Is "the distributor" a bolt-on modular item?

95 Integra GSR; 160k miles
This past Friday on the way to work the car stalled and wouldn't re-start. SInce it was rainy and I had a wet-weather start problem some
years ago I thought it might have been the distributor cap, so I replaced that; when the car still wouldn't start I had it towed to a nearby fixit place.
Their diagnosis was: the distributor had failed. They estimated $500 for a new distributor, and I choked and agreed to it.
Then I looked up distributor replacements for this car on the web and saw them ranging from $180 to $320. I called the fixit place back and challenged them on it; the desk guy couldn't explain the price difference. We agreed to wave off until he could call an Acura place for a parts quote, thinking it would be different than their after-market supplier's price.
My question: is the distributor a modular part that bolts into place, or is there more to it than this? If it's a fairly simple operation I'm tempted to tell these guys to go soak their heads and replace it myself.
I'd appreciate feedback. Thanks!
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Dave O wrote:

soak. totally modular. takes about 5 minutes to replace and maybe another 5 to re-time the motor. [you'll need a timing light.] or you can repair the original. if the cap and rotor are good, it's the igniter or coil. price those separately and see how you feel then.
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The distributor's parts are typically the Achille's heel of Hondas of this vintage. The cause of an engine not starting or stalling is often either the distributor coil, distributor igniter, or the rotor falling off, due to a rather notorious failed set screw. Now at some point, and your car might be there, the housing as a whole develops deficiencies. E.g. at its wire harness; at its the seals between it and the engine head; the female side of the aforementioned screw in the distributor shaft; etc.
This shop should state exactly what part of the distributor they believe to have failed. They should indicate whether the job includes a new igniter and new coil. It need not necessarily include these.
It is a fairly simple replacement. It is the parts that cost.
$500 total is not bad if it includes housing, igniter, and coil.
Use ONLY OEM for this job. Aftermarket distributor parts do not hold up well with Hondas.
Consider new OEM ignition wires and a new distributor rotor as well.
From my experience with my 91 Civic and reading here for years, Hondas go through at least one distributor housing in their lives. My 91 Civic is on its second housing.

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Thanks, Jim Beam and Elle, for your thoughts. I'm going down to have a chat with them about this now. Honestly I don't trust these guys technically (based on some dubious past experience) and I'm tempted to tow it away from their shop before I let them get to deeply into it.
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Be aware that they may simply be trying to avoid a comeback. This is reasonable, IMO.
I griped several years ago about a shop that insisted the problem with my 91 Honda's distributor was the jury-rigged fix I'd done on the rotor set screw problem. They slapped a new housing (salvaging the old coil and igniter) on. A week later the stalling problem I'd been having recurred. Turned out a new coil was in fact needed. At the time I figured they'd taken me for around $500. In hindsight, though, the old housing was pretty beat up, so I am more charitable about their decision. Though it still annoys me that they had the gall of accusing my jury-rigged fix as being unacceptable. Wrong-o. Their first diagnosis was extraordinarily unacceptable.

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Yeah, been there meself. 92 Honda, won't idle nicely, lopes or stays high. I figure, idle speed gadjet like with every other car that has this problem, but decide to take it to local mechanic who's pretty good. End up with new distributor (not OEM) for $500. Now I have loping idle and no VTEC and check engine light. Take it to another mechanic; "new" distributor has position sensor broken off inside. Can't be something that happened after distributor was assembled. Original mechanic can't/won't get refund for me on said distributor; end up cannbilizing old distributor. Now car only has lopey idle. Turns out to be the idle speed gadget. Wow, what a surprise.
Elle wrote:

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z wrote:

did you pay by credit card? if so, take it up with the cc card company. you can get your money back.

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jim beam wrote:

well.. that's possible but in the end op might just have to pay up..
about 20 years ago took my 79 305 camaro into a chevy dealership in dallas for noisey lifters..The car idled real rough after the replacement of the lifters out of the shop and on the service order was listed "needs valve job"..Talked with svc. manager with little resolution..
took three days later to different chevy dealership and found no compression in #1 cylinder. replaced ring set on #1 cylinder and all o.k.
spoke again with orginial dealer; they said they didn't do anything..
sent all paperwork into cc company to dispute. they did take off charge..
6 months later sheriff shows up at my door with a summons to appear in small claims court. orginial dealership is suing me for amount of repair.
go to court. dealer svc mgr sits in the witness stand and simply reiterates what I brought car in for and what they did..judge ask me a few questions, asked me if i new how lifters were replaced..
i say yea, from the top..questions the repair of the rings and he says that to replace rings you go from the bottom..
Anyway, bottom line was when you bring the car in for service I signed service/repair order that states I agree to pay..Judge orderes me to pay..
Judge says he sees my point. but I need to sue orginial dealership to get my money back..which means I need to prove they messed up..hard to do..
Rich
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Big Brother wrote:

unfortunate. with a distributor though, you can take it off, give it back and have the cc company take care of the rest - hard to do in your situation.
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jim beam wrote:

Maybe... situation was, I paid mechanic, mechanic got distributor and included it in bill; he didn't want to go back to distributor distributor (haha, get it?) with the ziplock bag of parts I handed him; I want to keep him on good terms he's still the best mechanic around in general, and in the past has been very good about living up to the warranty on parts he provided, like a water pump that started to leak after 9 months.

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z wrote:

of course - you have to give he back what he gave you - in the condition he gave it.

that's debatable. fixing a honda distributor is quick and simple [and cheap] if you know what you're looking at. but if you don't, you replace the whole thing.

is that /his/ warranty or the pump manufacturer warranty??? no way would i warranty something i didn't make myself!

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jim beam wrote:

My guess is that he himself was on vacation at the time, and one of his henchmen did the work. For one thing, I doubt he himself would have NOT identified the idle speed adjust gadget as the problem, since it was and since it's the obvious first place to look and since he's a good mechanic. I noted at the time that I didn't see him around the shop during the dropoff or pickup, which is unusual, but I never suspected what it would lead to...

Well, his position is that since we just left it to him to fix, and he decided on the source of the pump, he was therefore responsible. That's the usual kind of good service I want to keep him on good terms for, despite the one malfunction regarding the distributor.
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