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  • Ignition: ignition timing...all read

    Ignition timing -

    Ignition timing is not only a key to power, it's also a major player in gas milage and overall drivability. And you are missing out on these things by using "book", static timing.

    I keep reading "I set the timing per the book"...!
    Well, that's fine...IF you are wearing a Studebaker lab coat, and working for Studebaker (not likely right ?) and are in 1955. But if you want more out of your engine, it really does want more static timing. The engine not only doesn't know...it really doesn't care WHAT the "book" says..! It only knows, I need some vitamins (just another word for timing..!) here.

    Now...fast foward 40/60 years to the point of adding alcohol to the gasoline...and guess what...NOW...the engine needs even more timing to perform the way it did before the ethanol...(sorry, but except for the quantity required, ethanol isn't a performance killer IF the engine's tuned for it, like many think it is).

    Now, I understand that some of you may be more mechanically inclined thAn others, and some of you may have the "close enough is ok" attitude...and some may even think this might be too much work (to make your engine happy..!?!?) to do.
    BUT, to get the most out of your engine TODAY....do NOT use the ignition timing numbers that are in the "book"...the engine wants..."more".
    NOTE: this doesn't count if you have bad rings/valve guide seals and have an oil burner..!

    Each one of our engines may desire a little different initial timing value, and vacuum advance thAn the next guys engine.
    These reasons are altitude, general ambient temperatures (Main vs. Arizona !!), overall state of tune (ring seal, valve seal, etc.), car weight, automatic vs. manual trans. ...and even the way you drive your particular car. A lighter foot can add a couple more degrees of static timing..!

    All this is to say is, get out there and EXPERIMENT...as noted, the key word is "more". 4 to 6 degrees MORE is a good place to "start".
    I'm not going to tell you exactly what to do...how much timing to use because of what's in the previous paragraph. And the fact that "ported" vs. "unported" vs. no vacuum advance and the "amount" of vacuum advance all counts in the end and each requires a little different approach.

    The mechanical advance...not so much. The main reason for the mechanical advance is so the engine will run well (see all above), but also so you can start the engine. In the case of a "locked out" mechanical advance, the engine would be in many cases, very difficult to start.
    Go back to the Ford Model T and Model A days (most early engines). That lever on the steering wheel you see people messing with...that's what that did..allowed the guy doing the hand cranking of the crankshaft so he didn't get his shoulders, arms or wrists broken...when the engine fired...or backfired, the driver "advanced" the timing right after full contact!
    This is the work that the mechanical advance does. Heavy weights and light springs are the key to good performance here.

    While this may sound a little rambling, read carefully, it applys to most everyone, espicially the "by the book" gang.

    Your engine, your driving fun (as noted, power, milage and drivability) is at stake.

    Mike

  • #2
    Good idea. Would you expand on the experimentation part, please? How to set it initially, how to test if the timing is right, what noises to listen for, what behavior from the engine indicates too much advance, too little advance, or timed just right?
    RadioRoy, specializing in AM/FM conversions with auxiliary inputs for iPod/satellite/CD player. In the old car radio business since 1985.

    17A-S2 - 50 Commander convertible
    10G-C1 - 51 Champion starlight coupe
    10G-Q4 - 51 Champion business coupe
    4H-K5 - 53 Commander starliner hardtop
    5H-D5 - 54 Commander Conestoga wagon
    56B-D4 - 56 Commander station wagon
    60V-L6 - 60 Lark convertible

    Comment


    • #3
      timing

      Originally posted by Mike Van Veghten View Post
      Ignition timing -

      Ignition timing is not only a key to power, it's also a major player in gas milage and overall drivability. And you are missing out on these things by using "book", static timing.

      I keep reading "I set the timing per the book"...!
      Well, that's fine...IF you are wearing a Studebaker lab coat, and working for Studebaker (not likely right ?) and are in 1955. But if you want more out of your engine, it really does want more static timing. The engine not only doesn't know...it really doesn't care WHAT the "book" says..! It only knows, I need some vitamins (just another word for timing..!) here.

      Now...fast foward 40/60 years to the point of adding alcohol to the gasoline...and guess what...NOW...the engine needs even more timing to perform the way it did before the ethanol...(sorry, but except for the quantity required, ethanol isn't a performance killer IF the engine's tuned for it, like many think it is).

      Now, I understand that some of you may be more mechanically inclined thAn others, and some of you may have the "close enough is ok" attitude...and some may even think this might be too much work (to make your engine happy..!?!?) to do.
      BUT, to get the most out of your engine TODAY....do NOT use the ignition timing numbers that are in the "book"...the engine wants..."more".
      NOTE: this doesn't count if you have bad rings/valve guide seals and have an oil burner..!

