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post #1 of 55 Old 09-07-2016, 08:31 AM Thread Starter
zrstonestreet
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258 HEI Install

This is a "how-to" thread for installing an HEI distributor on your AMC 258. This was completed on a 1985 Base model so your components may vary depending on year.

Other things to note, I have a Weber 38 DGES installed and have previously half-nutter bypassed my motor. It wasn't until I had issues with my resistor wire from switch to starter solenoid, and found out I needed a Pre-'81 distributor to complete the nutter bypass that I decided to install the HEI.

For those not entirely sure what this is, think about your stock jeep ignition system..

Components:

Distributor - Passenger side of motor
Coil - Passenger side on motor behind distributor
Starter Solenoid - Passenger fender
Starter - Passenger side of motor at transmission bellhousing
Ignition Control Module (ICM) - Bottom driver's side fender
Engine Control Module (ECM) - Behind glove box; on top of heater box
Key Switch - Inside cabin on steering column
Battery - Passenger side on firewall
Spark Plugs - Passenger side screwed into head on motor
Plug Wires - From distributor to spark plugs

Now, ditch the ECM, ICM, Coil, Distributor, and every garbage wire it takes to power those items, and swap to a one-component HEI distributor. These distributors have a coil and ICM built into them which makes this an extremely simple ignition system resulting in fewer points of error and fewer troubleshooting expenses.

PROS

Extremely simple install
No more weak links in the ignition system
Looks much nicer (my opinion)
Rids your engine bay of clutter and wiring
Very large spark

CONS

*IF* the HEI distributor fails, parts are harder to come by at the local advance auto
*SOME* HEI distributors come with a hardened steel drive gear notorious for shredding the gear on the camshaft in the AMC v8's.. This is not a common issue on the AMC inline 6 engines. If this happens to my 4.2, I'll update this post accordingly.

**Note: I, by no means, am a professional mechanic. Only a weekend shade tree mechanic that grew up fixing junk on the farm.

BACKGROUND

I ordered the Weber 38 DGES carburetor from Tom at Redline back in February. After doing a motor swap on my '85 CJ7, I was having some trouble starting it. The motor fired up just as it should for about the first 5 times, then just before my test drive... it cranked and cranked and cranked. So, as Tom read through my build thread (https://www.jeepforum.com/forum/f8/4-...ypass-3771769/) I guess he thought he could offer a young lad an alternative solution. He emailed me the sales flyer, instructions, and some other information on the Redline HEI upgrade. And after Swatson454's recommendation on the HEI route, I figured it was time.

INSTALL

Mechanical Part of Installation:
After reading the instructions supplied by Redline, I started the HEI swap by removing the negative battery terminal. Then I removed the cap of the distributor and noted the firing position of spark plug #1. When looking directly at the passenger side of the motor, it should be at the 6 o'clock position. This is also where you want the #1 spark plug on the new HEI distributor to be.

I removed the #1 spark plug from the head and placed my finger in the hole to make sure it was on the compression stroke (very important). Using a 3/4" socket on a breaker bar, we turned the motor manually via the bolt on the harmonic balancer/crankshaft until the rotor in the distributor lined up with the #1 spark plug. This is best to do this from laying on your back under the front of the engine. Prop your feet against the driver's side tire, and rotate engine clockwise ONLY. As the engine rotates, you should feel pressure on your finger in the spark plug hole verifying it is on the compression stroke. If you're not sure, chances are the motor needs turned one more revolution as this is very obvious.

I then removed the bolt for the hold-down bracket preventing the distributor from moving. This bolt and hold-down bracket is at the base of the distributor where the distributor enters the block. Now it's time to remove the distributor. As you pull the distributor straight out of the block, note the counter-clockwise rotation of the rotor inside the distributor. It should rotate from 6 o'clock to like 4-4:30ish. In the words of Tom at Redline: "absolutely, positively, look at the distributor gear that you pull out of the Jeep. Inspect, means to look at with authority. Visually "inspect" the distributor gear for grooves, wear marks, anything that looks a little abnormal. Then get a flash light and "inspect" the cam gear for the same types of wear. It is from these observations that you will need to make a decision to replace the gears with a matched set." My cam gears luckily had no signs of wearing, so I proceeded with the drive gear on the HEI distributor. Also thoroughly clean any left-over gasket off the engine block from where the old distributor sat. This is important to make sure you have a nice seal with your new distributor... BUT.. DO NOT get any of the gasket material down in that hole.

