A distributor rotor and cap are car parts that are not too common on most modern vehicles. This is because technology has improved greatly over the years and electronic ignition systems have largely replaced the mechanical functions of an automobile distributor.
Nonetheless, there are still plenty of vehicles on the road that use distributor rotors and caps and it’s important for car users to be knowledgeable about the way they work.
These two parts are located in an area of the car that is exposed to the elements and thus, can often easily become damaged or corroded.
They don’t cost too much and are usually replaced at the same time.
Distributor Rotor & Cap Replacement Prices
A vehicle’s distributor rotor and cap are commonly sold together. Retailers sometimes sell the two parts together as a two-piece set or with an ignition coil as a three-piece set. The parts can still be purchased individually if needed. Based on data gathered from various retailers, we’ve calculated the estimated price ranges of these car parts.
The distributor cap and rotor replacement cost will vary from $15.91 to $208.66. The price of an ignition distributor rotor alone is about $0.98 to $159.45.
For the ignition distributor cap cost alone, prices hover between $2.17 and $301.06.
Some aftermarket replacement part kits also include an ignition coil. The price of such a three-part kit is usually around $72.99 to $77.99.
Based on consumer surveys and industry experts, here are the most popular distributor rotor and cap brands and their respective average price ranges:
- Accel: $29.19
- ACDelco: $171.42 to $208.66
- BTP: $15.91
- Genuine: $41.79
- MSD: $39.59
- OER: $24.59
- Standard: $22.08 to $169.05
- YEC: $17.89 to $18.25
Aftermarket part prices will always vary depending on what type of vehicle they’re for, where the part is purchased, and the quality/brand of the part. Some replacement kits will include small parts such as screws, connectors, plugs, and seals.
Here are several different types of vehicles and the total amount, including labor charge that it will cost to have the distributor rotor and cap replaced:
|2007 GMC Sierra 1500||$144|
|2004 Chevrolet Trailblazer EXT||$120|
|2008 Honda Civic||$123|
|2005 Infiniti Q45||$111|
|2013 Mercedes-Benz CL600||$277|
|2005 Jaguar XJR||$175|
Service Centers and Auto Shops
Replacing distributor rotors and caps used to be one of the most basic mechanical repairs that anyone interested in automobiles would learn. Nowadays, it’s become a bit of a lost art among casual car owners but fortunately, most mechanics and technicians that work at automotive garages still know what the parts are for and how to repair them.
When it comes to having parts replaced, there are two options available for car owners: independent mechanics and dealerships. The labor cost varies depending on these two options, and it’s important to understand why.
A dealership specializes in specific automobile brands. For example, a Ford dealership will have mechanics that only repair and maintain Ford automobiles. If a vehicle is still under warranty when it is taken to a dealership, the manufacturer will usually cover most of the costs associated with the repair.
On the other hand, independent mechanics such as the ones employed at O’Reilly Auto Parts usually meet up with customers to discuss the car’s problems and provide a price estimate. They work in smaller garages that were usually started up by former dealership technicians. Independent auto shops usually honor third-party warranties.
The estimated cost of labor for either of these two options is somewhere between $35 and $78. In any case, it all boils down to what’s easier for a consumer and what works better.
Alternately, for the home mechanics and those that don’t want to bring their vehicle to either independent mechanics or dealerships, we’ve included a step-by-step walkthrough at the last section to help replace a distributor rotor and cap.
What Are Distributor Rotors & Caps?
The distributor cap and rotor directly contribute to an engine’s capability of igniting the mixture of air and fuel inside. They accomplish this by sending voltage from the ignition coils inside the engine to the engine’s cylinders. The two parts work together with other components of the ignition system in order to make sure that fuel is ignited at the correct time and thus, allow the engine to run properly.
Both the cap and rotor are instrumental in providing voltage from an ignition coil directly to each cylinder. The spark plug inside then receives current from the plug wires and starts the combustion process by igniting the fuel inside the cylinder.
As these two parts are naturally exposed to very high levels of electrical current every time the engine is turned on and off, they can become damaged and may require replacement. For this reason, regular maintenance is necessary to ensure that they’re kept in optimal working condition.
Symptoms of a Bad Distributor Rotor & Cap
As with most mechanical car parts, the distributor rotor and cap can become beat and worn down to the point that they no longer serve any useful purpose. Since they both work to distribute voltage to the spark plug, they mostly fail together.
Physical damage is always a possibility – the housing may suffer from cracks, the spark plug wire tower could break, and the distributor cap terminal could burn out or fail due to excessive carbon buildup. Knowing what the symptoms of a bad distributor rotor and cap are will allow a car user to accurately identify the problem and then work on the steps to solve it.
Here are some of the most common symptoms that are seen which indicate a bad distributor and cap:
- Dashboard Warning Light – The dashboard contains many useful lights which serve to warn the driver in the event of a part failure. The check engine light may turn on for many reasons – one being if the distributor cap becomes cracked and moisture was able to enter.
A sensor is also tracking the signals coming from the distributor and if it picks up any inconsistent readings, it could trigger the check engine light to turn on.
- Car Won’t Start – Since the two parts control the voltage which is sent to the spark plugs, if they become damaged, then the engine won’t fire up.
- Rough Engine While Idling – If a particularly rough-sounding engine is noticed, especially while idling, it might be due to a failed distributor cap. There are electrical terminals on the bottom of the distributor cap that may have become covered with carbon and if this happens, the engine might idle at random and no longer run smoothly.