I have a 1996 Olds Bravada with a 4.3L Vortec 6. The two grooved notches on the harmonic balancer are not used in timing as far as I can tell. Look for a small peg on the back of the harmonic balancer, and once found, you will be able to see it and line it up with the "v" marks on the timing cover. Keep in mind this is on the 1996, but I thought it might be the same since I had a similar problem of trying to figure out which marks to use until I found the peg. You should be able to feel it also.
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TDC stands for 'Top Dead Center', and refers to the first piston and the harmonic balancer: with the spark plug removed in the first firing cylinder, you turn the harmonic balancer till it tops out (the piston-you can use the eraser end of a pencil, sticking it down till you feel it hit) when accomplished you set your mark and that is your TDC now you adjust with a timing gun/light using that mark. This is always nessecary when engine has been changed, altered or rebuilt, because stock specs no longer apply. . .
Finding the timing marks is simple, it is an impression (a small arrow) on both the crank and the cam. As for the exact time set, I would refer to the owner's manual but if you are doing it off the cuff pull the number one piston top dead center, line up the rotor button with the number one piston and set crank at top dead center and cam at bottom dead center. This will be a good starting point, but the owner's manual will give you more exact instructions.
there should be a plate behind where you removed the chain. clean it real good there should be marks or divits. those are what you line up with. the harmonic balancer has 0 deg mark. find top dead center on the number 1 cyl
It will be the same as most other motors. Disconnect the belt from the harmonic balancer and turn it til you see a mark (it will be a divit or lines) and line it up with the ones that are right above it. When you do this it will be 50/50 shot that the number one piston is top dead center. There should be the number of the pistons on the intake. Or you can call auto parts store and get the firing order. One more thing that you need to check is that the rotor under the distributor is pointing at the plug wire that goes to the number one piston. Those three things all lined up will do it.
Yes the harmonic pulley has to be in the correct position. usually the pointer should be at the correct timing mark with the #1 piston at top dead center. The cams have timing marks on them also that have to be in the correct position, this is extremely critical because if the cams and the crankshaft are not in the proper position the pistons can bend the valves or the valves could crack the top of the piston if the engine is turned over with everything not in the proper timing sequence.
First you need to remove the number one cylider spark plug and find out when the piston is at the top of its stroke on the compression stroke. This is callled top dead centre (TDC). The timing mark on the harmonic balancer should be at 0. Then you need to follow the number one spark plug wire to the distributor and that is where the rotor should line up when you put the ditributor in the engine. This will result in 0 degrees of advance. The car should run and using a timing light, you should be able to set the timing to the factory specs.