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Technical Have you ever used a Dwell Meter?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Rex_A_Lott, Sep 22, 2022.

  1. indyjps
    Joined: Feb 21, 2007
    Posts: 5,090


    I'm 47, never used a dwell meter, have had 3 cars with points as daily drivers and set the points without it. Raced with a dual point for a season before swapping out that distributor.

    I now own a dwell meter - bought at a swap meet - but haven't had a car with points since buying it.

    Ah, the irony.
  2. Deuces
    Joined: Nov 3, 2009
    Posts: 22,192

    from Michigan

  3. Having 4 cars with points right now, I use my dwell meter occasionally. None of the cars drive enough miles that I need to use the dwell meter very often. I have 2 different dwell meters, both old analog.
    Deuces, Blues4U, olscrounger and 3 others like this.
  4. G-son
    Joined: Dec 19, 2012
    Posts: 1,045

    from Sweden

    I've changed lots of points, but that's on 50cc twostrokes with flywheel magnetos, never used a dwell meter to adjust those. But I do understand the idea of dwell and should I ever need to I have the ability use my oscilloscope to check it - and loads of other things about the ignition system and other parts of a car.
    Rex_A_Lott likes this.
  5. nochop
    Joined: Nov 13, 2005
    Posts: 2,838

    from norcal

    Still have my dads Marquett from his Signal Station
    Rex_A_Lott likes this.
  6. partsdawg
    Joined: Feb 12, 2006
    Posts: 3,225

    from Minnesota

    I have but that was in the past so I don't dwell on it.
    Toms Dogs, kls50, Rex_A_Lott and 2 others like this.
  7. SS327
    Joined: Sep 11, 2017
    Posts: 1,345


    Kids and rotary phones is funny! Especially when they try to text with it.
    Deuces and Rex_A_Lott like this.
  8. Dave G in Gansevoort
    Joined: Mar 28, 2019
    Posts: 1,478

    Dave G in Gansevoort
    from Upstate NY

    20201002_145733.jpg When I had points distributors this and a timing light was what I used. It has a dwell meter and you set the points just like in the car. Mark where the distributor was at tdc before removing, set up distributor, check the curve and vacuum advance if still using it, reinsert in engine, fire up and set the timing.

    I hated leaning over a fender trying to set dwell...
  9. Wanderlust
    Joined: Oct 27, 2019
    Posts: 580


    Everyone points fingers at GM, but ford did it too, anyone check their points on a y block lately, Major pita
    Deuces, Kiwi 4d, Blues4U and 2 others like this.
  10. I have a few dwell meters, have a new sears tune up box..

    Points are fun.... when they start to go...u make it home. Cheap and Easy to bring spare points, coil in car.

    My favorite dist.. 1962 corvette dual point... have not changed anything on it in over 12yr. Always starts, eng runs smooth.
    Deuces and 427 sleeper like this.
  11. Rex_A_Lott
    Joined: Feb 5, 2007
    Posts: 1,053


    We dont need to go down no political rabbit hole, but its hard to believe anybody that thinks for himself doesnt do anything unless the government says its OK.
    I admire the guys that hook up a scanner and work on today's overly complicated automobiles, but it seems like a basic understanding of a carburetor would be a good thing to know. Other than old antique cars, there are lawnmowers, chainsaws, weedeaters, generators, farm equipment, etc that need repair too. If you turn wrenches, you will occasionally have to work on things that are non-computer controlled. That's where I see the value in learning what you may not see every day. Good Luck
  12. Black_Sheep
    Joined: May 22, 2010
    Posts: 1,340


    It doesn’t see much use anymore, but back in the day I did a lot of tune ups to supplement my income…
  13. I went back and deleted all my posts, it wasn’t in the spirit of dwell meters and of course it turned into something other then I intended.

    yes I have several dwell meters.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2022
  14. SwampLedge
    Joined: Jul 3, 2012
    Posts: 24


    I remember being a teenager and getting a new dwell/tach and timing light as Christmas presents! Only thing that beat that was getting a new .22 rifle for my 12th birthday.
  15. Dave G in Gansevoort
    Joined: Mar 28, 2019
    Posts: 1,478

    Dave G in Gansevoort
    from Upstate NY

    Or a BB gun a few years younger!
    loudbang and Rex_A_Lott like this.
  16. G-son
    Joined: Dec 19, 2012
    Posts: 1,045

    from Sweden

    If you don't understand the basics of how something is supposed to work, you stand little chance to properly fix it when it doesn't. Sure, there's the swapnostics method where the diagnostic process is to swap one part at a time until it works again (guided by a code scanner or just what parts you think may be guilty), but that's a horrible way to do it - it's expensive to replace parts that didn't need to be replaced, and even if you get it working you can't be sure if the part that gave you that result was the original problem, or if that part broke as a symptom of the actual cause so the new part will fail again soon.

    I actually used a computerized oscilloscope to diagnose a 1975 Briggs & Stratton lawnmower this summer, it ran well when it ran but could be very hard to get going. Hooked the scope to the kill "switch" under the air cleaner so minimal work for access, tried to start it and watched the scope to see what it could tell me about the sparks - when it gave a spark it was strong and good, but many times it failed to give any spark.
    Some head scratching later (I'm not used to interpreting ignition signals on the scope, and there's no online references to compare to for ancient lawnmower engines) I figured out that the points didn't close at all those times there was no spark. Couldn't tell why, but it was clear I needed to take a closer look at the points, and when I got there the problem was rather obvious: Slightly large points gap, combined with a lot of play in the crank bearings. When compression alone pushed the crank one way the points would close, every other revolution w/o compression would let the crank move in other directions so the points often didn't close. When trying to start the engine the starter pushed the crank in another direction, resulting in no spark at all - no wonder it was a horror to start!

