A distributor is a device in a vehicle's ignition system, which is responsible for routing high voltage from the ignition coil in sequence to the vehicle's spark plugs. Without the distributor, the vehicle's spark plugs would not receive a spark, and the engine would not turn over.
The main components of a distributor are the rotor, distributor cap, gear shaft, and contact points. As the camshaft spins, a gear shaft,which is connected to it, spins the rotor at high speeds inside of the distributor. The rotor's speed is typically about half the speed of the engine's crankshaft. The rotor has a point on it,which sends large amounts of voltage through the contact points as it spins past it. These contact points then take this current and use it to fire the spark plug. The amount of current that is transferred from the rotor to the contact points is about 12,000 – 20,000 volts. The amount of contact points varies depending on the amount of cylinders and spark plugs the vehicle has. in order to protect these components, a cover is used which is called the distributor cap, and it prevents any dirt or grime from damaging these highly sensitive components.
Maintenance on the distributor is essential during regular tune-ups,due to the high amounts of voltage,which causes buildup of debris, which can corrode the metal components or disturb the contact points. Older vehicles are more prone to debris build up on their distributor, due to age, and wear. The rotor and the distributor cap are most commonly replaced,due to build up and corrosion. Adjusting the contact points is recommended because if a contact point is not positioned perfectly, the amount of voltage transferred to it may not be sufficient to power the spark plug.
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