Inspecting the Distributor Cap

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If you're repairing or changing a distributor cap in your car, learn how to visually inspect the distributor cap with the help of an expert in this free auto repair video.

Part of the Video Series: How to Change a Distributor Cap
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Video Transcript

In this clip, we’re going to talk about inspection of the distributor cap. Your distributor cap can have a couple things wrong with it. On the insides, this is what one looks like. On this particular distributor cap, the power comes in through here, through the integral distributor probe that runs through solid state into this spring loaded connection here. They need to be checked for tension, sometimes the springs will cease in a retracted position. That will ruin your contact. It will cause arching between the button and the router. These are the contacts for your plug wires. As you can see, they correspond just about with all the sockets, except for this one here. They route this one over here because of a particular desire to have number 6 fired before number 1 and number 5. That spring loaded connection then transfers the electrical energy to your router button and evenly but firmly wiggle it right off, just like so. The inside of the router should be checked because it does have electrical connections inside of it. Through there and into the ground. You should look at the router for excessive wear, cracking, or carbon tracking as well. That’s because these will track down the sides and down in through here to ground. That’s your router. Some routers will have a bolt that holds them on. If it comes down to the point that you can’t pull it off, it’s got a bolt in it. Sometimes there are underneath making them extremely difficult to get at, but as I said, 9 out of 10 routers will pop off right in your hands. This particular engine rotates clockwise, like so. As you can see, the power comes in through here, across here to there, to the router, and that’s how your firing order is established. All of those components need checked for damage. One thing you need to look for in particular, which will indicate a problem somewhere else in the system. In other words, a spark plug wire or a very worn out plug is called a carbon track. That’s what one looks like. This is not indicative of a problem with your distributor cap. This is the symptom. It will ruin the cap. These can’t be scraped off and repaired. This indicates the problem somewhere else in the ignition system. In other words, you have an extremely bad spark plug or a wire that has been worn through. What this represents is a huge increase in resistance through the normal path, the electrical current, will take. It has had to bypass that path and it’s easier for it to travel through the plastic to ground. Carbon conducts electricity, and once it begins to scorch, it will carry that electricity. They always look like a lightening bolt due to the inconsistencies in the thickness and makeup of the plastic compounds your cap is made of.


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