Troubleshooting your car’s ignition system is a pretty safe job, and if you use common sense, you're unlikely to be hurt. Even so, you're working under the hood of a vehicle that may or may not is running. In addition, you're dealing with a high-voltage system. This opens the possibility of getting a nasty shock. So, in order to prevent any bad incidents, keep these safety guidelines in mind.
- Appease the OSHA Gods. But it's important protecting the soft item, while you work - no matter how unlikely it appears. I confess I frequently have to skipping safety glasses and gloves.
- Keep off the hot stuff. Be aware of the hot surfaces while your vehicle is running and is running recently. Protective gloves, but only from so many, will protect your skin. Don't touch your bare skin with exhaust components or even intake.
- Don’t get caught in the bug zapper. To avoid any electrical mishaps, unplug the batteries whenever feasible. If you're testing certain components the old-fashioned way, keep in mind that the spark is looking for the shortest path to the ground. It's possible that your body will lead you down that path. That trip, believe me, is not enjoyable.
Everything You’ll Need To Diagnose Your Ignition
The instruments you'll need for the work will vary depending on the task. You'll just need simple hand tools and a multimeter to work on most older cars. Other tools and accessories may be required for new cars. Remember, it's important to conduct your investigation on your application to see if these or other tools are required.
Arranging your tools and equipment such that everything is readily accessible can save you time while you wait for your handy child or four-legged assistant to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch.
A flat workplace, such as a garage floor, driveway, or street parking, is also required. Check your local laws to ensure you're not breaching the rules while driving on the street since we won't be able to get you out of jail.
Here’s How To Diagnose Your Ignition Issues
The first thing to realize is that ignition issues occur in many shapes and sizes, partly due to the fact that different vehicles have different ignition systems and partly due to the numerous problems you may see. In certain cases, your vehicle may not start at all, while in others, it may start but run poorly. To make matters even more complicated, the underlying reason in both situations isn't usually the same!
The point we're trying to make is that you should approach each ignition issue properly. To that purpose, you should acquaint yourself with the parts of the ignition system so that you can continue appropriately. As with any how-to, this implies that some preparation is required. Don't get your wrenches out quite yet; the essentials of the diagnostic system are the same regardless of the kind of car you have.
It assists in understanding your ignition system as a chain. The first connection is your battery, and the last is your spark plug. Every other component, such as the ignition module, distributor, and coil, connects them. Just like a chain, if one of the links fails, the whole system collapses. In brief, while diagnosing your ignition, you're looking for the weakest link in the chain by moving from one part to the next until you discover it. So let's get started.
- Verify Lack of Spark
Whether it is a misfire or a non-run condition, you want to ensure that your problem is a lack of spark. To do so, check to see whether the spark plug is really firing. Start with the cylinder in issue if you have a misfire. With a no-run, you can use whatever plug you choose. After that, use a spark plug test light or connect the plug to the ground and turn the key to see whether it works.
2. Check for Any Obvious IssuesBefore taking out the tools, it's a good idea to check for any clear indications. If you've recently finished a job, for instance, it's probable that you've left something unconnected or bumped something along the way. Even if you haven't worked on the vehicle in a while, it's a good idea to double-check that there aren't any minor problems.
3. Probe for Power
With the engine running, use the multimeter to verify that the ignition system is receiving sufficient voltage. If it isn't, go back to the battery, figure out where the power loss is coming from, and then fix the problem. Similarly, if you have a ballast resistor, make sure it provides adequate voltage to the system.
Keep in mind that the resistor's function is to reduce the voltage that enters the circuit. You'll want to double-check the voltage coming out with the multimeter once you've verified what it should be. If the findings are still unclear, check the resistance and make sure it is within specification.
4. Double-Check Firing Order
In the situation of a no-run or misfire condition, it's always worth double-checking the firing order and comparing it to your distributor cap arrangement. You may get things mixed up if you recently finished a job like installing the distributor or plug wires. It happens to the best of us, so don't worry.
5. Double-Check Initial Timing
It's important to double-check your initial time if you're dealing with a distributor. Taking out the breaker bar and lining up your time markings with your thoughts racing can be a pain. However, you may discover that you're 180 degrees wrong or that the distributor has become misplaced as a result of a loose bolt on the hold-down clamp.
6. Test/Inspect Spark Plugs
If the firing order seems correct or you don't have a distributor, you can continue examining the plugs. Concentrate on the spark plug in question if it's a misfire. You'll need to examine the plugs for any signs of damage or fouling. If nothing else stands out, use your multimeter to check the plug.
7. Test Spark Plug Wires
When the plugs pass the test, it's time to move backward along the chain, checking the links in between. The first thing you should look at is your plug wires. Any damage or decay signs are obvious evidence a problem. You'll want to check the resistance of the cables to be sure. That indicates you'll need to go to the wire manufacturer to figure out what your readings should be, then double-check using a multimeter.
8. Check for Spark at Coil
The coil or coil pack is the next link in your chain to inspect. It's easy to test an external coil. Simply disconnect the coil wire from the distributor and attach it to the coil. Then attach the detached end to the ground, start the engine, and look for a spark.
A multimeter may be used to assess the resistance on the main and secondary windings. As you might expect, the values you're looking for are determined by the manufacturer's specifications.
The spark plug tester makes testing a coil pack easy. If everything else in the system is in working order, but there is still no spark, the coil pack is the likely cause.
9. Check Your Cap and Rotor
Checking the cap and rotor is a simple procedure that can be done anytime, as long as it is done before probing your distributor. The contacts in the cap and rotor are important for delivering spark to the cylinders. The only thing you want to be sure of is that the contacts inside aren't worn out or show any indications of damage.
10. Test the DistributorThe method for verifying the distributor varies depending on the program you're using. You should double-check with the distributor's manufacturer on the proper methods. The procedure is somewhat different if you have points. You'll need to verify that the breaker points aren't worn out and that your condenser is working properly.
11. Verify Distributor Settings
You'll want to double-check your modifications once the pickup and points have been checked. If you're using an electronic system, ensure sure the distance between the magnetic pickup and the reluctor wheel is within specs. You're testing the distance between the breaker points contacts if you have points.
12. Test the Ignition Module
We've examined everything at this point, and we can almost confidently say that your ignition module, if there, is the problem. But it doesn't indicate you should simply go out and get a new one. Rather, if feasible, test the ignition module to make sure it's the cause of the problem.
The model of the module you're dealing with has a big influence on how you test it. To guarantee that you do well on the test, make sure you complete your homework.
Pro Tips to Troubleshoot Your Ignition
- Examine and probe. Check under the dash for any burned or disconnected wiring. Furthermore, don't rule out the starting relay and ignition switch as probable causes.
- It's possible that the starter is responsible for the failure of the spark at startup. When you turn your engine over, a bad starter may absorb all of the electricity, leaving you with enough power to ignite the gasoline and air combination. If your battery isn't strong enough to match the demand of turning the motor, you may have a similar problem.
- Keep in mind that a spark isn't everything. To start the engine, you'll need compression and fuel. If you have a no-start problem and the spark is OK, check to see if any of these departments are faulty.
- Vacuum leaks may cause havoc with your engine, even preventing it from starting. Take a moment to double-check that all your vacuum lines are in a no-run condition.