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PerTronix Installation—Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury Vehicles

Image: PerTronix Ignitor II Kit

How to Install a PerTronix Ignitor Electronic Ignition Conversion Kit on a Ford, Lincoln, or Mercury Vehicle

Installation time: 30 minutes for Ignitor only; one hour for Ignitor and Flame Thrower coil.

The typical point-triggered Autolite or Motorcraft distributors aren't practical today, as breaker points can experience contact burn over time and bounce at high rpm, they can also be the cause of rough idle and poor top end performance. Points have been known to leave people stranded, too. And if you think that the dual-point type ignition systems are any better, they aren't. They'll just double your chances of having a problem. The Ignitor electronic ignition conversion is dependable, and virtually invisible. Once installed, no one will know it's there unless you tell them!

Also, classic Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles had a less than stellar design in that there was no way to adjust the dwell with the engine running. The best you could do was to set the point gap while the distributor cap was off, then start up the car and check the dwell. If an adjustment needed to be made, you had to shut down, remove the cap, adjust the gap, then put everything back together and check again. This could take some time to get things set for optimal performance. Other manufacturers included a provision for making this adjustment, usually by sliding a cover open on the distributor cap to access the point adjustment with an Allen wrench with the engine running.

1. Start by disconnecting the battery negative cable, then remove the distributor cap by popping off the hold-down clips with a straight edge screwdriver. Lift off the distributor cap and put it in a safe place. If you don't know how old the cap is, now is the time to replace it.

2. Remove the distributor rotor. Now is probably a good time to replace it, as well.

3. Remove the points and condenser by removing the attaching screws. Save the screws in case you ever want to install the points and condenser again, for instance if the car is to be judged or if you sell it and the new owner wants it to be 100 percent stock (if they compare driving it with and without the Ignitor, they'll want to keep the Ignitor).

4. Remove the small nut to disconnect the points and condenser assembly from the primary ignition lead. Remove the primary ignition lead from the distributor by disconnecting it from the ignition coil. Then, push the lead through the distributor housing. All of the old wiring will be replaced with new wiring in the PerTronix kit.

5. The PerTronix Ignitor, Ignitor II, and Ignitor III arrive with eyelet connectors installed on the wiring. Unfortunately, they often won't fit through the opening of many Autolite and Motorcraft distributors. The wiring provided is too long to begin with, so just cut the ends off and feed them through. (Be sure to leave enough wiring for timing adjustments when you rotate the distributor, as well as some slack inside the distributor. You don't want the wires too tight, but you also don't want so much slack that they can get in the way of something or rub against anything.) Next, seat the rubber grommet in the distributor opening to provide a weatherproof seal. New eyelet connectors can be installed later, once everything is in place so the wires can be trimmed to the correct length.

6. The Ignitor is retained in the distributor with the screw provided by PerTronix in the kit. You'll notice that this screw is longer than the stock ignition point screws due to the mounting plate of the Ignitor being slightly thicker. Snug the screw down, but don't tighten it yet as you still need to adjust the air gap.

7. Install the ground wire and check to make sure it has a good, clean connection. (Recheck this if the engine won't start, it's very important.)

8. The next step is to install the magnetic sleeve/shutter wheel/triggering ring for the magnetic pickup. It just slides down on the distributor cam and shaft. Make sure it is lined up properly with the cam and securely seated. The air gap between the shutter wheel and Ignitor module is .030 inch. Use the included feeler gauge to make this adjustment. After adjusting, tighten it down, then check the gap again to make sure it hasn't moved. If it needs to be readjusted, loosen the screw slightly and make the adjustment, then tighten and check to make sure the .030 gap held.

9. Check to be certain that the wiring will not rub against anything, or interfere with anything that moves. Don't forget to check the ground wire as well. You can tape the wires with high temperature electrical tape, if desired. Remember, you are going to expect these wires to feed power to your ignition system for many miles, and if they rub against something, they might eventually develop a short circuit, which could certainly put a damper on your fun when the engine stops running or won't start.

10. Install your (hopefully new?) distributor rotor and cap.

11. Finally, connect the two wires. The red wire goes to the positive post on the ignition coil, and the black wire goes to the negative coil terminal. Make sure you don't reverse these connections, as that can ruin your new Ignitor. Be sure to double check before connecting the battery! Reconnect the battery negative (ground) cable, and start it up! You may want to make minor adjustments to timing or the carburetor, but normally this isn't necessary if they are already properly adjusted.

Enjoy the improved engine performance, better fuel economy, and faster, more reliable starts your Ignitor provides. (Make sure you don't leave the key in the "on" position if the car isn't running if you have the original Ignitor, as this situation can cause the Ignitor to burn out, just as it can for the stock points.)

A word from Automotive Mileposts about the power source:

On typical Ford installations, power to the coil is provided through a resistance wire, this is also done on other makes and models, and some cars use a ballast resistor instead. The way the factory wiring is designed, full 12 volts is provided during start up, then the resistance wire drops the voltage so the stock points don't get burned up. Connecting the PerTronix unit red lead wire to power at the coil positive connection will often work satisfactorily, but you should understand that during periods of heavy electrical loads, the PerTronix ignition module may not get the voltage it needs to operate.

