Miscellaneous Ignition
Questions and Answers


Someone asked a question about "shorting out" the distributor (and a related question - power to the coil but not to the plugs). Regarding this, Rob wrote - The only way of "shorting the distributor" is to put the wires incorrectly on the coil -- reversing the (+) and (-) connections so the current is flowing the wrong way through the points. This can blow the condenser, and may cause pitting or burning of the points (obvious to look at).

My guess is the coil will have survived. If you have a multimeter, you can test the resistance in the primary 12-volt circuit (the (+) and (-) connections on the coil). With the multimeter set to "ohms," place the leads onto the coil connections. Zero resistance means it's blown -- any resistance means the circuit is still intact. The secondary (high voltage) circuit will be OK -- it's unlikely to be affected by a blown primary circuit, so you won't need to check this (if you want to, you check between the center electrode and ground -- you'll need to use a high resistance scale -- much higher than the primary.

Also, see our Coil Checking Procedure.

Have a look at the little (should be black) wire on the points inside the distributor -- this might have melted. Also check the fuses -- quite possibly one of those has blown as well. Also check the wiring to the idle cut off and choke -- cross wiring might have cooked these.

So -- the condenser, the points wire in the distributor, and the fuse are the most likely damaged parts.

John Connolly (Aircooled.Net) offered the following advice - Replace the ignition cap and rotor: three minutes (give or take). Bosch is the ONLY brand of these parts that I recommend you install. Leave the clear distributor caps for the show cars (they run like crap). Make sure you switch wires one at a time!!


Someone with an old distributor with the single vacuum line and one wire coming out from the condenser was thinking about changing it out for a newer one. Dave initially responded - This is a Single Vacuum Dual Advance (SVDA) distributor, the best match for the 30- and 34-PICT carburetors. Don't let someone try to talk you into a 009 centrifugal advance distributor!

Rob's calmer voice - You may be talking about some later VW distributors with a different condenser arrangement. Some use the canister as one side of the circuit - so it's firmly attached to the distributor body. Some use a "two wire" condenser and that has to have one wire attached to the condenser and the other to the coil (as normal). Electrically, either will work.

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