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1990 Toyota Camry Distributor Question

Hello Everyone,

I have a 1990 Toyota Camry Station wagon (6 cyl) and I need to replace the distributor. The vehicle is not running (and has been dead in my driveway for a few months now). I was driving down the road one day and all the lights came on and it stopped running. I have tried replacing a number of other parts and I am nearly positive that the distributor is the issue.

I had a neighbor helping me, but because of his new job he no longer able to help. I have a Haynes manual, but I am still unclear on some parts of the process. I know how to remove the old distributor, my question is this. When I am installing the new distributor how do I make sure that it is being installed correctly with regard to the timing etc…

Any advice/assistance anyone could offer would be greatly appreciated.


“I have tried replacing a number of other parts”

Changing parts can get expensive and frustrating.
You really need the help of someone who knows how to make tests and measurements.

“I am nearly positive that the distributor is the issue”

Have you tested for spark?

Thanks for your reply.

Fortunately I was able to try out some replacement parts without actually having to purchase them so it has not cost me anything (other than the distributor) thus far. It has been frustrating however. ; )

Yes, we (my heighbor and I) tested for spark and there is none whatsoever. My neighbor is a truck driver now, but he was formerly a mechanic so at this point (after we tested and checked some other things like the timing belt, the fuel pump, the coil etc…) I trust his diagnosis with regard to the distributor.

Oh, I definitely realize that I could use someone’s help–unfortunately I don’t really know anyone who can help me. That’s how I ended up posting here. : )

Doesn’t the Haynes manual have instructions for correctly installing the distributor?

no spark whatso ever is a sign not so much of a distributor problem as of a spark supply problem. your car has an igniter, and this is a typical symptom of a failed igniter. The coil can be fine, but the igniter will not allow the spark to be generated by the coil. It could also be something a simple as a bad lead from the coil to the distributor. When a distributor fails, and there is not spark, it can only be because the drive gear is stripped. That usually lead to problems that simply swapping out the distributor wont solve. There are other modes of distributor failure but they dont usually result in no spark, but in mistimed spark. What you need is a better diagnostic process, and only an experienced guy can give you that, such as a certified toyota mechanic. but good luck with this problem.

You can’t install the distributor incorrectly. The tabs that are on the distributor shaft that engage the camshaft are positioned eccentrically on the shaft. This means the distributor can only be mounted one way.


Thanks for your reply.

Initially (when we first began working on this) there was a little bit of a spark. I think as we kept trying things out the battery drained further and further and that’s how we may have ended up without any spark. Maybe not though. Thanks for all of your advice/insight. I’m going to try the distributor (since I already have it) and then after that if it doesn’t work I will probably have it towed to s shop and see what they can come up with.