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Toyota Corolla Distributors & Parts

The distributor is a critical part of your Toyota Corolla’s motor because it delivers the high voltage current that fires each cylinder. Without the distributor, the Corolla’s motor wouldn’t be able to run. You can find the distributor and associated parts that fit your Corolla and learn more about them here.

What is a distributor?

In older vehicles, such 1980s and 1990s Corollas, the electric current that created the spark in each of the motor's cylinders was generated by a single ignition coil. The distributor was the mechanism that sent that current to each spark plug at precisely timed intervals. In newer cars, the distributor was eliminated, and each spark plug was given its own coil. This was a more reliable way to get the current to each plug without using moving parts that would wear out.

How does the distributor work?

The distributor distributes the high voltage current needed to create a spark in each of the Corolla’s cylinders. The power supplied by the alternator is amplified by a coil. A rotor in the distributor rotates in such a way that it momentarily creates a contact that sends the current to the spark plug of each cylinder in turn. Each spark plug is connected to the distributor with a high voltage wire that carries the current when the circuit closes in the distributor. The rotor’s rotation speed must precisely match the speed of the motor at any given moment in order for this to work. This speed is called the ignition timing.

What are the signs that the distributor needs replacement?
  • Motor misfires: There are many reasons your car’s motor may misfire, but a faulty distributor can be the cause. When the moving parts wear out, it may slip and fall out of sync with the motor's timing. This will cause the spark plugs to spark at the wrong times.
  • Car doesn’t start: A serious malfunction with the distributor can make the motor impossible to start. The distributor may not be creating any current at all, or the timing may be so out of sync that the motor isn’t able to run.
  • Unusual motor sounds: When the distributor loses the correct timing, you might hear strange sounds when you start the engine. Clicking, tapping, and sputtering noises indicate that the spark plugs are firing at the wrong times.
  • Check engine light: Your Corolla’s engine computer will detect when the distributor’s timing is off and turn on the check engine light.