TIMING IS EVERYTHING

Q:

I just got an adjustable timing light, the kind with the dial on the back. I’m not quite sure how to use it.

For instance, if I wanted 10 degrees of initial timing, do I set the dial at 0 or 10 degrees? Where do I read the actual amount of ignition advance?

Keith Merchant – Denver, CO

A:

The reason these dial-back lights were made is because the ‘zero’ mark on the balancer is the easiest one to see. The zero mark is usually clearly cut and well labeled. If the ‘zero’ mark or the pointer is hard to see, clean them both before starting the test. I always use ‘white out’ on the balancer to make the mark clearly visible.

If you use the dial on the back of the timing light, the target is always the zero mark on the balancer. In your example, if you wanted to see if the timing was 10 degrees before top-dead-center (TDC), you’d set the dial at ten degrees on the back of the light and the ‘zero’ mark should be easy to see on the balancer.

If you set the dial at zero, the balancer should read ten degrees, but the “ten degree” mark on the balancer is probably small, probably dirty, and probably really hard to see clearly. It’s much easier to use the dial feature, and if you do, you’ll always be looking for the big ‘zero’ mark on the balancer to be pointed at.

Good Luck with it! I always use a dial-back timing light…in fact, mine is digital so I can just read the number on the screen on the back of the light. They really make the chore of checking ignition advance easy!

Mark Simpson

Managing Editor

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One Response to “TIMING IS EVERYTHING”
  1. EUGENE

    I JUST USED MY DIAL BACK LIGHT ON MY 1974 FORD PINTO STATION WAGON YESTERDAY.THIS WAS LAST YEAR FORD USED POINT IGNITION. YOU CAN ALSO USE IT TO CHECK THE TOTAL ADVANCE IF YOU REV THE ENGINE. EXAMPLE IS IF YOU WANT 34 DEGREES TOTAL, YOU TURN THE DIAL TO 34, REV THE ENGINE UNTIL ALL ADVANCE IS IN. THEN 0 MARK SHOULD LINE UP . I AM FROM THE OLD TIME BEFORE THE DIAL BACK LIGHT. IN THE DAY WE HAD A SIMPLE LIGHT WITH ONLY TWO WIRES. ONE PLUGGED ON DIRECTLY ON THE NUMBER 1 SPARK PLUG AND THE OTHER WIRE PLUGGED INTO THE SPARK PLUG WIRE. THAT WAS THE HIGH TECH IN THE DAY. IN NEWEST CARS ALMOST EVERYTHING IS COMPUTERIZED, MOST HAVE NO DISTRIBUTOR SO THERE IS VERY LITTLE USE OR NEED FOR A TIMING LIGHT. I STILL USE MINE ON MY 1986 FORD MUSTANG SVO, WHICH STILL HAS A DISTRIBUTOR. YOU HAVE TO UNPLUG THE SPOUT CONNECTOR WHEN SETTING THE STATIC TIMING ON THIS CAR WHENEVER I INSTALL A NEW TIMING BELT I RECHECK TIMING

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