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Reasons for distributor replacement?

I’ve owned cars with distributors since the late 1960’s. In fact I’ve never had a vehicle that didn’t have one, including my two present vehicles, both distributor equipped. I’ve never had to replace a distributor. They seem to be pretty much bullet-proof from my experience. sure the ignition points, condenser, sensors, cap, rotor might need replacement. But the entire distributor? The curious thing is, I see here that distributor replacement is a pretty common way to return an engine to proper performance. So what typically goes wrong with a distributor that requires replacing the entire thing?


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I always oil that pad at the top of the dist shaft whenever I have the cap off, typically every 6 months to a year. Does oiling that pad decrease the chance of shaft play developing?

The only reason I’ve ever replaced a complete distributor was for excessive play in the shaft due to worn bushings.

No. The bushing that centers the shaft wears.

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That oiling keeps the centrifugal advance lubricated.

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My 71 Nova and 72 f100 made it till 93 without a distributor replacement. A little pill of cam grease came with the points where I bought them. Ford was dead to rust, Nova was an oil burner, Job with moved a instead of a 5 mile commute it was a 45 mile commute and traded them in on a toyota truck. Thinking the ford truck was 90k miles, but so rusted it felt like in a turn the front and rear were going different directions. Probably a bad head gasket in the Nova, foamy oil filler cap, but for some reason it was leaking oil on the front of the block through a large hole in the center of the block just under the valve covers, and yes I just stuck a sock in it. 150k I believe. If I would have kept it I would have put a used or rebuilt engine in it, but as the office moved and 5 mile commute vs the new 45 mile commute did not seem feasable. I did it for a month or so and the nova was up to a quart every 250 miles, did not smoke though.

Is there something I should be doing to better keep the bushing lubed? And why replace the entire distributor? What about just replacing the bushing when it wears out?

Not sure if this warrants replacement, but on my '79 Celica, one governor spring (advance mechanism) is worn. Can’t get a new one from Toyota. When I manually rotate the rotor clockwise, its sluggish to return to previous position.

The bushing is not replaceable in some designs, not sure if some are.

Because 95% of the time, if the bushing is worn, the distributor shaft is also worn.



Possible in some distributors but most don’t have the tools or skills. And they are cheap to replace. Sort of like rebuilding water pumps.

I have never had to replace a distributor. Haven’t had one in any of my street cars since 2001. Still had one in my race car in 2010 when I sold it but it was a 1985 based engine.


Because pressing in new bushings requires some very specialized equipment.

Good info above. This is like Distributor 101 class. What about tricks to keep the bushing from wearing out in the first place? Anything practical? Is that bushing splashed with oil as the engine runs, or is it a dry bushing, pre-lubed when manufactured for its expected life?

It’s splashed with engine oil from below. In fact, one of the symptoms of a bad bushing is oil getting onto the points.

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In my case, it is leaking oil internally. So I’ll be looking for one at the junkyard that looks clean. Oil accumulates in my distributor cap and then drips out the spark plug wire connector (it’s horizontally mounted).

What is your car?

The reason I’m asking is because there are some companies out there that sell re-seal kits for certain distributors on transverse fwd engines

It’s the 1994 Celica with the 7AFE engine (basically a 2-dr Corolla :wink:

I’m trying to find on ToyotaNation a supposed procedure for replacing the internal seals. I’ve already replaced the O-ring that keeps oil from leaking out at the connection to the head.

Is this what you need?

Depends how long you keep a car and the environment it’s in. I’ve bought cars with advance mechanisms completely frozen, bushings worn out, lobes shot, weak springs, you name it. Replaced a couple, resurrected most. Replaced some perfectly working units to upgrade to newer ignition systems (points to hei for example)