5.7 L Z-28 Cleaning the Distributor and Not replacing it?
As most anyone driving the GM Z-28 Camaro with the 5.7 L engine knows the GM Distributor is located in front of the engine and when it gets wet it causes a lot of problems and finally a no start condition. I just had 1994 Camaro Z-28 leak water from a pin hole and then the distributor got wet and that was it, it started to run bad, jerking, spitting, barking and then stopped running just as I hit the end of the driveway.
I pressure tested the water system and found a pin hold in a coolant return line on the top right side of the engine, I fixed the leak. I attempted to start it but failed. I knew the ignition got wet and had to do what most don’t like to do and that is, just get into it and get it over with. It took me 5 hours, I’m old and slow and getting slower at something’s, not to mention I ache a lot.
My first thought was darn it the location of the engine distributor was not thought out well when it was designed into the engine and will place a lot of people in a bad spot if it get wet as a lot of them do just like I did.
The Ignition Distributor is on the front of the engine on a 5.7 L engine. It sits behind the front crankshaft harmonic balancer and water pump. These two parts have to be removed to get the distributor off along with a few other parts like the fans, hoses, electrical connectors and coil as well as the AIR Pump and belt. It is not a hard job to do but it is time consuming.
FYI, the Distributor runs off the water pump drive gear and that runs off the cam gear connected by chain to the crank gear. If you do this repair be sure to check the water pump for leaks or noise, a cheap part to replace and can save you from an unnecessary repair.
If the ignition gets wet it will make the car start to run bad, then worst, then not at all. So if you remove the distributor don’t spend hundreds of dollars and buy a new part, this one can be fixed unless up break it taking it apart, here is how.
After you remove all the parts and get the Distributor off the engine and on the bench your ready to fix it all in just a few minutes without buying any parts.
First wipe the outside of the part clean with a rag, if the nipple of the distributor cap is damaged you will need to replace it if not here is how you fix it to run again as if it never got wet. A used distributor can be used off another module if you have one but I think I read a new one is around $30.00 check your local auto part stores.
Now that you have removed the distributor from the engine and it’s on the bench and cleaned.
There are four inverted thorx head screws that has to be removed, I could not find a tool to fit the screw head bolts so I used a 3inch thorx head screw from the hardware store stick that screw you get from the hardware store upside down and with a pair of vice grips hold it then unloosen the four screws from the distributor cap and place them on the side.
Next be gentle and lift the distributor cap off the Control Module and turn it over. Most likely it will be wet with water so I used an air hose to blow dry mine, if you don’t have air use a rag to dry it out, and be sure it is very dry. If it is not wet your control module may be shorted, if that is the case you will need to have it tested before you replace it. Be sure if it is dry to check all the wire connectors for continuity and looseness as well as breaks before buying a new control module. The junk yard I am sorry to say, is full of Z-28s and the parts will likely work if you match the car you’re working on for the parts thus saving you money. If it is wet continue to clean the cap.
Also while the cap is off scrap the tips of each contact, a small flake will drop off, that’s burned carbon build-up on those points. Cleaning those contact point and rotor tip will make better contact when you restart it. If you observed you will see a seal that is around the housing, if it breaks and mine did. I used some RTV Red, a very fine coat on the gasket both sides to hold it to the part and to stop any water intrusion if leaks water on it, this RTV will not hurt anything and will seal the cap to the distributor control module.
I can’t say this will work on all engines but it work perfect on mine, it cost me a few hours of my time over a few days, I can only work a little at a time. On average I think anyone willing to try and do this repair will be able to do it in a less than 5 hours and save as much as $800.00 or more in parts and labor, you will need one special tool you can get from an auto parts store for around $25.00 it’s called a Harmonic Balance Puller. Good luck and GOD bless all.