Rebuilding the distributor

Today I was just waiting around the shop for a local contractor to show up to give me an estimate on some landscaping. While I was waiting, I finally picked up my old rusty spare distributor and tore into it (been meaning to do it so I could see what parts I needed to order for it). I had already took the points plate, breaker cam and weights/springs off – they were pretty rusty and one spring fell apart.

I punched the pin on the shaft out. It took a little effort to get the collar off of the shaft because of all the varnish on the shaft – looking back, a little carb cleaner would’ve taken that right off and the collar would’ve slid right off. The shaft came right out of the top of the distributor housing then. I went ahead and stripped everything off of the housing that I could. I chased all of the holes to clean them out. I sprayed the entire housing with carb cleaner and scraped/scrubbed her down to get it good and clean for inspection.

I cleaned the shaft, breaker plate and all components that I planned on reusing with the wire wheel on the grinder, a wire brush and carb cleaner to get all the rust and varnish off of them. Next, I put a little oil on the shaft and slid it back into the housing. There was a little bit of lateral play, but it was very little – the bushings are OK. There was a slight vertical play, but it is OK. I removed the shaft and cleaned everything with brake cleaner this time to get the oil off and get the housing ready for paint. I taped up the housing.

Distributor housing

Next, I sprayed the housing with gloss black brake caliper paint – it was the only gloss black spray paint I had, and I am glad I used it – super hard, and dries very fast!

While the second coat was drying, I went and found my spare distributor cap housing. It had silicone in the inspection hole plug hole, and a bad distributor cap. I removed the silicone and cap and cleaned it up with carb cleaner inside and out. I had to use some sand paper to soften the edges of the paint that was left after the carb cleaner got done with it. I cleaned it up with some brake cleaner, taped the spark plug wire posts up, and sprayed 2 coats of caliper paint on it.

When I was done with that, the housing was DRY, so I oiled up the shaft and put it in (don’t forget the LARGE diameter washer on the shaft BEFORE you install the shaft!). Next, don’t forget the SMALL diameter washer before the collar. I used an 8p nail sanded to a tight fit in the collar/shaft hole – I had to hammer it in. I used the Dremel to cut the pin off on both sides, then a carbide bit to shape the pin to the shape of the collar – worked great!

Next, I took inventory of everything I need to buy to finish my rebuilt spare distributor. I am going to need: distributor cap, Distributor cap housing inspection plug, 6 cap screws and star washers, o ring, coil hold down screws and star washers, weights and springs, and either points and condenser or M151 breakerless ignition.

After taking inventory, I looked at my capacitor and the wire was about to break. I cut the wire off and took a new piece of military wire and soldered it to the wire stub. I put some shrink tubing over the soldered joint and put another piece over the other end and crimped a ring terminal on that end and shrink tubed that end. I reinstalled the capacitor and all of the external fittings and stuck the cap on for a final pic:

Distributor - painted

Now, to order those parts so I can finish it up!

I also decided to change the front black out marker “doors” – I don’t think they show the turn signals good enough. I put the military conversion lenses on them – I already had them. Here’s an old pic – I didn’t take one today.

Turn signal lenses


I started out by painting the volt gauge today. While it was drying between coats, I removed the old amp gauge and checked out the cb (to see why it stopped working). After the new gauge was dry enough to (carefully) handle, I installed it in the gauge panel. I turned on the ignition switch and the needle went to the line between yellow and green. I started the engine – it went to red and back to green at idle. Every time I revved the engine, it would go to red = overcharging. I thought it might be just because it had been sitting for a week and needed a little bit of a charge, but it always went back to the red area when I revved the engine over idle.

New volt gauge

You can really tell the difference between the old and new gauges! Maybe I’ll replace the rest of them too (sooner or later).

Since I was going to replace the voltage regulator once I installed the new volt gauge anyway, I didn’t really worry about the charging problem. I have been thinking for a while that the regulator wasn’t working right, but since I don’t have the knowledge (even using the manuals) to work on this old equipment, I decided that going with the newer solid state equipment would be a good idea.

I removed the old regulator and the negative battery cable from the frame (ground) area. After removing the regulator, I used some sand paper to remove all paint and corrosion from the regulator mount and the frame locations. I spread some anti corrosion compound on the areas that I cleaned before I installed the negative battery cable and the new solid state regulator.

New solid state regulator

Can you tell what is new here? You can also see the new starter I installed last week.

I reconnected the negative battery cable and fired her up. The volt gauge took a second to respond, but went right to the mid green area of the gauge – there is a line there saying that it is charging perfectly! And it stayed there! I revved her up a few times and the needle never moved. I turned on the headlights (headlight – one of them is burned out) and the needle moved slightly to the left of the line – seems to be working!

