When you need to fine-tune an engine so it performs in its most efficient state, you will need specialized equipment. While the debate goes on for the pros and cons of MSD ignition systems, they do work and improve engine efficiency to applicable cars. When the situation calls for its installation, or if your car engine already has one, a multi-spark compatible timing light is definitely needed.
While engines have considerably changed over the years, the ignition system operates primarily on the same principles. Generally speaking, cars have spark plugs to ignite fuel in the engine. The tricky part is making sure that this spark plugs fire at the right time and at the proper sequence. The best timing light for the money is what you need to tell whether your spark plugs are doing what they are supposed to. Almost every conventional engine will have spark plugs and the only instrument that is able to see if they are functioning well would be a timing light.
TOP 6 Best Timing Light and Cable for MSD Ignition
Now that we have an overview of what a good quality timing light should be, it will now make more sense as to what you will need to check when making a purchase. Below is the list you have been waiting for and we dove into what makes each of them a worthy addition to your toolbox.
INNOVA 5568 Pro Timing Light Gun
Stand out features
Not only does this timing gun have the pistol-type grip favored by mechanics, but the angle is also adjustable. This is arguably one of the most expensive timing light devices out there but for a good reason. This is a fully digital timing gun, complete with a tachometer, voltage, and dwell reader. Its tachometer can read timing up to 9900 RPMS which is a really impressive feat. On top of these, it has a large backlit screen display.
Another great addition is a handguard, preventing bruises and burns, especially on a hot machine. This is not a common feature among timing lights and is quite a welcome addition. With a built-in tachometer, dwell, and voltage reader, one can really get into fine-tuning an engine.
MSD Ignition 8992 Timing Gun
Stand out features
The distinctive red color of the MSD 8992 timing gun is a durable and shockproof construction of ABS plastic that shields this equipment from wear and tear. The leads on this timing light are also made to be removable and contribute to its portability and easy storage. It is MSD compatible which is why it will work great on high-performance engines, boats, older, and even classic cars. Aside from being lightweight, it is also ergonomically designed as it’s comfortable to grip with smooth curves and no harsh angles. The triggers are also conveniently located in the trigger finger area, as opposed to others having this button at the rear of the barrel. The strobe light is powerful enough to use in a brightly lit area as well as in broad daylight.
INNOVA 3551 Inductive Timing Gun
Stand out features
The Innova 3555, like its more expensive big brother the 5568, has the pistol grip configuration with an adjustable angle. This bit of extra articulation makes this a versatile tool to wield in tight confines like an engine bay. With this, checking for any retardation and advancement in timing is quite easy. Another feature common to Innova timing light devices is the addition of a handguard, making accidental bumps or contact with hot parts less common. Engine tune-ups and fine-tuning have never been easier with this device. Detachable leads are a handy feature to have especially during storage. Durable ABS plastic construction makes this last for years and resists damage from being thrown around in a toolbox.
Actron CP7529 Digital Timing Light
Stand out features
Actron is owned by Bosch, and going by Bosch’s products you can expect top-notch quality. While this may be true for its Fresnel lens and Xenon LED bulb, its body is not as robust nor as well protected as its similarly-priced counterparts. However, the Actron’s maximum timing rpm at 9999 RPMs more than makes up for it. It has a large and easy-to-read LCD screen with inductive molded clamps for added convenience. The lens and bright Xenon LED are good enough for use even with bright shop lights as well as in broad daylight. The Actron is distinctively silver ini color and looks for all the world like a laser gun toy. Looks aside, this is a solid and reliable timing light gun that should be at home in your tool box.
ESI 130 Self-Powered Timing Light
Stand out features
This timing light is made surprisingly in a country you may not expect, and that is Chile by a company called Electronic Specialties Inc. or ESI. The self-powered timing light is increasingly becoming popular with mechanics because of its ease of use. This is an insanely fast, in fact, the fastest timing light on our list. The ESI timing light can measure accurately at 14000 RPMs. This is why the ESI is also made to be extremely heat resistant as engines capable of such tend to be on the hotter side. It is also made to be compatible with almost every engine out there, from boats, trucks, and high-performance engines. One thing to remember about the ESI self powered timing light is that it does not come with a pistol grip, but rather you have to use it like a regular flashlight. This may be a problem for some but it is not a deal breaker as this does its job well.
Performance Tool W80587 Timing Gun
Stand out features
Performance Tools’ timing light is made to be used in even the brightest conditions, from shop lights to broad daylight. This digital advance timing light has a large LCD readout that is easy to read even in bright conditions. The tool itself is encased in a durable and tough ABS plastic construction and can easily withstand any toolbox and garage. Performance tool edges ahead of the competition by including a trigger switch instead of a button at the back. Aside from timing, this tool can also read voltage, dwell, and has a tachometer. It has an included 60cm wire that is adequate for most engine bays. It is important to note that the cables on this timing light cannot be detached. The tool can display speeds for up to 9000 rpm as well.
What you need to know before buying a timing light
Before we dive into the list, let us show you how we came up with the most bang-for-the-buck, reliable, and accurate auto timing light. This way, aside from saving you time, you come out of reading this as knowledgeable in terms of timing lights. The information below is a compilation of the factors that you need to consider when buying a timing light for your vehicle.
The kinds of timing light devices
There are three general types of timing lights available in the market today. Any additional features are just bells and whistles added to their most basic functionalities.
The standard timing light – This is a pretty standard and non-adjustable xenon light bulb. By far this type of timing light is the most commonly used for regular engines that have a distributor installed. Additional features include an additional timing advance knob that speeds up or slows down light so the timing can be seen at various RPMs. Others will be with tachometer or with rpm gauge for better and more accurate readings. This type of timing light is known to be the least expensive among the three. They also come in all configurations, such as a pistol grip configuration or a simple tube that one can use the same way as a flashlight would be.
