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Back in the good ol days, cars had a mechanical gear which organised the spark to ignite the air and fuel mixture. This was called the distributor and it worked by spinning a rotor inside of a cap which when it passed the ‘points’ sent an electric charge through the ignition leads. These were prone to wear and tear and the number one enemy was moisture. As a result, they used a rubber ‘o’ ring to seal them.
It’s a small rubber ring that’s shaped like an ‘O’. It slides up over the rotor shaft and seats against the mount. As the distributor is tightened down it compresses against the rubber seal and creates a watertight seal.
If moisture gets into your distributor it can lead to corrosion and damage to the internals. This can stop your car from running if the current is not sent to the spark plugs. It’s like a lot of gaskets and seals, it protects important parts and keeps your engine internals safe and sound.
If you notice that the car won’t start or is very temperamental, then that’s a good indication. The best way to check, is to lift the distributor cap off and inspect the inside. If there’s signs of moisture then you may need a new cap.
If you can lift the distributor out and inspect the ‘O’ ring to find it has perished, then that’s the most obvious indication.
The mechanic will remove the distributor and inspect the internals. If the ‘O’ ring alone needs to be replaced then that’s no big issue. The mechanic will then insert the new ‘O’ ring in the old one’s place and reinstall the distributor. They will then check the timing and make sure the car is hunky dory and you’ll be good to go.
If it’s just the O ring and the distributor hasn’t been damaged then it won’t cost too much at all. Around $35 to $125 for the ‘O’ ring to be replaced.
They don’t wear out that often and they’re made of pretty strong stuff. They will need replacement every so often and they are worth replacing before you need them.
It can be unsafe to your distributor and therefore to your engine. If it needs replacing then it will need to be done to prevent any further damage.
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