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Hot Rods Timing Light Rant

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by jaw22w, Aug 14, 2020.

  1. jaw22w
    Joined: Mar 2, 2013
    Posts: 1,060

    jaw22w
    Member
    from Indiana

    A week ago I went to time my old T coupe. 350sbc. My 40 (at least) year old Actron timing light had given up the ghost. Damn it! OK, so I get on the internet to find a new one. There must be a company for every sbc ever built making those things. I end up deciding to get another Actron 'cause the old one lasted 40+ years. They still have a plain model like my old one. It just lights up when there's spark, no advance stuff. Well for about $10 more the digital model has the advance feature plus a tach. So I decided to bring my old ass into the 21st century and give it a try. Might be handy.
    UPS delivered it yesterday. The light doesn't seem to be as bright as the old one. OK, so turn the shop lights off. Then after about 30 minutes of engine idling with the occasional rev, I think I may have it figured out. But the engine was getting too warm to continue. So here I sit typing this while the fan cools it down.
    I have always marked my harmonic balancers by measuring the circumference with a stagger tape. For my SBC I divide the circumference by ten.... 36 degrees... and lay it out on the balancer. You can make any degree mark you want with this method. Or put a degree tape on it. Or lately all the balancers I have bought were already well marked. All this to say that the fancy dialback timing lights are not really needed, and I wish I had just bought the plain old "old school" timing light. I would have been done an hour ago.
    I know I'm a crusty 70 year old curmudgeon that just hates change. Especially all this new fangled digital electric crap that just won't last like our old junk. I'll bet this new light won't last 40 years.
    OK. Rant over.
    How many of you guys are like me?
     
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  2. Paul
    Joined: Aug 29, 2002
    Posts: 15,023

    Paul
    Editor

    Count me in.
    I use the timing light to do initial setting and to verify and track road tune adjustments.
    All my timing lights are yard sale finds,
    I'd take an old solid tested unit over the new lightweight junk they sell at the parts store any day.
     
    olscrounger and jaw22w like this.
  3. leon bee
    Joined: Mar 15, 2017
    Posts: 518

    leon bee
    Member
    from Arkansas!

    I bought one of them that has it's own batteries in it. I loved it. It lasted damn near two weeks and I threw it away.
     
    49ratfink, VANDENPLAS and jaw22w like this.
  4. jimmy six
    Joined: Mar 21, 2006
    Posts: 7,109

    jimmy six
    Member

    My old Sears gave up the ghost so I bought a dial style from HF. My son has used his dial for years and I got friendly with it, it’s a Proto. I have found I like the dial as the “0” or tdc is always a bigger line for me to see. If I want a total of 32* I set the dial there and rev the engine and can see the “O” line very plain. I’ve marked it with an old bottle of white out. I’ll move up a century every now and then...
     

  5. jaw22w
    Joined: Mar 2, 2013
    Posts: 1,060

    jaw22w
    Member
    from Indiana

    Hey! Tell me this. Can't I just set the advance to 0 degrees and read it just like the old light with no advance features?
     
    Moriarity likes this.
  6. mike matters
    Joined: May 1, 2015
    Posts: 76

    mike matters

    It's not meant to last

    Sent from my SM-A520W using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
     
    jaw22w likes this.
  7. jaw22w
    Joined: Mar 2, 2013
    Posts: 1,060

    jaw22w
    Member
    from Indiana


    Exactly my point!
     
  8. 2OLD2FAST
    Joined: Feb 3, 2010
    Posts: 2,721

    2OLD2FAST
    Member
    from illinois

    Yes , that's how I use mine most of the time , my biggest bitch is , the dial moves very easy , I.e.; I always forget to check to make sure its on zero
     
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  9. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 46,844

    squirrel
    Member

    I guess the sweet spot is a dial timing light from about 20 years ago...not a digital one, not an old simple one...

    I still have my Monkey Wards light from the mid 70s, it's not a clamp on, you have to remove the plug wire, and put the timing light connector between the plug and the wire (or the dist cap and the wire). I don't use it very often!

