Whoa guys, he doesn't need to go out and buy a whole new distributor... his car is apparently running fine, he just has the red dust (thats what i gathered).
Even still, at MOST he may need to hook up with a new cap and rotor. I don't see a need to have this guy go spend hundreds of $$ when he's just asking about a bit of dust. I know cars that have dust in the cap, and have had it for a LOT of miles, and months worth of driving.
Distributors die, yes, and when they do, they are usually very used, and of course have the dust in them.... but just cause it has a little bit of dust right now doesn't mean its "OMG dead, and gotta buy a new one ASAP"...
Now... as for rebuilt or new, the parts-store-type distributors generally suck and the coils and ignitors they use in them blow goats.... I'd buy OEM if i had to buy a new one... HOWEVER, most everything that can go wrong with a distributor is easily replacable except for the bearing section... everything else in it can be bought new, or hiijacked from aknown-good distributor in a junkyard.
The wording in luober's initial post, specifically "red dust covering everything under the cap" leads me to believe it's more than a little bit. Admittedly, it's a bit vague. If there is a lot of red dust, the distributor's life is limited and it will have to be replaced before long. I'm also of the mindset to replace anything that shows signs of wear, so I would definitely be buying a new distributor at this point.
When you get red dust in the distributor, it's generally from the bearing rusting and/or losing it's lubrication and tearing itself into little microscopic bits. If you leave the bearing in service, it will slowly get worse, building more and more friction, generating more and more heat until it seizes and causes the timing belt to jump teeth or the heat kills one of the distributor sensors.
The bearing can be replaced (I've done it once), but it's no simple feat. Start by removing everything that the Helm's manual shows you how to remove.
The screws holding the base distributor assembly together are tamper-resistant Torx head screws with some kind of hefty thread locker on them. If you try to simply remove the screws, the heads snap off. If you heat the distributor housing up enough, it will soften the thread locker and you can remove the screws. The key is to soften the thread lock without overheating and weakening the magnets in the distributor sensors.
When you get the plate/bearing/shaft/armatures assembly out (you'll have to remove one of the sensors from the plate), you can then take out the screws in the bearing retainer on the back of the plate... More thread locker on those no doubt.
As soon as you work the bearing out of the plate, you'll realize that the top most sensor armature prevents you from removing the plate. You'll need a gear puller to carefully remove it from the shaft. It's held in place purely by the friction of a little spring pin between the armature and shaft. With the armature and plate out of the way, use the gear puller again to remove the bearing itself from the shaft.
Call around to your area auto-parts stores and see if any of them still sell bearings by size. Nobody will have the part number, measurements or anything that mentions the existence of a Honda distributor bearing, so you'll have to take yours with you when you walk (your car's dead, remember?) the ~30 miles to the one store that still sells bearings. Remember to take food, water and a tent since it's probably a couple days hike.
Once you have your replacement bearing, be careful to press it back on the shaft by applying pressure to only the inner race. The dust covers will bend if you push on them, allowing grit into the bearing and greatly shortening it's life. Oh, you did put that bearing retainer back on the shaft in the right direction before pressing the bearing on, didn't you? Slip the plate back on the shaft and push the new bearing into it. Screw the retainer back into the plate and press the sensor armature back on. Now is probably a good time to replace the oil seal at the very bottom of the distributor since it fell apart when you pulled out the distributor shaft. If it wasn't leaking before, it probably will now. Slip the plate/bearing/shaft/armatures assembly back into the distributor, screw the plate down and reattach the sensor pickup. The pickup has some adjustment range - just look down at the other sensors and mimic the air gap.
You're done. Put back all the stuff that the Helm's manual told you to take off.
When I got the red dust, it was accompanied by the bearings squeaking and it apparently got so hot from the increased friction (?) that it soon melted part of my rotor and left me stranded. I replaced the rotor and got a day or so of very squeaky life out of it before I got a replacement distributor in it. If I saw the red dust again, I'd start looking for a new distributor right away, before the old one crapped out and left me stranded on the side of the road...again.
You might be able to wait until it starts squeaking, but it just depends on how much you like to gamble. I'd replace it, personally.
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