The ignition system is a critical component in any car, responsible for starting the engine and ensuring its smooth operation. This is a major reason to know a thing or two about ignition coil problems.
The main part is the ignition coil, a small yet powerful device that converts the low voltage from the battery into the high voltage needed to create an electric spark in the spark plugs.
While ignition coils are designed to be durable and reliable, they can encounter problems over time. In this article, we will explore the common ignition coil problems in cars, discuss their causes, recognize the symptoms, and explore the best solutions to keep your engine firing on all cylinders.
UNDERSTANDING THE ROLE OF IGNITION COILS
Before diving into ignition coil problems, let’s first understand their crucial role in the vehicle’s ignition system.
The primary function of the ignition coil is to transform the relatively low battery voltage (typically 12 volts) into the high voltage (often thousands of volts) required to ignite the air-fuel mixture in the engine’s combustion chambers.
This electrical spark ignites the fuel, setting off the controlled explosion within the cylinder that powers the engine.
For more information about ignition coils, click here to read a great article from Wikipedia on this topic.
COMMON IGNITION COIL PROBLEMS
1. Overheating of the coils
Ignition coils are exposed to high temperatures under the hood, and over time, this continuous exposure can cause them to overheat. High temperatures can lead to the breakdown of the insulation materials within the coil, resulting in short circuits or open circuits.
2. Electrical Overload
Ignition coils can experience electrical overload due to issues like a malfunctioning spark plug or a faulty spark plug wire. When excessive current passes through the ignition coil, it can cause internal damage and lead to coil failure.
3. Age and Wear
Like many automotive components, ignition coils have a limited lifespan. As they age, the internal winding and connections can wear out, leading to diminished performance and eventual failure.
4. Moisture and Corrosion
Moisture and corrosion can infiltrate the ignition coil’s housing, affecting its electrical conductivity and causing intermittent or complete failure.
SYMPTOMS OF IGNITION COIL PROBLEMS
1. Engine Misfires
Engine misfires occur when the air-fuel mixture in one or more cylinders fails to ignite properly or on time. This can result from a weak or no spark generated by a faulty ignition coil.
2. Rough Idling
A faulty ignition coil can lead to irregular engine idling, where the engine RPM fluctuates and feels unstable.
3. Difficulty Starting the Engine
If the ignition coil is failing, it can cause difficulties starting the engine, requiring multiple attempts or extended cranking.
4. Loss of Power and Poor Acceleration
A weakened or damaged ignition coil can lead to a lack of power during acceleration, causing sluggish performance.
5. Increased Fuel Consumption
When an ignition coil is not functioning correctly, it can result in incomplete combustion, leading to increased fuel consumption.
HOW TO DIAGNOSE IGNITION COIL PROBLEMS?
The best and safest way to check an ignition coil is to use an OBD tool. If you want to see how to use an OBD tool click here.
There are other ways like swapping ignition coils. Also, one of the popular and basic ways of checking is taking out the ignition coil and connecting a spare spark plug to the coil.
Then, the spark plug is grounded by a clamp or wire to the engine and the engine is started. If the coil is OK, then sparks will appear. If it’s not, there will be no spark.
Despite the fact that all of this is very effective, it is still more hazardous than using an OBD tool so in most cases there is no need to do this as the diagnostic system, regarding the ignition coil problem is precise.
Another very good alternative is an ignition coil tester.
On this part, it is good to mention that the electric connectors to the coils should also be checked as they can get brittle over time and break due to constant heat and strain.
SOLUTIONS FOR IGNITION COIL PROBLEMS
If an ignition coil is diagnosed as faulty, replacement is the most common solution. It’s crucial to use high-quality replacement coils to ensure proper performance and longevity.
2. Regular Maintenance
Routine maintenance, such as regular spark plug replacement and inspection of ignition components, can help identify potential issues before they lead to significant problems.
3. Proper Care
Protect the ignition coil and other electrical components from moisture and corrosion by ensuring all seals and gaskets are in good condition.
4. Upgrade to Performance Coils
For enthusiasts looking to improve engine performance, upgrading to aftermarket performance ignition coils can offer better spark energy and ignition efficiency.
HOW TO EXTEND IGNITION COIL LIFE?
1. Keep the Engine Clean
Regularly clean the engine bay to prevent dirt and debris from accumulating around the ignition coil, spark plugs, and other electrical components.
2. Use High-Quality Spark Plugs and Wires
Invest in high-quality spark plugs and ignition wires, as they work in tandem with the ignition coil to ensure a reliable spark.
3. Avoid Frequent High RPM Driving
Limiting high RPM driving and frequent rapid accelerations can reduce stress on the ignition coil and extend its lifespan.
The ignition coil is a critical component of a car’s ignition system, responsible for providing the high-voltage spark needed to ignite the air-fuel mixture.
However, over time, ignition coil problems can arise due to various factors like overheating, electrical overload, age, and wear.
Recognizing the symptoms of ignition coil problems is vital for early diagnosis and prompt resolution to prevent engine performance issues.
Regular maintenance, using high-quality components, and proper care can help extend the life of the ignition coil and maintain the engine’s efficiency.
By taking care of your ignition system, you can ensure your engine runs smoothly and reliably, providing you with an enjoyable driving experience for years to come.