How to Use a Timing Light

Using an excellent diagnosis tool like a timing light can be beneficial, but only if you know what to look for. Although this device is pretty basic for a car enthusiast, it is easy to feel confused about this light’s correct use. After all, who would not want to adjust their vehicle’s timing to enhance its performance level?

Here, I will be telling you how to use a timing light. Previously, I used to run to the nearest mechanic to adjust the timing. However, after thorough research, I managed to find an easy way to do it myself. Therefore, stick to the end of the guide to understand the mechanics of the timing light.

What Is Timing Light?

Before diving right into how you can use it, let me talk about what a timing light is and how it functions. This tool helps you to determine what angle the spark event is occurring. More elaborately speaking, it is a tool that checks the engine ignition timing, which comes from the distributor.

How to Use a Timing Light

It has the shape of a cool-looking laser gun-looking like the ones you may have seen in Sci-fi films. You can precisely aim at tight quarters with its ergonomic handle. There is a large barrel opening, and light flows out of that opening as soon as you press the trigger.

How to Use a Timing Light?

You can check the spark-plug wire’s firing pulse because this tool is sensitive enough to read that. The timing gun has the ability to sense the electrical charge and subsequently fire light pulse. It occurs whenever the coil pack fires to the spark plug through the wire.

Why is it useful? It is likely that your engine has markings on the crankshaft pulley. You can match these with the timing belt’s hash marks by using a timing light.

how to use a timing light gun

Therefore, you can connect the timing light as the engine is running and press the trigger. The light from this device will pulse with a strobe effect and highlight what your timing is. Furthermore, this tool allows you to measure this highlight in degrees.

Here are some easy steps that will help you use a timing light effortlessly.

  • Please turn off your engine before setting it up to avoid any unnecessary accidents. In the case of timing lights, I also suggest you adhere to this method before doing any mechanical work related to vehicles.
  • The timing gun contains several plugs and clamps. After turning the engine off, move on to the car battery’s ground terminal and power. Attach the corresponding cables to the terminal.
  • Then, connect the third wire to the number one spark plug wire,
  • One of the key factors that majorly impact the timing tool’s readings is its connection to the right plug. Therefore, double-check and ensure that you have connected everything correctly,
  • As soon as you have connected everything properly, go ahead and start the car and let it run idly for a while.
  • The device will show you numbers once you point the light at the crankshaft pulley’s timing number markings. As I have already mentioned, the timing gun maintains a basic principle; the gun flashes as spark plug firings occur.
  • As the engine runs, this strobing effect will steadily show one of the timing numbers. Now check the manufacturer’s recommendation and compare the reading.
  • In this following part, you might need help from a friend—Rev up the engine approximately 3500 RPMs after checking the reading of the engine’s idle timing.
  • You will notice that the time will change as the engine keeps on running. Now go ahead and compare these readings with the ones given by the manufacturer listings.

How to Change the Timing?

You can make proper vehicle adjustments based on the readings and numbers you got from the timing light. Now I will tell you how you can advance the timing.

  • At first, you will have to loosen up the distributor bolt in a way that you can rotate it without any hassle. However, be careful not to loosen it up too much as your goal is not to remove the distributor but to rotate it freely.
  • You can adjust the ignition timing when you spin the distributor housing. Till the timing is in the correct range, you will have to make small incremental adjustments.

How to Use a Timing Light to Change the Timing

This part may require a more steady hand, and you will have to practice it. However, I assure you that you will get a feel for it quickly with a little bit of practice.

  • Now comes the part of rotating the distributor. Which way you have to rotate depends on what vehicle you are using. The primary rule of advancing the timing is by turning it in the opposite direction to the rotor.

Therefore, you have to move the distributor in a counterclockwise motion if the rotor moves in a clockwise position.

  • You can also make small twists to check whether it is working or not as trial and error.
  • After making the adjustments, tighten up the distributor and recheck the timing. You also have to make sure the vacuum hoses are attached as well.
  • That is pretty much it. You can easily optimize the engine timing through these steps, and your vehicle will operate smoother than before.


In the case that your timing light is not firing consistently, you will have to increase the gap; the spark requires to jump in a small amount. Furthermore, you can use the spark tester tool to achieve a consistent timing light response.

Advantage of Using Timing Light

For class carbureted rides, the timing light acts as a great diagnostic tool. Moreover, as long as you have a distributor, this device will work on modern designs as well. Here are some of the benefits of a timing gun that will work wonders.

  • Narrow Down the Problem

Are you worried about the engine not starting? Sometimes your vehicle’s engine might not work, and you may not have any idea why. In that case, crank up the engine after connecting the timing light.

Advantage of Using Timing Light

If the light is unable to sense any electrical signals, it means the spark plug is not working properly.

  • Enhance Performance

By timing the engine correctly, you can optimize your vehicle to perform better. Your car will run smoother than before and provide better power.

  • Engine Longevity

By optimizing the engine, you ensure that it lasts longer. This advantage will help you save thousands of dollars in the long run.

  • Improve fuel Economy

You can achieve more miles per gallon if you have an adequately timed car. Again, it will save not only fuel wastage but also your hard-earned money.

Improve fuel Economy

  • Maximum Utility

This device can check the initial ignition timing to change it for better gas mileage, higher horsepower, factory settings, or a smoother idle.


You will find no other devices as excellent as timing lights. Could there be a better way to enhance your vehicle? But if you are unfamiliar with this timing gun tool, you will not be able to optimize your vehicle. In that case, you might even end up harming the engine.

I have summarized everything you need to know about how to use a timing light in a way that you will have no trouble understanding. Now, nothing will stop you from reaching that maximum vehicle performance!

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