During idle, alternators typically don't perform all that well, which can lead to a drop in voltage. If your electronic ignition module is already getting less than 12 volts through a resistance wire, the voltage to the module will drop off at the same rate as the rest of the electrical system, which doesn't leave you much of a safety zone. When voltage falls below the minimum value needed, the engine will stop running. Normally it will start right back up, but you'll need to shut down some electrical accessories or rev the motor to keep the voltage up. Not a good option in our opinion.

Also, voltage past the resistance wire can be lower when an engine is hot, and has been operated recently but shut down for a short period of time. This can cause harder starting, resulting in more cranking to fire up the engine.

Here's what we do on typical Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury installations, and we've found it to work really well: we add a heavy duty relay that has connections to feed two electrical items, plus a connection for power that switches the relay on and off, and another connection for a direct 12 volts. The relay is hidden in an area where it's protected from the heat of the engine and from road splash. We connect the 12 volt side of the relay directly to the battery side of the starter solenoid, so it has 12 volts at all times. Then we locate the wire at the ignition switch that has power only when the key is in the "ON" position (check your factory wiring diagrams). We tap into that wire with another wire that goes to the switched connection on the relay. (There's another tip involving this step at the bottom of this page.)

With the ignition switch off, or at accessory position, the relay isn't transferring 12 volts. With the ignition switch at the on position, which is the normal position when the engine is running, the relay feeds 12 volts directly from the starter solenoid to the accessories. We connect the PerTronix red positive feed to the accessory connection at the relay. Normally, we also connect the electric choke feed to the other connection if the car is equipped with this type of choke, which works out great. Or, you could connect an idle stop solenoid to the extra connection as well. Or all three, if your relay is rated for that much.

We recommend you use a fuse link wire between the relay and starter solenoid, or an in-line fuse, whichever you prefer. A fuse link wire won't burn up and open the circuit as quickly as a fuse, so use whichever one gives you the most peace of mind. Usually, we use a fuse link. Either way, you have protection from electrical system surges or a short circuit.

Here's the tip we promised: Normally, when we make the power connection to the ignition switch "on" hot wire, we use a connector that can easily be disconnected. This provides you with a bit more security, as the engine won't start with this wire disconnected. That will prevent some car thefts, and will slow down professionals, who may think the car has a problem and will pass on it. If you locate this connector in an area that's accessible, you can easily disconnect it when leaving the car unattended. Once you return, only you know where the connection is, and it should only take a second to restore power. Thieves may look for a switch, so we avoid installing that, but often won't pay much attention to a solitary wire that's disconnected under the instrument panel.

Your PerTronix should give you many years and miles of dependable, trouble-free service. You will enjoy quicker starting under all conditions, a smoother idle, better overall engine performance, and know that you're getting improved fuel economy as well. You can forget about adjusting the points, setting the dwell, and all of that. We feel it's the best upgrade you can make to your classic car.

PerTronix Electronic Ignition Systems
Image: PerTronix Ignitor Image: PerTronix Ignitor II Image: PerTronix Ignitor III


Image: 1181GM 1956-1974 V-8 (Delco Distributor w/o Lobe Sensor; Ignitor #1181)

Image: 1181LSGM 1956-1974 V-8 (Lobe Sensor; Ignitor #1181LS)

Image: 1281Ford/Lincoln/Mercury 1957-1974 V-8 (Ignitor #1281)

Image: 1282Ford 1954-1956 Y Block (May fit some 1949-1953 engines; Ignitor #1282)

Image: 1361ADodge/Plymouth 1960-1972 V-6 (Ignitor #1361A)

Image: 1381AChrysler 1962-1975 V-8 (Single Point; Ignitor #1381A)

Image: 1382Mopar 1959-1971 V-8 Dual Point (Ignitor #1382)

Image: CH181Chrysler/Dodge 1972-1983 V-8 (Ignitor #CH181)

Click for more detailed Original PerTronix Ignitor make and model applications


Image: 91181GM 1956-1974 V-8 (Ignitor II #91181)

Image: 91281Ford/Lincoln/Mercury 1957-1974 V-8 (Ignitor II #91281)

Image: 91381AMopar 1959-1975 V-8 (Single Point; Ignitor II #91381A)

Click for more detailed PerTronix Ignitor II make and model applications


Image: 71181GM 1957-1974 V-8 (Delco Distributor; Ignitor III #71181)

Image: 71281Motorcraft 1957-1974 V-8 (Single Point; Pertronix III #71281)

Image: 71281DFord 1960-1972 V-8 (Dual Point/Non-Vacuum; Pertronix III #71281D)

Image: 71381AChrysler/Plymouth/Dodge 1962-1975 V-8 (Pertronix III #71381A)

Click for more detailed PerTronix Ignitor III make and model applications