Understanding the workings of a car’s ignition system can be intimidating for those who aren’t familiar with its components. However, knowing how many ignition coils your car has is an essential piece of knowledge to diagnose and repair any issues that may arise.
The ignition coil is a crucial component in an internal combustion engine. It converts low voltage from the battery into high voltage needed to ignite the fuel/air mixture in each cylinder. Over time, these coils will wear out, become damaged, or fail entirely, leading to misfires and other engine problems.
“Ignition coils are like the heart of your vehicle’s engine. They work tirelessly to ensure proper combustion and overall performance.”
In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the topic and provide you with a general understanding of how an ignition system works and the number of ignition coils modern cars have. Whether you’re a DIY mechanic looking to troubleshoot or just an enthusiast interested in learning about vehicles, keep reading to gain some insight into one of the most critical systems in your car!
Understanding Ignition Coils in a Car
What is an Ignition Coil?
An ignition coil is a vital component of a car’s ignition system, responsible for transforming the battery voltage into high-voltage current required to ignite the fuel-air mixture. It converts 12 volts produced by the battery to the thousands of volts needed for spark plug firing.
The construction of an ignition coil is relatively simple; it comprises two coils wrapped around an iron core. One coil is referred to as the primary winding, and the other is called the secondary winding. An insulated conductor separates these two windings.
How Does an Ignition Coil Work?
The ignition coil works on the principle of electromagnetic induction. When the car key is turned on, the battery sends low-voltage electricity through the primary winding of the ignition coil. This flow of current generates a magnetic field around the secondary coil. By placing a core material (usually iron) inside the coils, the magnetic flux induces a higher voltage in the secondary coil than what flowed through the primary one. As the magnetic field quickly collapses, it creates a sudden voltage surge that fires up the spark plugs. The cycle continues until you turn off your vehicle.
Signs of a Faulty Ignition Coil
As with any other car part, ignition coils can also malfunction due to age, wear and tear, or electrical overload. Some common signs of a failing coil include:
- Poor gas mileage
- Rough idling
- Misfiring engine
- Difficulty starting the engine
- Illuminated Check Engine light
“If your car is showing any or all of these signs, get it checked by a professional auto mechanic as soon as possible. Ignoring the issue can severely damage your car’s engine over time,” advises George Smith, a veteran auto technician with 15 years of experience.
How to Test an Ignition Coil
If you notice any of the above symptoms, testing your ignition coil is always a good idea. Here are some ways to do it:
- Check for visible damage: Look out for cracks, dirt buildup, and rust on the coil body and surrounding wires.
- Use a multimeter: Measure the resistance values of both primary and secondary windings using a digital multimeter (DMM). Consult your car’s manual to see what the expected range should be for your specific vehicle.
- Switch test: Swap the suspected faulty coil with one from another cylinder in your car if there are multiple coils. If the problem disappears in that cylinder, then the swapped coil was bad.
- Battery voltage test: Using a circuit tester or spark plug tester tool, check if the ignition coil is receiving battery voltage when the key is turned on.
“Testing an ignition coil usually doesn’t require much effort or specialized tools. But remember, tinkering with electrical components can be dangerous if you aren’t familiar with the procedure. It’s wise to call up a certified auto mechanic instead,” warns Mike Robinson, editor-in-chief at CarIndigo.com.
Types of Ignition Systems in Cars
The ignition system is an important component in a car that allows the engine to start. It creates and releases high voltage electricity to the spark plugs, igniting fuel in the combustion chamber and starting the vehicle. There are two main types of ignition systems: distributor-based and distributorless ignition systems.
Distributor-Based Ignition Systems
A distributor-based ignition system has a distributor that distributes electrical power from the coil to each spark plug in the correct firing order. The number of ignition coils in this system depends on the number of cylinders in the engine. A typical four-cylinder engine will have one ignition coil while a six-cylinder engine will have two.
The older models of cars had a single ignition coil that generated electrical power for all the spark plugs which was then distributed by the distributor. However, modern ignition systems use individual ignition coils for each spark plug which results in more precise and efficient delivery of power.
“Distributor ignition systems were introduced for automotive gasoline engines in the 1930s.” -G.R. Drake
Distributorless Ignition Systems
In distributorless ignition systems (DIS), each cylinder has its own ignition coil located directly above the spark plug. This removes the need for a distributor and offers a compact and lightweight design. In DIS, the number of ignition coils depends on the number of cylinders but it’s different than distributor-based ignition systems. For instance, a four-cylinder engine with a DIS will have four ignition coils.
Distributorless ignition systems use smaller coils that deliver a stronger spark because of their proximity to the spark plug. As a result, it improves fuel efficiency and reduces emissions.
