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A few days ago a vehicle came in for service with a common complaint.

Poor performance, basic misfire occurring. The vehicle happened to be a 1996 GMC Vandura Starfleet, a large full-size conversion van with a Chevy V8 engine buried underneath the front end. After inspecting the basic we determined that spark was not getting to the engine properly. We began tracing wires back to the distributor and found an interesting sight all together.

The distributor cap, which is normally secured with 2 small screws, was broken. The distributor itself, which holds the mounting bosses for the two screws, has a broken mount not allowing the cap to be properly secured. We briefly ran the engine to confirm visibly the issue. That’s when we found the culprit. A 2” C-Clamp, typically used in woodworking, had been applied to the distributor to secure the cap to the base.

While it was “working,” in an essence, it was also grounding the distributor instead of letting spark pass through it. When trying to determine why the last mechanic wouldn’t have just replaced the distributor we found the culprit. Most distributors are $100-$150, this one, however, costs almost $500! As a result, some previous repair facility “clamped” it down and didn’t fix it correctly.

Fast forward to us replacing the distributor and writing a formal “VIN TAG” stating what was done to this vehicle, how it came in, and how it was repaired. We searched the VIN TAG and found the mechanic that had done the repair before! He’s a little embarrassed, but the vehicle runs right now, and that’s what matters.

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