Are there any cars that still use an old-fashioned distributor with the ignition sensor located under the rotor? Or, is it a thing of the past? I just don’t like those crankshaft sensors for the ignition. They’re not owner replaceable.
Distributor based ignition systems are a thing of the past.
Crankshaft sensors are, in fact, owner replaceable. It can be a bear to get to them on transverse mounted engines, but they’re replaceable. They’re also far more reliable, longer lasting, and maintenance free than distributors. And, with COP (coil-on-plug) ignition systems, arcing of spark plug wires is a thing of the past too. I believe there are some V8 engines with individual coils mounted on the side of the engine that still use plug wires (my neighbor had a truck set up like that), but for the most part they’re gone.
If you think modern systems are a pain, it’s a good thing you weren’t around when points were the norm. Especially on cars that had no “adjustment window” on the distributor cap. We’d start by setting the point gap with feeler gages, then measure the dwell angle, remove the cap, make an adjustment, and measure again… every 10,000 miles. Only after tweaking the points could be set the ignition timing. And moisture could get into the distributors and kill the motor. I got stuck in a blizzard in Syracuse NY once and there were four of us stuck in the same area on the highway. The extreme high winds and extremely cold snow was letting the ice crystals find their way into the distributors.
Crank sensors are amazingly reliable considering the heat, vibration, and oil residue the’re subjected to even in spite of their comparatively delicate construction.
Not all crank sensors are difficult to access. Some are, some aren’t. The sensor on my Lincoln is right up front; easy to see and easy to lay a hand on. Unfortunately, not enough room is allowed to pull it out of the hole so the A/C compressor must be unbolted (not easy) and moved aside.
My oldest son’s Camaro with the 3.8 is right there; five minutes tops to swap it out.
Crank/cam sensors are also very simple devices: just a small coil and a magnet.
Not much to go wrong there.
Not owner replaceable? Some ae hard to get to, true. And some need a learn cycle once replaced. But, they are typically held in place with one bolt and a wire connector. And they are much more reliable than a distributor with a cap and rotor.
Let’s not forget that there were certain vehicles out there with a distributor AND a crank sensor
Not sure about new cars, but there are plenty of cars on the road that use a conventional distributor, with the sensing function occurring inside the distributor, either via a magnetic switch or in the case of older cars with a mechanical switch, points.
My early 90’s Corolla has a conventional distributor and a magnetic switch inside. My 70’s Ford truck uses a conventional distributor and mechanical points.
Too many moving parts and service-needed items in a distributor to make them practical anymore. They take up space, have the potential to leak oil, and can be expensive to service or replace. A simple crank sensor, cam sensor, and computer controlled ignition is far more reliable and durable.
I’m still trying to get over the idea that an “old fashioned” distributor had an ignition sensor in it.
Just today I got a thank you card in the mail from a customer.
“Thank you for the work you just did on my Dodge van. You overhauled the carburetor and it’s working great. It’s an old car but you got it running just like it should. Thank you for your work.”
It’s always nice to get a thank you like that, but what the man didn’t know is that the whole time I was grumbling about hard to find carb parts, miles of vacuum hoses and valves, and digging to find those old carburetor tools somewhere. Fuel injection and computer controls are so much better.
Oldtimer, “old fashioned” is a relative term. To a young kid, “old fashioned” means from the '80s.