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Technical How do *you* set points?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by manyolcars, Sep 17, 2017.

  1. Truck64
    Joined: Oct 18, 2015
    Posts: 3,559

    Truck64
    Member
    from Ioway

    I set them in the glove box, in case the Pertronix fails. 20 years now. I never paid much attention to points for years. Set them and forget them. It always started. It's amazing the shit I was able to ignore that never affected me in any way, that today, thanks to the internet automotive forums, the sky is falling if I for example don't immediately switch to electronic ignition. I did switch to Pertronix because I got tired of working on the Y block distributor. It's at the back of the engine and am not a contortionist. What I learned the real problem was - the distributor itself has to be in good mechanical shape when using points. The modules don't mind a little slop or clearance but a mechanical point system doesn't like any slop.

    But a good tight distributor, correctly curved, is the best thing since sliced bread whether running points or not. It will run noticeably better up and down the RPM and smoother idle. If you have to pass smog I bet it makes a big difference.

    If you get in the different manuals it's clear the feeler gauge setting is basically just a bench setting or field expedient thing so engine will start and then can be adjusted with a dwell meter. That's really what counts, the actual gap doesn't. A worn out distributor shaft with excessive axial or sideplay will make setting the gap futile, the dwell will be all over the place because a consistent gap cannot be achieved.

    The modern condensers are mostly No Good. It is apparently tough to make a high voltage capacitor in a small package at a price point these days. Mouser or other electronics supply houses still provide high voltage film capacitors. Try a .22uF @ 600 or 1000 VDC, it won't look original but it should last. I have a passle of old Echlin and Standard condensers that are 50+ years old that still show no leakage at 600 volts, so they used good stuff.
     
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  2. porknbeaner
    Joined: Sep 12, 2003
    Posts: 41,049

    porknbeaner
    Member

    A feeler gauge and a screw driver. Of course I am a mechanic and not a technician.

    Setting points is not really that big a deal. Some people make it a big deal because they did not grow up with them. I should add that the car is what usually makes it a big deal I'll take a ford or MOPAR with a front distributer any day over a Chevy with the engine stuffed into the firewall. LOL
     
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  3. a50merc
    Joined: Apr 20, 2008
    Posts: 973

    a50merc
    Member

    I don't see what the Big Deal is with setting the Point's
    Like Porknbeaner says I have been doing Points all my Life
    Infact I have do my GM dual Point disp, before I can Drive it
    I got a New set from NAPA including a Cond.
    I am wondering if I am paying for somebody's Vacation
    with the Price of the Point's $19.69 each.

    Just my 3.5 cents

    Live Learn & Die a Fool
     
    els likes this.
  4. porknbeaner
    Joined: Sep 12, 2003
    Posts: 41,049

    porknbeaner
    Member

    They have sure gone up haven't they? I remember doing a tune up in the gas service station for 9 bucks and that covered parts. But we charged the same 6 cylinder or V8. LOL

    In the '80s I had some acquaintances who's kid had a '64.5 6 cylinder Mustang. He took it to a diagnostic lane here in town and they told him it needed a valve grind. He asked me what thought and I said it probably just needs points. He said what are those? So I opened his distributer and showed him his burnt points. Then we went to the local NAPA and bought a set of Blue Streaks for 4 bucks and I put them in and showed him how to set the gap. Then went back to the diagnostic lane with him and got his 40 dollars back. :D

    no 4 dollar points any more. :eek:
     
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  5. Truck64
    Joined: Oct 18, 2015
    Posts: 3,559

    Truck64
    Member
    from Ioway

    The old OEM points and condenser people throw away are better than the some of the shit that the 'zone sells these days. I bet a lot of ignition coils get replaced unnecessarily too. Old school electrical parts are almost always made of better materials.
     
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  6. porknbeaner
    Joined: Sep 12, 2003
    Posts: 41,049

    porknbeaner
    Member

    You can still buy good points and condensers. I use Echlin parts they cost a little more but they are good pieces, you can still get platinum points from Echlin.
     