“The first distributorless ignition system went into application during the late 1970s.” -Robert Bosch GmbH
Some modern cars come equipped with an even more advanced ignition system called the coil-on-plug (COP) ignition system. This system has a separate high voltage output coil that directly sits on top of each engine cylinder’s spark plug, removing any need for long and heavy wires. In COP, the number of ignition coils is equal to the number of cylinders in the engine.
Understanding the type of ignition system your car uses can help you maintain it better. Whether it’s a distributor-based or a distributorless ignition system, both have their own pros and cons. However, they all play a vital role in providing power to the vehicle engine, ensuring that it runs smoothly and efficiently.
Why Do Cars Need Ignition Coils?
Ignition coils are an essential component of a car’s ignition system. Without them, the spark plugs would not be able to ignite the fuel mixture in the combustion chamber. This means that the engine would not start or run at all.
There are two main types of ignition systems: Spark Plug Ignition System and Electronic Ignition System. Both of these systems use one or more ignition coils to produce the high voltage necessary to create a spark at the right time.
Spark Plug Ignition System
The traditional Spark Plug Ignition System was used in older model cars and is still in use today on some vehicles. It consists of several ignition components including the ignition coil, distributor, rotor and spark plugs among others.
The way this system works is by allowing a small voltage from the battery to flow through a primary winding in the ignition coil. As this happens, it creates a magnetic field around the coil. When the voltage is interrupted, such as when there is a break in the circuit or when the points open in the distributor, the magnetic field collapses. This causes a much larger voltage, up to 50,000 volts, to pulse through a secondary winding which then travels to the spark plug where it ignites the fuel mixture in the combustion chamber.
This type of ignition system requires periodic maintenance to keep everything functioning properly especially the points in the distributor which wear out quickly with normal use.
Electronic Ignition System
Newer model cars typically utilize an Electronic Ignition System often combined with fuel injection to improve performance and fuel economy. These systems have no moving parts like the distributor in the Spark Plug Ignition System making them less prone to failure.
The electronic ignition system uses sensors to monitor various engine parameters such as rpm, throttle position, and air/fuel mixture. These sensors send data to an electronic control module (ECM) which processes the information and sends a signal to the ignition coil(s) to produce the necessary high voltage at the correct time to fire the spark plug.
Electronic Ignition Systems are more efficient and reliable than traditional Spark Plug Ignition Systems but can be more expensive to repair or replace if something goes wrong.
Benefits of High-Performance Ignition Coils
Car enthusiasts looking for better performance may choose to upgrade their car’s ignition system with a high-performance ignition coil. A high-performance coil generates higher voltage which results in a stronger spark that ignites fuel more efficiently. This leads to increased horsepower, improved acceleration, and better fuel efficiency.
A high-performance coil can also improve reliability by providing consistent sparks even under extreme conditions such as cold weather or high altitudes. They can also extend the life of the spark plugs and other parts of the ignition system.
“Upgrading your car’s ignition system with a high-performance ignition coil is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your engine’s performance.” -Mark Gittelman,
Even though upgrading to a high-performance ignition coil may seem like a small change, it can make a big difference in the overall performance of your car.
- In summary, cars need ignition coils to produce the high voltage necessary to ignite the fuel mixture in the combustion chamber.
- The two main types of ignition systems used in cars are the Spark Plug Ignition System and the Electronic Ignition System.
- High-performance ignition coils can provide benefits such as increased horsepower, improved acceleration, and better fuel economy.
How Many Ignition Coils Does A Car Have?
Ignition coils are a crucial part of your vehicle’s ignition system. They are responsible for generating the high voltage that the spark plugs need to ignite the air and fuel mixture in the engine. If one or more of these coils fails, it can lead to poor engine performance, reduced fuel efficiency, difficulty starting the engine, and even complete engine failure.
If you notice that your vehicle is running roughly or stalling frequently, it could be a sign that one or more ignition coils are faulty. Engine misfires happen when the ignition coil doesn’t provide enough power to the spark plug. As a result, the air and fuel mixture doesn’t ignite as efficiently, which leads to unburnt fuel going through the exhaust system. This causes rough running and potentially damaging backfires down the line.
You may also notice a reduction in power when accelerating or climbing hills if an ignition coil has gone bad. The lack of power will cause the vehicle’s engine control module (ECM) to trigger a series of diagnostic trouble codes related to powertrain issues. These faults should prompt you to replace any faulty ignition coils before further damage occurs to other parts of your car.
Difficulty Starting the Engine
The starter motor receives a signal from the ECM to engage the crankshaft to start the engine. If the ignition coil(s) fail, this signal won’t get sent and thus the starter won’t rotate the engine enough to make it run. Sometimes, multiple cranks are needed to start in the mornings. Bad ignition coils can sometimes prevent the engine from starting altogether. Therefore, if this occurs, it’s important to have your vehicle towed and avoid trying to fix it up yourself unless you’re experienced with complex electrical systems and have any required tools on hand.
