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Thread: '87 2.0 Distributor issues, please help?

  1. #1

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    '87 2.0 Distributor issues, please help?

    As the title states, I'm having some issues with my distributor.

    When it broke down, it had stopped getting spark. Changed the coil and resistor, no dice. Figured out it ate the ICM in the distributor. Ordered the only one available from Rock auto, marked the rotor position, pulled the old one, put the replacement in, and can't get it to stay running. Either too advanced on one gear tooth or too retarded on the next, like it's half a gear tooth off. Tried swapping the plug wires and rotating the dizzy 180⁰ out, no dice. Double-checked the timing marks, still no change. Set at TDC on compression, pulled the timing belts and re-set timing from scratch, triple-checked timing marks, rotated the crank several times, checked again, no change.

    No matter what I do, it acts like it's half a tooth off and won't run right. I can start it with the dizzy rotated all the way one way or the other depending on which gear tooth and it will *barely* run as long as I keep feathering the gas. But it's not running right. The closest I can get it, with a timing light the timing mark on the crank pully looks like it's 30⁰ or more off. And to get the distributor within the range I need to be able to keep it running would require 1/2 a tooth difference.

    I'm confused, exhausted, and need help. Please.

    I need this vehicle to run reliably.

  2. #2



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    You didn't mention if you disassembled and rebuilt your distributor while you were at it, but if you did, that sounds exactly like something I ran into, covered here:

    http://www.mightyram50.net/vbulletin...er-what-timing
    1987 Dodge Ram 50 4G54 RWD longbed ("Elmo")
    1979 Lancia Beta Zagato spider ("Lola")
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  3. #3

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    New distributor, new cap, new rotor, new wires.

    I tried swapping the wires and rotating the dizzy 180⁰ out but it still does the same thing. With the fuel pedal to the floor it will start and run rough with the distributor adjusted all the way advanced and then on the next tooth it does the same thing with it all the way retarded. Runs rough dies as soon as you let off the gas. like it's half a tooth out but the wire flipping trick doesn't work to correct it.

    New distributor. Already sent the old one back in for the core charge.

  4. #4

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    Also for clarification it was running smooth before the ICM went. Along with two of the old fusible links which I also replaced. And I went ahead and replaced the coil and resistor while I was at it. It's definitely getting fire and it's definitely getting fuel and Air. It just will not adjust where it will run when it was running just fine before.

  5. #5

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  6. #6



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    Did you ground the wire on the right side fender when setting the timing with a light? Depending on the engine that it has. Fuel injection has the ground
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  7. #7

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    It's carb. Previous owner replace the car with the stock replacement. It's been finicky but I've been able to get it running reliably for several months at a time between each major issue. This last one it was running smoothly when I was on an errand and I went in and I left it running and I came out and it was dead and it had fried the ICM while I was in the store for 7 minutes.

    I replaced the distributor because the only ICM module I could get was for the older first gen. So I'm out hundreds of dollars for the distributor and while it does get spark now and does start now as long as I have it floored it does not stay running and it's too far advanced in one position and too far retarded in the other there's no I don't know how to explain.

    It will not run unless the throttle is held open. It will start. It's getting fuel and air and fire. But even with all the timing marks lined up correctly it will not time right when there was not an issue with the timing before the ICM on the original distributor fried.

  8. #8

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    It also smells funny like it's running way way too rich when I can get it to start and run with the throttle held open. If I let it drop below a thousand RPMs it immediately dies. It "feels" like the engine is fighting itself to run.

  9. #9

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    Another clarification; It won't idle at all, and to start it requires a fair amount of gas pedal. It's definitely getting fuel, fire, and air.

  10. #10


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    Possible FLOODING ?

    Remove top of the carb, remove the float & shake it to detect any leakage; any fuel inside the float will cause a flooding condition... Next, with the carb top upside down adjust & measure the float adjustment... Next, using a hand brake bleeder pump, apply suction to the fuel inlet connection; replace the needle and seat assy if vacuum does not hold... Next, reassemble the carb and use electrical electronic cleaner spray on the carb main wiring harness connector... Do not use silicone or any other product on those wiring harness connectors as it will confuse the carburetor operation...