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  7. plym_46
    Joined: Sep 8, 2005
    Posts: 3,801

    plym_46
    Member
    from central NY

    On my flathead six, I always pull the dist. and do any work on the bench or in the vise. Always give them a swipe or two with the points file. Set the rub block on the high point of the cam, adjust to spec with a feeler gauge. Then I check each cam lobe to see f there is any excessive wear. Then lube the felt and reinstall the distributor. Instead of changing to electronic stuff, I carry a fully set up back up dist in my travel box. Any ignition problems are addressed by pulling the dist. dropping in number two and carrying on. Then I can diagnose the primary on the bench.

    The last time I got points I got them through car quest jobber. Still made in USA, not China, Mexico, or Tiawan, got three sets.
     
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  8. slowmotion
    Joined: Nov 21, 2011
    Posts: 3,047

    slowmotion
    Member

    Yep, freshened up the dual-point a couple of yrs ago. (been yrs, kept the old stuff :D)Echlin premium 48 oz. X2, + condensers, to the tune of $50 or so IIRC. :eek::eek::eek:
    Only shocking when you're old enough to remember paying $10 or so, for the same....:(
     
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  9. porknbeaner
    Joined: Sep 12, 2003
    Posts: 41,049

    porknbeaner
    Member

    We made a trip from Forest Grove, Oregon to San Francisco, then to Reno up into Idaho, then across to Washington and back to Oregon in a '53 Merc one summer when I was in high school. The only thing we had to do on the entire trip was change a set of points, I could not find the feeler gauge but I had a match book and that got us home just fine. It really isn't rocket science in the car or out of the car.

    One of the things that we do is overthink it. Once you get it in your head that an engine or a car is nothing more than nuts n bolts it becomes a lot easier.
     
  10. 5window
    Joined: Jan 29, 2005
    Posts: 6,773

    5window
    Member

    Where do you find new matchbooks? I use a dwell meter-and feeler gauges sometimes.

    I just don't know what the HAMB is coming to-over 40 posts and no one has even mentioned a hammer or a torch! :)
     
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  11. henryj1951
    Joined: Sep 23, 2012
    Posts: 2,306

    henryj1951
    Member
    from USA

    Just installed new points in the *ol* henryJ actually BYeyeBALL ....
    .

    I like them SET tight, so when they, wear (pit) out a little, a quick file brings em back to life....
    .

    Dwell meter reads 32* points are tight, dwell reads 28* points are wide...
    but within that range its ALL good.
    .
    Of course the good *ol* allen wrench adjusting tool with flat blade carb adjust tool, (picture provided) can be used to set the standard chevy points behind lift up WINDOW while RUNNING.
    will be back with pictures of mine(i gota make the pic jpeg not html...? somehow)

    .

    dwell gap.gif
     
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  12. plym_46
    Joined: Sep 8, 2005
    Posts: 3,801

    plym_46
    Member
    from central NY

    We suffered no power rough running,the finally a stall on a trip home from Florida years ago in an old BMW 1800. Pulled the cap to check for spark at the points (see ignition trouble shooting 101 from 10th grade auto shop) noticed the lack of proper gap, set same with a doubled piece of the back cover of the Rand McNally analog navigation assistant. Vroom, vroom and away.

    You can't get a do it yourself limp home mode with this new fangled stuff. It's all 1's or 0's, and when it comes up zero, ain't much you can do on the shoulder of the road except wait for the roll back.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2017
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  13. cvstl
    Joined: Apr 15, 2009
    Posts: 1,422

    cvstl
    Member
    from StL MO
    1. H.A.M.B. Chapel

    No kidding......
     
