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when timing the engine my 383 installation booklet says the engine should be 34 degrees total, does this mean 34 degrees past TDC or is it like 17 degrees inital at TDC with 3 degrees increments after that?
 

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Total timing is initial timing plus the mechanical advance. Initial timing (at idle) for an aluminum head SBC is probably going to be happy in the 14-18 degree range, maybe less. Mechanical advance comes in as the RPM increase, and will max out at some total value, depending on the weights installed in the distributor.

http://www.centuryperformance.com/ignition-and-timing-settings-spg-219.html
 

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You'll need a dial back timing light or timing tape (I like the light better).
*Start the motor and bring up to operating temperature.
*Hook up timing light (as per directions)
*Remove air cleaner
*Disconnect vacuum advance hose and plug it with a cap or screw
*Check timing on balancer (this is initial timing at idle)
*Rev motor to about 3000 rpm and check timing (dial back on light) this is your total (rev past 3000 to make sure it's "all-in" as some won't be "all-in" until 3500+ rpm).
 
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