Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls
  1. Home
  2. Articles
  3. Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Distributor O Ring

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Distributor O Ring

Distributor o ring

Distributors are an ignition system component found on many older cars and trucks. While they have largely been replaced by the development of coil on plug ignition systems, they are still commonly found on many vehicles made in the last few decades. They use a rotating shaft that is driven by the engine to distribute the spark to the engine's individual cylinders. As they are a moving component that can be removed, they require a seal just the same as any other engine component.

Distributors commonly employ a specifically sized o-ring that fits on the distributors shaft to seal it with the engine referred to as the distributor o-ring. The distributor o-ring simply seals the distributor housing with the engine to prevent oil leaks at the base of the distributor. When the o-ring fails it can cause oil leaks from the base of distributor, which can lead to other problems. Usually a bad or failing distributor o-ring will produce a few symptoms that can alert the driver of a potential problem that should be serviced.

Oil leaks around the engine

Oil leaks are by far the most common symptom of a failed distributor o-ring. If the distributor o-ring wears out or fails, it will no longer be able to properly seal the distributor with the engine. This will cause oil to leak from the base of the distributor and onto the engine. This problem will not only create a mess in the engine bay, but it will also slowly reduce the oil level of the engine, which if allowed to drop low enough, can put the engine at risk of receiving damage.

Engine performance issues

Another much less common symptom of a bad distributor o-ring is engine performance issues. If a bad distributor o-ring allows oil to leak onto certain parts of the engine bay, the oil may find its way into wiring and hoses, which can cause them to deteriorate. Deteriorated wiring and hoses can cause all sorts of issues ranging from vacuum leaks, to wiring shorts, which can then lead to performance issues such as reduced power, acceleration, and fuel economy.

The distributor o-ring is a simple but important seal that is found on virtually all vehicles equipped with a distributor. When they fail, oil leaks can form and develop into other issues. If you find that your distributor o-ring is leaking, have the vehicle inspected by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic. They will be able to look over the car and determine if you need a distributor o-ring replacement.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Still not sure about your car's issue?
Diagnose your car
What kind of issue are you experiencing?
Brakes are squeaking
Car is not starting
Car is overheating
Car is shaking (vibrating)
Fluids are leaking
Heating and A/C
Smoke or steam is coming out of the car
Warning light is on
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

How Long Does a Vacuum Brake Booster Check Valve Last?
The braking system on your car requires a lot of pressure. The vacuum booster is one of the main sources of this pressure. This booster will take the pressure that...
How Long Does a Throttle Return Spring Last?
Not all vehicles on the road feature an electronic throttle control (ETC), which is also called drive-by-wire. For vehicles that don't offer this system, they have a throttle cable instead that...
P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the...


Related questions

Q: Lights for the dashboard are not very effective

Your issue is somewhat unique and may be difficult to diagnose, mostly because of the random nature of its occurrence. That being said, it is important to look at other things that are happening at the same time of the...

Q: hard starting after engine has run. 1996 Ford F-150

Hey there, thanks for writing in. From what you describe, it sounds like the engine TFI module on the side of the distributor is most likely bad and causing the no start hot. If you would like to have this...

Q: I have a hunting/high idle.

Hello. An irregular idle can be caused by many things. If the idle speed appears to stabilize with the throttle position sensor then it may be possible that the throttle position sensor is the source of the issue. The MAP...