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Indmar 5.7L MPI engine distributor replacement


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My 2002 Malibu Wakesetter vlx has the 325 Monsoon Indmar 5.7L MPI engine stopped running. I found it no longer had spark to the plugs and traced it down to a bad pickup coil in my distributor. I was going to buy the OEM replacement but it was $699 so I went down to the auto parts store and found out that its looks like the identical replacement if you get a distributor for a 1992 Chevy C3500 5.7L 350 engine for $135 complete. I put the new distributor in and it started right up and seems to be running great. My question is there any difference in using this distributor vs the OEM one? 

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The automotive equivalent may not be certified as ignition protected by the USCG.  What that means is it may not be able to prevent ambient electrical spark in the engine compartment that could result in fire, explosion, injuries, deaths, lawsuits, and declined insurance coverage.  So, you may want to put that $564 dollars that you saved towards any of those issues that might come up later.

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I called my local dealer and bakes and they could not sell it separate.

I'm an engineer and would like to know what specifically makes the OEM product safer from ambient electrical spark. I'm going to do  more research on this.  I saw no physical difference in an exact match of size and materials of the 2 distributors which were both DELCO EST EFI. The pickup coil configuration that I could view externally looked exactly the same as the original coil. The seals around the distributor and cap were the same. The Ignition module component was the exact dimensions. The only difference I could find was the number stamped on the Ignition Module which could be from the DELCO manufacture using a different chip vendor and the number stamp on the bottom of the distributor itself. The number on bottom of the original distributor did not match anything useful when giving it to the dealer, bakes or on line, All sources referenced the distributor to a different part numbers for OEM replacements. I work hard for my money and want to be safe and just trying to find out if this is the same component that the manufacture is re branding to charge exorbitant prices. 

Edited by wakeboard1964
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1 hour ago, wakeboard1964 said:

what specifically makes the OEM product safer from ambient electrical spark

The spark is definitely not ambient, it is between the rotor and the cap every time a plug fires.  Basically, the design should provide screen baffles at every opening or vent hole to ensure that any fuel vapor ignited under the cap cannot move beyond the barrier.  

I have never compared the two side by side, but I get the feeling that the marine version has an extra tab cast on it where the cap goes so that only a marine cap fits as well.  I have not verified this, but I know I bought a cap that hit an extra tab on the distributor housing and wouldn't seat correctly.

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I'm not an engineer or involved in the manufacturing or testing process so I can't tell you alot about the design difference, but I think justgary hit the nail on the head.

Years ago I spoke with someone involved in USCG boat component testing and he described the testing process for starters.  He told me the starter was placed in a metal box with a combustible gas and run through X amount of cycles to check for possible combustion.  After the test cycle was complete a spark would be introduced to the box to ensure it would be possible for the gas to combust if spark was present.

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Here's what SAE J1171 says:

Essentially, three test results will allow a device to be certified IGNITION-PROTECTED. 

1. The device or component is constructed so that a defined flammable hydrocarbon mixture surrounding the device will not ignite if a normal electrical arc, spark or heat source ignites the mixture inside the device.

2. Under the conditions of item 1, the device or component has insufficient energy to ignite the mixture inside the device.

3. Under the conditions of item 1, the source of ignition is hermetically sealed from the surrounding mixture.

Important note - ignition protected DOES NOT mean explosion proof.


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