How-To: Rebuild Your Distributor and Replace the Stator

Discussion in 'Tech Articles, How-To's & Write Ups' started by Paul, Nov 22, 2008.

  1. Paul

    Paul Legend

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    This article will teach you how to save money by rebuilding the distributor in your 94-95 5.0 Mustang instead of just buying a replacement.

    Here's what tools you'll need to make this happen:
    • 1/2" socket for distributor hold-down
    • 5/16" socket for bolts inside distributor
    • Steel punches
    • Plastic, brass, or other non-marring hammer
    • Vise
    • 5.5mm "slimline" socket wrench, a specialty "Ignition Module Tool" that can be purchased from Auto Parts stores

    So, first things first. Unhook your plug wires and remove the distributor cap. If you're not sure exactly where they go, it can be helpful to mark them before removing them. If you get them mixed up, just remember that when looking at the cap, you can reconnect the plug wires to the spark plugs using the firing order of your engine. When looking at the distributor cap, start with the point marked "1" and move counter-clockwise, reconnecting the plug wires in the following order:

    1-3-7-2-6-5-4-8

    Here?s a picture of the firing order and cylinder numbering.

    [​IMG]

    Next, make sure to carefully mark and note the location of the rotor. It will need to be reinstalled exactly as it is removed to ensure your timing is correct. The picture below shows what it will look like. My upper intake was removed for other repairs - you can ignore that part.

    [​IMG]

    From here, just unscrew the small bolt attaching your hold-down at the base of the distributor. This is the only thing holding the distributor in place. Here's a pic of it removed and ready for disassembly.

    [​IMG]

    The next step is to pull the rotor off, and remove the two small bolts holding the round plastic base. It will end up looking like the picture below, exposing the distributor shaft and reluctor wheel.

    [​IMG]

    Unfortunately, you can't remove the distributor shaft yet. The reason why is that the distributor gear and round spacer thingy is holding it in place. See the pic below. You'll notice that they are both pinned in place.

    [​IMG]

    You will need a hammer and small punch to get those pins out. I bought a really cheap set at Harbor Freight and they work like a champ. One of these is a perfect fit.

    [​IMG]

    Simply line up the punch with the pin, and tap them out with a hammer. Be careful once you get close to getting them completely out - hit it too hard and that little pin can go flying. They're small and not much fun to try to find on the floor. You may want to hold onto the pin for the last couple taps with the hammer.

    [​IMG]

    Repeat this process on both the distributor gear and spacer. It will now look like the picture below. Be sure to keep those pins in a safe place so you don't lose them.

    [​IMG]

    Now if you have a well-equipped garage, you might have a hydraulic press lying around that you can use to press the distributor gear off. Unfortunately, I don't have one so I'll use the next best thing, a hammer and vise! Before trying to get this off, be sure to mark one side of the gear next to the hole, and mark the same corresponding side of the shaft so that the gear is "clocked" right when you reinstall it.  Sometimes the hole isn't drilled exactly through the center, and the gear has to go back on the same way it came off or the hole won't line up. 

    Although perhaps not pretty, I've used this method lots of times with great success. Simply set your distributor in the vise so that the gear is resting squarely on the jaws of the vise. Get the gear as "square" and flat against the jaws as possible to prevent damage to the teeth. DO NOT clamp the jaws of the vise down on the shaft. All you'll do is damage the shaft. Instead, just close the vise jaws enough to seat the distributor gear. It will look something like this:

    [​IMG]

    Now you'll need to knock that distributor gear off. You can do this simply by pounding on the distributor shaft, which will push it "out" of the gear. Make sure the distributor has a place to go, and won't fall on the ground and get damaged. A word of warning here: DO NOT HAMMER ON THE SHAFT WITH A BIG STEEL CLAW HAMMER, SLEDGE HAMMER, OR OTHER COMMON IMPLEMENT OF DESTRUCTION. You should be using a plastic deadblow mallet, brass hammer, or similar. I'm using a brass hammer. Since steel is much harder than brass, the brass hammer is much less likely to do damage to the shaft than a normal steel hammer. I picked up this hammer for around twenty bucks at Harbor Freight. I've used it in engine builds and such before, and it's a handy tool to have around.

    [​IMG]

    Once the gear and spacer are removed, the shaft will simply pull right out with the reluctor wheel still installed.

