The ignition system in your car is like a large circuit board that distributes energy throughout the automobile to get it going and keep it running. The efficiency of this system not only makes your vehicle go but also influences the engine’s performance which translates into better fuel efficiency and less pollution from emissions.
There are two parts to an ignition system. The first one is called the primary side and the second is the secondary side. The primary side consists of the distributor and the electronic control module and the secondary consists of spark plugs and wires, an ignition coil, rotor and in some systems the distributor. The ignition system relies on the vehicles battery to provide a spark which sets the system in motion and starts the vehicle.
- Ignition Key: The key is the first and most familiar part of an ignition system. When the key is turned it releases low voltage electricity from the primary circuit of the ignition system. This electricity then goes to the ignition coil.
- Ignition system coil: this is an electromagnet as well as an inductor that transforms high voltages from the vehicles battery. The coil is connected to the distributor.
- Spark Plugs: The spark plugs and spark wires force electricity to the engine creating a voltage of between 40,000 and 100,000 volts. Although they are simple and fairly small parts, when the spark plugs or wires get worn out, the vehicle will not run. This is why good vehicle care involves getting a regular tune-up.
- Distributor: The distributor in an ignition system itself has two parts; the rotor and the distributor cap. Like the name implies, this part distributes electricity from the coil to the spark plugs and wires and the cylinders of the vehicle’s engine. The number of cylinders depends upon the vehicle but is commonly either four or five cylinders. Like spark plugs and wires the distributor cap and rotor become worn out and need to be replaced periodically.
Many newer vehicles have ignition systems that do not have a distributor which are appropriately called a distributor-less system. The work of the distributor is done directly through the use of modified spark plugs. This type of system also does not contain spark plug wires. These vehicles are more environmentally friendly and fuel efficient as well as reducing the need for frequent tune-ups.