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Bad Distributor Cap Symptoms: Things to Look For

Distributors play an important role in vehicle’s mechanism. Unfortunately, a car won’t run with a faulty distributor. It supports the engine’s distributing current, engine and connects the spark plugs to the ignition coil. However, bad distributor cap symptoms can come up anytime while driving. So, you need to be careful.

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How Does it Work?

Before knowing the symptoms of a bad distributor, you need to know how it really works. Distributors are mechanical devices that use rotating shaft. Thus, most of its components have mechanical problems.

The distributor cap and rotor are responsible for keeping the distributor away from the engine. Furthermore, they keep the distributor’s engine parts neat and clean. The rotor and cap also support the high volts of energy and delivers it to the spark plugs.

Bad Distributor Cap Symptoms

Here are some of the bad distributor cap symptoms you must know.

1. Yelling Noises

Squealing noise from the car is the first sign of a bad distributor cap. If nothing else seems to be wrong, check the distributor cap. You will find it dirty, greased build-up and full of pollutants. The cause of the yelling noise is due to the air circulation through the car engine.

2. Difficulty in Starting

Car starting bad distributor cap symptoms
Some of the bad distributor cap symptoms. Credit: Westend61 / Getty

Another major symptom of a bad distributor cap is in case the car has the starting problem. In fact, the problem becomes wider in cold weather or low temperatures. This happens because the cold weather freezes or cools down the cap and then the sudden heat when starting the engine causes cracks in the cap.

However, you can easily avoid this by keeping your vehicle away from extreme weather conditions.

3. Shaking

You might have experienced extreme shaking or vibration when starting or shifting the gears. Unreasonable shaking while driving the car means something is wrong with the engine. The problem is more alarming when you feel the vibration throughout the vehicle.

This happens only because of the faulty distributor cap. Never ignore this problem, as and when it arises.

4. Stalling and Backfire

Few bad distributor cap symptoms
Stalling and Backfire are the bad distributor cap symptoms. Source:

If your car starts easily but stalls or backfires on the road, this is because your distributor cap is faulty. Since the distributor cap contains the rotor that spins the voltage, it has to work properly. With a crack, clogged or anything prevents the rotor from spinning, it will work only at a part of the time.

5. Difficulty Turning Over

Sometimes you will notice that the along with stalling, the car turns over. This usually happens when the engine is cold and not when it is hot. However, the problem arises only when there is something wrong with the cap. So check it out.

In case the cap is okay, there might be a problem in another component in the distributor.

The above mentioned are the common bad distributor cap symptoms that you would come across. Now you can understand why it is important to maintain your car. So, learn some DIY maintenance tips in order to provide first aid to your car.

  1. Lynne Brookes says

    My 1995 Toyota Corolla wouldn’t kick over. The engine sounds strong, but the car won’t start. My mechanic says I need a new distributor since my distributor is the original one (24 yrs old). He also said he would change the spark plugs as well. The car usually runs smooth, although I recently had a power steering pump replaced, but the tightness in the steering wheel when parking was not improved. What might be the reason for this? Shouldn’t a new power steering pump work well?

  2. Chirag T says

    Did you replace Power Steering Fluid?

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