How To Test The Ford Ignition Control Module

Whether your Ford or Mercury car or truck CRANKS but DOES NOT START or runs with a MISFIRE Condition, this article is for you. With the tests I'm gonna' show you, you'll be able to pinpoint the problem to the ignition control module or the ignition coil or the Profile Ignition Pickup sensor (PIP sensor) or the spark plug wires or the distributor cap.

This article applies to both the Gray colored ignition control module and the Black colored ignition control module. The Gray colored ignition control module is called the Push Start Module and the Black colored ignition control module is called the Computer Controlled Dwell Module. These ignition control modules (ICM) are not interchangeable but are tested in the exact same way.

Also, the photos (in the image viewer) show some of the tests performed on a V8 engine. This might make you think that they don't apply to your 3.0L, 3.8L V6... well nothing could be further from the truth. All of these test steps apply to both the V8, V6 and L6 Ford engines.

As you can see from the image of the ignition control module (in the image viewer on the left), the tests apply to the fender mounted Ford ignition control module.

If you need to test the distributor mounted Ford ignition control module, click here: How To Test The Ford Distributor Mounted Ignition Control Module (ICM). To test Ford Coil-on-Plug ignition coils (4.6L and 5.4L V8 engines), click here: Ford Coil-on-Plug (COP) Ignition Coil Tests.

En Español You can find this tutorial in Spanish here: Cómo Probar el Módulo de Encendido de Ford (at: autotecnico-online.com).

How Does This Type Of Ignition Control Module Work?

Here's a little background information to help you diagnose this no spark condition. In a nutshell, when the system is working properly and you turn the key to crank and start your Ford car or truck:

  1. The distributor shaft starts to rotate which causes the PIP (Profile Ignition Pickup) sensor to start generating its crankshaft position signal.
  2. The ignition control module (ICM), upon receiving this PIP signal, starts to ‘open and close’ the ignition coil's primary current. As you might already be aware, it's this action that makes the ignition coil spark.
  3. The Fuel Injection Computer also receives the PIP Signal at the same time that the ignition module does.
  4. Once the engine STARTS, the Fuel Injection Computer takes over the ignition timing.

The PIP sensor is at the heart of this fender mounted ignition control module and ignition system. Here are some useful facts that you should be aware of about the PIP (Profile Ignition Pickup) sensor:

  1. The PIP sensor is located in the distributor.
  2. It's a Hall Effect type sensor.
  3. It produces a digital square wave if its signal is tested on an Oscilloscope.
  4. This signal can also be tested with an LED Light (which is the method I'll use in this article).
  5. If it goes BAD, the your Ford car or truck will CRANK but NOT START.

What Tools Do I Need For The Ignition Module Test?

No expensive tools are required to test this type of ignition system. Now, having said that, there some very specific tools that I recommend to use for the tests. So, here's the basic list:

  1. A Spark Tester
    1. Not just any type of spark tester. I strongly suggest you buy the HEI spark tester. Click here to see what it looks like: HEI Spark Tester.
    2. Don't use a regular spark plug instead of a dedicated spark tester.
    3. Don't pull the spark plug wire off of the spark plug as the engine is cranking or running. This will give a false result and/or damage the ignition coil.
  2. An LED Light.
    1. Click here to see what this looks like: Abe's LED light tool
  3. Test Light.
  4. Multimeter.
    1. A cheapie one will do.
    2. If you need to buy one or are looking to upgrade, check out my recommendations here: Buying A Digital Multimeter For Automotive Diagnostic Testing.
  5. Repair manual.
    1. For whatever other information this article does not cover.
  6. Helper.
    1. To help you crank the engine while you observe the LED light (or test light or multimeter).

By the way, you don't need an automotive scan tool for any of these tests.

Where Do We Start?

The very first thing we'll do is test for spark. Then we'll the basics like battery voltage and engine ground to the ignition control module. Then we'll test the ignition coil switching signal that the module generates in action and from the results you get you'll be able to pinpoint the problem to the ignition control module (ICM) or the ignition coil or the Profile Ignition Pickup (PIP) sensor or the spark plug wires or the distributor cap or completely eliminate these as the cause of the No Start Condition.

IMPORTANT- All of the tests are ON CAR TESTS, do not remove the ignition control module assembly from the vehicle (all of the figures show the module assembly off of the vehicle but this is just for illustration purposes only). Also, the battery must be in a fully charged condition for all tests in this article.