TEST 4: Testing The Ignition Coil (Part 2)

Testing The Ignition Coil (Part 2). How To Test The Ford Ignition Control Module

If you've reached this point, you've confirmed the following:

  1. That the engine in your Ford vehicle cranks but does not start.
  2. That none of the eight spark plug wires are firing off spark (TEST 1).
  3. That the ignition coil's high tension wire is not firing off spark(TEST 3).

Now, you're gonna' test for spark directly on the ignition coil's tower (with the spark plug wire removed).

If you get spark (when you crank the engine), then you have confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that the spark plug wire (high tension wire) that connects the ignition coil do the distributor cap is BAD.

This is what you'll need to do:

  1. 1

    Remove the spark plug wire that's attached to the ignition coil's tower (as shown in the photo on the left).

  2. 2

    Now, connect the HEI spark tester to the coil's tower with a small piece of vacuum tubing (this is important!, look at the photo to see how I've done it).

  3. 3

    With the HEI spark tester being held in place on the coil with a battery jump start cable (who's other end is grounded on the engine or battery negative post), ask your helper to crank the engine once again while you watch for spark jumping across the air gap of the spark tester.

You're gonna' get one of the 2 results: (1) Spark or (2) No Spark. Let's analyze each result in more detail below:

CASE 1: If you got spark, then the spark plug wire that feeds the distributor cap spark is BAD and the ignition coil is GOOD. Replace the spark plug wire by replacing All of the spark plug wires.

Here's why: As the spark plug wire ages, its normal resistance to spark increases to the point that the wire can not and does not transmit the spark to the spark plug. This will either cause a misfire, or a lack of power, or a No Start Condition. Spark Plug Wires don't last forever, especially after-market ones (average life-span is 3 to 4 years)

CASE 2: If you got NO spark. Then further testing is required to see if the problem is due to a BAD ignition control module (ICM), BAD Pick Up Coil or something else. We're gonna' find out with the rest of the tests, go to: TEST 5.

TEST 5: Testing The Ignition Coil For 12 Volts

Making Sure The Ignition Coil Is Getting 12 Volts. How To Test The Ford Ignition Control Module

For this test you can use a multimeter or a test light. Also, altho' you're testing the ignition coil for 12 Volts, you're indirectly testing the ignition control module (ICM) and the PIP (Profile Ignition Pickup) sensor for 12 Volts also... since the same Power Circuit feeds them all.

The procedure I recommend to use (to accomplish all of the tests below) is to use a test probe that pierces thru' the wire's insulation (to see what this tool looks like, go here: Wire Piercing Probe). I don't recommend inserting anything into the front of the female terminal. Whatever method you use, the key here is not to damage the female terminal or the wire. Again, be careful. Use common sense and take all necessary safety precautions.

These are the test steps:

  1. 1

    The ignition coil must be connected to its connector.

  2. 2

    Put the multimeter in VOLTS DC mode.

  3. 3

    With a Wire Piercing Probe (or something appropriate) probe the left wire (the one on the driver's side of the ignition coil connector- see photo in the image viewer). The ‘left side’ in automotive speak always refers to anything on the driver side.

    Or you can probe the circuit labeled with the number 3 (see 2nd photo in the image viewer) of the ignition control module.

    Both wires are part of the same circuit, so it doesn't matter which of the two you probe, both will give you the same test result.

  4. 4

    With the BLACK lead of the multimeter probe the BATT (-) NEGATIVE terminal.

  5. 5

    Turn Key On with the engine Off.

You should see 12 Volts on the multimeter. Do you have 12 volts?


CASE 1: If you got 12 Volts, all is good in the neighborhood since this test result indicates that the ignition coil is being fed with power (10 to 12 Volts DC).

The next step is to check to see if the ignition coil is receiving the switching signal from the ignition module...GO TO TEST 6: Verifying The Ignition Coil's Switching Signal.

CASE 2: If you DID NOT GET 12 Volts, you must find out why you're missing this voltage. Without this voltage the ignition control module nor the ignition coil will work. Resolving this power issue should solve your No Start Condition.