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Points AND Duraspark ignition systems info

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    Posted: 29-October-2014 at 4:40PM
ALOT of talk lately about the ignition systems...
 
Will post whatever I can and ask for other members to contribute as well.
 
 
There are 2 different types of points/condenser type systems and each has there own coil
 1. Ballasted, runs on about 8v at the positive coil feed wire in the run position(ballasted/resisted down), requires a NON internal resisted coil.
2. Non Ballasted, runs on 12v at the positive coil feed wire in the run position(direct battery voltage), requires an internally resisted coil
Our cars (with points) use the Ballasted style and require an NON internally resisted coil.
ALL the info below will apply to this specific style as it applies to our cars.
 
This is also evident on our cars as they have TWO small wires mounted on the starter relay.
The one on the left(power side) is fed from the ignition switch and is what energizes the relay so the starter and the other small post(right side, that feeds the coil for the start circuit) get straight 12volts battery voltage. EASY way to tell if the vehicle is ballasted or not!
 
System basics (in power flow/diagnosing order)
1. Powering the system- Power from the battery, through the ignition switch to the positive side of the coil. 2 circuits- Start and Run, Start supplies power when the key is in the Start position while, Run supplies power when the key is in the Run position, BOTH of those feed to a connector that feeds the SINGLE wire to the positive side of the coil. We'll get into the specifics of this power and differences in next post
 
2.  The Coil- takes power IN on the positive post from the ignition switch. The negative post wire feeds out to the distributor. The coil converts that ignition switch voltage into HIGH voltage out through the coil wire to the plug wires. A ballast resistor coil is designed to operate at approximately 7.5 volts and still provide the step-up transformer action needed, for secondary circuit operation.
 
3. Points and Condenser- their basic function is to provide a ground to complete the circuit. Points open and close by the distributor's cam lobes. The condenser stores and releases voltage as the points open and close.
 
DONE...SIMPLE!
I mean you have to break it down and understand that the system is actually many small systems in one and have to be diagnosed individually.
 
No need for a pic of the ignition switch ( I don't think), you have a Start circuit that sends power to the small LEFT post on the starter relay and a Run circuit that powers after the car is running. 
 
Basic externally "Ballasted/Resistor" ignition system...
 
 Pic of the Points and condenser...
 
 
Some reading to help explain...
Most contact breaker systems incorporate a ballast resistor in the primary circuit. The ballast resistor is inserted in series in the primary circuit between the ignition switch and the positive terminal of the ignition coil.

When the engine is running, its resistance provides a voltage drop in the primary circuit, which lowers the voltage applied to the coil. The coil is designed to operate at this lower voltage level and still provide the step-up transformer action needed, for secondary circuit operation.

However, during cranking, a parallel connection from the starting circuit by-passes the ballast resistor. The voltage available at the battery terminals at this time, will now be applied to the positive terminal of the ignition coil. This voltage will give a boost to the current flowing in the primary circuit.

The increased current flow strengthens the magnetic field to increase the voltage induced in the primary winding, and consequently increase the voltage in the secondary winding. So even under adverse conditions, sufficient ignition energy is available to ignite the air-fuel mixture and start the engine.



Edited by Regul8r - 25-May-2015 at 12:17PM
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Regul8r Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-October-2014 at 4:43PM
in the first post there are 3 basics so you have to diagnose them all separately
 
1st is POWER TO THE COIL
Check fuses then trace and check wires for good connections at the starter relay/ignition switch/resistor/run-start wire splice/at the coil, ensure there are no breaks, rubs or other wire issues.
Our cars use a ballasted/resistor wire in the positive wire from the ignition switch to the positive side of the coil similar to a Chrysler that has an actual replaceable ballastor on the firewall. This reduces the 12volt system down to 8v once the car is running(run circuit) or when the ignition switch is in the run position.
NOTE... our cars with a tachometer in the sport cluster have another step to look at...
The power wire goes from the key switch through the resistor wire THEN through the tach and on to the body connector block and out to the positive side of the coil. So if the dash connector is not plugged in to the instrument cluster the car will not run when the key is let off the start position.
You have to closely inspect the wire from the resistor to the tach and back, that includes the connection at the instrument cluster and any of the printed circuit the tach feed run through.
This could be a problem and cause issues that are intermittent, difficult to find and mimmick the symptoms of a bad condenser listed below.
 
