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Old 03-04-2021, 10:11 AM   #1
Conaway2
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Default Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

With stock ignition and electrical system, how long do points usually last ?

I just had to replace a set with probably 2,000 miles on them. The contact surface was pretty dark, but no pit and crater condition. I didnít try to dress the surfaces.

Thanks for any insights -
Jim
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Old 03-04-2021, 11:35 AM   #2
BRENT in 10-uh-C
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

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Originally Posted by Conaway2 View Post
With stock ignition and electrical system, how long do points usually last ?

I just had to replace a set with probably 2,000 miles on them. The contact surface was pretty dark, but no pit and crater condition. I didnít try to dress the surfaces.

Thanks for any insights -
Jim
Jim, your question is like asking 'How long does it take to catch a fish??'

By you replacing the points at 2,000 miles is like changing the engine oil at 200 miles because it was a Ĺ quart low. Normal maintenance of a set of points is to dress and adjust the gap.
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Old 03-04-2021, 12:37 PM   #3
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

The darkness is not an issue and if you don't have burnt pitting, etc. then they should still be good to go. I usually will wear out a rubbing block before my points go bad. In fact one of my cars is using what appears to be an original set of points taken out of an old crusty distributor.

On a new set of points, you will have to check the gap fairly soon after they "break in." This is due to the rubbing block wearing down to a more durable, hardened surface. Point gap makes all the difference in the world how your car runs. By the way, I used to live in Mt. Pleasant and sure miss it!
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Old 03-04-2021, 12:51 PM   #4
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

There are follow-ups to Brent's answer.

If you are paying someone to do the work, it then is a case of the cost of labor to dress the points vs the cost of new points. At $100/hr shop rate (the rough going rate around here) and stock points costing $15, the mechanic can spend up to 8 minutes dressing the points before new ones are cheaper. Add in the front office push to sell parts and the actuarial warranty expense on using old points, and most garages aren't going to service old points that show any wear.

If you do it yourself and pay yourself nothing, then you can dress the points down to where either the points are so worn you cannot get the proper gap, the metal is all filed away, or the points no longer close in a smooth co-planar fit. My experience is that once any significant pitting sets in the tradeoffs send me to a new set of points.
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Old 03-04-2021, 01:47 PM   #5
Kurt in NJ
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

I'm still using the points that came with the car, (50years) every so often I polish the contact with diamond oil stone, I can't comment on modern production ones, but in general they are of a lower quality than old production ones
I think most points are replace just when they are getting bedded in( rubbing block worn to match cam)
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Old 03-04-2021, 02:13 PM   #6
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

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Like Greg said, for me the issue is wearing out the rubbing blocks. I like the points that I get at NAPA. I think the ones in my car are at least 5-8 years old....I would guess 10,000 miles. I typically have to readjust the points twice a year, and I dress the contact surfaces each time. These are original style points, not the "modern" style.

I did spend some time polishing the distributor cam, and I always make sure that it is properly lubricated. That helps.

Ken
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Old 03-04-2021, 02:22 PM   #7
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

I don't think it has been mentioned yet to check the point resistance. The old tach and dwell meters used to have a scale for point resistance, if that is within spec you can then set the dwell and you are good to go and points won't be needlessly replaced. As the number of people having experience with points ignition decreases, it starts to become a "dark art"
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Old 03-04-2021, 03:09 PM   #8
Kurt in NJ
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

The condition of the distributor cam is a big factor in rubbing block life, the surface should be near mirror finish, rust or pitting will chew up the rubbing block
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Old 03-04-2021, 03:19 PM   #9
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

The OP didn't say what type of points he is using so I don't think we can answer his question properly.
FWIW, I converted to modern points when I bought the car. I used the vented type and I've done about 50,000 miles on them so far. Haven't changed the plugs either Motorcraft TT10s)
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Old 03-04-2021, 03:52 PM   #10
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

Some points are better than others. Wear blocks made from glass reinforced phenolic bloc material last longer than a lot of the modern plastic ones do. I've seem the contacts separate from the breaker arm on some really cheap stuff. The quality of a condenser has a lot to do with how long the points will last. The breaker point contacts will burn up pretty quick with a bad condenser. Luck into getting a really good condenser and the points will last for years depending on how much a person drives the vehicle.
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Old 03-04-2021, 03:59 PM   #11
Conaway2
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Jones View Post
The darkness is not an issue and if you don't have burnt pitting, etc. then they should still be good to go. I usually will wear out a rubbing block before my points go bad. In fact one of my cars is using what appears to be an original set of points taken out of an old crusty distributor.

