Some notes on the 123ignition distributor install and a cool new curve

Stevehose

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I have my car on stands for a while so I decided to check my 123 distributor for the oil invasion problem noted by @adawil2002 and others on the internet, as well as clean out any debris. It comes apart rather easily, drive out a shaft pin to remove the aluminum flywheel then remove 5 hex screws to remove the top green plate. The bottom green plate has all the electronics and wiring imbedded in it and I only (gently) pulled that out of the way to check the bottom of the housing.



Fortunately no oil, and the small amount of sandy debris that managed to get in was cleaned out. I had a slightly concerning issue reassmbling the flywheel and pin but it was my error and got it back together having flirted with fixing something that wasn't broken. I noticed the flywheel magnets had plating that was flaking off so I smeared a small amount of JB weld on both sides of each one to keep more from falling into the housing.



There isn't really a definitive guide to installing these for the first time, I find the 123 manual lacking because it doesn't mention what I found to be an important detail, and that is once the engine is at TDC for cylinder 1, the 123 should be installed with the rotor pointing at the #1 plug on the cap. It doesn't say this in the manual and implies position doesn't matter. Maybe it does and I just didn't do something right. But I think it does matter because it would pop and backfire like hell until I did so. And they don't say that after the green light goes on and you are ready to fire it up, if it doesn't start the first time (which I have read is quite common, including me) then advance the distributor a centimeter or so at a time until it does. Once it starts and the engine warms up, the engine must be manually timed with a timing light to the same spec as in your curve. So if you have initial timing set in the software at 15 degrees at 950 rpm like I do, the engine needs to be manually timed to this by rotating the distributor and strobing the flywheel window. This isn't documented either that I could find. Hopefully someone who gets one of these amazing pieces of technology and is having trouble installing will find this helpful. Anyone else had to do this?

I also fiddled with a new curve. I have triple webers and many users say they like lots of early advance so I have a fairly steep curve and decent amount of static advance. My idle advance at 950rpm is 15 degrees. I bumped up the advance to max 20 if the car idles below 850 as a way to prevent stalling (sometimes my engine wants to stall if I go into stop and go traffic after running fast for a while and its a very hot ambient temperature weather, I think it has to do with fuel mixture etc, not really a problem but maybe this will help. Also when I tried it on a cold engine it actually kept the idle up without having to hold the accel pedal while warming up (no cold idle circuit on side drafts). So no advance when cranking, higher advance when warming up or if idle gets too low, then a normal curve from 900 on. My idle is set at 950. I don't use vacuum advance. Pretty cool so far. Give it a try and let me know if it works for you, and any other installation notes to post here.

 
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DWMBMW

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I’ll give it s try this weekend. I have my idle set at 1000 so I don’t have to keep blipping the accelerator pedal at stop lights when the A/C is on.

I currently have a curve that is somewhere between the original curves you and Chris had posted.

That curve really smoothed out the engine and allowed a leaner fuel mixture over the original preset.
 

Stevehose

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1000 is fine, I have a little lower because I installed a servo to bump the idle when ac is on. Webers like it around 1000 anyway. Please post your current curve too.
 

Ohmess

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It appears from your flywheel picture that you are working on the kitchen table again. I would feel enormous pressure to finish and clean up before my wife got home if I tried this. You must work well under pressure.

I too found that facing the rotor toward #1 plug on the cap was important (I believe you had advised me of this). My car fired up the first time, and when I checked it with a timing light, my initial advance was spot.

As to the no advance when cranking comment, folks should know if you miss this little thing, as I did when playing around with different curves in the past, it will be difficult to get your car to start.

I am using only 12 degrees of initial advance, and also do not have cold start mechanisms. I may try 15 to see if it helps with initial warm up.

Is it possible that the debris you found was the plating that had flaked off from the magnets? I can see how oil might get in from the bottom as Andrew had noted, but not how a flaky debris would get in there if it did not come off the magnets.
 

Stevehose

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Good eye regarding the kitchen table, old habits are hard to break. There were far more egregious practices with my recent maintenance activities, one being the wheel waxing and Tufshine application (both sides) of the alpinas:



If you bump your timing to 15 you may have to then lower your idle screw to compensate for the higher normal idle, thus negating the warm up feature, the beauty of the higher advance than the normal one is that if the idle drops for reasons other than throttle position (like when warming up) it compensates. Then when it warms up it advances normally. So you may want to go to 17 or so (+5) for the cold start section and see if it does anything, and leave your 12 as is.

Yes I believe some of the debris was metal flakes, some can be seen in the pic at around the 7 o'clock posiiton, also there was some sandy debris trapped between rim of the top green circuit board and the case wall. I guess it gets blown in there over time somehow.