      Each one of our engines may desire a little different initial timing value, and vacuum advance thAn the next guys engine.
      These reasons are altitude, general ambient temperatures (Main vs. Arizona !!), overall state of tune (ring seal, valve seal, etc.), car weight, automatic vs. manual trans. ...and even the way you drive your particular car. A lighter foot can add a couple more degrees of static timing..!

      All this is to say is, get out there and EXPERIMENT...as noted, the key word is "more". 4 to 6 degrees MORE is a good place to "start".
      I'm not going to tell you exactly what to do...how much timing to use because of what's in the previous paragraph. And the fact that "ported" vs. "unported" vs. no vacuum advance and the "amount" of vacuum advance all counts in the end and each requires a little different approach.

      The mechanical advance...not so much. The main reason for the mechanical advance is so the engine will run well (see all above), but also so you can start the engine. In the case of a "locked out" mechanical advance, the engine would be in many cases, very difficult to start.
      Go back to the Ford Model T and Model A days (most early engines). That lever on the steering wheel you see people messing with...that's what that did..allowed the guy doing the hand cranking of the crankshaft so he didn't get his shoulders, arms or wrists broken...when the engine fired...or backfired, the driver "advanced" the timing right after full contact!
      This is the work that the mechanical advance does. Heavy weights and light springs are the key to good performance here.

      While this may sound a little rambling, read carefully, it applys to most everyone, espicially the "by the book" gang.

      Your engine, your driving fun (as noted, power, milage and drivability) is at stake.

      Mike
      I couldn't agree with you more well written. I can remember in some early British manuals on timing and the procedure was to find a hill possibly 2 or 3 miles long mark off a determined distance start up the hill at a predetermined speed with a stop watch in hand when you are at the first hash mark you accelerate to the floor using the stop watch or a predetermined hash mark and note the speed. Gradually advance the spark until the speed starts to drop off at that point you just retard the spark about .5 degrees. With various elevations, humidity levels, atmospheric pressures, air temperatures, winter and or summer grades of gasolines, there is no perfect fool proof way. The guys that are bigtime drag racing adjust ign and fuel by the minute if the sun goes behind a cloud it may be adjusted. Dave

      Comment


      • #4
        I think before I start experimenting too much with initial timing I'd confirm the TDC mark is correct (can be done in about 10 minutes on the car thru the spark plug hole on OHV engines at least) , and the centrifugal advance is performing both smoothly and close to what "the book" says for that (or a similar) engine combo.

        Initial timing only applies at idle rpm. As soon at the revs climb at all the spark is sparkin' at initial, plus some centrifugal (and at less than full throttle, probably some vacuum advance too).

        Comment


        • #5
          ....I don't know if this is correct, but an old time mechanic advised me (Stude 259) to buy the cheapest gas you can find and go through a couple of tankfulls. Then with the correct engine tune (points, plugs, condenser, cap, wires etc..) perform the timing with vacuum advance disconnected and plugged ... then advance the timing until the engine just "pings" at decent acceleration around 30 mph. Now retard the timing just until the pinging disappears. How's that ? Comments ?

          Comment


          • #6
            Very good information. I don't work on my own vehicles because I do not have the tools, space or knowledge, but I printed your instructions out for my mechanic. I think I'll talk to him about this the next time I am at his shop. He may already know this but it never hurts to bring these things up.
            Thanks!
            Ed Sallia
            Dundee, OR

            Sol Lucet Omnibus

            Comment


            • #7
              Its been said here many times by many contributors "give the engine what it wants". I have a somewhat expensive timing light but seldom use it. I have always timed engines with a vacuum guage. For those who have never used one the process is simple. Hook the guage to a good source of vacuum and ajust the distributor until its drawing the maximum amount of vacuum inches and then very -very slightly turn the distributor left or right (advance or retard) until you find the "sweet spot". You will know it when you hit it. Thats all there is too it and you and your engine will be happy ever after.

              Comment


              • #8
                Ignition is certainly the key to good engine performance, but I'm against arbitrarily advancing the spark without knowing the condition of the distributor, such as the bushings, advance weights and the vacuum advance and the amount of total advance at what engine rpm. The best way to tell if the distributor is in good shape is to have it checked on a known good distributor machine. Too much advance and you run the risk of detonation especially at higher rpm where it can't be heard where it can cause major internal engine damage in short order. Too little advance and the engine loses power and can run hot. Over advancing the spark can also cause the combustion temperature to skyrocket, just about as bad as running with a retarded spark. I've tested a bunch of Studebaker distributors in my distributor machine over the years and not one will have the same operating specs as another one. Bud

                Comment


                • #9
                  I'm drinking Mike's Koolaid on this one.