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  14. tubman
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 4,363

    tubman
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    I have done this. I have available just such a capacitor packaged to look just like an old Mallory"Trash Can" condenser. I have had test units on the road for almost two years with quite a bit of success. I have not been "pushing" them, because I want to be absolutely sure that the units are stone dead reliable before I do that. Initially, I had a problem with a failure on a car with a generator and solid plug wires, but that was solved when one of the capacitor manufacturers came out with a "severe duty" capacitor that would withstand up to 1250 volts and 250 degrees centigrade. The condensers look "right" on an original Mallory dual point, but they can also be bolted to the outside of most regular distributors. Anyone interested can PM me here. BTW, The car pictured in the engine shot is my '51 Ford Club Coupe. It has a 6 volt system, a generator (naturally), and solid core plug wires.
    IMG_0977.JPG
    IMG_0827.JPG
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2017
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  15. Truck64
    Joined: Oct 18, 2015
    Posts: 3,559

    Truck64
    Member
    from Ioway

    0.22 MFD is the capacitance standard value available today. I know they will "work" but 0.22 is close enough for V8? Might be cool to see the waveform on a scope. The el-cheapo overseas condensers are junk. Lots of leakage probably means weak spark.
     
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  16. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 43,429

    squirrel
    Member

    I put a .22 uF 1000 v capacitor from Cornell Dublier in my Chevy II about a year and a half ago, it's been driven a lot since then, working fine. It is just hanging on the side of the Mallory dual point. It's in a blown 427, it ran pretty damn good on Drag Week last week, 10.08 to 10.24 ETs, at 131 mph or so. Still driving home...another 500 miles to go. covered over 3500 miles so far in about 12 days.

    The points were in the distributor when I got it (used), I have not even looked at them for well over a year.
     
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  17. It has been too long to remember exactly, but the way a person could tell if the condenser value was correct, was to look at what side of the points there was a build up. I can't remember which side correlated to the high value of the condenser, but because of the variability in the manufacturing process, you can only apply the result of the test to that particular condenser.
    If a person has an ESR tester, (effective series resistance), it is easily possible to check the condition of the condenser.
    Almost any digital volt/ohmmeter nowadays has the capability of testing capacitors (condensers). Just make certain that the condenser is fully discharged, by grounding it to itself, before connecting it for the test.
     
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  18. tubman
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 4,363

    tubman
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Excuse me "Truck64", but I am confused. What are to trying to say in your last post? Is .22 MFD correct or not? After testing a whole bunch of "regular" condensers, I came to the conclusion that a value in the low twenties was most appropriate. What does running on a V8 have to do with it? The value of the condenser has to do with running as a harmonious part of a "tuned" system. I think the characteristics of the coil have the most to do with the capacitance needed. When I was doing this, I bought a couple NOS Mallory condensers in their original boxes. They uniformly tested out at .36 MFD. "Bubba" here recommends a .36 MFD condenser as well. I think that this may be because dual points require more in the way of capacitance than single points. I plan on offering a .36 MFD version if the .22 MFD units allow excessive point wear on dual point units. At this time, I do not have enough information to make the final decision on this. I do know that the condenser that came on the Mallory dual point in my car was .22 MFD. I bought it new about 15 years ago.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017
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  19. fordcragar
    Joined: Dec 28, 2005
    Posts: 3,180

    fordcragar
    Member
    from Yakima WA.

    That's the way I was taught many years ago in a tune up class.
     
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  20. 03GMCSonoma
    Joined: Jan 15, 2011
    Posts: 182

    03GMCSonoma
    Member

    I second this approach. If I remember correctly, matchbooks were about .035" thick. Always worked for me.
     
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  21. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 25,521

    Mr48chev
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    I can't believe it took to the 12th frigging answer before someone actually told him how to adjust a set of points.
    This is a very traditional 216 Chevy distributor that I took the photo of several years ago when someone asked how to set the points on one. You can see the rubbing block on the point arm making contact with the tip of one of the lobes of the distributor cam as slowmotion said it should. You can see the gap between the points.
    As several said it is a learning event to get the right touch with a feeler gauge.
    [​IMG]
    I still use the dwell meter to get it right after setting them and for a long time didn't use a feeler gauge at all on tune ups eyeballing the points when I put them in and then checking the dwell and making the adjustment. If you are going to use a dwell meter anyhow the initial setting of the points is good but not absolutely critical. It does make you feel good when you get it right the first time though.
     