It appears from your flywheel picture that you are working on the kitchen table again. I would feel enormous pressure to finish and clean up before my wife got home if I tried this. You must work well under pressure.

I too found that facing the rotor toward #1 plug on the cap was important (I believe you had advised me of this). My car fired up the first time, and when I checked it with a timing light, my initial advance was spot.

As to the no advance when cranking comment, folks should know if you miss this little thing, as I did when playing around with different curves in the past, it will be difficult to get your car to start.

I am using only 12 degrees of initial advance, and also do not have cold start mechanisms. I may try 15 to see if it helps with initial warm up.

Is it possible that the debris you found was the plating that had flaked off from the magnets? I can see how oil might get in from the bottom as Andrew had noted, but not how a flaky debris would get in there if it did not come off the magnets.
 

DWMBMW

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1000 is fine, I have a little lower because I installed a servo to bump the idle when ac is on. Webers like it around 1000 anyway. Please post your current curve too.
I have the wireless 123 and do not know how to save a screenshot for the curve on the dashboard on my phone app.

500 15.0
1300 15.0
1600 24.0
2000 30.0
2500 34.0
3000 36.0
8000 36.0
 

m5bb

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I thought because of the green light the dist housing could be anywhere. I like mine where I can access the port for the cable to the computer.
I use the old school initial timing setting of once it's warmed up I advance the dist until it starts running worse and then back off a couple degrees.
I haven't had trouble with starting.
My curve is more gentle. Going up 5-10 degrees at a time but getting to max around 3000 RPM.
My idle seems to want to be around 1000 with the cam and webbers.
So on the screen I've always thought the timing settings you see are what the dist is using? So initial timing is right there.
My cam is advanced with an adjustable timing gear as well. IIRC about 12 degrees. So my static timing is well about 20.
Still playing with mine and haven't even been on the x-way yet at speed.
 

Ohmess

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I am trying your curve, and did indeed notice that I had to back down my idle speed screw with the increase to 15.

Haven't checked warm up yet; will do so today. If I wanted to program +5 for cold start, how would I program that so it only operates when the engine is cold? Or are you suggesting a temporary increasing using the tune function?
 

Stevehose

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I believe you are right but I couldn't get mine to do this. Probably user error. Both the software and the timing gun say the same thing on mine.

I thought because of the green light the dist housing could be anywhere. I like mine where I can access the port for the cable to the computer.
I use the old school initial timing setting of once it's warmed up I advance the dist until it starts running worse and then back off a couple degrees.
I haven't had trouble with starting.
My curve is more gentle. Going up 5-10 degrees at a time but getting to max around 3000 RPM.
My idle seems to want to be around 1000 with the cam and webbers.
So on the screen I've always thought the timing settings you see are what the dist is using? So initial timing is right there.
My cam is advanced with an adjustable timing gear as well. IIRC about 12 degrees. So my static timing is well about 20.
Still playing with mine and haven't even been on the x-way yet at speed.
 

Stevehose

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The cold start feature is an unintended consequence, notrmally as my engine warms up it won't stay at its warm idle setting (my case is 950) without holding the accel pedal to keep it from stalling or idling very low. But since it falls below 800 when cold the extra timing kicks in and allows the engine to idle better as it warms up, once it goes past 800 the timing goes to basline (15 for me) and runs normally. But every triples/engine setup is different so it may not work the same for you.

I am trying your curve, and did indeed notice that I had to back down my idle speed screw with the increase to 15.

Haven't checked warm up yet; will do so today. If I wanted to program +5 for cold start, how would I program that so it only operates when the engine is cold? Or are you suggesting a temporary increasing using the tune function?
 

DWMBMW

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I changed a couple of points on the curve at lunch time and will see if I notice any diffence at the first few traffic lights while its warming up on my way home today.

500 20.0
1000 15.0
1500 25.0
2000 30.0
2500 34.0
3000 36.0
8000 36.0
 

DWMBMW

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Didn’t notice any difference but that’s a good thing since I was very happy with the way it was running. Maybe the plugs will burn cleaner though?
 

Ohmess

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Steve -- cold start actually works pretty well for me. Idle speed still drops, but not as much and she will continue to run and warm up without the need to babysit the pedal.
 

TodB

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I just installed one of these in my 02 using the (modified) method you suggested. Even after I turned it looking for the green light I still had to turn it a bit more when confirming the timing with a timing light. Only after that, did I tighten it down.

Been smooth running after that. Much smoother, actually, lots of annoying running issues just went away.

I now have two cars with these distributors but I do carry the old spares.
 
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