: Disributor slop question

10-10-10, 10:32 PM
Hello everyone, i've got a 1983 Coup Deville which keeps popping a code 53 distributor signal interrupt code, will stall out at idle, and while driving. I figured i had a bad pick up coil so got a replacement and when i went to remove distributor, i removed cap and noticed that when turning rotor with distributor still bolted down, it felt like i could almost turn rotor enough for it to spin out of distributor with shaft and all!! after removing distributor i noticed that vertical play on shaft was close to 1/2 inch, i'm assuming that this is my problem since pick up coil tested out at 850 ohms with dvom which i beleive is in the acceptable range, so my question is how much vertical play is acceptable? anybody know of a spec? is there anyway of shimming this distributor to bring to acceptable range? i'm guessing that all this excess play is causing teeth on magnetic pickup to mis align causing my drivability issues, any body experience this problem? any info would be greatly appreciated.

10-11-10, 02:53 AM
With that much slop it is any wonder it runs at all, the code e53 would be the code it would set. With the hall effect switch out of alignment, IE the dristrubutor play. I would be concerned with that amount of play in the distrubutor,, what caused the wear in the 1st place?

10-11-10, 10:25 AM
The only noticable wear is on distributor drive gear, drive gear on cam doesn't look bad at all. Its seems like i'm missing a shim on distributor shaft or something but i just don't know exactly why there is this much vertical play, i don't have anotherr distributor to compare to so before i drop money on a new one i would like to attempt to repair this one if possible, i've heard of kits being sold to shim these distributors, any ideas?

10-12-10, 12:26 AM
There is a shim that goes under the dist gear, its thin however. I don't think even if it was missing it would cause that much play. Is the roll pin in the distributor gear and is the gear in the correct location on the end of the shaft? Perhaps that roll pin is sheared. You might want to try a used distributor if all else fails, a lot cheaper.

10-12-10, 01:56 AM
The distributor drive gear can wear out prematurely if the cam and dist. gears are of different metals. I would get a new drive gear, remove the roll pin and replace it. Replacement engines came with an improved drive gear for the distributor as part of the "kit" Half inch of play is hard to image assuming the roll pin is in place.

10-12-10, 10:14 AM
Yeah distributor drive gear is old style and is pretty worn, i checked drive gear on cam and it still looks good. i was talking with a buddy of mine about this and he seems to think that there is a nylon shim or spacer that goes between gear and distributor housing that is missing, i don't ever recall seeing a nylon shim or spacer on an hei distributor but whatever is suppose to be there is missing, either way i'm getting ready to head down to junkyard since buying a new distributor would set me back $150.00!!! by the way i did measure the the vertical play on this distributor and it is right under 1/2!!

10-18-10, 09:45 PM
Well went to the junkyard and had no luck finding a used distributor, probably had something to do with sale Pick n Pull had going on all weekend, anyways had to bite the bullet and get a new/reman distributor. When comparing the two distributors, noticed new one had less play than old one but still more than i expected to see, 3/16 less when measured, anyways this new distributor does not have any shims between distributor gear and housing either which i was expecting to see so i'm guessing that the extra play had to do with worn distributor drive gear, new distributor was much smoother when spun by hand compared to old one which i'm sure was due to excessive bushing wear so i'm ready to drop it in and fire the Caddy up but have one more question, i read on one of these threads that there is a thrust washer on 4.5 liters that goes between distributor drive gear and machined surface on block, is this true for 4.1 also? because if it is i am missing that thrust washer, i don't have a true Factory Service Manual so i could not verify it but looking at my half ass Haynes manual it says 4.1 and 4.5 liters use this thrust washer. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

10-19-10, 09:12 AM
Yes, all of the 4.X's used a thrust washer. I think you just found your problem. The missing washer is the reason for the trashed gear.

10-19-10, 10:10 PM
Any ideas on where i could acquire thise thrust washer, i've checked Rock Auto and a few other parts stores with no luck, any ideas?

10-19-10, 10:34 PM
Probably a junkyard.

I have one or two extras laying around here, but I'm guessing you aren't within a reasonable distance from here.

10-20-10, 03:32 AM
Are you sure the washer is in fact missing? Mine remaned in the eng when I pulled the dist, check and make sure its not in there before you get another. Its only about half the thickness of a quarter, easy to miss.

10-20-10, 11:54 AM
It is very possible it's missing.

On various occasions, I've pulled distributors with the thrust washer stuck to the bottom of the gear, as everything's coated in oil.

10-20-10, 04:19 PM
Yeah it aint there, i got down into that bore and was able to clean it up pretty good with a rag and tip of long screwdriver, nothing there, also checked bottom of old distributor without any luck, if anybody knows of a good parts store that offers them that would be helpful since i had no luck recently at the junkyard when looking for a distributor, thanks for the offer Drew but i live in Reno NV!!

10-20-10, 04:29 PM

If it helps at all, here's a picture of one of the extras I have:

10-20-10, 09:37 PM
Yeah i am definitely don't have that washer, maybe that is why my drive gear had the excess wear like you mentioned, i guess my next stop would be local Caddy dealer to try to find one, i take it that 4.1 and 4.5 use same washer correct?

10-20-10, 10:08 PM
I would assume so since the distributor didn't change from '86-'95 for all of the 4.x's, except for the addition of the hall effect switch on the PFI models. Besides some additional webbing for strength, the blocks were similar across all years as well.

You could verify by asking the dealer to cross reference the part numbers, even if they don't have the part.

10-20-10, 10:27 PM
I do appreciate the input and the pics posted, very helpful, it's frustrating that all thats holding me up from dropping this distributor in and firing this car is a damn washer but i don't want to drop this thing in and have to pull it again anytime soon so gotta do it right first time around, i'll keep you posted, thanks.

03-05-11, 01:19 PM
I am in need of the same shim. does anyone have a P/N? or could someone post the dimentions? it looks like a valve spring shim.

03-05-11, 02:59 PM
It's number 98 here:


03-05-11, 05:45 PM
Thanks, now where to get one??? Guess I will start at the dealer.

03-05-11, 06:38 PM
You'd probably have the best luck at a junkyard.