Hi John, You need to find the number 1 cylinder. It is the front left spark plug when setting in the drivers seat. Take the number 1 spark plug out and turn the engine over by hand with a screw driver in the number 1 spark plug hole to find top dead center on compression stroke. You will have top dead center when the piston is at the very top. Line up the mark on the crankshaft balancer with the pointer on the engine block. Should be front left by the bottom v belt pully looking under the hood. Put the distributor in with the rotor pointing to the Number 1 spark plug wire. Firing order is 1,8,4,3,6,5,7,2 going clock wize. Firing alinement is (looking under the hood) 1 right 2 left 3 right 4 left 5 right 6 left 7 right 8 left. Should be marked on the intake manifold. If the engine doesn't run after installing. You are 180 degrees off. Remove the distributor just far enough to turn the rotor a half a turn and drop back in. Reinstall the lock and try again. Timing is either TDC or 4 degrees before TDC depending on your hp. .
John. This is the way to do it:
a- No need to remove any plug.
b- To find the number one, remove the drivers side valve cover. Turn the engine until the zero mark on the harmonic balancer lines with the mark on the pointer.
c- look at the valve lifters of the number one cylinder-the first pair on the head at the front of the head. Both should be free of any lift. If there is no lift on either valve, then you are at Top Dead Center of the #1 cylinder and jump to step (e) below. If there is lift on one of the #1 cylinder valves you are actually on the Top Dead Center of #6 cylinder and in this case go to the next step.
d- Turn the engine one full turn until the zero mark is lined up again on the balancer and the pointer-as before.
e- Put the valve cover back on. Bolt it down tight.
f- With the distributor out of the car, using a flash light look down into the distributor hole on the engine. About 10" down you will see a slotted shaft. This is the oil pump shaft. It is free to turn for now.
g- Obtain a long screwdriver to reach that slot. With the front of the car ponting to an imaginary North, turn the screwdriver until that slot is oriented North Eeast direction. Another way is to turn the slot towards the number 5 spark plug on the engine. Its about the same.
h- Install the cap on the distributor and with a color felt pen, draw a straight line along the tower of the number one plug and extend that line down onto the distributor body. After you do this undo the cap from the distributor housing.
i- With the distributor in your hand, turn the rotor in a way that it points about 1.5 inches clockwise from the mark you made above on the body. Remember to have the gasket between the distributor body and intake on before you attempt to drop the distributor in.Hold the rotor in that position and have mark towards the front of the engine.
j- Slowly insert the distributor into its hole on the intake manifold. Keep it in your hold and maintain position of rotor with mark and mark with front of engine.
When you feel that the distributor touched the oil pump shaft it will begin to want to position itself- the rotor will move towards the mark. Remove your hold of the rotor. See if it will continue to go down and at the same time you will notice that the rotor will want to rotate towards the mark until it lines up with the mark.
k- This is a delicate step and you need to be patient. Don't let frustration creep in. There is a little trial and error here because you want to simultaneously marry the gears as well as the female slot of the oil pump with the male end on the distributor so bear with it. Those that have done it in the past usually do not get it right from the first attempt.
l- very likely it wont work and the distributor will not bottom out on the intake. Take the distributor out and using the screwdriver turn the slot in the hole one way or another no more than 1/16 of an inch and try the above procedure again. Once the distributor bottoms out it means it interlocked properly but you still need to check that the following are noticed.
-the rotor is in line with e mark
-with the cap in position, the door is straight forward, 1/2" +or -
-the vacuum can is pointing to the right; 30-40 degrees.
m- install the distributor hold down and tighten down enough to be able, without force, to rotate distributor body for timing adjustment. In other words leave some friction to let it stay in position after start up.
n- Connect the vacuum line, spark plug wires. Double check that plug wire #1 on the engine goes on #1 at the distributor. Similarly for each of the remaining 7 wires.
o- Recheck that your balancer TDC mark is in line with the zero mark on the pointer plate. Make a visual check that you left no tools or stuff that should not be there. Check belt tensions and fluids.
p- Start the engine. If it starts adjust timing to specs, and you are done. If the engine does not want to start, and all wires are in place do a spark check to see that there is a spark in the plugs. If that is OK double check that gas is getting to your engine. If that is OK go to (q) below. If either of the latter two fails the test, correct the problem and continue.
q-start by removing red wire from the coil and remove the distributor cap but leave the plug wires on. Remove the driver side valve cover and turn the engine to TDC on the balancer.
X- If the valve springs are both be up-i.e. no compression on either. In other words they are at equal level then the engine Cylinder #1 is at TDC.
y- If the valve springs are unequal and one is compressed then you are on engine Cylinder #6 TDC.
Look at the rotor on the distributor:
IF (X) above is the case the rotor should point to #1 plug wire tower on the distributor cap. If it is not it should point to #6 tower on distributor cap -and GO TO (Z)
IF (Y) above is the situation, the rotor should point to the #6 plug wire tower on the distributor cap. If not it should point to #1 plug wire cap -GO TO (Z)
otherwise skip Z
Z- Undo the distributor hold down. Gently pull the distributor straight out about 1.5 inches. Exactly straight up 1.5'. Hold it there. With one hand holding the distributor, rotate the rotor 180 degrees. Re-lower the distributor down. It will go back in without an issue and reinstall the hold down. Reinstall the wires you disconnected and the car should start up.
The distributor cap order for a Chevy 283 varies depending on the year of the motor. A 1975 to 1991 has the number one cylinder at the top just to the left of center. The 1967 to 1974 distributor has the number one cylinder at the top just to the right of center. The firing order is 1, 8, 4, 3, 6, 5, 7, 2.
You can't, you have to have a timing light. ~You can get it pretty close if you disconnect and plug the vacuum advance line, loosen the distributor clamp bolt until you can turn the distributor with moderate effort then start the engine and turn the distributor until you get the fastest idle. Then tighten the distributor and re-connect the vacuum line and drive to the store and buy a timing light and do it up properly. DON'T GET YOUR HANDS UP NEAR THE TOP OF THE DISTRIBUTOR CAP OR YOU'LL GET THE **** SHOCKED OUT OF YOU!
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