Setting the timing

Setting the timing on the XT6 is pretty simple. It is something that should be periodically checked as part of a regular maintenance regime, and any time you think your car is running a bit rough. Setting the timing is also a key element of the classic tune up.

In order to complete the task you’ll need the following tools:

  • timing light
  • socket wrench with a decent length extension (8-10″ / 20-25cm)


Inside the trunk you’ll see a set of wires with green connectors next to the Engine Control Unit, more commonly referred to as the ECU (aka, “ECM”, “the computer”, etc.). Connect the green connectors and start the car. Let the car warm up for a few minutes to allow it to settle into it’s normal idle range, usually 750 rpm.

Connect your timing light’s inductive pick up around (not on) the number one spark plug wire. The number one spark plug is located toward the front of the engine, opposite the side of the car with the battery. If your car is left hand drive (North America for example) it’s on the passenger’s side of the engine, if it’s right hand drive (Japan, Australia, New Zealand for example) it’s on the driver’s side of the engine.

Taking care not to allow the timing light’s wires to get tangled in the cooling fans and drive belt, aim the light at the crank pulley. You should see a small mark on the edge of the pulley that corresponds to an adjustment scale just behind it on the engine block. The mark should read 20° BTDC (±2°). If it’s not within the 2° limit, you probably need to either advance or retard the timing.

Using a 10mm socket and an extension, slightly loosen (do not remove) the two nuts on either side of the distributor cap. This will allow you to manually rotate the cap a little bit forward or backward. You’ll notice when you do this that the engine’s idle will change. This change in pitch will match the movement of the timing mark along the scale. Retard or advance the timing by turning the distributor cap as you need to in order to bring the timing mark within specs. Tighten the two nuts on the distributor cap and disconnect the timing light. Disconnect the green connectors in the trunk.

You’ve just set your timing!

Again, ideally setting the timing is just part of maintaining your ignition system. You should give some thought to a full tune up as well.

4 responses to “Setting the timing”

  1. Myxalplyx Says:

    What about those people who do not have a stock crank pulley? Can they use the Flexplate or flywheel to set timing?

  2. Austin Says:

    Good point! I was referencing the XT6 procedure simply because that’s all I’m familiar with really. That is a really good point though - what if your crank pulley doesn’t have the marks, or you don’t have an XT6? What would be your timing reference then?

    Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? Beuller?

  3. TurboXT Says:

    You can use the flywheel to time it if you don’t have the stock pulley, just remove the little black rubber cover in the bell housing on the engine side and there will be marks on the flywheel. I am not sure about the flexplate though, never had an auto XT.

  4. Myxalplyx Says:

    I found you could set the timing by using the flexplate or flywheel as well. If you have an aftermarket pulley or just a pulley with no marks, use this and follow all the info that Austin provided. Good clear info! Thanks!

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