5.7 Vortec Distributor Problems | How to Fix Them!

If your car doesn’t start, you might have 5.7 Vortec distributor problems. Distributors have been known for being problematic. Luckily, it’s all in the past, thanks to ignition coils. Still, older vehicles rely on this part.

But as problematic as this problem can be, replacing and diagnosing this part of your vehicle is a walk in the park. You don’t need previous experience. As long as you’re willing to spend some time on your car, you’ll get through the steps.


How Does a Distributor Work?

If you have a modern car, you’ve probably never heard about distributors, and we can’t blame you. Modern vehicles do not have distributors. Instead, they have individual coil packs, which are not as troublesome as distributors.

Simply put, a distributor is part of your ignition system. In practice, they send power to each spark plug. Your vehicle needs this part to operate smoothly. Unfortunately, it can get damaged from time to time.

As the distributor wears out, it won’t send the right amount of power to the spark plugs, meaning the vehicle won’t run smoothly.

Distributor Firing Order

The Chevy 5.7 distributor cap firing order is 1 8 4 3 6 5 7 2 as it’s going clockwise. As your rotor spins, it will send power to each spark plug, plugged into the distributor cap according to the firing order.

Knowing the firing order is essential if you ever need to replace the distributor and spark plugs. Failing to do so can lead to misfires and weird issues.

Common 5.7 Vortec Distributor Issues

Common 5.7 Vortec Distributor Issues

Before you go through all these steps, don’t forget to rule out the obvious stuff. That way, you’ll avoid spending money on useless parts. That being said, here’s how to diagnose your distributor:

01. Vehicle Does not Run Right

It’s a beautiful day outside, but for some strange reason, your car won’t start. But hold up, there are many reasons why your vehicle won’t startup. So, make sure to rule out the easy stuff before getting too deep into this process.

That being said, one culprit that can mess up the vehicle is the distributor cap. Usually, this cap gets rusted, and when that happens, the distributor will reduce the voltage that your spark plugs need to run.

And if the plugs have high resistance, they’ll most likely get damaged. Therefore, you’ll need to replace the distributor and diagnose the spark plugs to make sure everything is still in great shape.

02. Check Engine Light Stays On

The check engine light usually means trouble, and nobody wants to mess with that. Still, you could have 5.7 Vortec distributor cap problems, causing the engine light to come on every now and then.

Nonetheless, this problem is easy to fix. So, it doesn’t always mean there’s something wrong with the engine.

Again, check your distributor cap and inspect it thoroughly. Look for any signs of corrosion at the terminals. If the unit looks damaged, replace it to get rid of the engine light.

03. Vehicle Shakes

Ever noticed that your vehicle shakes when shifting gears? Well, this could be a bad distributor cap. But it could also be related to the engine itself. To make you feel at ease, here’s what you can do to inspect the distributor cap:

  • Find the thumbscrew and then remove it. Next, disconnect the rubber elbow and loosen the hose clamp. After that, remove the upper intake.
  • You should now see the distributor cap behind the upper intake manifold. Now remove the screws and wires holding it together.
  • Look closely inside the cap. If it got corroded, replace it and make sure that spark plugs are still in great shape.

After replacing the distributor cap, your vehicle shouldn’t shudder anymore. However, keep in mind that some cars shake as they get older. There’s nothing strange about that. But if the vehicle is shaking consistently, consider the steps covered above.

04. Car Makes Weirds Noises

Let’s keep it a buck fifty. Nobody wants to hear noises coming from the vehicle. They are terrifying, and they usually mean trouble. But as always, you must inspect your car before throwing parts at it.

If you’ve carefully diagnosed your vehicle and found nothing wrong with it, then you might want to check the distributor cap. If the cylinders are trying to spark, but they can’t, then they’ll make some weird noises as they’re trying to go up and down.

Sometimes, however, the cylinders might be able to fire, but they might not be getting the right amount of electricity.

As a result, you’ll get some strange noises coming from the cylinders. Once again, remove the distributor cap and look inside to find out if it’s still working.

05. 5.7 Vortec Distributor Cap Burn Through

A burnt distributor cap can be pretty confusing. Drivers tend to have a hard time figuring out why this is happening. And although this might not seem like a huge deal, a damaged distributor cap can make your vehicle run rough.

To understand why this is happening, you first need to understand the firing order. Notice how there are several “tubes” going across the distributor cap. That’s where the electricity goes to the spark plugs.

Your distributor cap has several numbers indicating the firing order. If the spark has trouble going through any of these “tubes,” it will burn through the cap and jump from one cylinder to another. To avoid these issues in the future, consider the following:

  • Get quality distributor caps and rotors. Do not get cheap aftermarket parts for this job.
  • Change both the distributor cap and rotor at the same time.
  • Make sure to plug the spark plugs according to the order on specified on the wires.