I took a ride down the road about 5 miles. She seemed to be running ALOT better – 45mph and she was much quieter and seemed to have a good bit more in reserve. The volt gauge stayed on the line. I got back to the shop and backed her in – she idles perfectly without any misses – I am happy now! The breakerless ignition and new solid state regulator are a great addition to the Jeep to guarantee her reliability.

Next, I thought I would gamble on replacing the burnt out headlight. My reasoning was that when I started the engine after I put the new volt gauge in, it went to the red range when revved up – meaning it was overcharging when running at speed. Overcharging (putting more than 28v in the system) can burn out bulbs – especially when the regulator kicks in and you get a surge. Now that the regulator is staying steady, there shouldn’t be any surges. I replaced the bulb with one of the spares I bought at the Georgia rally. When I turned on the headlights, everything was fine – low and high beam.

I checked the brake light bulbs – they were fine. Then I pulled the wires off of the switch and connected them together – brake lights were on. I pulled the switch off of the master cylinder – you could barely tell if the switch was working by pushing a screw driver in it. I hooked the wires back up to the switch and pushed a screwdriver in it – brake lights didn’t come on. I figured I would put the old switch back in and order a new one. I pushed the brakes (which went close to the floor) and the lights came on! I pushed them again and they didn’t. I got in and pushed the brake pedal – they didn’t come on. I guess the switch is bad.

Yesterday I picked up my head from the machine shop. It turned out pretty good. He had to replace one valve because it was pitted pretty bad (from water sitting on top of it).

2013-04-26 11.53.30

He also bead blasted the intake and the bowls and took an extra .025″ off of the head to increase the compression ratio – I might be able to get 7.5:1 compression ratio now and maybe a couple of horsepower. I am planning on doing a few more things to the engine to increase horsepower – porting and polishing the exhaust and balancing the rods, pistons and crank.

Head - rebuilt

2013-04-26 11.52.48

Starter and ignition – DONE (almost)

Well I got out to the shop today and worked on my starter.

I pulled the starter switch off of the starter and sure enough, as I expected, there was carbon all over the inside – along with some corrosion and a burnt insulator!

2013-04-16 11.35.53

I took everything apart and cleaned the inside with a flat screwdriver – scraping all of the carbon and corrosion out. I cleaned all of the other pieces up using the wire wheel on the bench grinder. I had a good insulator out of my 12v starter.

2013-04-16 11.55.36

The plunger housing was also full of corrosion and carbon, so I cleaned it up with a screwdriver and reassembled everything. I hooked up the negative battery cable to the battery and no spark AT ALL (I have always had a small one when I hooked up the battery).

I hit the starter and she spun over fine. I hooked up the timing light and set the timing, idle and mixture. Checked the battery cable and it was still COOL, so I went for a drive.

She seems to have a little bit more power and is more responsive, but I still think the rotor needs to be cut. I emailed the guy that wrote the conversion article about how to do it, but haven’t heard from him yet. She runs good, but if I cut the rotor, she should run GREAT! Anyhow, she is starting (turning over SLOWLY, as she should be) and running good – so I am happy for now!

I guess the next things are: 1)Rebuild the bellcrank (I got the rebuild kit in the mail), 2)Change the pitman arm (I got the NOS one in the mail) and 3)Figure out the brake light problem. And I need to call the machinist to see if my head is done.

Electronic ignition and new starter

Yesterday I did the M151 to M38a1 electronic ignition conversion. It is actually a breaker-less ignition conversion using the Swedish M151 conversion kit. This kit is running about $50 whereas the Pertronix conversion kit runs about $150, but it is a drop in kit. I found the instructions here: , but they only provided an overview of the process. He included the main points like where the Hall sensor should be pointing and a basic idea about where the tab slot should be located. It says that the rotor will have to be modified, but doesn’t tell you how to do it.


I removed the breaker plate and using the drawing above, marked the location of the new tab slot with a pencil. I removed the new module and started cutting the slot with a Dremel tool and finished up with a couple of small machinist’s files for a tight fit. Then I cleaned out the metal shavings with compressed air and brake cleaner. This also removed the paint everywhere it touched and cleaned out some built up varnish or gummy oil on the shaft because it turned much better!

I reinstalled everything after oiling the pivot points on the counterweights, springs and shaft. The retaining spring was kind of a pain to reinstall and the wires from the module were actually a little short, but they did reach the coil.

As mentioned before, the rotor is supposed to be modified, but I haven’t found any detailed info about how to accomplish this. When I do, I will update this writeup and the video.

Here is the video that I made, showing some of the main points of the conversion. It is not professional or not brightly lit – it was taken with my phone, but you might still be able to get something out of it.