Something to think about:
When you unbox your HEI distributor, you will probably be just as surprised as I was at how much bigger the distributor cap is than the old distributor... Even if you've done the TeamRush upgrade. You will soon realize that getting this sucker lined up straight with the hole in the block is impossible without first unbolting the dipstick tube.

Remove the cap of the new HEI distributor by detaching the harness clipped onto the cap, and turning the 4 screws holding the cap on 90 degrees CCW. Holding the new HEI base with the vacuum advance mechanism at the 6 o'clock position (looking directly at the passenger side of the engine), align the rotor up to the 4 o'clock-4:30 position. With your dipstick tube unbolted, and your engine block free of gasket debris, and the new gasket slid onto the shaft of the HEI, slide it into the hole the original distributor came out of. This may take a bit to get it to seat properly. If you get the camshaft gears lined up and the rotor rotates into the correct position for spark plug #1, but the base is about a half inch from touching the block, the oil pump insert is not lined up with the oil pump. If this happens, pull the distributor out, use a flat screwdriver to rotate the oil pump to there the insert is going to be AFTER the rotation from the camshaft gear (Usually about 11 o'clock). When your distributor is seated and lined up correctly, the vacuum advance mechanism should be pointed away from the motor a bit towards the passenger side. I kept mine like this to avoid melting the wires on the back side of the cap from the cylinder head.

Electrical Part of Installation:
When you use the Redline HEI distributor, it is noted in the instructions that although it is possible to install this distributor directly, it is recommended that you install a relay, and power the distributor from the relay. I went ahead and installed the relay. It is very clear in their instructions how to do this, so it is not a daunting task.

So the first part of tackling this is deciding where you want to put your relay. Since I knew I would be eliminating the diagnostic port on the battery tray, this was prime real estate for the relay. It's out of the weather, away from the heat, close to the battery, and you can just reuse the bolt that held the diagnostic port onto the tray.

Wiring:
I substituted a heavier 12 gauge black wire for the white wire coming from the #85 terminal for the ground. Grounded it to where the battery tray connects to the firewall.

The main power to the relay is a 10 gauge wire stepped down to a 14 gauge for the last 6" going into the #30 terminal of the relay for the fusible link wire. It is important to supply a fusible link wire to any main power source to prevent wildfires.

The switch wire is the red w/ tr wire coming off of the 'I' side of the starter solenoid I believe to the #86 terminal (the wire that used to go to the coil). It is important to remove the resistor wire in the loom coming across the motor. The HEI needs a full 12v to work.

And I ran 10 gauge wire from the #87 terminal on the relay to the red wire on the distributor.

I have run in to one problem with this install.. The switch no longer shuts the jeep off. I have to stall it out. From what I have read, there is an in-line diode I need to install in the brown wire coming from the alternator harness to the red w/ tracer wire for the switch. From my understanding, the brown wire is important with the system charging. After the alternator starts spinning and you shut the switch off, the alternator sends power back up the wire resulting in the engine not shutting off. The diode is basically a check valve preventing back-flow of electric to the relay. If anyone has ever heard of this and can offer some input, I'd appreciate it.

As for the green wire coming off the HEI distributor, I don't have a factory tach, so I wasn't sure what to do with it. It is just stubbed out of the harness, and hanging for now. I do want to install a tach, but that will come later.

Post-HEI Garbage Removal:
At this time, I found it necessary to remove all of the old wires and harnesses in the engine bay. I removed the diagnostic port, coil, ICM, and ECM; leaving a butt ton of loose wires and harnesses. To aid in this, I followed this thread posted by Ken4444: https://www.jeepforum.com/forum/f8/po...moval-1094891/

Timing:
I finally broke down and bought a timing light. I warmed the motor up to operating temperature, removed the vacuum advance hose to the new distributor, and kicked the timing light onto the harmonic balancer. When the vacuum line came off, the mark on the harmonic balancer dropped to around 0 degrees and the idle dropped and became rough. My dad was on distributor patrol, so as he turned the distributor to advance the timing, I watched the timing mark draw in on 8 degrees before top dead center (BTDC) where the idle became noticeably better. We then reattached the vacuum line and the idle sped up to normal and the timing mark jumped way up on the harmonic balancer. Everything sounds right, no pinging or knocking. It drives very smooth, no hesitation with throttle response, and I am one happy dude.