    Reducing the points gap produced a reliable spark every time, and a very easy to start motor.

    Others suggested replacing all ignition parts "and be done with it", and while new points, condenser & coil with a proper adjustment would have got it going again, just the parts would cost more than the mower is worth. Ended up being a no parts required repair, all it took was time, and it could absolutely have been done without an oscilloscope but then I would have been going blind into working an a system I have no prior experience with. Using the scope I got a very clear direction about where to look for the problem, and what parts seemed to do their job well.
  17. ^^Great advice^^^
    Deuces likes this.
  18. I've stil got a vintage Dixco dwell meter that belonged to my father, but haven't used it sisnce I went HEI on my old 68 Cadillac some years back.
    lothiandon1940 and Rex_A_Lott like this.
  19. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 51,994


    I haven't used one for a month or two
  20. I use them on single and dual point setups, the chrome one I just got from a neighbor (to bad the lens isn't cleaner) he and I were joking about our other "car guy" neighbor and how he probably had no clue what it was.

    20220923_140315.jpg 20220923_140326.jpg 20220923_140330.jpg
    Deuces, Rex_A_Lott and Blues4U like this.
  21. HarryT
    Joined: Nov 7, 2006
    Posts: 675


    Used mine a couple of weeks ago on the nailhead in my avatar.
    Deuces, Rex_A_Lott and Blues4U like this.
  22. Still have mine; last time I used it was 3 years ago when I got the Cad in my '40 running.
    Rex_A_Lott likes this.
  23. I use mine for the tach part of it too, works great for tuning carbs
    Budget36, Blues4U and Rex_A_Lott like this.
  24. David Gersic
    Joined: Feb 15, 2015
    Posts: 2,566

    David Gersic
    from DeKalb, IL

    Yes, but it’s been a very long time. I still have the Sunpro tach/dwell meter I bought in the 1980s. I think I last used it as a dwell meter in the 1980s.

    Dad is getting old. Cleaning out the house. He passed his dwell meter on to me.


    He built this from plans in Popular Mechanics in the 1960s. The “calibration” tool for it is a 110 VAC plug with bare wires that you clip the leads to, then adjust the meter. The knobs do what the labels say they do. And the Xerox copy of the article explains how to use it.

    I’m pretty sure he last used it in the early 1980s, before his Bug rusted away. I doubt I’ll ever use it, but I can’t let it go. My kid will probably be mystified by it some day.
    Deuces, buddyamigo, warbird1 and 4 others like this.
  25. 1940Willys
    Joined: Feb 3, 2011
    Posts: 659


    I'll bet some head light restoring kit would help out that fogged over meter?
    Deuces, ClayMart and Rex_A_Lott like this.
  26. Rex_A_Lott
    Joined: Feb 5, 2007
    Posts: 1,053


    @HOTRODPRIMER . I got it back Danny! Spartanburg County Sherriff recovered it. It had some damage. tried to update the other thread with some pics yesterday, but I did something wrong. I thought the guys here would get a kick out of seeing the 2012 HAMB Alliance tag still stuck in the window.

    I understand what your saying about the curriculum, sort of. My daughter teaches second grade and it frustrates me that she doesnt teach kids cursive writing in 2nd grade, the way we all learned. I dont see why the content cant be added to, as long as the minimum is met. We have had some heated discussions about that. Its a shame kids graduate and cant read and write in cursive, whatever government official thought that was a good idea ought to be kicked in the balls. Oh well, I guess we shouldnt DWELL on what we cant control.
    I learned about dwell meters and such at a young age. It always seemed backwards to me that we were measuring the time the points were shut, instead of open. It was only years later when I learned a little more about the electrical theory that it made any sense to me. Then I heard about hole flow instead of electron flow...I threw up both hands and said I give up. I know enough to be dangerous.
    Budget36 likes this.
  27. buddyamigo
    Joined: Feb 11, 2017
    Posts: 124

    from HoustonTX
    1. 1952-59 Ford Social Group

    Still using this gem on the 53. Note the selectors for neg/pos ground and 6/12 volts. Not sure when it was made but still does the job! 9B18C179-987D-4B59-920E-CA4F6345838E.jpeg 9443BE91-5AFE-41E7-94A3-9719C4FA3D86.jpeg
    Deuces, blowby, Rex_A_Lott and 2 others like this.
  28. 6sally6
    Joined: Feb 16, 2014
    Posts: 2,005


    Mine 's been looong gone years ago!
    Since I fooled with FoMoCo stuff most of the time.....I never had a need to use it. (no lil 'window' to adjust points with.........Ford men did it the hard way!!! match book covers)
    SwampLedge likes this.
  29. Budget36
    Joined: Nov 29, 2014
    Posts: 9,449


    You could set the dwell without the cap on while cranking the engine.
    Truckdoctor Andy and ClayMart like this.
  30. alanp561
    Joined: Oct 1, 2017
    Posts: 2,580


    lothiandon1940 likes this.

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