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Distributor play

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I'm walking a road many before me have traveled. The original distributor in my '80ZX has about a half inch of play in the shaft in either direction from a stationary position.
The vacuum advance has been inoperable for about a year.
I have been monitoring the distributor for some time, knowing that it is in its final days.
Today on a drive, I noticed some hesitation, above that which is observed running a capped vacuum advance.
Obviously I will not drive the car until replace it. Probably with the 1-2-3 Bluetooth distributor.
The engine has about 800 miles in it since rebuild with mild cam. My question for the group is:
Could I have possibly damaged my engine somehow running the distributor with more play than it should have? If I'm being honest, it's been slightly out of spec for shaft play for several months(of driving). But I only noticed the excessive play today, after about a 30 mile drive.
Thanks for advice as always.
(Tried to post a video but this cheap phone is not compatible with the future)

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So fella, if it’s any consolation, my shaft went wobbly with age too - so did the distributor’s! (OK, joking about the former!)

Half an inch is significant and I wouldn’t keep driving it. You are getting spark scatter and that means random but potentially too much timing in certain conditions.

I very much doubt that you’ve damaged anything with excessive timing if you haven’t been hearing it pinking/knocking. In fact if she’s not stuttering on pick up or cruising then you’re probably not getting any significant change in timing.

These engines are rather hardy and can withstand a fair bit of abuse.

If you want to put your mind at rest, idle the car warm, then do a compression test. You won’t damage your engine with irregular or too much timing at idle.

What is the base timing set at and what is the dizzy’s total mech advance supposed to be? If you NEED to drive it, you can always dial it back 5 or so degrees. She will run but not be very keen. Frankly I’m amazed you haven’t seen signs of contact inside the dizzy cap.


I’m a big fan of my 123 even though it took me a while to fall in love with it. Just make sure you don’t use the 280zx original black coil with it as it will stress it too much with it’s less than 1 ohm impedance. A Bosch red coil with 1.8ohm is ideal and will save you a lot of headaches but a flame thrower with 1.5ohm is OK too.

I started a thread on the 123 if you fancy a long read about the ups and downs ...


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Thanks for the replies.[mention=32052]AK260[/mention] I've watched your video and it has been what's has sold me on the 123.

The base timing is set to 10 degrees BTDC. But now I notice it wandering under the timing light. The dampener is solid.

Edit: total advance should be 47 degrees

You’re most welcome.

Yes it does sound like time to get a new one. A friend of mine just bought one and paid 1/3 less than I did. Hoping the same method works for you ...


Also don’t go buying spare caps from them. The Beru cap they supply is junk (I won’t go into why) and there are many alternative manufacturers.

Here are some for example:

Alternative part numbers for cap ...

(BERU: VK102, VK155)
BMW: 12111351446, 12111353117,
BREMI: 8017P,
DAF: 163793,
EPS: 1.306.072,
FACET: 2.7472PHT,
FORD: 11710256,
KW: 806072,
MERCEDES-BENZ: 0001580702, 0001582502, 0001585302, 10001585302, A0001580702, A0001582502, A0001585302,
MWM: 606908730203,
OPEL: 1212135, 1212138,
PORSCHE: 90160295600, 91160293300, QUINTON HAZELL: XD138,
SMPE: 44160,
STELLOX: 21-00002-SX, 21-00746-SX, 21-00779-SX
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  • 3 weeks later...

I had to buy a new refrigerator so the fancy distributor will have to wait.  Hateful appliances taking away from car parts. I like to keep some money saved away for emergencies( :cough:: car parts), but it looks like I ought to be smart and dump some more into savings over the next month or so.  Luckily, I added some stabilizer to the fuel and ran it before i took the distributor out.  It'll be sitting around for about a month without running I'd say.

My distributor is completely thrashed.    The magnet and advance mechanism bearing  cage or whatever, totally disintegrated.   

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So my patience isn't as solid as I had hoped it would be.  I went ahead and ordered the 123. It came today, and within an hour and a half, it was installed and the car was running again. 

There are several resources regarding installation, so I won't babble on about it, suffice it to say that it was easy, and the video and write up supplied by @AK260 was indeed a big help.  Many thanks to all who have replied and helped here on this subject. 

That being said, I put a conservative tune on it and drove it around a bit, roughly 15 miles.  I didn't want to chance the Beru cap exploding.  I have ordered a BREMI cap and should be here Monday.  

Until then, the Z is back on the road and my new refrigerator is still in the box.  



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The Beru cap that came with the distributor lasted almost 2 days without losing the center diode.  Luckily for me, the car wasn't running when it happened.  

I was re-installing it after cleaning up the install when it popped out while attaching the coil lead. 

The Bremi cap arrived later in the day(a whole 2 days early).  I installed it and went for a 30 mile drive.  No problems.  Smooth as butter. 

It's already been said, but I'll say it again..Don't trust the cap that comes with the 123 ignition distributor.  The distributor  works great tough.

The BREMI cap # 8017p is readily available stateside and is $20.00 on amazon..and has at least put up with 30 miles haha.




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