Between product quality and customer service, I would rate Redline a 10/10. I still need to do a thorough analysis on the power band and speak with Tom at Redline about the correct advance springs to swap into the distributor, but so far, I couldn't be any happier with the Redline HEI distributor and Weber 38 DGES combination.

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post #2 of 55 Old 09-07-2016, 08:49 AM Thread Starter
zrstonestreet
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Here are a few pictures of the setup
Attached Thumbnails
20160906_145936[1].jpg   20160906_145747[1].jpg   20160906_145928[1].jpg   20160906_145810[1].jpg  
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post #3 of 55 Old 09-07-2016, 09:03 AM
Shawn Watson
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Well done and a great combo to have


Shawn

Live in a way that those who know you but don't know God will come to know God because they know you.
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post #4 of 55 Old 09-07-2016, 09:30 AM
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Wow ty
JS
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post #5 of 55 Old 09-07-2016, 09:35 AM Thread Starter
zrstonestreet
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swatson454 View Post
Well done and a great combo to have


Shawn
Thank you sir, and I agree so far! We'll know this winter when it's my daily driver haha

Quote:
Originally Posted by STJP View Post
Wow ty
JS
No problem. Hopefully it will help someone
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post #6 of 55 Old 09-08-2016, 12:42 PM
cJAY904
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what is the distributor that you used? I do not see any "RedLine" distributors anyplace. How do you know if you have the hardened gears or not?
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post #7 of 55 Old 09-08-2016, 01:46 PM
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A smart thing to do with a new HEI is run one of those magnet tipped oil pan plugs.

You'll know right away at the next oil change if you have gears being shredded.

I call it a distributor, not a dizzy.
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post #8 of 55 Old 09-08-2016, 02:04 PM
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Nice write-up.

I'd recommend some wire loom to the PO to clean that engine compartment up.

Matt
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post #9 of 55 Old 09-09-2016, 08:20 AM Thread Starter
zrstonestreet
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cJAY904 View Post
what is the distributor that you used? I do not see any "RedLine" distributors anyplace. How do you know if you have the hardened gears or not?
I didn't know Redline had the HEI distributors either until Tom contacted me through email. I purchased my carburetor through him earlier this year. Send him an email, [email protected]

And the sales flyer he sent me had specifically "Hardened Iron Drive Gear", not steel. He assured me that he camshaft drive gear issues are only present on the AMC v8's

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mortgage-payer View Post
A smart thing to do with a new HEI is run one of those magnet tipped oil pan plugs.

You'll know right away at the next oil change if you have gears being shredded.
That's a really good idea, I'll have to spend a couple nickels on it

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt1981CJ7 View Post
Nice write-up.

I'd recommend some wire loom to the PO to clean that engine compartment up.

Matt
That was me haha but the pictures aren't the final product. I still have a little more wiring to do before I loom it all up. I did the H4 with relay conversion for the headlights at the same time, so I can't put the wires away until that's done.
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post #10 of 55 Old 09-10-2016, 01:12 PM
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I don't bother trying to line up every thing with cylinder #1.

When I remove the old distro, I'll take a second to note which plug the rotor was pointing to. Maybe #3 for example.

Then I pop in the HEI, and wherever the rotor is pointing, I call that #3. There is no reason you need to align the sparkplug wires like you see in the manual, other then it might make things a little confusing for the next owner/
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post #11 of 55 Old 09-11-2016, 01:09 AM
80cj
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First item on your "Cons" list regarding difficulty obtaining parts is not true. HEI dizzys are AC Delco/ Chevy and parts available at all parts stores.
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post #12 of 55 Old 04-09-2018, 12:32 AM
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zrstonestreet

Thanks for this post and the detailed instructions. I found it within an hour of realizing I was in your exact situation.

I have an '85 CJ7 with a Weber DGEV carb and stock ignition, coil and distributor.
The ECM is only partially functional since much was removed by previous owner who replaced the Carter and installed the carb.

I'm not getting much out of it and am failing emissions.