Self-powered timing light – if connecting and clamping wires are a hassle for you, then self-powered timing lights will definitely work for you. Some high-performance engines and cars will have their battery tucked away at the back or somewhere inaccessible. Another advantage of these types of timing lights is that you will not have to deal with wires tangling up as you do your work. Most of these are also digital and have better accuracy than other kinds. A self-powered timing light may have issues with brightness, so use them in the shade or with a less brightly lit area.
MSD-compatible timing light – Among the best timing gun are those that are compatible with a multiple-spark distribution ignition system or an MDS capable timing light. Not all vehicles are equipped with this, but most that have higher performance will have this. The timing light needed for this is special as there are special requirements for an MSD equipped engine.
How easy they are to use
The most convenient and the best timing light would have a pistol grip-type handle. This is not for mere aesthetics but rather for practicality and convenience as this type of handle will not be cumbersome to use in the limited confines of the engine bay. Avoid timing guns that are not guns, and have a flashlight-like form factor as they would be cumbersome to use. Aside from the handle configuration, choose those with push button interfaces instead of knobs and switches.
Another feature that adds to a timing gun’s ease of use would be the addition of LCD screens. Products which have detachable cables are also much easier to store and use because they would be less cumbersome. Being detachable will also make the cables last longer.
The brightness level
This is especially helpful when working in broad daylight or under bright garage lights. The brightness level should be enough to see the timing mark clearly, and this is a crucial requirement for a good quality timing gun. Look for a timing gun with a xenon bulb. Fortunately, most timing lights now are equipped with high output xenon bulbs. Some will even have an automatic sensor that automatically adjusts their brightness level according to the ambient lighting. Brightness levels were a huge problem with older timing lights and on self -powered timing lights, but with LED and Xenon lights these are no longer cause for concern.
Accuracy should be on point
When it comes to the light readings, there is little to be concerned about as it is just light that is reflected off the timing mark. However, for one to get accurate readings, all the other instrumentation has to be correctly giving data. These include the tachometer, rpm reading, dwell, and voltage. These all have to be right otherwise the readings would be off and you will end up having worse engine performance. This is why most modern timing light guns today have large and easy-to-read LCD screens for easy retrieval of data, even when used in bright shop lights or broad daylight.
Voltage and other add-ons
If you are a technician or a mechanic or have multiple cars in your garage, it is better to get a timing light that can handle different voltages other than the usual 12-volt one. Older cars may have lower like a 6-volt system or higher up to 24-volt systems for larger trucks. It is also beneficial if the timing light has a built-in Tachometer and other instrumentation that will give you data at a glance, instead of switching over to multiple devices.
In this regard, those timing light devices with a digital or LCD screen to display data is favorable as you can easily access the information you need at a glance. Thos with dial knobs and mechanical switches require a bit of finesse to operate. A pistol-style grip, rubberized grips, and adjustable nozzles can make the difference when you are working on an engine.
Your timing light will be in a garage, will be used for most of its life in the engine bays with other tools. Choose one with a rugged and shockproof exterior to ensure longevity and protection against the daily wear and tear of shop equipment. Most are made of plastic material, metal, or rubber material. The best ones would be a combination of these.
The benefits of using a timing light
When your engine is optimized, it will produce more power consistently without putting a strain on the other components. Additionally, you get the performance that is expected of your engine and as well as add years to its lifespan
Using a timing light on the ignition system will ensure that the engine will run smoothly and use fuel more efficiently. This will result in more savings in the long run as a badly timed engine that is continuously being used will develop problems along the way.
Provide more power
When an engine is timed correctly it will provide even more power than it is advertised to have and you get better performance for it. This is extremely important especially if you use your vehicle for business or hauling cargo.
Only a timing light can detect advanced or retarded timing
When you experience engine stuttering or loss of power, chances are the timing or your firing sequence are off. They could either be too advanced or retarded, therefore causing the issues. Only by using a good quality timing light can accurately diagnose this problem.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
What timing light works with an MSD system?
Naturally, the best timing light for an MSD system is also an msd timing light. In an MSD system, a special timing light is needed to indicate the proper initial timing in the firing sequence that follows. A cheap timing light will just pick out any random spark, not knowing which one was first, and this is crucial to determine if the MSD is properly working. Regular timing lights will give out inaccurate information and could cause more harm than good for your MSD ignition system.
Do I need a timing light?
If you own a car, a boat, or any vehicle with an engine, you need a timing light to make sure you do not experience stutters, loss of power, and just to keep it running smoothly. If you have an MSD ignition system, then you absolutely must have an ignition timing light.
What does adjusting the timing mean?
The adjustment of a car timing usually refers to making sure the timing is advanced, meaning that it will fire the spark plugs earlier than when it does when stock. What It does is forces the piston inside the cylinder harder because the spark is fired sooner. This action translates to greater performance and a faster car.
What are the signs of bad timing?
The dreaded knocking of the engine sounds is one of these symptoms of bad timing. Aside from that, the engine may not start at all, oil leakage, and engine misfires are among the most common indicators of bad ignition timing.
Every car owner, DIY enthusiast, mechanic, and technician that are worth their salt should have a timing light device in their toolbox. The list above is not an exhaustive one, but these products do stand out above the rest in terms of accuracy, ease of use, resistance to wear and tear, and value for money. If you want your engine to be at its peak efficiency and have the highest output power it can have, an adjustable timing light is a must.
Not everyone can fine-tune a car, but having the right equipment brings you that much closer to doing so. It is our hope that we can help you pierce through the absolute gimmickry that some automotive products have, and give you only those that deliver on what they promise. Armed with the review and the information above, go ahead and find the timing light that suits your needs.
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