How to test the distributor with a multimeter?

If you are going through this post, it simply means you learn how to test the distributor with a multimeter.

A distributor is a mechanical device that sends signals to the spark plugs to fire. When the distributor encounters a problem, it can impede the engine’s performance.

This post will discuss how to test distributors using a multimeter.

A multimeter is a device that measures electrical current, voltage, resistance, capacitance, inductance, frequency, power, etc. A multimeter measures the amount of electricity flowing through a circuit.

A basic multimeter should have at least two probes (one positive and negative), a display screen, and a battery holder.

A straightforward way to test the functionality of your distributor is by using test equipment. In this case, I am talking about testing distributors with a multimeter. To test your distributor, you will connect the battery’s positive terminal to the distributor’s positive terminal.

Make sure the negative terminals are connected too.

You’re to turn off the power supply to the unit. Next, connect the red probe to the ground terminal and the black probe to the neutral terminal.

How do you test if a distributor is working?

  • Pay attention to these measures if you still determine if your distributor is working.
  • Turn the ignition switch to the on position.
  • Remove the spark plug wire from the distributor cap.
  • Insert the screwdriver’s tip into the gap between the distributor cap and the cylinder head.
  • Slowly turn the ignition switch to the Off position.
  • Observe the arc. If there is no arcing, then the distributor is likely malfunctioning.
  • Replace the spark plug wire on the distributor cap.
  • Turn the ignition switch back to the On position. Repeat steps 2–6.
  • If the distributor still does not fire, then replace the distributor cap.
  • If the distributor fires, then the distributor is functioning correctly.
  • If the distributor does not fire, then the distributor may need to be replaced.

In addition,

Check the ignition coil.

The ignition coil is connected to the distributor. When the coil turns on, the distributor sends out sparks. If the coil doesn’t turn on, then the distributor isn’t working.

How do you know when you have a bad distributor?

  • You can tell if you have a terrible distributor when any of the following signs are present:
  • Your car starts making weird noises
  • Your car smells funny
  • Your car won’t start
  • Your car doesn’t accelerate properly
  • Your car stalls out
  • Your car shakes uncontrollably
  • Your car runs hot
  • Your car’s engine makes strange sounds
  • Your car’s steering wheel shakes.
Testing Distributor With Multimeter

How do you check the points on a distributor?

To check the points on a distributor, you must clean the issues to remove dirt.

Once you have cleaned and dried the facts, you should test them.

The ignition point is the first step in the combustion cycle of a spark plug.

When the voltage reaches the right amount of power, the spark travels down the gap between the electrodes and ignites the air-fuel mixture.

The timing of the ignition point is critical to the engine’s performance. The engine may run a rough, stall, or even fail if the timing is incorrect.

Remove the spark plug wire harness and disconnect the battery to check the distributor points.

Then, look underneath the hood and locate the distributor point. Once you have found the distributor point, turn the ignition switch to the “on” position and slowly rotate the distributor cap clockwise until you hear a clicking sound. You must replace the distributor cap if you do not hear any noise.

How do you check a coil from the distributor for spark?

You can check the coil with a multimeter.

A multimeter is a handy tool that can help you test the voltage and current of your coils. You can use it to check if your coil is working correctly and is safe.

A multimeter should have two probes, one for measuring voltage and one for measuring current.

Check coil insulation.

If the insulation is damaged, the coil will lose its insulating qualities and allow the wires to touch each other.

This will cause a short circuit and prevent the spark from reaching the end of the wire, thus preventing ignition.

Examine the coil terminal.

Make sure the terminals are clean and tight. Dirt and debris can clog them and prevent the spark from making a connection.

Inspect the spark plug gap.

The spark gap is the space between the center electrode and the grounded shell. The spark gap is adjusted using the spark plug shims.

Make sure the spark gap is placed at the correct distance. Too much space between the two electrodes will result in a weak spark.

More space will cause the spark to jump the gap and will need more time to travel to the end of the electrode.

Use spark testers.

Spark testers are used to test the electrical systems of vehicles. You’ll need to use a spark tester to test the ignition coils of your car.

A spark tester is a small device that plugs into the ignition coil and checks the voltage between the two terminals of the coil. If there is no spark, the coil may not work correctly.

A good spark tester should have a range of 0-10 volts, a low voltage cutoff, and a high voltage cutoff. You’ll want to use a voltmeter to read the results.

Ground wire.

The ground wire connects the negative terminal of the battery to the chassis. It provides a path for electrons to travel back to the battery. Without a ground wire, the electrons would not return to the battery.


A spark plug connector attaches the battery’s positive terminal to a spark plug. It is designed to prevent the battery from shorting out the circuit.

Why is my distributor not getting spark?

  • Spark plug wire
  • Spark plugs have two wires that go to the coil.

One connects to the ground, and the other to the positive terminal. If the spark plug wire is loose or broken, then the spark won’t reach the coil. You may need to replace the spark plug wire if it’s damaged.


The coil is what generates the spark. When the engine starts, the voltage gets sent to the coil. The coil is attached to the terminals of the battery. The spark won’t get to the cylinder if the coil is bad.

Ignition system.

If the ignition system isn’t working correctly, the spark won’t ignite the fuel mixture. The ignition system includes the points, distributor cap, rotor, and coil.


A distributor distributes the spark to each cylinder. A distributor is a mechanical device that sends the spark to the correct cylinder at the right time. A good distributor will not get a spark.

Cylinder head.     

Cylinders are where the combustion takes place. Each cylinder has its valvetrain. The valves are open and closed to allow air and fuel to enter the chamber. When one of the cylinder heads fails, it can stop the distributor from getting a spark.


Camshafts are the gears that turn the camshaft. The camshaft controls the opening and closing of the intake and exhaust valves. If the camshaft is not functioning, the chances of the distributor getting spark are minute.

What sensors can cause no spark?

Camshaft Position Sensor (CPS).

The camshaft position sensor (CPS) is located at the front of the engine block and sends signals to the ECU to tell it what position the camshaft is in.                     

If the CPS malfunctions, the ECU won’t know where the camshaft is, and it won’t be able to calculate the ignition coil’s timing correctly.

Ignition Coil Timing.

The ignition coil timing determines how long the spark plug fires before the fuel injection begin. When the timing is off, the spark plug needs more time to ignite the mixture, and the engine won’t start.


To determine if your distributor is working correctly, you need to measure the voltage at the output of the distributor. It would be best if you used a digital multimeter (DMM) to do this. A digital multimeter measures AC voltages between 0V and 10V.

Suppose you want to test a distributor with a multimeter. In that case, you’ll need to connect the battery’s positive terminal to the negative terminal of the multimeter (the black wire) and the ground wire to the earth pin of the multimeter.

Then turn on the power switch and observe the voltage reading on the meter’s display. If you do not have a multimeter, you can use a voltmeter instead. If the voltage is correct, you know your distributor is working correctly. If not, then you may want to replace the distributor.

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