Engine Won’t Start, Distributor Cap May Be The Problem

Posted in Ignition Systems

My father and I replaced a coolant hose today, because the old one was broken, but to do so we had to remove the distributor cap. Now, the engine just won’t start. Every time we turn the key, the engine turns over and makes a lot of a noise, almost as if it’s about to start, but never does. There don’t seem to be any problems other than the distributor cap throwing off the timing. Can you tell me how to properly adjust the cap so that the timing will be correct? I have a 1994 Ford Probe, with a 4-cylinder Mazda 16-valve DOHC fuel-injection engine. Any information you can give me will be greatly appreciated.
None of the wires were removed/unplugged, so the firing order couldn’t have been changed, by my understanding. Also, I can’t imagine how moisture could have gotten into the cap, so I don’t think that’s the problem either. The only thing we did was remove one bolt, and pulled the entire cap off the engine, and with it came a gear thing that went into the engine. We think that might have somehow been rotated, causing the timing to perhaps be off by a bit. Also, where the bolt holds the cap on the engine, there is a wide, curved hole allowing us to rotate the entire cap by almost an inch when putting it on the engine. It appears the angle of that chages the timing, and we have tried rotating the entire distributor a little bit in an attempt to get the timing just right. This was making some sort of difference, as the engine would make slightly different noises when turning over, depending on how far up or down we had the distributor.

There are 4 Answers for "Engine Won’t Start, Distributor Cap May Be The Problem"

    1. Mr. T says:

      Remove the cap & inspect it, there may be some moisture trapped. Make sure it’s sitting correctly on the base & all wires are secure & in the correct order.


    2. david c says:

      If you only removed the cap, it should go back on the same way it came off, distributor caps commonly fit a certain way. If you removed the wires from the cap, It can only be that they were put back on out of the firing order. Just put them back on the cap in the proper firing order. Some distributor caps have the number “1” next to one of the terminals, that is cyl. #1, determine which way the rotor turns and put wires back on the cap in the same direction in the proper firing order. The common firing order for a 4 cyl engine is 1-3-4-2 You may need to check for your particular engine firing order

    3. Fred C says:

      The cap cannot be put on wrong, there are indents that only allow it ot go one way. Did you remove the plug wires without marking them and the cap to ensure they went back correctly? If so, you will need to find a manual with a picture of the distributor, with the cylinder numbers marked. Perhaps Autozone can be of help.
      Really silly question, but did you check the rotor? If it was old, it may have been damaged. I had one years back that had the key break, and the car wouldn’t run until I bought a new rotor. It is rare, but it happens.

      You removed a bolt, and there was a gear at the bottom of the cap? YOU REMOVED THE WHOLE DISTRIBUTOR! AYE CARUMBA! Any time the distributor is removed, careful marks have to be made FIRST so the gear meshes at the exact place it came out of when you put it back. You are going to need somebody experienced with a timing light to see how far out it is, but it is obviously too many degrees out to allow it to start. Perhaps the distributor can be re-timed, but if it has been turned far enough, it will have to be removed and reset. Stop trying to start it until somebody with a timing light looks at it. If you go too many degrees out, you will get a backfire that can do damage.

    4. mister ss says:

      pull the cap back off and see if that gear thing as you call it (rotor) can go back on more than one way and if it can put it on the other way, usually they can only go on one way but yours might be differen’t, you shouldn’t have to mess around with the timing at all (turning the distriburator) as it was running fine before you took the cap and rotor off.