What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Distributor Cap

Posted in Ignition Systems

Okay, we have a 1993 Nissan Hard body, manual transmission. It has not been wanting to crank lately, and we have replaced the starter, alternator, battery and battery cables so far. It does seem to work much better now on most days and can at least be driven, but it seems that when we let the truck stall out, it will not crank, and again it does this sometimes when the engine is still hot. Someone told me it could be a bad distributor. Does this sound right?
Hi guys and thanks for all the help! To mention, I am not sure if the truck has had a tune up, but I would imagine so, as the guy that owned it was a mechanic. We have only had the truck for about 6 months or so. I will put it in the shop for a tune up and make sure all has been changed. one other thing, if I take it to Advance Auto and get them to do a complete systems check, would they be able to tell me what is wrong? The mechanic I have been taking it to seems at a loss… so it is time for another mechanic!

There are 3 Answers for "What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Distributor Cap"

    1. Old Man Dirt says:

      It the engine is cranking over then the problem is not the distributor cap. However if you have never replaced it, more then likely it is past due for replacement. The spark plug wires too.
      As for the stalling and difficulty restarting, it may be a clutch linkage problem. The hydraulic fluid may be getting hot due to an exhaust leak and boiling keeping the clutch from working right. The slave cylinder could also be bad. When this happens the starter is trying not only to turn the engine over, but also to make the truck move. When coming to a stop, the engine will be trying to keep the truck moving and can not over come the brakes, so the truck engine dies.
      Now you could rush out and replace the slave cylinder, or the next time this happens put the truck in neutral and see if it starts. If the clutch release system is failing, it will be hard to get into gear by the way.

    2. Country Boy says:

      When a car starter isn’t able to roll or spin the crankshaft over the problem has nothing to do with the distributor. It’s a battery voltage or starter amp draw problem. The battery voltage should be tested with an inexpensive hand held volt meter or a load tester If a new battery is fully charged it should test 12.85 volts with the engine off. A mechanic can test the overall *health of a starter by doing an amp draw test on it.

      *If the car tries to roll over, making an intermittant R,R,R with pauses between the R’s the distributor timing is too far advanced.

      If you disconnect an ignition wire from one of the spark plugs that’s in the motor, snap any new spark plug in the ignition wire boot. Ground the threads of the plug and spin the motor with the starter. If there’s a spark at the plug there’s nothing wrong with your ignition system.

      If you haven’t replaced the ignition wires, spark plugs, distributor cap and rotor in the past 50,000 miles, you’re way overdue. The only possible way the distributor housing may be bad is if the upper and lower shaft bushings are loose. You have to remove the distributor to check that out.

      Wish I could hear, see and test to find what’s really wrong. It’s all very simple. Checking all the systems is a process of elimination. Never assume just because you bought a new starter or battery that they’re performing as advertised. Box store starters are junk. It’s not unusual to be stuck with a battery that’s low on voltage without a volt or load test. The alternator has to be charging the battery between 13.5 and 14.0 volts as the motor is running.

    3. dick car guy says:

      a distributor cap is part of a tune up, if the vehicle has not had spark plugs and a distributor cap and rotor replaced, this could make it hard to start, and if it was a cheap cap and rotor to begin with, its toast now, a good cap and rotor has brass contacts, this lasts much longer than the cheap pot metal crap, and sometimes a cap can crack, if you unclip the cap and look inside,if the contacts are uneven and worn, and the edge of the rotor is pitted on the edge and or burned looking, it should be replaced, a bad distributor itself, would be possibly loose from play in the bearing, with the truck running, look at the distributor, if it is wobbling kind of side to side, this could cause the timing to change, have you ever had the truck in a shop, and just had a mechanic take a good look at it?