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VW Vanagon Engine Timing

June 13, 2011

Engine timing is absolutely crucial for proper working. Timing is usually done using equipment such as a timing gun but that costs some money and people like me prefer to trawl in the inexpensive waters so I discovered a pretty decent method with inspiration from this guy;

I tried his method but the negative part of my coil kept my test light on unlike in his video. So I tried several variations and this was my discovery;

  • Place a test light on one of the terminals on the negative part of the coil and ground it appropriately. Ensure there is still a line from the negative terminal on the coil to the distributor
  • Loosen the 10mm bolt that secures the distributor and stops it from rotating
  • Pop out spark plug no.1 (right side when you are standing behind the car, closest to flywheel)
  • Put the car on neutral gear and ensure it is well secured so that it does not roll
  • Turn the crankshaft wheel clockwise using a 30mm spanner or any other equipment while you have a finger placed over the spark plug hole
  • You will feel compression building up and that will signify that the piston is moving up just as it would as it compresses the air/fuel mixture
  • Watch the crankshaft wheel as you do this and you will notice two marks on it. A U-shaped mark and a V-shaped mark. The U-shaped mark signifies the position of Top Dead Centre (TDC). That is the point where the piston is at the very top of that cylinder. If you are turning the wheel clockwise, you will observe that the V-shaped mark is to the right of the TDC mark. That is you will get to the V-shaped mark before the U-shaped mark. This V-shaped mark is the ignition timing mark. This signifies the point at which the spark will ignitite the fuel/air mixture in the cylinder.
  • Turn the wheel and align the timing (V-shaped) mark exactly to the centre of the engine (the split line between the two engine block parts). Pull back the number plates and peep from there to get the alignment right
  • As you were turning the wheel you probably noticed that the test light dimmed momentarily. If it did not turn the wheel past the ignition or even the TDC point and you will notice the light flicker. This signifies the point at which the spark would have been introduced into the cylinder. This needs to occur exactly when the crankshaft wheel’s ignition timing mark is aligned to centre of the engine. So return the wheel to this point
  • Turn the distributor clockwise or anti-clockwise until you notice a similar flickering of the light. Once you have determined the approximate point, turn the distributor clockwise until the light dims or goes out and then turn it anti-clockwise just ever so slightly such that you are just on the verge of the flickering. Some practice will help you know how to get it right
  • With the crankshaft wheel at this point and the distributor as described above, you have your engine timing right.
  • Tighten the distributor’s 10mm bolt, return the spark plug and look for your favourite drink
Please  note that this method works well with a cold engine and you do not necessarily need to have the engine at normal operating temperature like it is prescribed when using other methods such as with a timing gun. I would also recommend using a timing gun at some point to refine your tuning but if you do not have one this is a simple but effective method.
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