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Ignition Timing Issue

I have a 1982 Ford Granada with a 3.8L V6 engine. It has an old-fashioned distributor with a cap, rotor and vacuum advance mechanism. I can’t seem to find any provision for loosening and rotating the distributor in order to adjust the ignition timing. Nor can I find a timing scale alongside the crankshaft pulley. Can the ignition timing be manually adjusted in this engine? Or, is it computer-controlled like the modern vehicles?

If it has a vacuum unit, then it’s not computer controlled…Look down where the distributor goes into the block. There will be a forked plate holding it in position, the plate being secured by one bolt. Frequently, a special dog-leg wrench is needed to loosen this bolt allowing the distributor to rotate…There will be a timing mark on the harmonic balancer that lines up with some more marks on the timing cover…Clean it up and look closely…

Sometimes it is easier to find the timing mark by looking at the harmonic balancer and crank pulleys from the bottom. You can see an arc of about 90 to 120 degrees from this angle as opposed to 20 or 30 looking down from the top. Sometimes the mark is a notch on a pulley but most of the time it is on the harmonic balancer.

While this is older, you can see the distributor hold down on the front right side where the distributor enters the block.

I thank all of you for your help. Please forgive my ignorance for my next question. What is a harmonic balancer and where is it located?

I suggest that you look at the emission sticker under the hood and it will explain how the ignition timing should be adjusted. It will show that the timing is set at certain RPM. So not only will you need a timing light but also a hand-held tach to adjust the idle speed down on the carburator specified on the emission sticker.

If you don’t have the tach to this, the timing can’t be set correctly.


The harmonic balancer is part of the pulley that drives the belt/s. Located on the front end of the crankshaft.
The picture above is a V8 but I think the V6 will look the same.

The ignition timing mark will probably be a notch in the side of the crankshaft pulley. I used to ill mine with a drop of white enamel.

The harmonic balancer is in the front of the crankshaft behind the crank pulley. Its fuction is to smooth ouyt the erratic nature of the rotational pulses in the crankshaft. The crankshaft force is pulsed as the pistons fire. It does this thusly: it’s basically a rubber piece between the crank and the pulley. When the twisting puplse is applied to the crankshaft by the piston, th erubber center of the harmonic damper absorbs some of the force, enabling the pulley to “lag” behind a bit. Then, as the twisting pulse from the crankshaft subsides, the rubber releases the force it has absorbed into pulley, turning it. This creates a smoother operation in the pulley and all of its connected systems, and also acts as a counterbalance to the pulsed forces applied to the crankshaft by reintroducing the energy into the crankshaft out of phase with the power pulses. If this device is bad, you’ll experience shaking of the engine, in some cases violent.

Ecavctly what are the symptoms you’re experiencing? Perhaps we can offer some other suggestions.

Your motor is essentially a 289 V8 minus 2 cylinders to make a V6. There could be so much plumbing for the anti-pollution systems that the timing pointer and marks on the crankshaft are hard to see. The bolt at the bottom of the distributor should be easy to spot, perhaps hard to get a wrench on but easy to see.