How Does a Distributor Work?

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In older cars, a distributor is one of the central parts of the ignition system. Since the early 1990's, many automakers have moved to using ignition systems without distributors. Though the number of cars with distributors has declined over the years, there are still quite a few on the road.

What is a distributor?

The distributor is responsible for getting the electrical charges needed for combustion within the engine out to each of the cylinders. The coil (outside the distributor) creates the very strong electrical charge needed for this process. Inside the distributor, a rotor spins in time with the car’s camshaft, transferring that charge to designated contacts (one per cylinder). As the rotor spins, it passes very close to each contact and the charge jumps from the rotor to the contacts, and then into the wires and plugs.

If you have an older vehicle, your distributor also has breaker points built into it. The purpose of these points is to ground the incoming current and facilitate the pulses of electricity getting to the proper cylinders. A cam from the distributor connects with each point in turn, breaking the ground on the coil, which opens the path for the electric charge to come through.


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Eladio

8 years of experience
128 reviews
Eladio
8 years of experience
Honda Civic - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Greensboro, North Carolina
Eladio arrived at the scheduled time and was great to work with. He was very professional and I am very satisfied with his work. This was my first time using YourMechanic and I am very pleased with how easy and convenient this service has been from start to finish. Definitely would recommend.
Nissan Altima - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Greensboro, North Carolina
Eladio was on time, expedient, and very professional. Very pleased with provided service (brake shoes replacement).

Chris

13 years of experience
107 reviews
Chris
13 years of experience
Hyundai Sonata - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Port Richey, Florida
CHRIS IS THE BEST MECHANIC I HAVE EVER MEET IN MY LIFE. HE IS HONEST AND HE KNOWS HIS STUFF. VERY PROFESSIONAL AND KNOWLEDGEABLE. THANK YOU CHRIS!!!

Pardeep

19 years of experience
587 reviews
Pardeep
19 years of experience
Dodge Caravan - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Fremont, California
Pradeep was early to my appointment and during his work he showed me that I didn’t need rear brake shoes saving me money.He cleaned and serviced the existing shoes and he also adjusted my parking brake cable. Great job. I will always use Your mechanic for any car repairs.

Oreste

12 years of experience
117 reviews
Oreste
12 years of experience
Dodge Avenger - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Miami, Florida
Orestes is very professional. He explained what was done to my vehicle and suggested upcoming maintenance needed. Great person

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