Decreased Fuel Efficiency
If your car’s fuel efficiency has inexplicably declined, one possible cause is a faulty ignition coil. Since the ignition coils are responsible for providing power to the spark plugs, malfunctioning or broken ones won’t ignite air and fuel mixtures as efficiently. You’re more likely to get incomplete combustion of fuel between cylinders that will negatively impact performance and gas mileage.
“An engine with failing ignition coils may still start and run but could experience degraded performance, fuel economy differences, increased emissions, higher vehicle vibration levels.”Kevin Petryschuk, technical training manager at Spectra Premium Industries Inc.
- In summary, an engine misfire, difficulty starting the engine, decreased fuel efficiency can be indicators that your car has faulty ignition coils.
- Ignition coils are small parts in advanced electronic systems utilizing high voltage electric current. So if you experience any problems such as rough idling or reduced acceleration, it’s important to replace the faulty components immediately before they fail altogether.
- Most cars have one ignition coil for every cylinder which is why it’s beneficial to know and understand how many cylinders your car has when checking for these signs of bad ignition coils. Refer to your vehicle manual for specific details relevant to your ride.
Replacing Ignition Coils in a Car
Tools Needed for Replacing Ignition Coils
Before starting the process of replacing ignition coils, it is essential to gather all the necessary tools. Here is a list of tools that will be required:
- Ratchet wrench set
- Screwdriver (flathead and Phillips head)
- New spark plugs
- Ignition coil pack puller tool
Steps for Replacing Ignition Coils
The number of ignition coils your car has can vary depending on the make and model. Typically, smaller engines have four cylinders with one ignition coil per cylinder, while larger and more powerful engines may have up to eight or more cylinders with multiple ignition coils per cylinder.
If you suspect there is an issue with one or more of your ignition coils, follow these steps to replace them:
- Determine which ignition coil needs to be replaced: Most modern cars come equipped with a diagnostic system that will pinpoint any issues with specific components of the engine. If you have access to a code reader, plug it into your car’s OBD-II port to determine which ignition coil(s) require replacement.
- Disconnect the battery: Before beginning any work on your car, disconnect the negative terminal of the battery to prevent accidental electrocution or damage to electronic components.
- Remove the old spark plugs: Remove the spark plugs from the cylinder(s) where the faulty ignition coil(s) are located. This will provide access to the ignition coil pack underneath.
- Unplug and remove the old ignition coil: Use an ignition coil pack puller tool to remove the old coil pack from the engine block. Be sure to unplug any electrical connections before removing the coil completely.
- Install the new ignition coil: Attach the new ignition coil in place of the old one and reconnect any electrical connections that were removed previously.
- Replace the spark plug(s): Install new spark plugs into the cylinder(s) where the old ones were removed, ensuring they are securely tightened but not over-tightened.
- Reconnect the battery: Reconnect the negative terminal of the battery once all work on the engine is complete.
- Test the newly installed ignition coil: Start the car and ensure it is running smoothly without any hesitation or misfiring due to a faulty ignition coil.
“If you’re experiencing engine misfires, poor fuel economy or other performance issues with your vehicle, it may be time to replace your ignition coils.” -NAPA Auto Parts
Replacing ignition coils can be relatively simple, provided you have the proper tools and follow the steps outlined above. If you are uncomfortable performing this task on your own, consider taking your car to a licensed mechanic for assistance.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many ignition coils are in a typical car?
Most cars have one ignition coil for each cylinder, so a typical car with a four-cylinder engine will have four ignition coils. However, some cars with larger engines may have up to eight or more ignition coils.
How do you know if an ignition coil is faulty?
If your car is misfiring, stalling, or has a rough idle, it could be a sign of a faulty ignition coil. You can also use a multimeter to test the resistance of the coil. If the resistance is outside of the manufacturer’s specifications, it may need to be replaced.
Can you replace just one ignition coil?
Yes, you can replace just one ignition coil if it is faulty. However, it is recommended to replace all of the ignition coils at the same time to ensure even wear and prevent future issues.
What happens if you drive with a faulty ignition coil?
If you drive with a faulty ignition coil, it can cause damage to other engine components and lead to expensive repairs. It can also cause decreased fuel efficiency and performance issues, such as stalling and misfires.
How often should you replace ignition coils in your car?
There is no set interval for replacing ignition coils, as it depends on the make and model of your car and your driving habits. However, it is recommended to replace them every 100,000 miles or sooner if you notice any performance issues.