The distributor will twist a little bit and spring back. That's the centrifugal advance. Underneath the plate with the pickup (or points if you have an old Flintstone's era car) there are a couple flyweights and springs which advance your timing when you speed up the engine.
Every distributor cap I've ever seen has had some sort of key, notch, something to allow it to only go on one way.
Not plugging in the three electrical plugs probably saved you from some entertaining bucking and backfiring through the throttle body or the carburetor.
I really like modern cars, where you don't have to do this stuff every 10k miles...
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Seriously, it's supposed to get done every 10,000 miles?
Another question about old cars: Is it supposed to take a LOT of cranking before it can fire? (Presumably I'm waiting for the engine-mounted mechanical fuel pump to bring fuel to the carburetor.) For as long as I've had the car, if it hasn't been driven recently it takes a lot of cranking before it will fire. If I spray ether it will fire until it runs out of ether or until it gets the job done.
The 10,000 mile interval is for points type ignition. GM has used electronic ignition in their vehicles since 1975. Your Buick has electronic ignition. I believe the recommended service interval was originally 30,000 miles. If you put quality ignition parts in, plus AC Delco platinum plugs, and there are no major issues with the way the engine is running you can get 10 years/100,000 miles out of the cap, rotor, and plugs. If you're running rich/lean/burning oil then the life of these components will be reduced. The cap/rotor/wires/plugs have been in my Buick for 8-10 years, and I've had no issues with them.
Do not use generic parts. I have had nothing but trouble with parts from companies I've never heard of before. I remember the first time I did a tune up on my old 74 Chevy pickup before I converted it to electronic ignition. The guy put a bunch of parts on the counter labeled "Modern Mechanic". That crap started burning up a week after I put it in. I went back and bought Niehoff parts, and didn't have any troubles until about 10,000 miles later when I got pissed, and just ripped the distributor out and replaced it with an electronic one from a 75 Chevy van.
In my experience the only brands that are worth anything in an early 80's GM application are Niehoff, AC Delco, and Napa. I liked Niehoff because the quality of their plug wires was just as good, if not better than AC Delco, and they still put the nipples on the wires for the distributor ring. AC Delco no longer puts nipples on their wires. When you buy a cap, inspect the terminals. If they're aluminum then pass. The aluminum corrodes too easily. I've been happy with caps that had brass terminals, but they have been harder to find.
As far as your cranking issue goes, yes. You have to re-prime the fuel pump and fill up the bowl on the carb before the car will start. If not driven daily it will take a while to start. If I haven't started my Buick in a few days I pump the pedal about 15 times, and continue to pump while cranking. I can usually get it started within 15 seconds.
Is BWD a known brand? It's all that Advance Auto Parts has, and they're the decent local store. The nipples are definitely not brass. I'll have to get better parts when stuff breaks, if I decide that the car is viable.
What's the appropriate way to re-prime the pump and fill the carb bowl? Just cranking and pumping like you say? How does pumping the pedal 15 times before cranking help? I'd love if I could just do that and start it in 15 seconds. I know that pumping the pedal will make it squirt if there's fuel at the carb, but you make it sound like it'll even suck up fuel from the tank.
Ok, so I was wrong in my previous post. I didn't wire it backwards. I only forgot to plug in those connectors.
It fired right up. It seems to run a little better. It bucks with heavy throttle above 40mph, so that's the next thing to troubleshoot once I replace the spark plugs*. I could barely reach 65 by babying the throttle just right, and I think the slight hill on my test run helped.
*: I didn't replace the spark plugs because my ratchet set is not with me. I'll retrieve it today and take care of that but I doubt that'll help my bucking.
Edit: ...ok, I just noticed that one of the spark plugs wasn't plugged in. In the cold rain yesterday, frustrated, I must have failed to attach it well.
Sounds like crap to me. If you must buy a store brand, buy Napa. Special order if you have to. Most often places like Advance will have more than 1 brand, but if you don't specify they just throw the cheapest on the counter. I would only buy Niehoff, AC Delco, or Napa for mine. I also forgot to mention: Stay away from Autolite. You think the Fram oil filters are the "orange can of death."? Their ignition parts aren't much better. Last time I needed a cap, rotor, and wires for Rusty I just bought them at the dealer. It cost a little bit more, but the parts came with a lifetime warranty. AC Delco platinums can be had on sale for about $2/ea if you shop around at most national chain parts stores.
Pumping the pedal is manually working the accelerator pump in the carbureator. If I don't do the procecdure on my Buick, and it hasn't been run in several days, the car will take several minutes to start.
So, the accelerator pump can pull all the way from the tank?
I have a spark plug that's fighting me all the way. I've gotten a couple turns out of it but it hasn't loosened. Should I keep fighting it, or should I retighten it and quit? I'm afraid to snap something or strip threads, that would be a disaster. The head would probably have to come off if that happened.
No, its not pulling from the tank, but what you're trying to do is pull fuel left in the lines into the carb. The fuel line doesn't drain back to the tank when the engine is off. There should be a check valve built into the fuel filter on your carb that prevents that. Speaking of which, how long has it been since that fuel filter was serviced? Its a small filter, and if the vehicle doesn't get driven much the filter can get gunked up with sediment which would make it hard to start.
As far as the plug is concerned, if you're scared you're going to break something, stop.
EDIT: I was just thinking... which one is difficult? Is it #6?
The drivers side is easy, I wish that if I had to have a problem it'd be on the drivers side. Passenger side is tight and impossible to see anything...I have to stick my camera in there or at least use a mirror to try to see what's going on.
I'm dreading trying to work on #1.
I may just leave it there. The plugs that came out look decent and probably only have 10,000 miles on them.