Static Timing Your Engine
Very accurate timing can be accomplished on almost any engine using only the simplest electrical equipment, namely a 12 volt bulb in a socket with a pair of wires connected to the two terminals. Even if you use a strobe-type timing light, this method provides an accurate counter-check because it is done while the engine is not running. Hence, the variables of centrifugal and vacuum advance do not affect the settings.
1) Perform a distributor tune-up, or if all components are known to be in good condition, start out by resetting the points.
2) Turn the crankshaft until the engine is at top dead center and No. 1 piston is preparing to go down on the power stroke. You will know this position by turning the crankshaft until the intake valve on No.1 cylinder closes and then slowly turning the crankshaft clockwise (from front) until you see the mark on the crank pulley aligning with the pointer on the timing cover. On TR2 through TRA models, set the pointer approximately 4 degrees to the right of the hole in the crank pulley as you look at the front of the engine from the front of the car. This is 4 degrees before top dead center (B.T.DC). On other models use the number of degrees given as "static timing" in your workshop manual.
3) Wire a 12 volt bulb between the low-tension terminal on the side of the distributor and a good ground on the engine. If you like you can use alligator clips for these connections.
4) Turn on the car's ignition switch. the 12 volt bulb may or may not be lighted.
5) Loosen the clamp bolt, securing the distributor to the distributor pedestal, as this will allow the distributor body to be turned clockwise or counter-clockwise.
6) Turn the distributor counter-clockwise a few degrees. The bulb should light if it was not lit before, and if it was lit before, it should stay lit.
7) Turn the distributor clockwise until the exact position when the bulb goes out. This means that the points are just opening, and the spark plug in No.1 cylinder will be firing.
8) Retightened the distributor clamp, and test the car to see if it runs well. If it pings slightly under load, use the vernier adjusting nut on the distributor to retard the ignition by a degree or two. At this point, you can also try advancing the timing by a half degree or less at a time to see if it will run even better, providing that no pinging is heard. There is an arrow on the distributor to show which way to turn the vernier adjust nut to advance (A) or to retard the ignition.
WARNING: Be very careful about advancing ignition, as advancing it too far can cause serious (expensive) engine damage.