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How to attach timing light and set timing for accord?

I am borrowing a timing light and it has a dial with degrees on it. The dial starts at slightly below zero. (Is it supposed to or is it not calibrated properly?) (It is a CarQuest Inductive Advance CPE 30385 model.) One person told me to hook the black cable with alligator clip to the neg battery terminal, the red to battery positive and the inductive pickup around the battery cable.

Isn’t the pickup supposed to go around the number 1 spark plug wire?

Then they said to turn the dial until the strobe stays lit and that is the degrees on the timing.

That doesn’t sound right either if I am supposed to look for different marks and/or how they appear to align depending on how the distributor is turned.

Mine is supposed to be 15degrees +/- 2degrees BTDC (Red)

Do you know what the variation in degrees is when the distributor is turned all the way to one side then all the way to the other? - What is the range?

Can you still get it out of time when you take the distributor off and put it so that it is in the same place (not slid slightly right or left in the adjustment slots - as before you took it off?

What different types of marks would I be looking for - not just a pointer - correct?

Does the pointer align with a specific other mark?

Thanks a lot.

Are you absolutely sure that the timing on your Accord is adjustable?
What is the model year of this car?

yes - the distributor is slotted so that you can bolt it on and not tighten entirely and turn it one way to advance, the other to retard
89 LXi (fuel injected)

The timing light is hooked up black lead to the negative battery terminal, red lead to the battery positive terminal, and inductive clamp over the #1 spark plug wire. There may be an arrow on the inductive clamp to show which way it should point.

Consult your maintenence manual as to where the timing marks are and if you need to set the ECM into base timing mode. The timing marks are usually on the crankshaft damper with a pointer on the timing belt covers. I usually put ‘white out’ on the target mark for better visibility, i.e. 15 degrees. With the engine running at the appropriate RPM, squeeze the trigger and point the strobe light at the timing pointer. Have the dial on zero. If the timing is correct the pointer will line up with the white mark. If not adjust the distributor base until it is. If you want to use the TDC mark, dial in 15 degrees and line up with that reference.

If you are meticulous about realigning the distributor, you probably will not be far off on a removal and reinstall. If you are installing a new/rebuilt distributor, the tolerance of the internals may cause the timing to be off more.

Hope that helps.

The timing marks are on the flywheel, under a rubber plug where the engine and tranny meet.
You clamp to the #1 plug wire.
Look on the hood for a sticker with the recommended timing.
Two way to do it:

  1. Set the timing light dial to zero and look for the marks on the flywheel with the recommended setting +/- 2 degrees. Set the distributor accordingly.

  2. Set the timing light dial to the desired value and set the dist. to the TDC mark.

My '89 fuel injected Accord was 15 BTDC, nothing disconnected. I think carb was 20 BTDC.

Your first step when checking the timing should be to locate the service connector (under the hood or dash) and run a jumper wire on that.

Failure to do so will throw the timing way off, and depending on just how way off can create some serious problems.

Look at the underhood sticker on the car. The timing spec should be on there along with a note about the service connector.

(And yes, removing a distributor and putting it back in the exact same position does not mean the timing will not change. It may be close but considering a little movement alters the timing a lot why take chances.)

Not knowing the year of the accord, just in case some old like me models had a vacuum advance that needed the vacuum hose disconnected to check timing. Go to a library if you need to make sure you do it right. Aaahh timing by ear, a lost art.

Just remember… If you remove the distributor, mark the position of the distributor AND the position of the rotor! I suggest lining up the timing mark on TDC and then marking your distributor and rotor. By the way, why would you want to remove the distributor?

Mine is an 89 LXi fuel injected with vacuum advance. I took it off to replace the distributor O-ring between it and the block (I didn’t know how to get to the bigger O-ring within the body of the distributor). I am really thinking this timing light is broken. I last tried to take the vacuum advance vacuum hoses. put the red to battery positive, the induction around #1, and the black to the car body for ground. Did not see any marks whatsoever. When it was hooked up red to batt pos, black to bat. neg and inductor around battery neg, at least saw some marks although that cannot have been hooked up correctly.

Felt exactly where it was before I loosened dist bolts, and put back exactly like that.

One person said to start with #1 in the up position - to bump the engine till it is up. I didn’t. I just put it back like I found it…but no oil leaks now!

I did. I did the rotor with tape and felt where exactly the distributor was on where it mounts. I don’t know how to line it up on TDC. Same as #1 all the way up?

  1. to change O-ring to stop oil leak
  2. to get to thermostat housing bolt to change D-ring there
    far side bolt was too tough to get though

89 Yes has vacuum advance. Service manual said to disconnect and plug vacuum hoses to advance. Seems that the timing light is kaput though. so I have had to guess. I do wonder what too advanced and too retarded sounds like