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How Do I Replace an Ignition?

Spark plugs should be changed when replacing an ignition.
A car ignition switch and key.
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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 24 March 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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In order to replace an ignition, it is imperative that all components be examined. Failure to inspect every piece of the system can lead to a non-starting vehicle even after replacing the ignition. Spark plugs, spark plug wires, distributor caps and rotors in vehicles so-equipped as well as points and any condensers found on the distributor should also be changed when it's time to replace an ignition. In vehicles equipped with an electronic ignition, it is important to change the ignition module as well when making the effort to replace an ignition system.

The ignition in a vehicle is comprised of several components. When replacing any one piece of the system, it is wise to examine the rest of the system for signs of wear. Any change in components can lead to a break down in the other components. Changing spark plugs can lead to a discovery that the spark plug wires should have been changed. This is why it is wise to replace an ignition as a complete system.

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Most U.S. vehicles produced after 1995 do not require tune-ups prior to the vehicle reaching 25,000 miles. Advances in spark plug manufacture do not require a vehicle owner to replace an ignition as frequently as many owners believe the process is needed. Engine efficiency and better fuel and oils have advanced to the point that vehicle engine components do not require servicing as frequently. This includes engine oil changes, which are now recommended no more than every six months or 5,000 miles by many manufacturers.

In order to save on future repair work, it is wise to check the serpentine belt system on the vehicle's engine when planning to replace an ignition. If signs of wear exist in the form of cracking or fraying along the edges of the belt, it should be replaced when the vehicle is scheduled to have its ignition replaced. This saves time, as many of the components that require removal to service the belts are also removed to replace an ignition. This also cuts the labor in half since the parts will be removed in either case.

A vehicle also should be tuned after its ignition components have been changed. Often, the vehicle's spark timing can be altered by manipulating the spark plug wires and distributor cap. This is not as prevalent on distributor-less ignition systems. It is, however, always recommended that the vehicle be driven cautiously for the first 50 to 100 miles following a vehicle owner's decision to replace an ignition system. This allows the system to be examined for any loose components following the service.

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