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Unread 02-03-2009   #1 (permalink)
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Default Signs of a Bad Distributor Pickup

what are the symptoms of a bad distributor pickup? me and my brother have fought his 89 5.0 for about a month now and we cant figure out why it wont run, we have been told the pickup could be bad does anybody know what one acts like that has a bad pickup?
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Unread 02-03-2009   #2 (permalink)
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It won't start if the pick up is bad, I noticed while mine ran that if I would be running the car hard sometimes it would let out a big backfire. Than a few days later the car started running rough I noticed the tach started to bounce and it let out another big backfire right before it shut off.
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Unread 02-03-2009   #3 (permalink)
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if the pick up is dead it wont run, no spark or injector signal, do you have another distributor? if so just plug it into the harness run a groung wire to the dist, and turn on key turn dist shaft , the coil should spark and you should here the injectors clicking and here the fuel pump run, if so , then its the moduel or pick up, most of the time it the mod, big G
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Unread 02-03-2009   #4 (permalink)
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we dont have another distributor but we do have another pickup we just havent installed it because we dont want to harm the distributor. The car has no signal at the injectors right now, and we have bought two computers to fix it and nothing helps. WE thought that we messed up when we tried to put a fuel pump relay in. However the last time the car ran the radiator cap shot of (it was an after market cheap one) and got antifreeze all over the distributor, and since it wont run I think that it might have run down in the distributor and messed up the pick up. Does this sound like a possible explination?
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Unread 02-03-2009   #5 (permalink)
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also we checked the module and it turns out to be ok
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Unread 02-03-2009   #6 (permalink)
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one thing you can do is plug the moduel and stator"your spares"together ground the stator, plug in the mod to the car and turn on key pass a small screw driver between the pick up sensor 2 posts , if you dont know what i mean look in your dist and the wheel goes between the pick up sensor thats where you move your screw driver back and forth to break the magnitic field, let me know . big G
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Unread 02-03-2009   #7 (permalink)
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Talking I know what you are going through!

I am in the same boat right now! My pickup coil went bad on me. The symptoms are simply this.

-It cranks but it just would not want to start
-There are time it does start and other when it dies.
-When it does fire up, idle is normal.
-If you never have changed the distributor and your car has high miles, then its probably time to change the pickup coil.
-In order to do this you WILL need to take out the distributor. Either to change the pickup coil or the entire distributor.

Personally, I would just change the entire distributor since you filled it up with antifreeze. The cost is just $30-40 bucks more but its worth it. Much easier to replace the distributor as opposed to changing out the pick up coil. You may need a professional try to help you change out the distributor because you WILL need to check the timing on it. If you don't have a timing light, or the right tools...you may end up messing up your car. Unless you are willing to spend more time reading up on how you can change the distributor and timing it...I would suggest to just purchase the distributor and have it changed. However.....

Make sure you have checked the following.

-turn the key ignition on and listen to your fuel pump...do you hear it come on? If you do then your fuel pump is fine. If you don't or hear it louder than usual then it may be your fuel pump.
-It could be your fuel filter....those need to be changed every 3rd or 4th oil change.
-If its not either of those two, check the spark on the spark plug wires. Turn on the car and see if you notice a spark. If you don't then you know you have an ignition problem.
-Check the ignition coil (the square looking thing that one spark plug wire goes to from the distributor cap) and take it to an auto zone for them to check it.
-If its not the ignition coil then that is when you check for the pick up coil within the distributor. My mechanic has seen many of these go out and are more likely to go out than the ignition coil. Hope this helps.

BY THE WAY, IF ANYONE KNOWS HOW TO SWAP OUT A DISTRIBUTOR AND TIME IT CORRECTLY PLEASE LET ME KNOW. I APPRECIATE ANY INPUT. THANK YOU. (ITS FOR A 95 GT MUSTANG)
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Unread 02-04-2009   #8 (permalink)
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best way to swap a dist is remove dist cap, bump engine over so that the rotor is pointing straight back or a referance point that you wont forget. [straight back] loosen and remove dist hold down and bolt pull up on dist and notice that the rotor turns when removing, when installing dist turn it to the area that it was when removing it because when you reinstall it it will turn when putting it back in , as long as the dist is full seated and rotor is pointing straight back as old dist was you will be ok and notice where the body of dist was positioned before you removed you old one, ps must remove the spout plug before you time the engine with a timing light . @ 10* btdc, factory spec big G
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Unread 02-04-2009   #9 (permalink)
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If the pickup goes out, your car isn't running. When it goes out, it's usually without warning. The pickup is actually called the Hall Effect sensor and is what actually tells what injector to fire next and for how long. If there's no signal coming out of the distributor, chances are it's a dead pickup. Right before it goes out, the engine will skip, cut off, or just die and not like it ran out of fuel. I mean it'll be like someone is turning an on/off switch on the car.
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Unread 09-13-2009   #10 (permalink)
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Default Pick up coil

I just wanted to confirm these posts. I just finished switching mine out on my 94 Cobra after reading this thread. All the symptoms were as everyone described, and I had changed everything else in the ignition system. I was getting no spark 90% of the time, with occasional starts. Found this thread after googling for intermittent spark. After switching this out it runs great. Thanks for the info everyone!
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Unread 08-12-2010   #11 (permalink)
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Hello everyone, just joined the forum, but have been lurking a while. I have an 88' gt motor that has intermittently stopped running. The first time was several days ago it just died like the key was turned off. It started right back. Yesterday it stopped again (like the key was turned off). After approx. 20 minutes it started again. Drove it approx. 2 miles and it stopped again. This time it wouldn't start back. It was getting voltage to the coil, but no spark. I replaced the coil..no start...I replaced the TFI on the distributor...no start.....Had it towed home. Several hours later I tried it again and it fired right up. Now I don't know how to proceed. Does this sound like the pick up?? It hasn't stumbled or ran rough....just quit like you turned the key off. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, LloydZ
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Unread 08-12-2010   #12 (permalink)
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Sounds like the pickup to me. It's inside the distributor and if you look closely, it's what the module on the outside of the distributor actually connects to with it's prongs. Throw in how your tach will jump around when you're trying to crank it.

It costs $20 at Auto Zone and then a small machine shop charge to change it unless you have a press and the ability to disassemble the distributor. Last time I had mine changed, it cost $10 and took 20 minutes at the shop.
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Unread 08-12-2010   #13 (permalink)
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I just got a new distributor about a month ago, and then my car started having these symptoms. So I returned the distributor and am about to install the new one. I will post again and let you guys know the outcome.

From eagle above I also don't recommend trying to pull the distributor gears if you don't really know what your doing. Its a good way to destroy the teeth on the gears.
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Unread 08-12-2010   #14 (permalink)
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If you were to replace the pickup what else in the housing would you recommend replacing other than cap and rotor?
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Unread 08-12-2010   #15 (permalink)
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Well the only other thing is the TFI module which can overheat as it gets older. It costs around $40-50. If you get a new one it should come with but if it does not make sure you put dialectic grease between it and the metal of the distributor.

TFI module is the gray rectangle with the wires going to it on the shaft of the distributor just in case you didn't know. I had no clue on the names of anything when I started messing around on these cars.
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