GM Cadillac 1967-1989 Repair Guide

Electronic Spark Timing (EST)


See Figures 1, 2, 3 and 4

All 1981 and later models use EST. The EST distributor, as described in an earlier section, contains no vacuum or centrifugal advance mechanism and uses a seven terminal HEI module. It has four wires going to a four terminal connector in addition to the connectors normally found on HEI distributors. A reference pulse, indicating engine rpm is sent to the ECM. The ECM determines the proper spark advance for the engine operating conditions and then sends an EST pulse back to the distributor.

Under most normal operating conditions, the ECM will control the spark advance. However, under certain operating conditions such as cranking or when setting base timing, the distributor is capable of operating without ECM control. This condition is called BYPASS and is determined by the BYPASS lead which runs from the ECM to the distributor. When the BYPASS lead is at the proper voltage (5), the ECM will control the spark. If the lead is grounded or open circuited, the HEI module itself will control the spark. Disconnecting the 4-terminal EST connector will also cause the engine to operate in the BYPASS mode.

On 1986-87 models with the 8-250 engine, the initial timing is set by running a jumper wire between pins A and B on the ALDL diagnostic connector while it is NOT in the display mode. After bridging the two pins, initial timing may be set to specifications as shown on the underhood specifications sticker. Bridging the two pins together will cause a SET TIMING message to appear on the CCDIC. This indicates an ECM command for initial base timing.

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Fig. Fig. 1: ALDL diagnostic connector - when setting initial base timing, connect A and B together - 1986 8-250

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Fig. Fig. 2: EST schematic - 1986 8-307

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Fig. Fig. 3: EST schematic - 8-250

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Fig. Fig. 4: Electronic spark timing (EST) circuitry - all other models