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Technical Need help with setting Distributor in SBC 350 HEI

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by BuLLeTCoLeKToR, Feb 2, 2018.

  1. Aloha forum, love the feedback you all provide for others, so i am starting here. My 1955 Chevy truck has a HEI distributor that my dad and i pulled out while forgetting to mark its relationship to the manifold...and now, i cant get it set correctly. Here is where it stands as i type this question.
    I pulled the valve cover on the drivers side and pulled all spark plug wires to hand crank the pulley to verify that the engine is at TDC, it is set perfectly on TDC and the Harmonic balancer verifies this on every crank that i did (i have cranked the engine by hand to make sure it always lands on a specific point when the balled up paper spit ball blows out the #1 cylinder...and it is on point!) i have then meshed the distributor to have the rotor point to #1 cylinder at TDC and i have pictures to prove this...but yet i cannot get it to start. Prior to removing the distributor, it ran fine...but was missing...so we bought new wires and installed everything as it stands now and i cannot get it to start...i have fuel, spark and compression...just no VROOM! my guess is the HEI distributor failed...but it was working fine. I also have new plugs in! Help me please :(
     

    Attached Files:

  2. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 38,774

    squirrel
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    When the rotor is pointing to the #1 cylinder, is it also pointing to the #1 plug wire on the distributor cap?
     
  3. Yes, that is what is driving me crazy...i dont think it could be lined up any better than what it is, i even tried turning the distributor either way and no start, when i counter turn the distributor, it sort of sputters, like it wants to start...but no vroom
     
  4. Truck64
    Joined: Oct 18, 2015
    Posts: 1,770

    Truck64
    Member
    from Here

    There are two TDCs. Be sure the engine #1 piston is the compression stroke Not the exhaust stroke. Very common error!

    If everything is correct, check for bright fat spark; no yellow or red?
     
    Truckdoctor Andy and slim38 like this.
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  5. slim38
    Joined: Dec 27, 2015
    Posts: 163

    slim38
    Member
    from Sudan TX
    1. H.A.M.B. Chapel

    Are all your spark plug wires in the correct order? 18436572
     
  6. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 38,774

    squirrel
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Just curious, when you have cranked it over by hand with the valve cover off, did you stop with the engine timing pointer at TDC and both #1 rocker arms NOT moving? and then check that the rotor is pointing at #1 on the cap.

    And yeah, the firing order....if you post a picture of the engine with the cap in place, we can double check it.

    Also after all that farting around, do the plugs look black and soggy? if so, then get everything set as good as you can, and put fresh plugs in it. Sometimes, new plugs will get fouled from having things wrong, then when you finally get them right, it still won't start because the plus are so fouled.
     
    Atwater Mike likes this.
  7. I did verify that the exhaust and intake valve are closed and on the compression stroke by paying attention to the valves on cylinder #1..., put spit ball in spark plug opening on #1, wadded paper ball blew out of cylinder #1 and finally brought the Harmonic balancer to 0...
     
  8. Yes sir
     
  9. slim38
    Joined: Dec 27, 2015
    Posts: 163

    slim38
    Member
    from Sudan TX
    1. H.A.M.B. Chapel

    How about loose connection on distributor cap plug? Just a guess.
     
  10. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 38,774

    squirrel
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    It would be a good idea to check for spark, too. The GM suggested method is to use a spark plug with the ground electrode cut off, hold the plug body on a metal part on the engine, connect a plug wire to it, and crank the engine. If it sparks across that extra wide gap, then it should have sufficient spark energy to run the engine.

    Another tip: keep the air cleaner in place on the engine. So you don't catch stuff on fire, like your eyebrows, or the car and shop.
     
    BuLLeTCoLeKToR likes this.
  11. Yes, i cranked the engine by hand and watched both arms stop moving, then kept going to 0 on harmonic balancer. I just bought the spark plugs but can by another set. Here is a pic of the cap...
     

    Attached Files:

  12. Yeah, i made sure wires are tight and connected correctly...i feel like she wants to start, it just rumbles for a sec, and then thats it...
     
  13. slim38
    Joined: Dec 27, 2015
    Posts: 163

    slim38
    Member
    from Sudan TX
    1. H.A.M.B. Chapel

    Hard to tell but on the pic it looks like you went clockwise with wire and it should be counter clock wise.
     
  14. On a SBC 350? I thought it was clock wise...
    1,8,4,3,6,5,7, 2 or am i missing something, could it be that easy?
     
  15. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 38,774

    squirrel
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    It's clockwise...like it's supposed to be!
     
  16. slim38
    Joined: Dec 27, 2015
    Posts: 163

    slim38
    Member
    from Sudan TX
    1. H.A.M.B. Chapel

    It's been a while since I worked on one but my mind tells me counter. Try it it won't hurt nothing. Maybe my minds playing tricks on me.
     
