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123 distributor bug


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I've been driving BMWs for 53 years and I thought I had experienced every kind of breakdown there was, but I just found a new one.  I've had a 123 distributor on my '72 2002 for about 5 years and 2,000 miles.  Today, in the midst of a 700-mile road trip, it cranked but would not fire.  Lifted the hood to find the distributor cap hanging loose by the wires.  Never had that happen but I popped it back on, snapped the clips and took off.  An hour later, same problem.  I reattached the cap and wrapped a zip tie around the distributor to hold the clips clipped.  That worked well enough to get me home.


The cap had gotten a little beat up in all the activity and the contacts were looking a little burned, so I called the US tech contact for 123 to ask about a replacement cap.  He explained that weak clips are a known problem on the 123.  He has pressed 123 corporate about it but they have not corrected the issue.  He recommended rebending the clips slightly whenever removing the cap to maintain their tension.  I got a new cap (not from 123 or BMW -- it is a Bosch VW cap #1235522056), bent the clips, and attached a zip tie around them as insurance.  We'll see.



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There was a thread on this not long after the 123 came out.   But not much since.

Ray also documented that the little standoff bluebutt board is edge soldered, and can break off.

Many of them leak oil from lack of the standard scroll that Botch cut in the OE distributor.


I have been underimpressed with 123 construction and durability- that groused, the idea behind it is super clever.




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"I learn best through painful, expensive experience, so I feel like I've gotten my money's worth." MattL

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Every single 123 has the clips issue.  Even if they don’t launch, they move around enough that you get chips of bakelite all over the place.  Bent clips + ziptie.

‘74 Fjord 2002tii (Zouave)

’80 Alpenweiss 528i (Evelyn)

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21 hours ago, TobyB said:

I have been underimpressed with 123 construction and durability-

They do seem to get quite a bit of bad press here on the Faq, warranted bad press it seems.


76 2002 Survivor

71 2002 Franzi

85 318i  Doris

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Think I'll stick with my rebuilt Bosch dizzy, backed up with a (definitely antique but still functions just fine) Delta Mk10B CD ignition box.  



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'73 Sahara sunroof-Ludwig-since '78
'91 Brillantrot 318is sunroof-Georg Friederich 
Fiat Topolini (Benito & Luigi), Renault 4CVs (Anatole, Lucky Pierre, Brigette) & Kermit, the Bugeye Sprite

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The fact that they want 550 bucks for a 2002 one and made the dist shafts wrong, then want 70 bucks to fix that, paired with a clip problem across the whole range of their offering and show no desire to fix that problem makes this a company I choose not to deal with.

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Planning the Normandy Break out 1944

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They're a great product way over priced and under engineered. I've got two 🙃 both leak oil (which so far and many kms hasn't effected their use), and the older just wore down the nub that locates the cap due to the crappy clips made of cheese. That was 6 months ago, which temporaily (ahem) was fixed by some gaffer tape. Keep meaning to order a new cap and see if the clips are interchangeable with an original 02 distributor, which are not made of cheese and work perfectly at 50 years old. And I have a box full of them.


Would I buy again? Probably a used unit from someone more fussy, but not at their asking price.




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