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  22. southcross2631
    Joined: Jan 20, 2013
    Posts: 2,914

    southcross2631
    Member

    I still use a feeler gauge and my Snap On dwell meter. I had to replace the leads because the insulation dry rotted and fell off the wire. I bought it in the late 70's and it still works fine.
    We turned 9 grand with our small block gasser with points. Old corvette tach drive cast dist. with Accel points and coil. What's wrong with points ? Most people are just too lazy to spend the time to make sure they are adjusted right and aligned. They will run a long time.
    A worn distributor is what gives points a bad wrap and off shore replacement parts. Rebuild your dist. with new bushings and buy name brand parts and you will get miles of trouble free use out of a set of points.
    Being too big to reach the dist. on a Chevy is not the fault of the dist. or the manufacturer. It is a self inflicted handicap.
     
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  23. Truck64
    Joined: Oct 18, 2015
    Posts: 3,559

    Truck64
    Member
    from Ioway

    Right I was thinking maybe the condenser size in capacitance is different the same way the point gap is sometimes different with Sixes. MoToRs Repair shows most condensers going way back from .20 to .25 MFD. The book sez the condenser prevents points from arcing, and acts as a shock absorber for the ignition system. Without it, the engine won't run right? But have had people tell me they've had an engine run without a condenser. Probably not very well.
     
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  24. tubman
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 4,363

    tubman
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    I have tried it once or twice, and it never worked for me. I put in a condenser, and they started right up. Thanks for clearing up the capacitance question.
     
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  25. Atwater Mike
    Joined: May 31, 2002
    Posts: 9,773

    Atwater Mike
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    "But how do you know the feeler gauge setting is right?" Many 'newbys' ask this question, but most can be taught the 'feel' of the gauge s-l-i-d-i-n-g thru the points...
    Yes, matchbook covers are .014-.015". NOT .035".
    After checking for point alignment, I always 'polish' contacts with points closed, then run #600 wet or dry paper thru a few times. The contact spring is enough for the right pressure...Then set point contact bracket to spec with rubbing block on the 'high' side. (top of the lobe, obviously)
    If doing this in the car, I loosen the dist. hold down bolt to fine-tune the center of the distributer lobe to rubbing block. Easier than turning the crankshaft with belt tension, etc. After the point setting, the timing can be set AFTER checking dwell.

    An old flathead racer told me if 'on the road', to set points with the matchbook cover, and gap the plugs with a dime. (outer rim part)
    Auto shop 1 teacher Mr. Gillespie said when (if) you earn Journeyman status, look in the other fellow's toolbox. If he has feeler gauges that are curled like Alladin's slippers, avoid any advice this fellow has to offer.
    This would pertain to valve gap settings, but 'feeler gauge feel' is as accurate as you 'feel'... (lotta feelings there)
    Much thanks to Tubman and Truck for their in depth look into Microfarads...with the low quality of condensers today, it's 'available ammunition'.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017
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  26. RR
    Joined: Nov 30, 2008
    Posts: 86

    RR
    Member

    The time or two that I have set the gap on points, I had success using the box top from the box the points came in. Ran pretty good after install.
     
    els likes this.
  27. On GM, cars a match book cover.
     
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  28. els
    Joined: Sep 11, 2016
    Posts: 361

    els
    Member

    HOW TO SET POINTS?, remove points and SET points on the bench, Install electronic distributor. LOL. SORRY, SMART ASS DAY.
     
  29. SHARKO
    Joined: Mar 7, 2010
    Posts: 70

    SHARKO
    Member

    After many years with points i n my 57 Olds I went back to NAPA to get some new Echlins. They came with the condenser attached and in the way instead of remote. So you can not use a feeler gauge or a matchbook. So I got them open enough to get it to run and bought a dwell meter. Turning the adjustment at idle I get 42 degrees of dwell where it runs well. STOP. If you get dwell readings this high your ground has slipped off the battery. I've got 30 now
    My real problem is fumes. I've just redone the carbs and checked to make sure the jets weren't drilled [57 center and 55 ends]. 5 lbs of fuel pressure. Idle screws out 1 1/4 turns. Any ideas?
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2018
  30. Bill Nabors
    Joined: Jul 24, 2011
    Posts: 270

    Bill Nabors
    Member

    I align points and then I use a wire feeler guage. Learned that at the Harley school.
     

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