1901-1953 Indian Motorcycle – Parts – Accessories

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Timing the Indian V-Twin Motor


How to Time your Indian V-Twin Motor

Have you recently removed your oil pump, and your ready to reassemble everything, but you forgot which way the shafts in the oil pump and distributor need to be, to allow perfect timing of your bike? Don’t fret, let’s discuss the proper procedure for installing the oil pump, and timing the distributor.

  1. The timing of the motor must be performed on the compression stroke. We will do the timing using the compression stroke of the front cylinder. To obtain the compression stroke, raise the front cylinder valve covers.
  2. Remove the timing plug on the left side of the crankcases.
  3. Turn the motor over until the front cylinder intake valve opens and closes with the exhaust valve also closed, and both tappets free. Then turn the motor over until the timing mark appears in the timing plug hole.
  4. Watch for the flywheel timing mark indicated by a “$”, looks like a dollar sign with a single slash, to appear inside the timing plug hole. (If you see a “+” mark this is top dead center and not the timing mark)
  5. If the oil pump is off the motorcycle, attach the oil pump. In this position the oil pump must be assembled so that the slot of the distributor drive shaft point to 12’oclock position (perpendicular to engine) when viewing from as if the pump where on the cycle. Do this while the oil pump is still off the engine. As the pump is brought into place, the spiral gear on the rear camshaft will move the slotted shaft of the distributor drive slightly. Note which direction you will have to rotate if to have it end up from 12 o’clock to 1:30 o’clock position, when the pump is pressed to final position. If you need to adjust the slot angle on the oil pump slide it back out until the gears disengage and rotate the shaft a tooth at a time, until you get the desired position.
  6. Remove the pump very carefully making sure the shaft rotates only what the spiral gear causes. Install the gasket and reinstall the pump. Check final installation to assure the slot is at 12 o’clock to 1:30 o’clock position.
  7. When the timing mark appears in the timing plug window, the front piston is coming up on compression stroke. Unfasten and remove the distributor cap.
  8. Remove the distributor rotor.
  9. Note the cam lobes on the distributor breaker cam. One lobe is larger than the other. The larger of the two operates the rear cylinder; the narrow cam lobe operates for the front cylinder.
  10. If the distributor is not installed in the oil pump. Place the distributor in the oil pump in such a position that the narrow lobe is opening the points, NOT ON THE CLOSING SIDE.
  11. Use a test light on the breaker points to check this opening. Rotate the distributor body counterclockwise till the points break contact. The circular clamp for the dis the distributor body will have to be tight, and the moveable plate that attaches the cable will have to be in full advance position prior to doing final rotation of the body. The only loose screw is the long one clamping the upper plate with the cable swivel in it. When rotating the body counterclockwise, and the test light indicates loss of point contact, stop rotating and tighten the final screw in the upper rotating plate. The engine is now timed.
  12. To check – Move distributor to retarded position, as limited by stop and points should now make contact. Move to advanced position and point should just break when the distributor hits full advance.
  13. Rotate the flywheels (motor) until the distributor cam fully opens the breaker points, the set the adjustable point so that there is a maximum clearance of .020”.
  14. Replace the rotor and distributor cap.
  15. Replace the timing plug. Lower valve covers.

You are finished! Enjoy your properly timed Indian Motor!

Please enjoy this information and let us know in your comments if it is helping with your Indian Restoration. Also please send us photos of your motorcycles to add to our online Virtual Indian Museum.


Gary Stark- Owner Starklite Cycle

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  • Bob ,

    How is the best way to time a 30s era Chief with no timing hole.

  • Alan Green ,

    Hi Gary
    For some unknown reason, the crank timing marks are not visible on the crank, it’s a 1946 chief, how accurate can I get it, with using the valve method on the front cylinder?

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