  17. tb33anda3rd
    Joined: Oct 8, 2010
    Posts: 12,806

    tb33anda3rd
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    1. Connecticut HAMB'ers

  18. tb33anda3rd
    Joined: Oct 8, 2010
    Posts: 12,806

    tb33anda3rd
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    1. Connecticut HAMB'ers

    did you happen to delete the wire coming back from the starter?
     
  19. No, the wires are just not connected, just connected the cap to the distributor for reference of spark plug wire representation.
     
  20. Guy's, this is one of many videos i have been referencing...
    I apologize if posting youtube vids is shunned upon...
     
  21. I guess you know that the control module is not hooked up in the photos. Also without the coil cap in place , you have to hold the coil connectors down to plug in the module, including the coil (-) clip , plugged in firmly.
    Just checking.
     
  22. tb33anda3rd
    Joined: Oct 8, 2010
    Posts: 12,806

    tb33anda3rd
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    1. Connecticut HAMB'ers

    is it getting spark while cranking?
     
  23. Ebbsspeed
    Joined: Nov 11, 2005
    Posts: 4,061

    Ebbsspeed
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Clockwise is correct, and it appears you have the wires in the right order, with #1 tower connected to #1 wire, IF you installed the distributor as the video shows, with the rotor contact pointing towards the #1 cylinder. Normally the #1 tower, at least on older SBC's, is more towards the passenger side of the engine (USA passenger side, not UK) but that's not a hard and fast rule. The #1 tower can be anywhere, as long as the wires are connected in a clockwise fashion, 1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2. Your plugs may be fouled, check for a fat blue spark.
     
  24. southcross2631
    Joined: Jan 20, 2013
    Posts: 2,179

    southcross2631
    Member

    I got a motor home in one time at a shop I worked at that ran but not well. The owner said he had another shop put a timing chain in and they had trouble setting the timing, after checking it out and finally figuring out that they had put the timing chain instead of dot to dot . They installed it wrong and had to put the distributor in 180 out to get it to run. Hence the timing marks not showing up.
    So I pulled the front off the motor and lined up the timing chain correctly it ran like it should and the timing marks were in the right spot with a timing light. Just a thought.
    It sounds like you have late timing and it will try to run ,but not quite or you have power to the dist in the start position on your key switch and no power in the run position.
     
  25. tfeverfred
    Joined: Nov 11, 2006
    Posts: 15,598

    tfeverfred
    Member

    That's what I noticed in the first pic. That distributor doesn't look like it's in the right position.
     
  26. deathrowdave
    Joined: May 27, 2014
    Posts: 849

    deathrowdave
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    from NKy

    It has been many years after I have played with GM stuff . I think he is 180 off . May not be but I susppose that is the issue . HEI has plenty of power to make some piping or strange noises if it is working and just out of time .
     
  27. Dooley
    Joined: May 29, 2002
    Posts: 2,426

    Dooley
    Member
    from Buffalo NY

    Would it matter if his static timing is 0 degrees?
    I'm thinking that's what he is at...I set my TDC at 8-10 before TDC to get me in the ballpark
    Can you identify that?
    Most sbc like anywhere from 8-14 degree timing to start
    Not sure you can turn the dizzy enough if your off that much... Hope this helps
     
  28. DDDenny
    Joined: Feb 6, 2015
    Posts: 8,529

    DDDenny
    Member
    from oregon

    Throw away the spitball and just have a buddy put his finger in number one hole.
    Then bump starter until it JUST blows pressue on finger, don't rotate engine any more.
    Then proceed as everybody has mentioned.
    BTW, do you know the history (builder) of engine?
    The wrong combination of timing tags and harmonic balancers can skew your numbers.
    Early 327's and late 327/350's used specific timing tags and balancers.
     
  29. So this is what i did yesterday, i put the wadded up paper ball in the #1 cylinder (front cylinder on drivers side) and hand cranked engine until it blew out...i then proceded to turn the engine by hand about 5 degrees before the TDC line (Zero) on the Harmonic balancer...pulled the distributor and meshed the gear in the distributor port and pointed the rotor some where between cylinder #1 and #3. Hand cranked engine around again and waited for air to blow out and proceeded to set the distributor 5 degrees before the line on the Harmonic balancer...the rotor is now just a bit before #1. I installed all the plugs and wiring, pointed #1 towards #1 cylinder and gave it a go...first crank! and it almost fired right up...it wants to start but still no cigar...
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2018
  30. This does make sense ,in my previous post, i wrote that turning the engine and setting the Harmonic balancer 5 degrees before hitting zero seems to be getting me closer to driving my 55, maybe 8 to 10 degrees is the sweet spot:)
     
    6-bangertim likes this.

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