    Almost always, I use my 20some year old Sears light with the dial on it. Really handy for checking total timing, etc on engines that don't have all the degree marks on them (and the degree marks can be difficult to read, compared to Zero)
     
    bchctybob, Baumi, V8 Bob and 2 others like this.
  10. tubman
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 5,201

    tubman
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    I've had two "dial-back" timing lights and the both failed relatively early in their lives. I now just borrow my neighbor's battery operated light. I like it so well, I might just get one of my own.
     
  11. Moriarity
    Joined: Apr 11, 2001
    Posts: 19,142

    Moriarity
    SUPER MODERATOR
    Staff Member

    My snap on timing light (40 yrs old) still operates but the dial stopped working for the advance. like it was stated above, if you want 36 degrees total simply set the dial at 36 and rev the engine to 3000 or so and turn the dist until the timing mark is on the zero. as luck would have it a few years back I bought a Sears dial timing light at a swap for 5 bucks, works great. I was at another swap last week and bought an NOS one in the box for 20 bucks... it seems the older I get the more I seem to need backup vintage tools so I don't have to buy any modern crap

    D3E25BE6-F5AE-49BA-8F59-02B6A4209FA2.jpeg 49E6F39D-DD0A-4EA4-A5F8-AE8AF87EA484.jpeg
     
  12. greybeard360
    Joined: Feb 28, 2008
    Posts: 1,511

    greybeard360
    Member

    I bought my Cornwell dialback 20 years ago. It works great, when you are trying to diagnose an ignition problem it will let you know exactly how much the vacuum and mechanical advances are working. To have a tach readout on one would be a plus for that.

    Downside..... It doesn't play well with MSD6 boxes. It will be off as much as 15 degrees.

    Then I break out the old light.
     
  13. Callmaker
    Joined: Feb 17, 2020
    Posts: 75

    Callmaker
    Member

    I've had this one since 1987, still flashing like a charm
    [​IMG]
     
  14. badvolvo
    Joined: Jul 25, 2011
    Posts: 469

    badvolvo
    Member

    My old Snap on, dial type failed after 30? years or so.
    I bought a cheap one, worked once.
    So I sent my old one with the Snap On guy for overhaul. They fixed it, upgraded the light, new bigger clamp, and charged me a bundle. I was not thrilled with the price, but after using it just once, i was really glad to have it back. My engine guru told me "that was the best one they ever made, don't buy a new one." Snap on guy echoed that as well. Looking at the one above, maybe it was more than 30 years.
     
  15. Moriarity
    Joined: Apr 11, 2001
    Posts: 19,142

    Moriarity
    SUPER MODERATOR
    Staff Member


    Like this one? I bought it in 1979

    10D6DBC2-85EF-40EC-BA1F-12D59C6ADCF2.jpeg
     
  16. Paul
    Joined: Aug 29, 2002
    Posts: 15,023

    Paul
    Editor

    I have four, the old dial Craftsman gets used most, the Actron is a close second, Nieholf only used once to verify it actually works and the antique Sun has never worked for me but it's too cool to throw away.

    IMG_20200814_123844.jpg IMG_20200814_123949.jpg IMG_20200814_123934.jpg
     
    Moriarity likes this.
  17. Black_Sheep
    Joined: May 22, 2010
    Posts: 1,221

    Black_Sheep
    Member

    I have the same one, purchased in the early 80’s. It’s still in perfect shape except where the inductive clamp was laying on the hot header...
     
  18. I have the same one as well!


    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
     
  19. hotrodjack33
    Joined: Aug 19, 2019
    Posts: 1,116

    hotrodjack33
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Here's my timing light...a vacuum gauge.;) A vacuum gauge lets the engine tell you what it likes. A timing light is you trying to telling the engine what it SHOULD like.:D vac2.jpg
     
  20. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 46,844

    squirrel
    Member

    Curious...how do you check the distributor advance curve with a vacuum gauge?
     
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  21. lostone
    Joined: Oct 13, 2013
    Posts: 1,355

    lostone
    Member
    from kansas

    About 1982 I bought a dial back Mac tool timing light. Loved that thing.

