I had a similar problem with my 1999 E150 Van. After changing plugs and wires didn't solve the problem, my service technician said it was a problem with the automatic transmission. That was hooey! (technical term :-) In my case, the service engine light came on. I don't remember the exact codes, but they pointed me to 2 problems. 1) Misfire on #4. 2) O2 sensor error.
I researched the O2 sensor problem and found out that it was probably caused by a dirty Max Air Flow (MAF) sensor. On my van, the sensor is accessible by taking out the air filter. It's a very fine wire just beyond the filter. Spraying the MAF sensor with some electrical contact cleaner solved the bucking problem. (CRC brand electrical contact cleaner available at Wal-Mart for about 3 bucks)
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coil is on top of the disributor and gets a signal from the chip under the rotor inside the cap..remove the cap and look at the rotor (see if the center metal tab is burnt out, and look under the coil for the carbon tip there, if its gone that needs replaced) these H.E.I units will jump the fire from the coil straight through to the rotor shaft and to the groung of the block.. hence no fire to plugs..replace the chip, under the rotor, the rotor and get a new cap, putting the coil fromthe old one into the top of the new one, making sure the carbon tip is under the coil before install..be careful to relocat each plug wire one at a time so timing order is good this will take around a good hour to do if you are careful and dont get in a rush..good luck and repost if an issue should come back up..
REPLACE DISTRIBUTOR CAP AND ROTOR.AND PLUGS WIRES.IF GETTING NO SPARK TO PLUGS.CHECK SEE IF IGNITION COIL GETTING POWER.IF NOT CHECK IGNITION FUSE.IF POWER GOING TO COIL.FAULT EITHER COIL IS OPEN OR FAULT IN THE IGNITION MODULE IN THE DISTRIBUTOR.
In reading your issue at hand not having no spark there is only a few things that can cause this being that its a 1988 car i will list below what you need to go over and check.
1.spark plug wires 2. distributor cap 3. ignition rotor 4. coil pick up 5. faulty distributor
That being said most are a easy and cheap fix plug wires run about 20-35 bucks autozonesduralast brand , distributor cap runs between 7-18 bucks , ignition rotor 3-8 bucks , coil pick up about 15-30 bucks all at autozone.
Now there is no real way to tell if there bad but a good examination of the distributor cap and rotor should tell you corroded inside cracked worn down.
i would start with distributor cap , ignition rotor, coil pick up if the car starts after this replace spark plugs wires. If that does not fix it most likely you distributor is faulty itself.
i hope it helps if so could you leave me so 4 thumbs up feedback thanks so much
do you have spark out of the coil into the cap? if so i would suggest removing the cap and testing for continuity between the center plug (coil input) and the spring loaded button on the inside also check the rotor, if you have no spark from coil at all be sure you have it wired correctly and be sure the coil wire did not get pulled apart in the ends please rate -jeff