MSD Tech: Distributor Troubleshooting

By: Ray Frescas | 09/15/2012 < Back to Motor Life Home

Distributor Trouble Shooting 

MSD offers several different styles of Pro-Billet Distributors, so our first step is to identify your model.

The most popular MSD distributor is our standard Pro-Billet model. This is easily identified by a 2-pin connector, with one Violet/Black wire and one Orange/Black wire that connect to the magnetic pickup inside the distributor. These distributors must be used with an MSD Ignition Control such as a 6-Series Ignition or a 7-Series Ignition.

For this style distributor, the only real specification is to check the resistance of the magnetic pickup. Use an ohm meter across the two wires and confirm that the resistance is between 400 and 1,300 ohms. If the pickup is out of this specification, it may not be triggering the ignition box. Confirm the operation of the ignition and coil by following the “How to False Trigger Your MSD Ignition” selection. If the ignition and coil check out as detailed, then the distributor pickup may be at fault.

Another popular distributor is the Ready-to-Run line. These distributors are easily identified by the three pin connector that has a Red, Orange and Black wire. In some models, there will be a separate Green wire that is used for a tachometer signal wire. These distributors do not require and external ignition control as they have a built-in high output ignition module.

To check the Ready-to-Run Distributor, confirm that there are 12 volts on the Red wire when the key is On and while cranking. It is important to confirm 12-volts during cranking as many older vehicles may have resistor wiring or ballast resistors inline which could affect the voltage needed to fire the ignition.

You can also check for 12 volts on the coil negative – remember, this is only on the Ready-to-Run distributors! Also, confirm that the black wire is properly grounded to the engine block.