The positive wire to the coil gets 12 volts from the starter relay when the starter is engaged(start circuit) but then drops back to the 8v when you let off the key(run circuit).
having said that...
IF the ONLY problem is that your resistor wire is bad... you will get spark when cranking as the coil is fed 12v directly from the battery through the starter relay (that is the OTHER small wire on the small post on the starter side of the relay). But will immediately stop firing spark when you let off the key.
 
so... easy way to check resistor- cranking with spark but no spark or power at positive coil wire when in run position equals BAD RESISTOR or ignition switch.
 Someone post a pic, colors and details where the resistor wire is PLEASE
 
 
ONCE, you have determined the power is correct (12 volts on crank and 8 volts in run) or repaired wiring as needed to get that power at the coil it is time to move on to the next step...
 
2nd TEST THE COIL
 
the pic is not the greatest but it clearly explains how to test a NON internally resisted coil.
When I get a better pic I'll post it.
Same procedure for an internally resisted coil but the primary resistance numbers will be different.
 
 
 at this point to verify coil operation, disconnect the wire(s) from the negative side of the coil and test with just the key on. The light should light, if not the coil is open.
 
 So, now we have PROPER power to the coil and the coil is GOOD, on to the points and condenser.
 
3rd Points and Condenser
 
Points open and closed to create a ground or open circuit which is what "fires" the coil.
 
First, check power and ground at the points:
remove the distributor cap so you can inspect THOROUGHLY and CLOSELY to ensure none of the wires inside the distributor are rubbing where their not supposed to, are all tight and actually THERE(seen it where the ground wire was missing or not connected). Also check for the fiber/plastic insulator washer is present.
Next, with the cap off, points open and key on run(power to the coil AND on the negative side), confirm there is battery voltage at movable contact side of the points set(should be fine as we have already checked and fixed the power feed and the coil). 
IF not check the wire from the coil to the distributor is good and connected.
Next confirm the stationary side of the points set is grounded.
 
Next, check for proper points operation.  
Using a test light, check the negative (-) side of the coil while cranking; the light should flash.
     a. If the light is flashing, then the points, condenser AND primary ignition are working.
     b. If the light stays constantly lit, then the points are not closing or the distributor ground is missing.
     c. If the light never comes on, then either the points are not opening or the condenser is shorted.  
Ensure the points contacts are clean and set properly
1. Rotate engine until the points rubbing block is at the top of the distributor cam lobe. The points should be open at this time. inspect and clean as necessary with a small piece of sandpaper. Easier to clean with the points removed an in your hand.
2. after the points contacts are clean, verify and set the gap between the points with the rubbing block still at the top of the cam(full open). loosen the adjusting screw and use a feeler gage to set the gap at
'72-'74 6-cyl 250, gap is .027
'72-'74 351CJ/Manual Transmission with DUAL points, gap is .020
'72-'74 all other engines, gap is .017
 
If the points are clean and opening/closing properly then replace the condenser.
 
The purpose of the condenser is to ensure a clean, non-arcing gap when the points open.
Without a condenser electricity jumps the point gap and destroys contact points. 
Condensers deteriorate over time. and normally fail "open" which causes symptoms such as Rough Idle, Lack of Power, Hesitation, Arced points or rough running. 
Good read on condensers and how to test from the MGA board, but as stated they are good one day, bad the next...
 
For the record, "condenser" is an age old term, and "capacitor" is a newer term for the same device. Automotive ignition capacitors are still commonly called condensers.

Many people will replace a condenser with regular periodic maintenance, just because they have no way to tell how much longer it might last. But some new condensers might be bad right out of the box, or might fail very shortly after installation. My approach is to carry a known good condenser in the traveling tool kit, and don't replace the old one until it fails. For this to work you have to be prepared to change one at some inconvenient time, possibly on the side of the road, but you should be prepared for such a possibility at all times regardless.

For decades I have had very good luck with condensers, but in recent years there have been lots of reports of condensers that fail prematurely. In December 2013 I had one fail after 18 months and 9000 miles. The two months later another one failed after only 257 miles. Even regular replacement at reasonable intervals could not avoid these premature failures. This begs the question, how do you test a condenser to determine if it is good or bad? Well, even when you can test a condenser, this is still not the final solution, as a condenser might test good one day and fail the next day. But periodic testing of the condenser in the car might (sometimes) disclose a deteriorating condition before it actually fails. Testing can also verify a suspect condenser that might fail soon after installation. If testing reveals an apparently good condenser, then you can look elsewhere for a problem without having to replace the part.