    You should also recheck the 3 types of ignition timing as well (initial, vacuum, centrifugal)

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  11. #11

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    It's not flooding. I triple checked all the timing marks. I triple checked everything in the distributor. There's only one but I can even get it to start and it runs really really rough. Like it's fighting itself to run. I triple checked firing order. I replaced the plugs I replaced the plug wires I replaced the fuel filter I replaced the rotor and cap, and I replaced the distributor. Triple checked everything again. I can get to start but if I let it drop under a thousand RPMs it dies. It feels like the engine is fighting itself to even run. I can't get the timing mark on the crank pulley anywhere near the timing marks on the cover without it immediately dying. I am at a loss but it was running smooth before the old distributor's ICM went. It's been my daily driver for 3 years. I've had little issues here and there that I've had to fix but it's not like it's been sitting forever and it's some other problem. The old distributor went out and before that it was running smooth. And I can't get it to run again anything like it was before the old ICM went out. I thought maybe the new distributor was reassembled incorrectly but I double checked it and it's put together right. Vacuum advance on it is brand new. Everything appears to work correctly it just. won't. run.

    I also replaced all three fusible links as a precaution.

    I would understand if it had been sitting for a year or more but it wasn't. It was running fine and then died while I was in the store I had to have it towed home and figured out it wasn't getting spark. I replaced the coil and resistor and it still wasn't getting signal so I replaced the distributor and it got spark but won't run now. My brother-in-law is telling me I should just give up on it but I can't it's the only vehicle I have long-term access to I can't just go buy another vehicle right now.

    This is carbureted with the stock carb. And no it's not flooding. It's just slightly out of time and I can't for the life of me figure out how.

  12. #12

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    I'm not a pro mechanic but it sounds like the distributor you got new is bad. Do you know what caused the loss of spark? I'd start there after getting another distributor.

  13. #13

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    It's getting spark now. Cat was also clogged. Egr needed cleaned. It runs well enough to get around the block now, but not well enough to actually drive. There's still a regular miss but it seems to only do it every other revolution or so. Timing light cuts out at a regular interval with the miss. It's weird.

    New plugs, new wires, new rotor, new cap, new coil & resistor, rebuilt (new) distributor, cat unclogged, egr cleaned.

    I'll try to take video of it "running" later today.

  14. #14



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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr Steel View Post
    There's still a regular miss but it seems to only do it every other revolution or so. Timing light cuts out at a regular interval with the miss. It's weird.
    Sounds like something specific to the ignition on a particular cylinder, prolly #1 since that's where the timing light pickup triggers off of. Would be interesting to move the timing light pickup to the other plug wires just to see if that regular-interval skip happens with any of those or not.
    1987 Dodge Ram 50 4G54 RWD longbed ("Elmo")
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  15. #15


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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr Steel View Post
    It's getting spark now. Cat was also clogged. Egr needed cleaned. It runs well enough to get around the block now, but not well enough to actually drive. There's still a regular miss but it seems to only do it every other revolution or so. Timing light cuts out at a regular interval with the miss. It's weird.

    New plugs, new wires, new rotor, new cap, new coil & resistor, rebuilt (new) distributor, cat unclogged, egr cleaned.

    I'll try to take video of it "running" later today.
    Great progress & determination forgive my English in lecturing please...

    My truck's misfire was the coil wire to dist cap connection (it was slightly loose) Expanded the connector end for a tight fit FIXED IT

    I also used a good shot of electronic electrical contact cleaner spray on each spark plug wire end to not only clean but to REMOVE any silicone (silicone of ANY type will/can cause misfires..!!!!!!) Do the same on main wiring harness connection to the carburetor and engine sensor connections yada yada) Dry connections before reconnecting blah blah...

    I also Always use a spark plug removal tool to remove & install spark plug wires onto the spark plugs...

    Even though your wires are new, I would DMM test them anyway... New is not always Good..?

    Make dam sure the rotor & distributor cap are NEW or like NEW (all metal is shiny clean)

    Last suspect could be the IC chip inside the distributor but I would leave it alone for now...

    PLEASE WATCH Testing Ignition Coil with DMM: https://youtube.com/shorts/tGeZQUHzGrg?feature=shared

    PLEASE WATCH Testing Spark Plug Wires with DMM: https://youtu.be/4_EFGAFxi1w?feature=shared


    Last edited by xboxrox; 06-10-2024 at 12:57 PM.
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