The Volvo Parts, Accessories &
Performance Specialists Since 1963

Vintage Tune Up Kits

2013-08-21 - IPD Staff

Jeremy Sells talks about ipd's vintage Volvo tune up kits and shares some important tips to make the job go smoother.

If your engine is sound, you’ll probably find tune-ups due every year or so. This assumes that the fuel system is in peak operating condition (rare, but we’ve seen a few). We tune our B20s each Autumn and again in the Spring to keep the ignition system happy. Check out the video below for helpful hints and info about how to identify your distributor. 


How to Properly Identify Your Ignition Distributor


Unless you bought your classic Volvo brand new and know its full history, there’s a good chance that the distributor has been changed or modified. Our tune-up kits assume your car is still original, unlikely as that may be.

To help you identify the proper tune-up parts for your specific car, please have your Bosch distributor part number handy. On early (B18) distributors, this number will be found on an oval tag riveted to the distributor body. On later (B20) distributors, the number is simply stamped on the body – you can see the difference in the photos above.

This is not a daunting task, all we need to know are the last three digits, and if you have an aluminum or cast iron distributor. If you’ve updated to an electronic ignition, let us know so we can provide a kit without points and condenser.

The Technology Behind ipd Plug Wires!]
Spark plug wires may not be as exciting as turbochargers, downpipes, or air intake systems but they are just as critical to proper engine operation and performance. Believe it or not spark plug wire technology has actually progressed, albeit slowly, over the years with little to no fan fare. So in an effort to give spark plug wires their 15 minutes of fame, let’s take a look back at how they’ve evolved over the years and what those changes have done.

The Technology Behind ipd Plug Wires

In the early days of automotive engines, spark plug wires had to simply provide a conduit for the spark energy to reach the spark plug. With such a rudimentary job the wires themselves were quite rudimentary in their design; typically no more than a solid copper wire that connected the spark plug to its respective terminal on the distributor cap. It wasn’t long until insulating material was added to aid in combating misfires as the ignition components wore, but this basic design was around for a number of years and worked quite well for its time.

Fast forward to the early adoption of electronics to the automobile, namely radios. It became apparent that the high energy from the coil that transmitted through the solid plug wires created significant radio frequency interference(RFI). Manufacturers responded with a myriad of solutions, the most successful was limiting the spark energy through added resistance. This was done in a few ways, primarily through resistor type spark plugs and through a design change in plug wires. The change in plugs wires was from the previously used solid core wires to a carbon impregnated fiber wound wire surrounded by a rubber coating. This resulted in an increase of resistance in the plug wire which resulted in reduction in spark energy and aided in reducing the amount of RF that was transmitted to the radio. This became even more important as fuel injection systems came to market.

Fuel injection systems rely on a number of electrical signals fed to the ECU so that it can then inject the correct amount of fuel given the current needs of the engine. Many of the sensors used in fuel injection systems work on a lower signal range than the vehicles normal operating voltage of around 13 volts. Typically they will provide a 0-2 volt signal for the more critical signals like crank position or in some cases cam/distributor position. These signals are more prone to stray electrical energy and are therefore designed to use shielded ground wires that help capture and direct any stray RF in the engine bay. The ignition system is the primary cause of RF(radio frequency) in the engine bay and as such, the design of spark plug wires must yet again be revisited. This time around, engineers found that if the carbon impregnated fiber was wound in a helix fashion it would make the wires act as pseudo inductors ‘holding’ the spark energy in a magnetic field rather than broadcast it like a radio antenna. This was helpful not just to the lower voltage signals found in the fuel injection system but also in the ABS systems that were becoming more and more prevalent.

Unfortunately, by and large, all the design changes to spark plug wires over the years haven’t contributed to increased spark energy but rather reduced it. This is undesirable from both a performance and efficiency standpoint, however the aftermarket has seen this and responded in kind. The sharp increase of available materials for plug wire construction has helped tremendously where we now see spiral wound wires with silicone jackets more common place and helping to bring back some of that lost performance and energy. ipd’s wires are no exception, with the same spiral wound technology and advanced material use, we are able to bring to market wire kits that offer original equipment fitment with greater energy transfer, all the while keeping unwanted stray RF energy at bay. Our 8mm silicone jacket helps reduce the likelihood of misfire meaning better transmission of spark energy to the spark plugs and increased performance and efficiency. If you’re looking for the best for your Volvo or maybe it’s simply tune up time and you want a higher performance wire kit, we’ve got the answer for you!

TECH TIP: The Benefits of Electronic Ignition in a Vintage Volvo

One of the more common questions we hear from customers who own pre-1975 B18 or B20 powered Volvos is ‘how do I get rid of my problematic ignition points?’ This is usually motivated by two elements: first, these distributors are now decades old and the shafts develop lateral slop that makes adjusting the points to the proper gap difficult, if not impossible. Second, and regardless of the condition of the distributor, the points begin to wear as soon as they’re in use. Their condition begins to degrade immediately.

The Pertronix sensor unit mounts inside the distributor where the points used to be, with two wires leading out through the distributor. The system is triggered by a collar that fits on the distributor shaft just below the rotor. Inside this collar are 4 magnets, 90 degrees apart. As each magnet passes the Pertronix sensor, it triggers the coil. Just like the points would do, but without any mechanical contact and thus, without any component wear.

There are two wires on the Pertronix; one red and one black. Depending on what model you have and how it’s configured, there are several possible ways to connect the wires up. 140 series without tachometers are the simplest: the red wire connects to the + terminal on the coil, and the black wire connects to the - terminal. 122, 544 and early 1800 models that use the armored cable to protect the + wire require slightly more attention, and 1800 models with tachometers are more complicated still. Even so, installation should not take more than an hour and the end result of never having to deal with worn, pitted, burnt or sloppy points can really make the effort worthwhile.

If this is something you’d like to consider but aren’t sure whether the installation process is realistic for you, give us a call and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have or you can follow the instructions that are included.