On a new set of points, you will have to check the gap fairly soon after they "break in." This is due to the rubbing block wearing down to a more durable, hardened surface. Point gap makes all the difference in the world how your car runs. By the way, I used to live in Mt. Pleasant and sure miss it!
Thanks Greg. I grew up in Aiken and miss it, but it has changed a lot since the 50s/60s.

Jim
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Old 03-04-2021, 04:03 PM   #12
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

Thanks to all for the responses. I keep the cam greased, so wear on the block isn’t an issue. I have had good luck in the past with points lasting much longer than these did. I’m not even sure where I got them.

Jim
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Old 03-05-2021, 12:34 PM   #13
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

Why did you replace the points? If'n they're working good, adjust the gap if needed and leave them there.
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Old 03-05-2021, 12:37 PM   #14
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

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Why did you replace the points? If'n they're working good, adjust the gap if needed and leave them there.
They were burned and not passing enough current consistently to fire the coil.
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Old 03-05-2021, 01:45 PM   #15
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

I'd say a new condenser is in order as well as a new set of contacts.
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Old 03-05-2021, 03:59 PM   #16
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

A related topic: Is there anything wrong with using ordinary grease to lube the points cam? Why do some recommend vaseline?
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Old 03-05-2021, 10:13 PM   #17
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

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A related topic: Is there anything wrong with using ordinary grease to lube the points cam? Why do some recommend vaseline?
My understanding is that distributor cam lubricant is formulated to be thin, to stay where it's put, and to hold up under heat. Any grease that meets those criteria should also work fine.
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Old 03-06-2021, 01:32 AM   #18
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Conaway2 View Post
With stock ignition and electrical system, how long do points usually last ?

I just had to replace a set with probably 2,000 miles on them. The contact surface was pretty dark, but no pit and crater condition. I didnít try to dress the surfaces.

Thanks for any insights -
Jim

Did the ignition switch get left on by mistake? That will mess up a set of points in a hurry!
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Old 03-06-2021, 08:00 AM   #19
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

The lube used by Bendix/TCM for magneto cams has a consistency of a grease but is not a soap based greae product. It is a heavy petroleum oil mixed with waxless stoddard solvents P/N 10-400536-1). The idea is to lubricate the cam & follower without the stuff flinging off the cam onto the breaker points when it melts. It is a high melting point lube as well. Vaseline is a low melting point mix of petroleum based jelly and paraffin or wax type base stocks. Standard SL-2 distributor cam lube is a silicone base grease. The old Standard Motor Products points used to come with a capsule of lube in the box to apply to the felt brush before installation of the breaker set. This doesn't seem to be a common thing anymore.

All of the distributor cam lubes made in the modern era are designed to be used with a felt brush so that they will continue to lube for a longer period. Points with no felt brush have to be serviced more often and especially in high temperature applications.
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Old 03-07-2021, 08:08 AM   #20
Kevin in NJ
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Default Re: Lifetime of Distributor Points ?

Like oil changes and other changes the recommended change interval is driven more by profits. A mechanic and the companies do not make money if they are not selling products.

It used to be a general rule you replaced the points about every year or so as I recall, been a while. The average person drove like 10,000 miles or so.

The truth is points only need to be changed when the point blocks are too far gone to work right or the wear block is worn out.

With a smooth lubricated cam you can expect a very very long life. Starting with a quality old used point set you are likely to go a couple of generations before they point need replacing.

I took apart a pile of distributers. I inspected and saved most of the points. The Standard and Ford script points all had bright shiny point blocks and almost unworn point blocks. The no name points had corroded point and wear blocks that were not a good. I have a set of NOS no name points on the card. The points were corroded.

Points should be a set and forget, well monitored for point gap and lubricated. You should expect reseting of the point gap when first installed and as the wear block wears into the cam the time to increase between gap changes.

Like oil changes people futz with points too much. Set them and drive.

A little reminder.

The upper dist bushing does not need a special oil hole. Read the manual and you will find you are to fill up the oil to the top of the oiler on the side of the dist.

Drive and have fun.
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