You have now set the ignition timing.

  • Remove the jumper cables from the carburetor switch and remove the timing light from the battery and spark plug wire. Disconnect the distributor vacuum hose from the electronic spark computer, plug it back into the distributor housing and tighten the lock down bolt with a wrench.

  • Turn the warm idle speed control off and close the hood to your engine. Enter the car and put the transmission in park. Exit the car and remove the wheel chocks.

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