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I'm trying to replace the breaker point on my 1980 Oldsmobile, trying to fix some spurious misfires and engine stalls.

The car was converted to gasoline in the early nineties or late eighties, engine is a -76 Olds 350.

The breaker is a combined breaker and condenser. Exact model can be seen here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/E-Tron-D1007-Heavy-Duty-Uniset-Contact-Set-Condenser-/110882181642

After replacing the old one with a new of the same make and model I couldn't get any sparks on the sparkplugs. Measuring the capacitor with a multimeter suggested it might be a short in the capacitor. Went back to the shop and got it replaced, same problem. Got it replaced two more times but to no avail. Even ordered one from eBay, same problem.

The old capacitor measures about 600pF, I haven't even been able to get a reading on any of the replacements.

It feels like I'm missing something fundamental, or is it the rest of the world that has gone crazy?

  • What kind of engine is in your Olds? I didn't think GM was using points by '82? Also, I take it was running prior to the new points? Did you install a new condenser with your new points? And you're sure you set the gap and dwell correctly? – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 May 8 '15 at 11:19
  • I'll update my question with some information, the first post was written during some heavy frustration. – JonC May 8 '15 at 17:28
  • Have you tried to put the old one back in to see if it would fire? – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 May 9 '15 at 1:01
  • Yes, the old one still works. – JonC May 9 '15 at 8:16
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I am assuming you removed the original condenser if it didn't have a uniset in it when you changed them. That being said, it sounds like the points are either not fully seated or adjusted way off. Loosen the screws and try pushing down while trying to slide the point set. There is a hole that the point pivot must fit into or it will not seat properly thereby keeping the points open, and no spark. If that is good, tighten the screws, and make sure the points are not set incorrectly. They need to open AND close. They need to be set wth a dwell meter to be most accurate. The alternative is using a gap gauge.

The easiest/fastest way to check it is to have the distributor cap removed, have the coil wire about half an inch from the block, have someone turn the key to spin the engine and turn the adjustment screw in the points one way and/or the other until you get spark. Note that if you turn the screw too far in one direction the points could fall apart. Once you get spark it should run and then you can put it back together and set the dwell with it running.

  • This is approximately the procedure we've been through. But after spending quite some time trying to get a spark by adjusting the gap, I went home and fetched my oscilloscope. On all the new breakers, measuring on the wire between the coil and the breaker, the wire appears to be grounded at all times. Even when manually opening the gap. – JonC May 11 '15 at 10:04
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Sounds like the wire is mounted incorrectly at the points. There is an insulator where the wire in connected. Make sure the wire is connected to the points spring arm, and not to the base or mounting hole. If it is connected there it will be grounded all the time and will never produce spark at the coil. To check this, disconnect the wire and turn on the key. Hold the coil wire near ground and touch the points wire to ground briefly. If you get spark the problem is within the point/connection. The other way to check is to check for battery voltage at both sides of the coil with the key on and the wire removed. If you have voltage on both sides of the coil, the issue is with the points, and probably with the wire installation.

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