    [​IMG]

    Now when you look inside the distributor housing, you'll see the stator bolted down in there. This is simply a magnetic hall effect sensor that senses the "teeth" of the reluctor wheel as they pass through it.

    [​IMG]

    Just for informational purposes, I wanted to include a picture of how the reluctor wheel passes through the sensor itself. As long as this reluctor wheel is spinning, it will continue to tell your ignition to fire and keep your fuel pump running. Yes, you heard right - your distributor tells your computer to keep the fuel pump running. Don't believe me? Try this - plug your distributor harness into the main wiring harness and, with the key on, spin the distributor. I guarantee your fuel pump will cycle. Cool eh?

    [​IMG]

    Alright, back to business. Here's where you'll need that special tool I mentioned to you at the beginning of this article. There are 5.5 millimeter bolts holding the stator in place. The same tool that will unbolt your TFI module will take these bolts out. I got mine at NAPA a long time for less than ten bucks I think, and it looks like this:

    [​IMG]

    Now, simply unscrew those two bolts.

    [​IMG]

    Next, pop out the small metal tab that locates the stator inside the distributor. I'm pointing to it here with my punch.

    [​IMG]

    Finally, remove the stator. You can just pull out the small wiring harness, and pull the stator off the small round part of the housing in the center. Here's what you just did all that work for:

    [​IMG]

    It doesn't look like much, but that sensor will wreak havoc on your ignition system if it's not work properly. I picked up a replacement at the local auto parts store for about $30 - the part number is below. That's a big money savings over the ~$100+ for a new distributor! Not to mention you get the satisfaction of having done the work yourself. :)

    [​IMG]

    Here's a picture of the distributor taken apart, but the stator still installed. Not much to it eh? Carefully clean and inspect everything to make sure it's all in good working order. If your distributor gear is heavily worn or damaged, replace it. If the distributor shaft is marred up or damaged, replace it. At this point, if a bunch of stuff is damaged, then you are probably better off replacing the whole thing. If the rubber o-ring at the base of housing is old, dried out, and cracked or broken - you can simply pull it off and put another one on there. I grabbed one out of an o-ring assortment I've got in the garage.

    [​IMG]

    Now it's time to reassemble everything. Start by installing the new stator, making sure to put the small gold plate back in place to locate the sensor in the correct position.

    [​IMG]

    Slide the shaft back in place so you can reinstall the distributor gear. Make sure the shaft is nice and clean. You can use some steel wool to scrub the shaft of any debris or buildup, but be sure to thoroughly clean it back off before putting it back in the distributor housing.

    To get the gear back on, first you will need to very carefully align the holes so that the roll pin can be put back in its place. Make sure you get this lined up right, or you?ll be pulling it off again using the method described above. Mine wasn't exactly spot on the first time, so I had to re-do it myself. You can get it started on the shaft by just pressing it on with your fingers. Make sure it is nice and square so that the gear doesn't damage the shaft during reinstallation.

    [​IMG]

    Now again, since I don't have a press I'm going to use a hammer. First, slide the steel spacer thingy back onto the shaft; it has to go on before the gear. Then, simply grab a deep socket that will seat well against the gear, but clear the shaft. Then just pound the gear down onto the shaft, being careful to keep the holes aligned and not push the gear on too far past the hole.

    [​IMG]

    Once you've got them both back on and the holes are lined up, it should look like the picture below. I had already reinstalled the top pin using the same hammer and punch I used to remove it.

    [​IMG]

    Install the roll pin back in the gear as well. Now it will look like this:

    [​IMG]

    Attach the plastic distributor base back on top, screw the bolts in, and reinstall the rotor. Voila! You've got a rebuilt distributor. :)

    [​IMG]

    Now you can reinstall it in the motor making sure to keep everything lined up exactly as you noted when you removed it. Put the distributor cap back on, attach the plug wires, distributor wiring harness, distributor hold down, and put a timing light on the car to verify your timing is still accurate. You're done! Great job!

    Paul.
     
  2. Steven

    Steven Legend

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    Re: How-To: Rebuild Your Distributor and Replace the Stator - READ ME!

    Nice write up paul. It sucks that I wasn't able to do this with mine. My stator decided to go to hell, but at the same time my bearing went also, or more correctly the shims, so it was pointless to install a new stator. Found it much easier to just replace the whole assembly. It was squealing like a hog right before it went out.
     