This might seem like a lot of work, but the distributor cap and rotor are one of those parts that must always be at their peak performance. Driving like this could be dangerous.

06. Engine Misfire

Engine misfire can be hard to understand if you’re not familiar with the inner workings of your vehicle. Either way, we can narrow down the endless options to track down the culprit.

Usually, we’d say you got bad spark plugs. However, in this scenario, you might have a damaged distributor cap.

So, go ahead and inspect the distributor cap. In many cases, the unit might come off entirely as soon as you pull out the plug wires. If that’s the case, replace the cap and rotor for better results.

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07. Stalling

If your vehicle stalls randomly when you’re driving, that’s a clear sign that you got some problem with the electrical system. Remember, your distributor and rotor need to deliver enough power to move the vehicle.

If there’s something wrong with them, the vehicle won’t move. Worst case scenario, you might get stranded.

If you’re in a similar situation, consider checking both the distributor and rotor. Otherwise, take the vehicle to a certified professional.

DIY Guide: How to Replace Distributor Cap & Rotor

How to Replace Distributor Cap & Rotor

To get rid of 5.7 Vortec Distributor problems, replace both the distributor cap and rotor. That said, here’s how to replace both parts:

01. What You Will Need

Before moving any further, get all these tools for the job:

  • Flathead screwdriver — get a flathead screwdriver to remove the hose clamps.
  • T-15 & T-20 Torx driver —  get these Torx drivers to remove some bolts from the vehicle.

02. Getting Started

First, pop the hood of your vehicle and then remove the thumbscrew located on the air intake. After that, unplug the rubber elbow on the PCV.

Having done that, gently remove the hose clamp using your flathead screwdriver. After removing the clamp, you should be able to remove the boot and the upper intake.

03. Remove the Distributor Cap

Removing the upper intake should be more than enough to expose the distributor cap. With that out of the way, remove the bolts and wires.

But before removing the wires, identify them. You must plug them back in the same way they are numbered. Otherwise, you’ll run into some issues.

After unplugging the wires, remove the bolts from the distributor cap and then pull it out.

04. Remove the Rotor

Now that you have access to the rotor, take a picture of it. That way, you’ll know which way the rotor is facing. Once that’s done, remove all the screws holding it together.

05. Reinstall the Rotor & Distributor Cap

Now start installing the new rotor the same way you removed it. Once you’ve got it in place, reinstall all the screws.

Next up, install the new distributor cap and screws. After that, plug back all the wires you took off before. Remember, you must plug them back the same way they are numbered.

Now reinstall the boot and tighten down the hose clamp. Finally, line up the air intake onto the throttle body. Once that’s done, install the PCV breather and then the thumbscrew.

How to Prevent Distributor Problems in the Future

Replacing your distributor is quite simple, and most people can do it. However, running into distributor problems is no fun at all.

Think about the countless things that could go wrong when driving. Thus, taking care of this part is necessary to prevent such scenarios.

First, you need to understand the firing order when changing the spark plugs and cables. Second, check the distributor cap and rotor after 50,000 miles.

Finally, replace the distributor and rotor at the same time. Both parts tend to get damaged after that many miles.

How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Distributor?

How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Distributor

Replacing a distributor cap and rotor is one of the cheapest replacements for most vehicles. For instance, the average price for this job ranges from $90-$120. The part itself costs about $40, while the labor costs about $50.

However, the cost for both the labor and the part are subject to change depending on your location. But this should be enough to score the perfect deal and avoid getting ripped off.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Understanding how your distributor works is vital to preserving your vehicle. So, here’s more info about this part:

1. Can a bad distributor cause loss of power?

Yes, a bad distributor can decrease your engine’s efficiency. Your ignition system needs the distributor to work correctly. If there’s something wrong with it, your vehicle will lose power as it’s going down the road. In some cases, the engine won’t start up.

2. When should a distributor be replaced?

If you’re going to replace the distributor, consider replacing the rotor as well. Both parts should be replaced after nearly 50,000 miles.

3. Can you rebuild a distributor?

Yes! You can rebuild a distributor. However, if your distributor is beyond salvation, there’s nothing your dealer can do to bring it back. Instead, get a new distributor. They are not as expensive, and you can find one for $40.

4. How do you diagnose a bad distributor?

The best way to diagnose a distributor is to pull it out and look on the inside. However, you can quickly tell that the distributor went bad if your car is shaking and losing power when accelerating.

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Fixing 5.7 Vortec distributor problems is super easy and does not require previous experience. As you saw, replacing the distributor and rotor barely takes any time, making it easy for most DIYers at home.

But remember, check every possible scenario before replacing this part. Pull it out and make sure it’s no longer working.

Only then can you know whether it’s working or not. Finally, make sure your spark plugs are still working as intended. If the distributor went bad, there’s a high chance the plugs got damaged.

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