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The distributor plays an important role in producing power for your vehicle. It receives electrical pulses from the ignition coil and disperses them to the appropriate spark plug through the spark plug wires, which ignites the air/fuel mixture in the combustion chamber. The distributor shaft is mounted in the engine, either through the intake manifold or into the engine block.
Any amount of moisture inside the distributor can and will cause a rough run and loss of power, so it is critical to keep it as dry inside as possible. There are actually two seals on the distributor shaft; one seals the shaft to the intake manifold or block to prevent external oil leakage, and one is a shaft seal where the distributor shaft enters the distributor housing to prevent oil from entering inside. Both seals are intended to keep oil inside the engine, not in or on the distributor. When the distributor o-ring in the intake is leaking, oil and grime builds up on the exterior of the distributor and the intake. If the distributor shaft seal is leaking, oil enters the distributor up the distributor shaft, albeit in small amounts, and prevents the proper transmission of the ignition spark. This will cause the engine to misfire and run poorly, along with a lack of power.
The distributor cap requires regular servicing and inspection during an engine tune-up. If oil is noticed in or around the distributor, the distributor o-ring or shaft seal will need to be replaced by one of our expert technicians. Sometimes the distributor itself will need to be replaced if the seals are not serviceable separately.
An external oil leak from the distributor o-ring is almost always a minor concern that can be addressed in time. An internal distributor oil leak needs to be addressed immediately as it can lead to power-robbing symptoms which can leave you in a dangerous situation while driving.
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