Please forgive temporary problems with photos.
All Ford-Ferguson 9N, 2N, and Early Ford 8N
I feel that the front mount distributor on the 9N, 2N and early 8N tractors has gotten some bad publicity that is not entirely deserved. Many people have commented on how much easier the side distributor is to work on. I do not find the front distributor to be a service problem. Remove two bolts, and it comes right off. The front distributor is driven directly off the front of the camshaft by an offset tang. Once you have the distributor in your hand, it can be taken to the workbench to replace points and check the timing.
I believe most of the bad publicity is caused by folks who are afraid to remove the distributor and attempt to service it in-place. Yikes! That is not impossible, but infinitely harder trying to work on it between the fan blades and front of the engine! Just remove it.
Reinstalling the distributor is really easy, especially if you remember which way the rotor was pointing when it came off. Just set the rotor pointing near the same spot before placing distributor against the engine. If the distributor bolts do not seem to line up, the tang is not lined-up right. Turn the distributor shaft 1/2 turn and try again. Even if you didn't memorize the rotor location, or the engine has been turned over with the distributor off, replacing the distributor is still easy. Feel in the front of the engine to get an idea of the camshaft tang position, set the distributor tang to match. Rotate distributor back and forth as you place it on the engine and feel it engage the cam. Try the bolts, and again, if it doesn't bolt right up, turn the rotor 1/2 turn and try again.
Unless someone has fiddled with the timing adjustment, and the tractor was running ok, the timing is probably ok right where it is. No need to fool with that, if you are just checking or replacing points. Once set, the timing should not change. However, we seem to be having issues with low quality replacement parts. Some people have run into parts that simply do not fit right. If your new points are not made and gapped EXACTLY the same as the ones you are replacing, your timing could change. There are cases where people had to enlarge holes or drill new ones to get a set of points to fit! My solution to that is to buy the highest quality replacement parts I can find. I return or throw away parts that do not fit right. The time inferior parts will cost me just ain't worth trying to use them. It is not a good thing when we find ourselves modifying original parts to make inferior replacement parts work.
While you have the distributor on the bench, its easy to check and reset the timing adjustment if necessary.
Remove Wire to Coil. Pry bail forward and remove Coil. Release clips and remove Distributor cap. Take note of the direction the rotor button is pointing before you take the distributor off the engine. This is the direction it needs to point when the distributor goes back on. The distributor will not fit right with the rotor pointing any other way. Don't worry too much if you forget, or someone cranks the engine with the distributor off, it only takes a moment or two to hold the distributor to the front of the engine, and turn the rotor until the distibutor body drops into place. I just think it's a little easier to know about where the rotor should be.
Remove 2 bolts and take the distributor off. Take a look at the back side. You will see the offset tang that engages on the camshaft. The offset is obvious when you look directly at the back-side of the distributor.
Take the distributor where you can get comfortable and work on it.
Mostly it's the front bushing, the little one, that holds the front end of the distributor shaft. Rotate the distributor shaft until the points are open, then watch the points, and try to move the distributor shaft side to side. If you can see the point gap change, the bushing is worn and needs to be replaced. No problem. That just means we get to have a little more fun with the distributor. If it's not already off, remove the rotor. Pay attention to how the condenser wire connects to the points. Remove the points and condenser. Remove the screw and timing plate on the side of the distributor. The plate is held in the distributor body by a retaining wire clip around the edge. Take a photo or remember how that wire clip is positioned. It should pry out fairly easy with a screwdriver. The plate then pulls straight out. Once that is out of the way, you can remove and inspect the distributor shaft and advance weights.
Clean everything thoroughly. Check all the spring tabs, weights, and rivets. Make sure the advance mechanism works smoothly.
