To adjust the timing in a vehicle with a distributor, connect a strobe timing light to the number one spark plug, and connect the timing light to the battery. Start the vehicle engine to warm it to its operating temperature. If the strobe doesn't illuminate directly on the balance marker, loosen the distributor, and adjust it slightly until the light flashes in time with the balance marker. Tighten the distributor after adjusting it.
Connect the timing light to the spark plug and battery according to the timing light instructions, and place the timing light cords so they aren't damaged by heat or moving parts before turning on the engine. If necessary, disconnect the profile ignition pickup before adjusting the distributor.
Check the vehicle owner's manual or look for a sticker on the engine to determine whether the profile ignition pickup is present on the vehicle. The exact position of the distributor is typically indicated on the crankshaft. Set the timing the recommended number of degrees before top dead center.
To adjust the timing on a vehicle that doesn't have a distributor, consult a mechanic to reprogram the vehicle's computer. As timing automatically adjusts on newer-model cars, replacing the timing belt is often recommended as an alternative to setting the timing.