Before I started the conversion, I cleaned up my used starter that I bought at the rally this weekend with some brake cleaner and painted it. I installed it in the Jeep before I re-installed the distributor. I sure am glad I set the motor to TDC on #1 cylinder before I removed the distributor – made life a whole lot easier when I put it back in!

2013-04-15 13.46.09

I hooked up the battery and ignition cables to the starter and distributor and hooked the battery cable back up at the battery. I hit the starter pedal and it sure did turn over ALOT slower compared to the 12v starter (it is supposed to turn over slow with a 24v starter, so that’s a good thing!). It started right up and ran ALOT smoother than with the points – without even fine tuning the distributor! I ran around to the distributor to fine tune and my hand touched the rag covered battery cable at the starter – it was hot! I waited a few seconds and touched it again – it was HOTTER! So I closed the hood quickly and disconnected the battery cable. I think the starter switch is probably grounding out because the insulator inside it is burnt – I’ll get to around to checking that today hopefully.

Overall, a success!

Rally in review

The trip to the rally at Denton Farmpark – Denton, NC April 11-14 2013 (April 11-13th for me) went as planned. It is only about 95 miles from home, so it is a quick trip – 1/2 interstate, 1/2 two lane highway, and also a fairly easy drive pulling a loaded trailer. I got there about 12:00PM on Thursday – the 4th vehicle there (there were some guys from West Virginia that convoyed their (2)M37s and (1) M715 trucks and trailers already there).

I pulled into my site and promptly unloaded the Jeep, rolled out my air mattress and set up camp. Then I went for a ride around the park. After that, I went and talked to the WV guys and bought a double end intervehicular cable for the M100 from one of them, and a book (really a magazine) about the M1 Garand from its author (one of the WV guys). I was also eyeballing a starter for the Jeep.

People rolled in slowly. Don and Darlene who didn’t own a MV, but attend all of the local rallies anyway showed up early. Darlene is the one that took the pictures I am going to post here – since I didn’t even think of taking ANY.

Cabel showed up with the MKT ( mobile kitchen trailer) late afternoon. Don and I helped him set up so we could eat supper. He sat up next to my camp, so that was the center of activity for the weekend.


Others came in slowly, but by the end of the day we had a decent crowd, but not close to last year’s count. Mike came up from Georgia and brought his M271 Mule along with a nice fire pit that he made right before he left – that was the center gathering place after dark.


Fire_Ring_Home_MadeMike's Mule

Jim Henry (one of the people who got the rally together) brought his normal stuff – a lot of vehicles and stuff to sell. This is his M551 Sheridan Air mobile Light Tank. That is Don and Darlene with it.

M551 Sheridan tankDarlene and the Sheridan

Here is a nice Willys MB (and Don) – don’t know who it belonged to.

Don and a nice MB

Here’s a nice bobbed deuce (M35a2)

Bobbed Duece

Adam and Craig showed up about 11:00PM Friday night with the M818 tractor pulling an M105 trailer with commo shelter/camper in the bed and M915 tractor.

Adam's M818M818 and commo shelter (camper)

Saturday came and we still had a small showing compared to last year. The crowd was fairly large I think. I had a bunch of WW2, Korean War and Vietnam vets come by and talk to me about my Jeep – and I took a few for a ride. Robert (the author and guy from WV) came by taking pics to put in a number of magazines (hopefully I’ll find out if my pics go in a magazine).

I had to leave at 12PM so I could drop the Jeep and car off and head to my cousin’s wedding Saturday afternoon. It was hard to leave when the crowd started coming, but I wanted to go to the wedding too.

And one last pic – of mine

My Jeep

Here is a link to the thread with the pictures if anybody wants to see more:

Now, off to the shop to clean/paint/install my “new” starter and test it out. I also got my NOS pitman arm and M151 ignition kit. I might go ahead and pull my distributor and install the ignition kit. I’ll take pics (and maybe a video or three) of the process. I also got my bellcrank rebuild kit last week before I left – don’t know when I’ll install that.




Ready to go (to the rally – almost)

I got out to the shop this morning after work and checked the fluids and greased everything. Good thing I did b/c the transfer case was VERY LOW – couldn’t even touch oil in it! I knew it had been leaking, but didn’t think it leaked that much. It took almost 1/2q to fill it back up. Tires were pretty good – just needed a pound or so each.

I also decided to paint my cb speaker, so I took it and the bracket off and sprayed it while I was doing everything else. I took off up the road and drove around for about 5 minutes or so and it was running so good (I was cruising around at about 35 – 40mph) that I kept on going past the driveway and headed down the road to the gas station (about 4 miles away) to fill her up for the rally. Pretty good trip except for having to get on the highway (and dodge all of the crazy ass people on the road!) to get there and back.

