How to Set the Timing on a Chevy 350 in 5 Easy Steps (No Timing Light Required)

If you own a Chevy 350 engine, you know how important it is to have the correct timing.

The timing affects the:

  1. Performance
  2. Fuel economy
  3. Longevity of your engine

However, setting the timing on a Chevy 350 can be tricky, especially if you don’t have a timing light.

But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll show you how to set the timing on a Chevy 350 without a timing light, using only a few simple tools and some basic knowledge.

Follow these five easy steps and you’ll have your Chevy 350 running smoothly in no time.

Step 1: Find the Timing Marks

The first thing you need to do is to locate the timing marks on your engine.

These are usually found on the harmonic balancer, which is the large pulley at the front of the engine.

Harmonic balancer in how to set the timing on a Chevy 350
Harmonic balancer | Photo courtesy: EngineLabs

You’ll also need to find the timing tab, which is a metal plate attached to the engine block near the harmonic balancer.

The timing tab has a series of numbers and lines that indicate the degrees of timing.

You’ll need to align the timing marks on the harmonic balancer with the timing tab to set the timing.

Step 2: Remove the Spark Plugs and the Distributor Cap

The next step is to remove the spark plugs and the distributor cap from your engine.

This will make it easier to turn the engine by hand and to access the distributor.

The spark plugs are located on the sides of the engine, and you’ll need a spark plug wrench to remove them.

The distributor cap is located on top of the distributor, which is a round device with wires coming out of it.

Distributor cap and spark plugs position in a Chevy 350 engine
Distributor cap and spark plugs position | Photo courtesy; Freepik

You’ll need to remove the bolts or clips that hold the cap in place and lift it off.

Be careful not to disconnect the wires from the cap, as you’ll need to put them back in the same order later.

Step 3: Turn the Engine to Top Dead Center

The third step is to turn the engine to top dead center (TDC), which is the point where the piston in the number one cylinder is at the highest position.

Top Dead Centre and Bottom Dead Centre difference
Top Dead Centre and Bottom Dead Centre | Photo courtesy: Quora

To do this, you’ll need to insert a socket wrench into the center bolt of the harmonic balancer and turn it clockwise.

As you turn the engine, you’ll need to watch the timing marks on the balancer and the tab.

When the zero mark on the balancer aligns with the zero mark on the tab, you’ve reached TDC.

You can also verify this by inserting a screwdriver into the spark plug hole of the number one cylinder and feeling the piston rise and fall.

When the piston is at the highest point, you’ve reached TDC.

Step 4: Adjust the Distributor

The fourth step is to adjust the distributor, which is the device that controls the timing of the spark plugs.

To do this, you’ll need to loosen the distributor hold-down bolt, which is a bolt that secures the distributor to the engine.

You’ll need a wrench or a socket to loosen the bolt, but don’t remove it completely.

Once the bolt is loose, you’ll be able to rotate the distributor slightly.

To advance the timing, you’ll need to turn the distributor counterclockwise.

To retard the timing, you’ll need to turn the distributor clockwise.

The amount of rotation will depend on the desired timing, but a good rule of thumb is to turn the distributor about 1/8 of an inch for every 2 degrees of timing.

For example, if you want to set the timing to 10 degrees before top dead center (BTDC), which is a common setting for a Chevy 350, you’ll need to turn the distributor counterclockwise by about 5/8 of an inch.

Once you’ve adjusted the distributor, you’ll need to tighten the hold-down bolt to secure it in place.

Step 5: Replace the Spark Plugs and the Distributor Cap

The final step is to replace the spark plugs and the distributor cap that you removed earlier.

You’ll need to insert the spark plugs into the spark plug holes and tighten them with a wrench.

Make sure to use the correct spark plug gap, which is usually 0.035 inches for a Chevy 350.

You’ll also need to replace the distributor cap and secure it with the bolts or clips.

Make sure to reconnect the wires to the cap in the same order that they were before.

You can use the firing order of the engine as a guide, which is usually 1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2 for a Chevy 350.

Congratulations, You’ve Set the Timing on Your Chevy 350!

You’ve just learned how to set the timing on a Chevy 350 without a timing light.

This is a simple and effective way to improve the performance and efficiency of your engine.

However, if you want to be more precise and accurate, you can use a timing light to fine-tune the timing.

A timing light is a device that flashes a light when the spark plug fires, allowing you to see the timing marks on the balancer and the tab.

You can use the same steps as above, but instead of turning the engine by hand, you’ll need to start the engine and connect the timing light to the number one spark plug wire.

Then, you’ll need to point the timing light at the balancer and the tab and adjust the distributor until the desired timing mark aligns with the light.

You can also use a timing light to check the timing after you’ve set it without one, to make sure it’s correct.

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Conclusion

We hope this article was helpful and informative. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.

And if you liked this article, please share it with your friends and fellow Chevy 350 enthusiasts.

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