How To Time A Chevy 350 Distributor? [5 Easy Steps]

Proper ignition timing is necessary for a smooth ride on your Chevy. Otherwise, you will face engine knocking, decreased fuel economy, overheating, low power, etc. So, you need to fix the timing with a 350 distributor. But how to time a Chevy 350 distributor?

You need to arrange a timing light first to know the match of the cylinder with the spark plug. Then, locate the distributor cap and loosen the bolts to open it up. Rotate it clockwise to adjust the angle upwards. After that, tighten the mounting bolts properly to secure the spark plug’s position. Turn on the ignition and check whether your technique has succeeded or not.

However, you need to be careful about some facts while fixing the timing. These include noticing yellow lines while rotating and using a socket wrench to adjust the mounting. 

What Is the Correct Timing on A Chevy 350?

The timing of your Chevy 350 can vary based on different facts. However, there’s a range by which you can tell whether it’s correct or not.

The appropriate range of correct Chevy timing varies from 2 to 12 degrees before the top dead center (BTDC). However, the deciding factors are spark plugs and plug gaps.

If the spark plugs are a bit thicker, you would need less correct timing. But most of the time, the initial advanced, correct time is 12 degrees. There’s also a limit to such timing, and it varies from 36 to 37 degrees. 

Above this range is considered too much-advanced timing. And you might have severe issues with the ignition if you try timing out of the range. 

Timing A Chevy 350 Distributor

The distributor is a crucial element of your Chevy 350. So, if something goes wrong, you should act responsibly and correct the timing before riding it. Here are some simple steps to set the timing: 

Step 01: Arrange A Timing Light

At first, you need to find a timing light before you start to open the distributor. The timing light is a unique tool to recognize spark plug wire colors. When you fix the timing, it will help you match the spark plugs with the correct cylinder.

The inductive clamp is the most common timing light. It has two different clamps (positive and negative) to attach two separate things simultaneously. For example, it can connect spark plug wire coils or car battery terminals.

There’s also another type of timing lig: a digital storage oscilloscope. However, it doesn’t have any attached clamps. You would need to buy a pair of jumper cables to make it fully functioning. 

Step 02: Loosen the Distributor Cap and Adjust the Angle

Now, you have to find the distributor cap. It’s not tough to find. You will quickly notice the distributor cap near the engine or behind it. 

However, before you find the distributor cap, you need to switch off the engine. Otherwise, you can’t work with a hot temperature while opening the distributor cap. 

After that, get an Allen wrench or socket to loosen the bolts mounting over the distributor cap. But remember not to remove the bolts altogether, or else there will be troubles while setting the timing.

Then, you need to rotate them clockwise to point all the plug wires forward. After that, turn them counterclockwise and stop when you notice the color white changing into yellow. At this position, it’s set to 11 o’clock but only when you stand at the front. 

Step 03: Attach the Timing Light

After that, you need to grab the distributor, turn it clockwise, and stop when it’s precisely the same position as your eyes. You can also say turn it to 12 o’clock.

Then, get the wrench and tighten the mounting bolts to secure the plug wires. It will help you in future adjustments because you will need some wiggle room. You won’t need to damage plastic parts or rubber parts inside the distributor.

Now get the timing light and attach one wire coil to the positive or negative end. It will depend on the type of timing light. 

You have to ensure minimal space for both coils, and they shouldn’t touch each other. Otherwise, there will be false readings, and it can mess up the time setting of the engine.

It would be best to attach the timing light on each wire because the sensor can read all at once. 

Step 04: Turn the Ignition Key On

Now you have to turn on the ignition key. But remember not to start with the same position.

Whenever you notice the plug wires are yellow, it stands around 11 o’clock, and you need to set the timing light dials for 12 o’clock. In the meantime, the crankshaft would be spinning. Don’t make a mistake by starting the engine right away.

This signifies the spark plug color is now white with the timing light. If the color is brown or black, you need to change the spark plugs quickly. 

Step 05: Secure the Distributor Cap

Lastly, you need to secure the distributor cap. Get the wrench and tighten the mounting bolts. Check the distributor cap whether it’s moving or not. And don’t start the engine before that.

Now start the engine by putting the ignition key. Check whether it’s back to its regular speed or not. If there’s anything wrong, recheck your timing. When several tries fail to fix the timing, you need to consult a professional. 

How Do You Set the Initial Distributor Timing on A Chevy 350?

The initial timing means the first time you start your engine with the ignition system. You can set the initial distributor timing to avoid future ignition problems. Here’s how:

Step 01: Check the Vacuum

At first, you need to check the number 1 plug and make sure the vacuum advance works. 

Then, perform the clear distributor cap that will be completed with all hardware, including clear coil gap, clear rotor, and coil insulators.

Step 02: Remove the Distributor

As the distributor is not initially timed, you need to remove it altogether. 

Then, make some visible marks on the harmonic balancer. You can use sandpaper for better work. The top dead center (TDC) is marked by a zero.

After that, remove the blank valve to gain proper sight of the valvetrain. Make sure the intake and exhaust valves are closed.

Step 03: Adjust the Angle

Use a timing light to adjust the time. According to the rule of thumb 12-degrees, advance is pretty standard for an engine starting for the first time.

Step 04: Check the Number 1 Terminal and Rotor Arm

Clear the brass rotors with a distributor cap. You can set the number 1 terminal at any point on the distributor cap. Check the rotor arm’s alignment with the number 1 terminal.

And then, your Chevy 350 has completed the initial distributor timing. 

What Happens If Timing Is Too Advanced on A Chevy 350?

You already know that clockwise is for distributor timing and counterclockwise for advance timing. But if you set too advanced timing, what will happen then?

When the ignition timing is too advanced, it will cause a quick air-fuel mixture and cause an early combustion cycle. Due to rapid combustion, excess heat will be produced, leading to the overheating issue.

Sometimes you may not realize this severe problem until there’s less performance than expected with extra fuel usage. It would be tough to touch the engine or the hood while it’s excess heating. 

Things To Remember When Timing Your Distributor

An automobile can cause several problems even while fixing a single issue. So, it would be best to keep in mind some tips when you are timing the distributor.

Switch Off the Car

Don’t ever try to adjust distributor timing while the engine is still on. Typically, the machine remains hot enough to burn your skin.  

Notice The Yellow Color

You need to notice the yellow color whenever you turn the distributor clockwise or counterclockwise. It will indicate whether you are setting the correct timing on the o’clock or not. 

When the color turns to brown or white, you might need to change the spark plugs.

Check The Adjustments

You need to check the ignition timing after you have set the distributor. And don’t forget to check on the mountings. Otherwise, you will get incorrect timing, and the whole point of fixing the time of your Chevy 350 would go in vain.

Don’t Leave Any Loose Bolts

Sometimes you might forget to tighten all the bolts. This will affect the distributor and can cause imbalanced ignition.

Bottom Line

Proper distributor timing is necessary for a balanced air-fuel mixture. Correct ignition will help perform your Chevy 350 at its best. However, sometimes the timing goes wrong, and you need to face several problems like overheating, engine knocking, etc.

Hopefully, the discussion on how to time a Chevy 350 distributor has given all the necessary information. If you even need to set distributor timing for your Chevy 350, you can follow our guide, and you won’t be disappointed. Best of luck with your ride!

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