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How to Set Ignition Timing on 1980 Ford Mustang 302

Ford first used the 302 engine in the 1968 Mustang because of its power, light weight and small size. Due to the fuel shortage of the 1970s, Ford substantially reduced the horsepower of the 302 in an effort to increase fuel mileage. Whereas the standard-production 302 produced 210 horsepower in 1968, it produced only 140 horsepower by 1980. Although the 1980 302 wasn't nearly as powerful as its predecessors, ignition timing was just as important, as an incorrect timing setting can dramatically reduce both power and fuel efficiency. Thankfully, setting the timing on the 1980 302 is simple.

Tools Used: Chalk or paint, Wrench, Timing light

Set Ignition Timing

Locate and mark the correct timing point on the harmonic balancer. The harmonic balancer is located on the front of the engine, just below the water pump. A series of number are stamped into the outside of the balancer. Mark the number "6" with a piece of chalk or with a drop of paint.

Locate the timing pointer. The timing pointer is a metal piece which, as its name suggests, forms a point. The pointer is located just above the harmonic balancer on the driver's side of the water pump. Mark the tip of the pointer with chalk or with a drop of paint.

Loosen the distributor's single hold-down bolt. The hold-down bolt is located on the driver's side of the distributor, where the distributor enters the top of the intake manifold. Loosen, but do not remove, this hold-down bolt with a wrench.

Connect a timing light to the engine. Three cords exit the handle of the timing light. One cord has a red-colored clip and another has a black-colored clip. The third cord has a black box with a hole in the center of the box. Note that the black box can be opened and closed. Open the black box and hook it onto the spark plug wire at the front of the engine on the passenger's side. Clip the red-colored clip to the positive battery terminal. Clip the black-colored clip to the battery's negative battery terminal.

Start the engine and point the timing light at the harmonic balancer. Pull the trigger on the timing light. The light will flash each time electrical current passes through the spark plug wire hooked to the black box. The light will illuminate the mark on the harmonic balancer and the tip of the timing pointer. Twist the distributor until these two marks align with each other. In other words, the two marks should appear as a single mark.

Turn the engine off and disconnect the timing light from the engine. Tighten the distributor's hold-down bolt with a wrench.

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