Thanks to JeepHammer, you and others. I now realize that the stock distributor for '85 has limited centrifugal advance as it relies on the ECM for full advance which is now only partially functioning.

So in this case with an emissions equipped model and a Weber carb, the full ECM bypass (aka Nutter bypass) would not have provided much advantage for spark control. "Half Nuttered".

Next:
I was trying to stay stock but with the Carter already removed and the Weber installed and working (at low rpm). I decided to move forward with an HEI upgrade instead of an older distributor and move away from spring tension and timing advance tweaking, etc.. At least I now appreciate the nuances of all those those bits and pieces which will make me enjoy an HEI distributor even more.

The advantages of HEI setup seem to great for me to "bypass"

Hopefully I will have great success and will circle back to this thread after completing the Weber+HEI upgrade that was started by previous owner.

I'll be referencing your instructions.
I'm greatful for the helpful information being shared.
Thanks again!
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post #13 of 55 Old 04-11-2018, 10:38 AM Thread Starter
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As a quick update:

I did add the in-line diode to the brown wire coming off of the alternator and that fixed the issue of the switch not shutting off the engine. Just make sure the diode is in the correct orientation!

After running the Redline combination for over a year, I honestly couldn't be happier.
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post #14 of 55 Old 04-16-2018, 12:00 AM
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Thank you for support Uptillnow and others,

Today I got my Summit Brand HEI distributor installed and it's a great improvement. I'm very excited!

Here is an update with my install steps and photos:

---Install---
The physical install went pretty well.

I noted the position of the old roter and pulled out the old distributor.

I had to bend the oil dipstick up to make room for the new HEI. I did this by holding the tube against the coil firmly using it as a brace so the base of the tube would stay in place without pressure while I bent the upper end. That worked pretty well actually.

To line up the rotor to seat at the right angle. I had to rotate the oil pump by inserting a long flat head screwdriver down into in the hole and turning it. See photo.

---Wiring---
The electronic install went pretty well also.

Power Source: I chose to use the 10 gauge red+white tracer wire that was feeding the OEM ignition module to power the new HEI. I realize this is not the "best method" for powering the HEI according others opinions and instructions. I agree and no disrespect intended. I chose this method because it was mentioned in the instructions as a suitable method and I wanted to keep the OEM tachometer working without further wiring, and it was easier. I read that this method would keep OEM tachometer in circuit and functional which it did. (see photos)

Wiring: I soldered in a 12 gauge wire with a fusible link for good measure and ran it across the firewall and into the loom down to the HEI. (See Photos)

Plugs: I already had new plugs with a gap of .45.

Wires: I already had compatible 8mm wires from the "Team Rush upgrade done previously so I just reused those.

---Starting the Engine---
I had some help from my mechanically inclined neighbor to get the install and timing set. I originally had it flipped at 180 causing a bang. But we got that resolved quickly since he was there.
Started up and ran very well (after finding a spark plug was accidentally disconnected, whoops!)
After driving it around we double checked and adjusted timing to 6 degrees. (Much thanks to my neighbor Chris)

---Cleanup and Removal---
- Removed the OEM ignition module
- Removed the OEM coil after using it as a brace to bend back the oil tube
- Tucked unused and re-zip tied wires and looms to clean up the engine bay

---Done---
Happy now with with new ignition and old components gone under the hood. (see finished photo) Runs great at a slower idle and much better at high RPM under load.
I am happy! Thanks Again!

---Later---
Will attempt the removal of the ECM and wiring harness for unused emissions sensors and controls.

CJustin
Attached Thumbnails
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post #15 of 55 Old 04-16-2018, 01:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CJustin View Post
Power Source: I chose to use the 10 gauge red+white tracer wire that was feeding the OEM ignition module to power the new HEI. I realize this is not the "best method" for powering the HEI according others opinions and instructions. I agree and no disrespect intended. I chose this method because it was mentioned in the instructions as a suitable method and I wanted to keep the OEM tachometer working without further wiring, and it was easier. I read that this method would keep OEM tachometer in circuit and functional which it did. (see photos)
Glad to hear your choice in powering your H.E.I. includes the O.E. tach working.
Many articles from these optional hook-ups and the O.E. tach does not work.
Good Job
UTN
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