The front bushing is in the bracket that is riveted to the distributor plate. I use the new bushing to press out the old one as it goes in. Carefully! Apply pressure only to the bushing. Do not press with the support bracket unbraced. It is easy to bend the bracket out of alignment. Do that and you will need a new distributor plate assembly. I flipped my plate upside down on a socket just large enough the new bushing would drop inside it, placed the new bushing on the back side of the old bushing, then pressed the new bushing into place as the old one went into the socket. Remove any ridges that might have been formed at the edge of the bushing, then test-fit the end of the distributor shaft in the new bushing. It should be a snug fit. Lubricate the new bushing with a couple drops of motor oil. Just a little, we don't want motor oil getting all over the points. Reassemble the distributor shaft, plate, Install timing plate and screw loose, then install the retaining wire clip. Make sure the clip goes all the way into into the groove.
Install a new set of points and condenser. Set the point gap to .015". The front distributor distributor has a simple center excentric screw that can be turned with a flat blade screwdriver to the correct gap. Tighten the point screws and make sure the points didn't move. They usually do. If they moved open or closed, loosen the screws and adjust the points slightly more or less than perfect, so when the screws are tight they end up at the perfect setting. This process nearly always takes a few whacks. If either points screw is stripped, the fix is to replace with a slightly larger diameter screw. The replacement will be a very short length #8-32 screw. That length should not any longer than necessary to engage the threads in the top plate. Longer screws may interfere with the rotating advance weights below the top plate. If your top plate already has the larger screws, it's time for a new top plate assembly.
Place a straightedge on the wide side of the tang on the distributor shaft as shown in the photo. Rotate the distributor shaft in the normal direction until the straight edge is 1/4" away from the outside edge of the distributor mounting hole. The distributor points should just be starting to open. If not, adjust the timing plate position to advance or retard the timing.
This photo shows how to measure the 1/4" timing adjustment on the front distributor to set it at zero degrees TDC.
It is best to be turning the distributor shaft in the correct direction to the 1/4" measurement. This will remove any slop in the advance parts. The 1/4" setting will get your sparks firing at top dead center. That is correct timing for these engines.
Some of the made in China replacement points are not exactly the same as the original points. In some cases there will not be enough length to the timing slot to get the timing set at 1/4". There are two solutions. Buy a different set of points and start over. Remove the timing bolt and plate, turn top plate tab away from the slot, and file the timing slot longer in the direction it needs to go. I've done this with a rat tail file in about 30 seconds. File a little more than necessary to allow about 1/2 mark of adjustment on that little timing plate.
Before installing the distributor on the engine, use a test light or ohmmeter to check that the points are opening and closing electrically. Place one test lead on the hollow screw where the condenser wire connects. Place the other test lead on the distributor housing. Turn the distributor shaft and make sure you can see the points open and close. Check wire connections and copper flex strip for shotrs. Drag a point file between the points until any varnish is scraped off and they are working.
When mounting the distributor back onto engine, the slot in the end of the camshaft (front of motor) is offset. The tang on the distributor will only mate easily to the slot on the camshaft one way. If you have it lined up correctly, the distributor will fit flush to the motor and the retaining bolts will go in without forcing it. If the tang is 180 degrees off, the distributor bolts will not line up. If the tang isn't in the slot at all, the distributor will not fit flush to the front of the engine. If you try and force it by tightening down the mounting bolts, the casting on the distributor will break. It is not real hard to get things lined up right, but it is easier if you remember about which way the rotor was pointed when you took it off.
My 48 was very sensitive to timing and had to be very close to dead-on Top Dead Center for it to start easily and run right. When doing final tweaking to get it just right for your tractor you can make slight adjustments to timing without removing the distributor. Loosten the timing lock screw, shift the timing about half a mark, tighten the bolt and test run the engine with a load. Remember which way you turned it because you may want to put it back, or try going in the opposite direction.
This simple trial and error approach, making small adjustments one at a time and then testing the results, has always seemed to be the best way to find that perfect final adjustments. No two engines are exactly the same, and factory settings can usually be tweaked slightly for better performance. The key is to keep track of each change so you can undo the change if there was no improvement or things got worse.
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