For anywhere from $20 to $200 you could buy a condenser tester. The real tester can apply a high voltage (500 to 600 volts) to test for leakage, and can also apply an AC current to actually measure the capacitance (storage capacity) of the device. These two tests more closely stress the capacitor in the same way actual operation does. But considering that a condenser is a cheap part, and you should always carry a known good spare anyway, the condenser tester seems a bit overboard for the average shade tree mechanic. Fortunately there is a way to do a rudimentary test with a common analog (moving needle) ohm meter.

1.) Remove the condenser from the engine (or at least disconnect the lead wire). Note the small metal connector located on the end of the condenser. This connector is the "hot" or power connection. The metal case of the condenser is the grounding point. Discharge the condenser by shorting the lead wire to the case.

2.) Switch the meter to the ohms position. Place the red lead into the "ohm" connector on the meter. Insert the black lead into the "com" or common connector on the meter. Set the resistance range to the highest available setting (if it is selectable). Connect the test leads together and zero the meter. If the meter won't zero replace the battery. (Yes, an ohm meter has a battery).

3.) Touch the red lead to the hot connector on the condenser. Place the black lead to the metal case on the condenser. The meter's needle should jump slightly to the right (toward 0-ohms), then should drop back to the left towards infinite resistance). Hold the leads in place for 15 to 20 seconds. This action places charge in the condenser. If the test shows any reading other than infinity, the condenser is leaking and needs to be replaced.

4.) Remove the leads and reverse the placement to the condenser. Move the red lead from the hot connector to the metal case, and move the black lead from the metal case to the hot connector. At the moment where both leads are touching the correct points, the meter should jump towards the right. The second time the needle may move twice as far, as this action discharges the condenser. Holding the leads in contact should again result in movement of the needle back toward infinite resistance.

5.) Movement of the meter's needle indicates the condenser is good. If no movement was indicated on the meter in any circumstance, the condenser is bad and must be replaced. Retest the condenser several times for a consistent reading.

In operation the condenser will "ring" at up to 300 volts, so the condenser needs to be rated much higher, no less than 600 volts DC. The ignition will likely work with any capacitance value between 0.05 and 0.6 microfarad. Too high or too low value may eventually transfer metal from one side of the contact points to the other side leaving a pit and a point. Capacity of spark coil capacitors ranges from 0.2 microfarad to 0.33 microfarad. Almost all automotive coils use a 0.25-0.29 microfarad capacitor.

A capacitor may absorb moisture over a long period of time, and moisture can cause failure of the condenser. So it is possible that a condenser stored for 10 years or so might be bad or might fail prematurely in service. It is a good idea to check your traveling spare condenser occasionally.
 


Edited by Regul8r - 30-October-2014 at 1:07PM
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Regul8r Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-October-2014 at 7:29PM
and... FINALLY...
 
Test and check of the secondary ignition system.
That is (in order)
 
Coil tower area itself, We tested the coil is good in the previous post but the tower could be eroded causing power spark transfer or cracked housing causing spark arcing
Coil wire
distributor cap (coil wire button)
Rotor
distributor cap (plug wire contacts) clean, dry, no cracks, burn tracks or erosion in towers
Plug wires, no breaks, rubs, bad boots, or bad connections (ask Ilyes about plug wire nightmares)
plugs
 
WARNING...
DO NOT use carb cleaner to wet the wires looking for arcing/sparks!!  BOOM! NO EYEBROWS OR ARM HAIR! (ask me how I know THAT) lol
 


Edited by Regul8r - 29-October-2014 at 7:31PM
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dave302 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-October-2014 at 8:52PM
Originally posted by Regul8r Regul8r wrote:

Someone post a pic, colors and details where the resistor wire is PLEASE
If you have decided that you have to replace the resistor wire, you will have to remove the instrument cluster, because you need to have access to the ignition switch on top of the column.


Edited by dave302 - 29-October-2014 at 9:04PM
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dave302 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-October-2014 at 8:58PM
Once you get the instrument cluster out of the way, unplug the harness on top of the ignition switch, and look for the Resistor Wire. It is a red wire with a light green stripe (the arrow in the picture below points to it).


Edited by dave302 - 29-October-2014 at 9:06PM
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dave302 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-October-2014 at 9:41PM
The Red Wire with light green stripe (resistor wire) terminates/ends at the wire harness firewall junction block (this is the block that is the closest to the inner fender behind the fuse panel). It is then connected to a regular (non-resistor) wire that goes to the ignition coil.


