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Distributor Seal Guides

Choosing the Perfect Ring for a Distributor Seal

A distributor seal locks in the oil going through the distributor and the engine. Overtime, these small, circular, rubber rings tear allowing the oil to leak to the other parts of. If unattended, this little leak can escalate to becoming a major problem. Buying a replacement seal is not as straightforward as it seems. There are factors to consider when picking the perfect ring for your distributor.

Oil seal

Let's start with the obvious by saying this: the rubber seal should be designed specifically as a distributor seal. Gaskets and other seals for different applications look very similar with each other. Don't be fooled into using a seal not specified for distributors and oil. Using a wrong type is as good as not having a seal at all.

Size matters

There aren't any universal size distributor seals. Pick a ring that has the same diameter as the distributor's oil well. You want the seal's to be tight and snug enough to make sure that the oil does not leak through it. Do not get a ring that will be extremely tight to avoid piercing the rubber, which will lead to a seal failure.

Stress control

The seal should be able to face lots of stress during operation to be able to do its job properly.

  1. Heat control: The rubber seal is located in an area exposed to high temperatures. Make sure that the seal you will use will be able to handle the heat levels of the engine. Get a seal guaranteed not to break under any temperature. This means getting a seal that properly expands when heated, and shrinks when cold.
  2. Under pressure: A seal should be able to keep high-pressure oil from leaking out. Push the ring beyond its range, it will break and fail. A torn seal due to the pressure is a common source of seal failure.

As a general rule, a stronger engine should use a tougher distributor seal.

Replace a Faulty Distributor Seal

Whenever you see a little oil leak on the driver-side of the car, chances are you have a busted distributor seal. Though the leak doesn't affect performance by a lot, knowing that there is something wrong with your engine is enough reason to fix this rubber ring. Follow this simple guide, and prepare to get your hands dirty as you replace the distributor seal.

Difficulty level: Moderate

Tools needed:

  • Small nail
  • Wrench set
  • Screwdriver
  • Dry rag
  • Replacement distributor seal

Step 1: Start the repair by parking your car and turning off the ignition. Open the hood and disconnect the battery.

Step 2: Locate the distributor sitting beside the engine. Grab a small nail and trace a line from the distributor to the valve cover. This will serve as your reference when returning the distributor assembly later.

Step 3: Remove the distributor cap. You can do this while the spark plug wires are still connected. However, you must unplug the power cable from the cap to fully disconnect to the unit.

Step 4: Once the cap is off, remove the distributor from the mounting plate. There are usually two to three bolts holding it in place. Grab the distributor on its side and carefully pull it out. Keep the bolts for later use. There might be an oil spill once it is completely pulled, so prepare a rag to wipe things.

Step 5: On the side of the distributor facing the engine, you should see the source of the leak and the bad seal. Wipe off all the oil you can clean. With a screwdriver, slice the ring to remove it. Make sure you do not turn the rotating end of the distributor throughout this step.

Step 6: Prepare your replacement ring by rubbing some engine oil on it. With the ring lubed, slide it in place. Again, make sure you do not turn the rotating end of the distributor throughout this step.

Step 7: Return the distributor on the mounting plate. Make sure that it is returned right-side up. Align the markings done during step 2 for your reference. Secure it with the bolts.

Step 8: Place the distributor cap cover, reconnect the power cable, plug the battery, and reset the timing. Start the engine to test the car. Listen and feel for any engine difficulty. Check if there are still leaks.

The whole process will take about 25 minutes.

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