Sunday 3 February 2013

E21 316: M10 Distributor/Ignition Timing: Strobe Light Ahoy!

So my adventures into re-timing the spark-plugs continue with the purchase of a Gunson Xenon timing strobe-light! I went for the cheapest kit in Halfords, but it was still a slight pain at £45, considering it's in addition to a new dizzy-cap and rotor-arm, set of spark-plugs, compression-test kit, gasket-set, oil, coolant and a 30mm socket to turn the engine from the crank, but as I just can't seem to get the old M10 engine running happily I guess it's just as vital and at least we can use it to time in our old MGA engine this summer (hopefully).

Before I start to moan again about the intricacies of re-timing the distributor I should say that I know there is no need to remove it in order to get the cylinder-head off and the dizzy should really be left in place to save all this trouble, but the diaphragm on mine was blocking one of the head-bolts so that wasn't an option for me.

The timing light works by flashing every time your 1st-cylinder spark-plug fires. There is a timing-mark on the spinning crank-pulley or flywheel that passes a stationary mark on the block at the exact point the 1st spark-plug should be firing. When the flashing light from plug 1 is aimed at the spinning pulley it shows the timing-mark in a fixed position in relation to the stationary mark and allows you to gauge how how many degrees before or after the correct point the spark is. Clever stuff.

On the BMW M10 engine, there are two timing-marks on the flywheel, one for top dead-centre [TDC] and another, called Z, that corresponds to the right point before TDC that the 1st spark-plug should be firing. The marks are visible with the flashing light through a small oblong hole at the back of the crankcase. It's easy enough to find the hole, but seeing into it with the timing-light is a challenge in itself, let alone trying to adjust it or move the dizzy-cap and I ended up having to stand over it with my feet on the strut-tops to steady myself enough without leaning in from the side and crushing the wheel arches. There is another TDC timing-mark on the rearmost rim of the front crank-pulley, which is a lot easier to see with the timing-strobe from the n/s of the engine-bay, but the mark is tiny so when you do find it it's best to file a larger notch across the whole pulley - mine had this done already and it makes things a lot clearer.

It's best to first time your engine to Z on the flywheel, at 2200rpm, using 0 degrees of advance on the timing-light gun - just shine it into the oblong hole and rotate the distributor-cap until the large pointer is lined up with the silver ball, not the TDC line. Now check the front crank-pulley for reference by shining the light at it with 0 degrees advance. The groove for TDC should appear around 25 degrees before the stud on the engine-block. Rotate the dial on the timing gun slowly to 25 degrees and the groove should move in line with the pin. Simples.

Ignition timing isn't too much of a fine art, so as long as the rotor-arm contact is roughly on point no.1 on the dizzy with the engine at top dead-centre then it should fire right up and not need much adjustment to find Z. Mine was still making the god awful noise after repeatedly timing to Z, but this turned out to be a badly positioned exhaust-manifold gasket [in this post] so, obviously, check everything else isn't amiss before starting to mess with ignition timing.

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