You can't ignore a distributor that isn't working fine. If you do, then it's only a matter of time before this faulty ignition component messes up the engine's performance. But before you go fixing the damaged part, you first have to trace the real problem here.if it's actually related to this unit or there's another culprit. To help you figure things out, here are some tips:
Signs of a faulty distributor
These symptoms may be distributor-related. To be sure, you have to check the cap, the unit itself, and other faulty ignition components or vehicle parts that may cause the same issues.
Vibrations when the car is in ignition
When ignition is on and you feel some vibrations, this can be one of the many symptoms of faulty distributors. The slight, unexplainable vibrations can turn into stronger shaking. The shaking can be triggered by distributors that fail to spin properly. In effect, this messes up the timing and firing. Caps that are damaged or failing may also cause shaking while the car is in idle or when it has been brought to a halt.
Malfunctioning distributors may be blamed when the vehicle becomes difficult to start, especially in areas with low temperatures. When engines run with cold caps, the caps may eventually break because of stress from heat. This is common among cars that are parked outdoors or in garages with no heater. When you experience difficulty starting the vehicle, you have to inspect the cap for cracks. The cap might need to be replaced if it's already damaged. To keep the cap safe and the engine running perfectly fine during low outdoor temperatures, park the vehicle in a heated garage or in a room that can protect it from extreme temperatures.
High-pitched squealing when cranking up the engine
Malfunctioning distributors are usually at the root of starting problems. When you crank up the engine, you may hear a high-pitched sound. This is a symptom of distributors going bad, especially if other parts in the vehicle seem to be doing well. To check, inspect the cap for grease and pollutants that have already formed a thick layer in and around the cap. As air flows around the engine, squeals can be heard coming from the cap because of the hard layers. The cap may be cleaned to remove stuck dirt, but if this doesn't work, you probably need a new distributor. If you don't have much experience diagnosing ignition system malfunction and troubles, leave this to the mechanic.
How to test for a bad distributor
Bad distributors make it difficult for the engine to crank up; they may keep the vehicle from starting at all. To be sure that this unit is causing the trouble and not other parts, you may conduct a secondary spark test. Here's how this is done.
Step 1: With your gloves on, pop the vehicle's hood to get started.
Step 2: Using a socket wrench, pull out the spark plug wire from the distributor.
Step 3: Inside the distributor, place the spark tester.
Step 4: As you start the engine, watch out for spark. It's important that you keep a safe distance. If there's spark coming from the tester, the problem lies elsewhere. If it's from the tester, then you now know the real trouble-maker here. This ignition component must be repaired or replaced ASAP.