Can I replace spark plug wires and distributor cap?

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Replacing the distributor cap and spark plug wires is easy with just a Phillips screwdriver and some labels. Replace the rotor too, and make sure to maintain the order of the spark plug wires. Install the new wires by following the same order as the old ones.

It is very easy to change the distributor cap and spark plug wires. Virtually anyone can do it, and the only tool required is a Phillips screwdriver. White labels or stationery, a marker, and scotch tape can also help. Perform this maintenance when the engine is cold to avoid burning yourself on hot components.

If you’re not familiar with what these parts look like on your vehicle, don’t worry. A local parts store only needs the year and model of your vehicle to find the parts you need. You can also order them online. If you order online, you will have the opportunity to view a picture of the parts before ordering. You may want to print a picture of the parts and compare it to your car to make sure it’s the correct part.

While you are replacing the parts, you should also replace the rotor inside the distributor. The rotor, which resembles a miniature weather vane, will become visible when you remove the distributor cap. Just pull up or off a stem. No tools required. The new rotor presses the same way, and the part is cheap. The rotor spins a metal arm inside the cap that can wear and tear.

Once you purchase the parts to replace the spark plug wires and distributor cap, take a close look at the existing spark plugs in the vehicle. Each spark plug wire connects to the distributor cap at a specific location on the cap. The only critical rule to follow is that this order be maintained.

The engine fires in a specific sequence, which the spark plug wires and distributor cap are configured to handle. Most are numbered for clarity. The safest way to change these parts is to unscrew and remove the distributor cap without unplugging any spark plug wires. Note the way the cap is oriented. You may want to engrave a note saying “T” at the top of the lid. There will be an extra wire that runs to the ignition coil. Unplug this lead from the cap (leaving it connected to the coil) and label it with an “IC.” Unscrew the cap, lift it off the distributor and set it aside by resting it on the engine.

The wedge-shaped “vane” rotor will now be visible, protruding from the distributor itself. Hold it securely and pull up, applying even pressure. The distributor rotor stem is slightly flattened on two sides. Look inside the hollow stem of the new part rotor for orientation before pushing it onto the distributor stem.

Now install the new cover, being careful to orient it the same way as the old cover. Replace the four screws and tighten firmly.

Remove a single wire from the old cap and from its spark plug. If the cable is numbered, choose the corresponding number from your new kit. If the wires are not numbered, find the correct wire by choosing the same length from your new kit. The plugs are at various distances from the distributor cap, making them of different lengths.

Install the new wire on the spark plug by pushing it down securely. You should feel or hear a pop or click. Route the new wire up to the new distributor cap, following any snap guides or rubber mounts that may be holding the wires in place along the way. Look at the old cap to make sure you plug the cable into the same location on the new cap. Repeat this procedure for each cable. Finally, install your new ignition coil wire to replace the one you previously labeled “IC.”

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