Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls
  1. Home
  2. Articles
  3. How Does a Distributor Work?

How Does a Distributor Work?

Distributor

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.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

P0121 OBD-II Trouble Code: TPS "A" Circuit Range Performance Problem
P0121 code definition Throttle Pedal Position Sensor/Switch (TPS) A Circuit Range Performance Problem...
How to Get a Louisiana Driver's Permit
s licensing program. The first step in this program is to obtain...
Veteran and Military Driver Laws and Benefits in Idaho
The state of Idaho offers a number of benefits and perks for those Americans who have either served in an Armed Forces branch in the...


Related questions

Q: The engine misfires at 2000 RPM if I accelerate too fast

Seems like the camshaft is making the ignition retard too much. Your system should read at -11 to -12 for retard timing. It is possible that your vehicle is probably reading around -13 to -14, which will cause the engine...

Q: Q: Car starts, but then shuts off

There are many possibilities that could cause your concern. The most likely cause would be one of the engine sensors not reading correctly. If the computer isn't getting the right info the engine may not be able to continue running...

Q: What is proper reading on wires inside distributor?

11.88 is low for an automotive battery. A reading within .2 volts of the battery can be expected. It may just be running out of juice from cranking and will need to be charged fully before it is put to...