When I got back I took the top off and stowed it in the back floorboard. By that time the paint on the speaker was dry, so I put it back on the dash (using the upper fording plate screws). Then I took off up the road again for one more test drive. When I got back I backed he in the shop and remembered that I hadn’t checked the lights. I knew that my passenger headlight was out (high and low beam) because of my ground problem. The rest of the running and blackout bulbs were fine. The brake lights, however, didn’t work! I had been driving around all afternoon (about 25 miles of back roads AND highway – and a cop passed me on the highway!) with no brake lights! The turn signals worked though. I don’t have the time to troubleshoot them, so I guess I will just have to drive around the park property with no trail rides – Oh well!

I’ll go get the trailer tomorrow morning and load her up and take off – everything thing else is ready to go.

I’ll post pick and video if I have an internet connection up there this year – if not I’ll do it as soon as I get home.

More CB stuff

Today I went to the other (fairly) local truck stop – a Flying J. They had the elbow connector that I needed to complete my antenna install (to make it look right). I was browsing through the CB stuff and ran across the external speakers. They had one that was really small (about 2″x3″) – I figured that might look OK  mounted to the dash, so I bought it. The elbow was $5 and the speaker was $13. When I finally got home (more on this later), I put the elbow on and pulled the extra antenna cable through to the glove box – I now have 2 loops of cable in the glove box. I haven’t decided whether to paint the elbow black (or OD) or not yet. Now the antenna cable goes straight out of the back of the mount instead of looping down and back up.

antenna cable elbow

Next I held the speaker’s bracket up to different places to see where it would be loud enough for me to hear but not be in the way. I settled on using 2 of the screws for mounting the old fording cable plate – they were perfectly spaced, plus I was able to feed the speaker wire through the fording cable hole  to keep it out of the way. I routed the wire to the hole in the back of the glove box and tied up the extra wire. Plugged it up to the back of the CB and turned it on. I didn’t hear anything. Then I remembered that the CB has a PA speaker OUT jack back there too, so I felt around until I found the ext speaker outlet and plugged it in there. I changed moved through a couple of channels and then heard a conversation. Turned up the volume and it was PLENTY loud to hear it over the Jeep. I was impressed! Next, I plugged the speaker into my phone to see if I could use it for music – NO GO. You could barely hear it turned all the way up. Oh well – it worked for the reason I installed it. I was going to paint the speaker and bracket OD, but decided against it – I don’t know if it would make it look any more military if it was OD. After inserting the pic in this post, it looks kind of odd being able to see the upper screws and hole with the wire going through it – I might change that tomorrow. I also need to change that white zip tie on the steering column!

CB speaker

I had a little bit of “Death Wobble” the other day when I went for a ride. Funny thing is that it happened when I hit the same dip in the pavement as before (when it wobbled). After I finished the speaker install and changed the oil & filter and w/s wiper blades on my car, I jacked the front of the Jeep up and tried to move the tires. The last time, the wheel bearings were noticeably loose – not this time. No movement in the bearings or tie rod ends. The bellcrank was moving though – a lot! It has about a 1/16″ to 1/8″ of movement where the bushings are worn out (I guess). I guess I’ll go ahead and order the rebuild kit now so I can rebuild it after the rally.

Now, back to the reason it took so long to get home. I had 2 things to do away from home today. 1)Go pick up the antenna cable elbow – which is about 10 miles from my house, and 2)Take the head from my spare Jeep engine to the machine shop to have it rebuilt – the machine shop is about 25 miles from my house. My idea was to pick up the elbow and go back roads to get to the machine shop – about 35 miles  – round trip from my house would be 70 miles. I picked up the elbow and speaker and lunch and headed to the machine shop – on the way I remembered that my oil in the car needed changing before I went back to work, and I wasn’t going all the way back to the big city (so to speak) to get it changed. I got to the machine shop and he was closed! So, to salvage all this driving, I decided to go to town and buy oil and filter to change my oil. On the way to town I passed the machine shop owner – I decided to go on to O’Reilly’s and get my stuff anyway. After spending $70 on oil change stuff and wiper blades, I called the machine shop – he said they took a late lunch but were there now, so I headed back out to the shop. I got there and talked to him for a while – he inspected the head and I told him what I wanted done to it. Then I headed home – FINALLY. So, the trip to do those 2 things ended up being 90 miles and taking about 4 hrs! Anyway, it’s done. I can pick up my head the next time I’m off and re assemble it (I forgot to take the valve stem seals to him, so I can either make another trip to his shop or re assemble them myself). I really just wanted him to do the valves and seats, check for valve guide wear, clean it and surface it anyway.

That’s it for this week off. I guess my next installment will be a report about the rally!