Edited by dave302 - 29-October-2014 at 9:45PM
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote unlovedford Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-October-2014 at 1:34AM
That is the wire I was talking about. What a bear to get to.

My starter solenoid actually has only 1 post - the actuator for the starter. It is the original one to the car. Man, EFI and HEI look like the way to go.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote unlovedford Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-October-2014 at 1:35AM
BTW, thank you Carl for the amazing write-up!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Regul8r Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-October-2014 at 1:50AM
Originally posted by unlovedford unlovedford wrote:


My starter solenoid actually has only 1 post - the actuator for the starter. It is the original one to the car. Man, EFI and HEI look like the way to go.
 
OK, let me ask another question... is there another(small) wire attached to the starter wire post on the starter side of the relay? That was the other way they energized the coil in the start circuit.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Regul8r Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-October-2014 at 1:54AM
Originally posted by unlovedford unlovedford wrote:

BTW, thank you Carl for the amazing write-up!
 
That's what this family does!!
I see 2 of my Torino brothers struggling and knew I could put it in a format that you could follow.
I used write ups, words, pics and info from many different websites and my 1975 Fairlane/Torino Chilton's manual. Was up til 2:30am doing it. But now we have a forever available easy to read diagnostic for our points ignition system.
 
Print and take it to the car, follow the steps and VOILA...FIXED lol
 
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 72 RS 351 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-October-2014 at 7:51AM
Well done Carl, this is invaluable to anyone not familiar with how the systems work. I long ago forgot most of what I ever learned about points ignition systems.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Regul8r Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-October-2014 at 8:24AM
Originally posted by 72 RS 351 72 RS 351 wrote:

Well done Carl, this is invaluable to anyone not familiar with how the systems work. I long ago forgot most of what I ever learned about points ignition systems.
 
me too was a great refresher to bring me back in the game!
Fun reading as well!
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote californiajohnny Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-October-2014 at 11:14AM
thanks for writing that up carl! i think a thousand times faster than i type, so for me to try and put that in text would have been crazy, that's why i told malcolm and joe to just call me as i can explain it easier! i guess you could call it "writers block"?? that's why i'm an actor not a writer! LOLWink
malcolm and joe,: the offer still stands call me if you need to!!!!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Regul8r Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-October-2014 at 12:11PM
ALMOST FORGOT!!!
 
I need someone to post a pic of the wiring harness for a car with the sport TACH gage dash.
 
Our cars run a wire THROUGH the tach in the ignition system.
It WILL NOT run without the wiring harness plugged in to the instrument cluster.
That makes an additional wire and connection to check and ensure no breaks or erosion.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote californiajohnny Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-October-2014 at 12:25PM
this is the diagram i followed to add the sport cluster to my car, is this what you were looking for carl?

JOHN
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Regul8r Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-October-2014 at 12:55PM
Yes, that's it!
 
The power wire goes from the key switch through the resistor wire THEN through the tach and on to the body connector block and out to the positive side of the coil.
Going back to update the first couple threads!
 
THANKS!
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 72 RS 351 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-November-2014 at 4:19AM
I wonder if the tach can be wired without it being in series to affect the ignition system. I do not like having a non critical component, or its wiring, to be able to disable the car.

Another example of that is Ford has some cars that do something similar with the dash "AMP" light. If that bulb burns out, or if you unplug it while working on something etc, the alternator will not produce electricity.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote bdaugette Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-January-2015 at 6:52AM
My car has been converted to a ACCEL system.  Will these same tests be something to look at for a conversion like mine?  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Regul8r Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-January-2015 at 1:14PM
yes, the accel system out in the engine bay still has to have the power through the Start AND the Run side of the ignition switch.
 
You might want to check on the Accel coil and ensure it is for an EXTERNAL resistor.
IF it is not an external resistor coil set up then look and trace the RUN circuit to see if they bypassed the resistor or not as described by CaliforniaJohnny a couple comments ago.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote bdaugette Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-January-2015 at 1:06AM
OK, here is my solenoid.  Let's start from here.  It looks original, so I assume it is the correct one for the car.  Would this be considered a "Single Pole?"  I will look up the coil, it is an Accell coil, so it should be relatively easy to determine if it is external or internal.  I may need some help as to how to trace the Run circuit, not my skill area!

I appreciate the help!
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