  3. Dr Fildo

    Dr Fildo Active Member

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    Re: How-To: Rebuild Your Distributor and Replace the Stator - READ ME!

    Thank's Paul. I have been struggling with this issue for a long time and was about to bring the dizzy to a machine shop but since your explanation is so clear and the pictures are fantastic, I am sure I can tackle this on my own.

    This knowledge is invaluable! You need a raise! :notworthy:
     
  4. Matt94GT

    Matt94GT Legend Retired Staff SN95 Supporter

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    Re: How-To: Rebuild Your Distributor and Replace the Stator - READ ME!

    Sweet write up, I think my stators on the way out, what are the signs of it?
     
  5. Paul

    Paul Legend

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    Re: How-To: Rebuild Your Distributor and Replace the Stator - READ ME!

    The one time I had one go, it just died all at once. Basically the car started sputtering, jerking, and then died. :)

    Paul.
     
  6. Steven

    Steven Legend

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    Re: How-To: Rebuild Your Distributor and Replace the Stator - READ ME!

    Mine started to just develop a straight up dead miss fire. It would run fine and then suddenly miss like I tried to shut the damn thing off. New distributor fixed it right up. My bearings were frozen solid
     
  7. Paul

    Paul Legend

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    Re: How-To: Rebuild Your Distributor and Replace the Stator - READ ME!

    Did you have an aftermarket distributor? THe OEM distributors don't have any bearings inside of them. The shaft basically just spins inside the distributor housing and is lubricated by oil slinging from the camshaft and crankcase.
     
  8. Steven

    Steven Legend

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    Re: How-To: Rebuild Your Distributor and Replace the Stator - READ ME!

    It was a factory distributor. It just was frozen solid to a person trying to spin it. It got to the point where it literally froze and squealed. I believe the fact the car had a oil pressure gauge cut and extremely low oil at some point in its life, it may have very well killed the distributor.
     
  9. RoadZOmbie

    RoadZOmbie New Member

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    Im stuck....I made the mistake of not marking anything and now my car wont start. It gets spark and everything but it wont start. I put the rotor on piston #1. Took off the spark plug and put my thumb in the hole until I felt the compression. But it still wont turn on? any ideas?
     
  10. Paul

    Paul Legend

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    Maybe you're on the wrong stroke? (intake vs exhaust) Have you rotated the crankshaft more to ensure you're at TDC on the balancer?
     
  11. RoadZOmbie

    RoadZOmbie New Member

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    good point. Let me try to clear one thing, I am a bit confused on where the line on the balancer should be with the timing bracket. There is a circle on the bracket, an upside down U, and then on the edge it says TIME on it. Im suppose to be lining up the balancer line (0) on the edege where it says TIME correct?
     
  12. RoadZOmbie

    RoadZOmbie New Member

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    one more question, is there anyway of telling what stroke is taking place in the chamber?
     
  13. Paul

    Paul Legend

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    I've not looked at a balancer in a while, but what you're saying sounds right.

    You can pull a valve cover and see which rocker is moving, but other than that I don't know a way.
     
  14. RoadZOmbie

    RoadZOmbie New Member

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    So basically I am suppose to aline the 0 on the balancer with the time bracket, align the rotor with the #1 plug wire and it should fire right up correct?
     
  15. Paul

    Paul Legend

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    Pretty much.
     
  16. Steven

    Steven Legend

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    I use a piece of a paper towel, and plug the hole of the spark plug, and hand crank the motor over till it pops out.
     
  17. RoadZOmbie

    RoadZOmbie New Member

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    Car is up and running. I guess we did have the piston up on the exhaust stroke instead of the combustion stroke. Everyting was fine until I took it for a test drive and it started sputtering, it didn't ave much power. Timing was at 12 like before but for some reason the car didnt like it. I noticed it was puffing from the exhuast on the passenger side pipe, which was odd. Came back and bumped it down to 10, test drove it and worked like a charm. Im going to try to bump it back to 12 later and see if anything changes. Thanks for the help fellas!!
     
  18. Paul

    Paul Legend

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    Glad you got it working. Feels good to do the work yourself, doesn't it? :)
     
  19. RoadZOmbie

    RoadZOmbie New Member

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    oh hell yeah it does. No matter what problem my cars give me, I always work on them and find the issue/s. It beats paying someone to do it and you learn alot of things. =)
     
  20. maury94GT

    maury94GT Member

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    great write up u just saved me money