No spark

I have a 1967 Cutlass. She ran great yesterday. Today she won’t start. I have spark coming out of the coil but no spark going to the plugs. Plugs and plug wires test good as well. Any help would be appreciated.

Have you’ve checked the points and condenser in the distributor?


No I haven’t. How do you check the condenser? Am I looking for a certain resistance? Would points be something that would fail on me all of a sudden?

Let me guess? You don’t have a dwell meter or a timing light?


How long have you had the old Cutlass? Tune ups on cars with points and condenser were frequent items. Points carry significant current and get pitted. After about 10K miles they are getting old. New points, rotor, and condenser were replaced about every 12K to 15K miles. If the points haven’t been replaced in years it is possible they could just fall apart. The condenser is more likely to fail suddenly.

Many of these old “points” ignitions have been replaced with after market electronic kits. I have a kit replacing the points in my ski boat (Ford 351 ci marine V8) that failed last summer. The plastic sending unit just fell apart.

Time to pull the distributor cap and see what’s going on in there. To set the points accurately you need a dwell meter; a feeler gauge is OK put not as accurate. Don’t forget to put some special grease on the cam lobe so the bumper on the points doesn’t wear prematurely. After replacing the points you need to reset the timing so a good bright timing light is needed too. If you don’t have these items already then it is likely your ignition system is in need of attention.

You say you have spark coming from the coil so now you need to check the rotor in the disty to make sure it is turning and making connection to the plug wire positions of the cap and the coil wire is ok.

When you say “I have spark coming out of the coil, but no spark going to the plugs”, the questions that raises include:

1: What color is the spark? Blue or yellow?
2: How did you detect the spark coming out of the coil? Was it with the coil wire?
3: How is the inside of the distributor cap? Is it pitted, hairline cracks, or carbon tracks from shorting?

As others have noted, the replacement interval for points, condenser, rotor, cap and copper plugs was about 12-15K miles. Ignition performance tended to degrade beyond that mileage - eventually leading up to running poorly or a no-start condition.

I recall, in that period, that wired were replaced every 30-50K miles.

My point here, if you haven’t changed the above components in a while, at least start with that, then post back.

A bad distributor cap, or condensation in the cap would be my first guess. Make sure the ignition wire is solidly connected to the coil and cap. If there is oil in the coil that is an indicator of a failing coil. Joe Mario color of spark is also a good test of the coils performance. Check the wire connections in the distributor and on the coil. Throw some parts at it, after making sure the rotor is turning when the engine is cranking. Ignition wire from the coil to the distributor cap, distributor cap, rotor, and condenser. If still no spark then points or connections. Points are not usually an all or none type of failure, but a slow decline in performance. Not a terribly expensive proposition.

IF you have spark out of the coil then FORGET about the points and condenser for a minute…at this point your issue resides in the distributor cap…more specifically THE ROTOR…replace the cap and rotor and drive your car with a big smile…