Distributor Issues

Dear Dr. Motorhead,

My name is Skippy and I own an old wood boat, an inboard actually.

I have read your article many times and enjoy your writings, though lately,

I have a bit of a concern.  It appears your readers and followers have been pretty

tuff on you with this Symposium thing.  Granted, I too would agree that you would

have made a great contribution to the event.  But what the heck, we all need to have some time off and take a break from the stress of our daily lives.  God only knows the pressures you and Piston must have at your high level positions.  I mean – consultant to the Pope?  I can hardly spell Vatican let alone be invited there.  So, I don’t think you should be sent to the penalty box and I would hope you could reconsider being on strike.  If you would be so kind as to at least put down your pickets long enough to help me out with my dilemma I would sure appreciate it.

I wish I had something funny to say like the majority of those writing in, but alas, I guess that’s not my personality.  Some people say I should get out more.  My mom says I should have a girl friend.  I have written to Dear Abby and phoned into Joe Soucheray, but I don’t get any response.  I guess you have to be more important than me.

When I take my boat out, the engine rpms go up and down without me even touching the throttle.  I guess the boat might be taking on my personality.  Is this even possible?  Oh wait, I’m getting down again just like my engine.  Maybe if I could think of something funny.  I know a joke, one that might fit in with conversation.  Ok, here it goes.  What do you do when your nose is on strike?  Pick it. Get it? You being on strike and all.

Ok, like I said before, here is what happens to me, or should I say my boat engine.  Let’s just say it is in neutral for arguments sake.  The engine is running at idle and fairly smooth.  I slowly increase the speed, and at about 2,000 rpm, without advancing the throttle anymore, the engine revs up to about 2,500 — Not only revs up, but runs substantially smoother.  Then as I slow down the engine, when I get it about 2,000 again, it slows way down and runs a little rougher.  If I am under way, the same thing happens, except sometimes it just slows down and runs rougher without touching the gas.  Other than bringing my boat to a therapist, I don’t even know where to begin searching for the problem.  Or perhaps you might recommend a good boat therapist in the area.

In anticipation of not being a pest and in hopes you have settled and are off strike, I pose to you my problem for your consideration and wisdom.

Very truly yours,


Dear Skippy,

You sound like a real nice lad, you should get out more.  Perhaps with your engine fixed, this will allow you to do so?  I know of no boat therapists, only those for boaters.  Some say boats are good therapy, while others say boating will drive you crazy.  I tend to agree with both sides.  Most of the time it is good therapy while at times, it drives me crazy.  You have actually talked me out of my funk.  I think it was your cool joke.  I’m off strike and ready to defend the defenseless, secure the insecure and need the needy.

Here is the deal, banana peel.  All indications are pointing to your distributor.  You remember the round thing on the side of your motor with all the big wires coming out of it?  This device sends power to your spark plugs at just the precise moment, or at least it should.  In fact, I had this almost exact “issue”, therapist lingo, just the other day.  I was visiting my old pal Delmore up on the range last week.  He has this twin engine Shepard, ya know.  I barely get out of the car and he has me running down to the lake.  He sez, “Doc, you got to help me with da boat.”  I think it needs therapy or something.  “The engine goes up and down like a maniac, I tink ya call it”.  I listened to the engine and diagnosed there must be a problem with the advance weights.  Sometimes they stick and your timing doesn’t advance as it should until higher rpms, then when they let go, everything revs up and runs smoothly.  Bring the speed down slowly and things run rougher, as the timing is too far advanced for the slower speed.  Made sense to me; lets take a look.  The advance weights were operating the way they should.  So what the heck?  While I was scratching my head, Delmore suggested that this might become a two-beer job.  I suggested, I never drink while on duty, but don’t let that stop you from popping a tall cool one.   Then to my surprise, I notice the setscrew on the points was loose.  So, the points gap was also inconsistent and bouncing around.  Just by coincidence the gap was correct at two thousand rpm, that engine ran smooth and revved up – just the opposite when you slowed it down.  All it took to fix this problem was to reset the point gap and tighten the screw.  So you see Skippy, it isn’t always just one problem but could be more, or a combination.  Sometimes it takes a little detective work.

By the way, Piston and I weren’t on vacation.  We were on a secret mission. More about that later.

Time for that tall cool one,