    Had to have a dial as I didn't have access to a distributor machine anymore. And I always know what my timing numbers are both at idle and above 2200.

    Anyway around 2012 some dumbass broke into my shop and stole it with a few other tools. I kept it immaculate, after every use I wiped it and the cords down and back into its original plastic case...

    Now I just have a cheap basic digital adjustable one that was on the wall at the local orielly parts store...

    Sure do miss my Mac !!
     
  22. dodge35
    Joined: Feb 9, 2010
    Posts: 80

    dodge35
    Member
    from kentucky

    I have a Suntune timing light and it has worked flawlessly for over 30 years.
     
  23. Atwater Mike
    Joined: May 31, 2002
    Posts: 10,263

    Atwater Mike
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    A silly goose with a Flying A station in Santa Clara let my 'crew' and me use his shop and outside perimeter to prep our Fords for Fremont Drags...Regular Saturday afternoon 'til evening pastime.
    Eddie Q. had a '56 Tudor, 312, T85 box...Eddie was 'singin' in the rain', using Gene's electric timing light...Nice chrome (Niehoff? Allied? Can't remember) 120 Volt A/C light. Very bright. Suddenly...
    Eddie let out a yell, was shaking all over like Elvis Presley!
    I ran and kicked him sideways, the plug jerked out of the wall, Eddie fell into the puddle he'd been standing in...
    Nervous laughter all around after, but Eddie laughed least. He was shocked that a timing light could 'light him up'.
    Imagine: A metal gun, chrome, plugged into an A/C receptacle, with NO ground talon. Just a 2 wire plug.
     
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  24. Harv
    Joined: Jan 16, 2008
    Posts: 74

    Harv
    Member
    from Sydney

    I've got an old Vane timing light that is similar to that. Dad bought it when he did his apprenticeship in the 60's. No handle, just a cylinder to hold on to. No power leads - one lead plugs into #1 plug lead, and the other plugs into #1 sparkplug. Runs on high tension rather than +12V like the powered ones. The insulation is becoming a little worn... the kids refer to it as "the bitey timing light". They love watching me use it and jump every time it whacks me. If I can find it, I'll post a picture - shed is a mess after finishing one project and starting another.

    Cheers,
    Harv
     
    David Gersic likes this.
  25. hotrodjack33
    Joined: Aug 19, 2019
    Posts: 1,116

    hotrodjack33
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    First, the standard max vacuum and DON't back it off one inch, and mark the distributor. Next, hook up vacuum advance and take it up to about 2000 rpm, again check for max vacuum and mark the distributor again. Both marks you made will be very close, so I just split the difference. Test drive and make sure there's no ping.
     
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  26. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 46,844

    squirrel
    Member

    Mine is powered...but I do know about the unpowered one like that.
     
    Baumi likes this.
  27. 2OLD2FAST
    Joined: Feb 3, 2010
    Posts: 2,721

    2OLD2FAST
    Member
    from illinois

    LOL funny part is you still use it ? SMH !
     
  28. 2OLD2FAST
    Joined: Feb 3, 2010
    Posts: 2,721

    2OLD2FAST
    Member
    from illinois

    Thats hardly a " curve". To each his own ...
     
  29. 49ratfink
    Joined: Feb 8, 2004
    Posts: 17,842

    49ratfink
    Member
    from California

    if you have a 40 year old anything and have to replace it, you will be buying another in 5 years or less. I have two antique electric fans. both work fine... one is from the 1930's. seems like every two or 3 years I am replacing new fans I buy.... same thing with small heaters.
     
  30. Harv
    Joined: Jan 16, 2008
    Posts: 74

    Harv
    Member
    from Sydney

    Yeah... but it was Dad's tool, and it still works... mostly. I can't throw it away. The neighbours kids are building up a good vocabulary listening to me swear at it though....Lol.

    Managed to find it... it was hiding behind some stuff.

    bitey timing light.jpg

    Cheers,
    Harv
     
    Driver50x, bchctybob and williebill like this.

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