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Ignition Distributor Rehab


I have known of my bouncing timing mark for sometimes and have learned one of the root causes is ignition distributor shaft axial and/or rotational play. So I called well known distributor rebuilder and told me rebuild time is approximately 5 weeks including shipping both ways. I would have sent it to him if it was Winter season here in Ohio, but to do it now means I won’t be driving my "Ultimate Driving Machine" for 5 weeks. So I decided to take on the task and repair it myself.

I knew the distributor shaft has 0.040”axial play. The distributor is original to my 1976 BMW 2002 and part numbers stamped on distributor housing are: 0 213 170 164 // JFU 4

So, proceeded with setting engine at TDC (distributor cam aligned to distributor notch) then removed the distributor.

Here are steps for disassembly:

  • Remove contact breaker, capacitor, vacuum regulator and tabs holds distributor cap

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  • Next, note indents on distributor body where contact breaker resting on (3 places)

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  • From vacuum regulator opening, insert screw driver and pry contact breaker plate up at each indent locations.
  • Other option for plate removal per FAQ member ('76Mintgrun'02) feedback is "rotate the plate counter clockwise to release it from the indents in the housing."

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  • Disengage two springs from cam base posts and rotate springs outward. Force cam upward with two screwdriver until retaining clip is out of groove (do not remove felt inside cam hole before cam disengagement)


  • Move the cam upward. There was one trust washer under cam. Note a washer and O-ring clip under felt pad


  • Clamp up helical gear wheel in a vise (use piece of leather to protect gear surface) and drill out pin with 3mm drill.


  • Remove helical gear, trust washer(S) and fiber washer (make note of trust washers stack up)


  • Pull out shaft with counter weights assembly. Again make note of trust washer(s) and fiber washer located underneath shaft counter weight plate. On mine fiber washer was absent under main plate, which explained excess axial play.

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  • Clean all the parts with your favorite cleaner. Remember to take a lot of pictures at each dis-assembly stages. Measure trust washer(s) and fiber washer for each group and make notes.


  • Replacement parts:

12111350261, 07119943082, 12111351440, 12118630239 & 12118630245 (not all parts are shown)

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  • For assembly I used following instructions:

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axial play should be less than 0.005”
post assembly completion . Use engine oil and Bosch distributor lube grease for assembly.
  • Soak lubricating felt in engine oil, roll it and slid it inside housing. (on mine felt pad was also missing)


  • Lubricate shaft assembly, counter weights, springs. Slide trust washer(s) and fiber ring over the shaft (rest against bottom of counter weight plate)
  • slide shaft assembly onto the housing and push it down all the way.
  • Slide cam trust washer and then cam over the shaft. Secure the cam with washer and ring. replace felt pad and add couple drops of engine oil on top od felt pad.

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  • Slide over fiber washer(1st) and then rust washer(s) to bottom of the shaft. Secure helical gear onto the shaft and push new pin halfway in.
  • Check axial play with shim set. Hold distributor body firm in one hand and pull down on helical gear with other hand. Should not be able to slide in more than 0.005" shim stock over fiber washer. Once clearance is confirmed, press cone grooved pin all the way in.

  • Lubricate contact breaker plates (bottom plate top surface and top plate bottom) with Bosch grease. Secure small "U" clip with ball bearing to contact breaker plate, then set it inside housing. Make sure its mounting holes are lined up with housing clearance holes.


  • Install capacitor, vacuum regulator and tabs holds distributor cap. Set contact breaker to specs. Add cam grease to cam lobe , install distributor accordingly, secure distributor cap. Turn engine on and follow procedure for setting engine timing.

User Feedback

Recommended Comments

I am taking apart my distributor and have pertronix igniter in place of the condenser and points.


I have a 1974. Shouldn't my car have the points and condenser setup ?


Now im nervous about the whole task... hehe

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Great stuff.  I'd only add NOT to put oil on the weights (maybe a light spray just to keep them from rusting.)


Way back when, me and the old man were re-working a Ford 351 Cleveland and he put some oil on the swing weights. They got gummed up a few weeks later with the heat of the engine.   The engine went from running great to having zero response at low RPMS...then it would come alive as the weights finally overcame the centrifugal force and sprung open...slamming my head against the rear window of the '71 Ranchero :)  We chased that gremlin for weeks...


The weights should move freely under the spring tension.


Ed Z

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