                  I've never had an SBC run outside the 4-8 BTDC in my experience until the recent experience with the 355 I bought to upgrade the 83 Avanti. Just couldn't get the thing to pull on the low end like it should so I got a great deal on a Holley Avenger HP EFI setup and installed same. It uses a wideband O2 sensor and controls timing. I installed it and immediately the Avanti just ran better and accelerated better.


                  After the initial drive I downloaded the tables the EFI compiled and was surprised to see the advance never dropped below 12 BTDC and advanced at a much faster rate than I would have expected. Before you ask, the cam was degreed and the balancer was dead-on at TDC when the engine went in.

                  After this experience, I'm putting the carb setup I have on the 383 SBC along with an Innovate wide band A/F gauge and dial a lot more timing into it than I ever would have before this experience.

                  We'll see if I can do better this time around with what I learned from the experience.

                  Bob

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Good discussion. Before adjusting timing, make sure your points are good and set to the proper gap. Also any time you change point gap (dwell) be sure to check timing, as point gap will affect timing. I have used a vacuum gauge to set timing before and another old school method is to set it so the engine pings slightly when pulling a medium hill under half throttle in high gear. I recognize that "medium hill" and "half throttle" are not very precise, but then neither is this method. It just gives you a point to start from, then adjust till you and your motor are happy.
                    Pat Dilling
                    Olivehurst, CA
                    Custom '53 Starlight aka STU COOL


                    LS1 Engine Swap Journal: http://www.hotrodders.com/forum/jour...ournalid=33611

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      All three of my vehicles, the '64 Commander, the '55, and the '50 2R5, have some considerable advance in them in way or another. Studebaker left alot of "elbow room" for advancing the timing. Personally, I'd really only use the factory settings if I just built a new engine, and I need some place just to get the engine started.

                      The '55 though, is the exception for all 3 vehicles, as it's got a crank driven ignition with a programmable map, and no working distributor whatsoever. In short, I can program literally any distributor on that car, as its just a toothed wheel and a reluctor on the crankshaft!
                      1964 Studebaker Commander R2 clone
                      1963 Studebaker Daytona Hardtop with no engine or transmission
                      1950 Studebaker 2R5 w/170 six cylinder and 3spd OD
                      1955 Studebaker Commander Hardtop w/289 and 3spd OD and Megasquirt port fuel injection(among other things)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I used to have a Mercruiser 120hp I/O in a trihull boat....
                        Whenever we went out, and put a fresh tank of fuel in it....
                        The first thing I'd do is go back and flip the engine cover open and loosen the distributor lock bolt.
                        Then, I'd have the wife nail it and I'd crank the distributor to where it was just barely not pinging.
                        Never did put a timing light on it.
                        Ran great. Never had an issue.
                        (Was also one of the few oddballs who had a Stewart-Warner vacuum gauge built into the dash...for cruising)

                        Stude's are no different. They will tell you what they want.
                        This is just tune up 201... A good class to take.
                        Jeff
                        HTIH (Hope The Info Helps)

                        Jeff


                        Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. Mark Twain



                        Note: SDC# 070190 (and earlier...)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The point setting is very important I had a 6 cylinder Dodge with a point setting of .020 where it ran fine with good performance, after several thousand miles a slight ping would develop, checking the points they were at .018, that .002 under was enough to cause detonation. If you check the timing with an under point gap it will be out if you adjust to the under point gap and then adjust the gap you will still be out. It is important to set the gap first then the timing. Dave

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I've read that these engines could take more timing that they were set for. When my six was tuned up recently, I wasn't there when the person I was helping set the timing and dwell on it (long story). I put in new wires, plugs, points and condenser. He told me he had advanced the timing 6* based on what the engines in his car ran well with. I was happy to hear he had done it, the only slight downside is I don't know if all the new parts or the timing advance are responsible for how much better this old 6 cylinder runs now!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Remember those gadgets they used to advertise in the auto magazines back in the '50's? They were a bullet-looking device with a star wheel built in, and a jacketed cable going to a clamp by the distributor. Essentially, it replaced the fixed distributor clamp with an adjustable one, operable manually from inside the car. I have NEVER seen one at a swap meet, and would snag one or more if I did. Something like that would be ideal, because you could tweak timing on the fly while pulling a long hill, and instantly "feel" the results. Combine that with a stand-alone knock sensor that would flash a red light if the engine began to ping, you could time the engine at it's best, and then be able to change it as required for reasons of temperature, altitude, or fuel quality.
                              Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands

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