This article will help you test the ignition control module (ICM) and 3X crankshaft position sensor on all of the GM 3.1L and 3.4L overhead valve engines (the 3X Crank Sensor is also known as the 7X Crank Sensor).
So, if you're driving a Chevy, a Buick, a Pontiac, or an Oldsmobile with either one of these engines, not forgetting the Isuzu Rodeo or Trooper, this ‘How to Test the Ignition Module’ and 7X (3X) article applies.
There are two other articles that may help:
To see the complete list of 3.1L, 3.4L test articles, go to the GM 3.1L, 3.4L Index of Articles.
You can find this tutorial in Spanish here: Cómo Probar el Módulo de Encendido y Sensor del Cigüeñal (GM 3.1L, 3.4L) (at: easyautodiagnostics.com/es/).
This is a very easy and straightforward test that can be accomplished in 3 steps. That's right, in three steps. Before I jump into the specific tests, I recommend you read this part of the article. Below you'll find some ‘working theory’ (don't worry, just the nuts and bolts of how everything works), do's and don'ts, and some other good stuff you may want or need to know.
In a nutshell, the ignition control module's job is to create a Switching signal for the ignition coils that are sitting on top of it. It's this Switching signal that makes the ignition coils create spark.
Now, before I go any further and if you're wondering what the heck is a ‘Switching signal’... this name simply refers to the fact that the ignition control module ‘switches’ the primary current flowing thru' the ignition coil On and Off (Primary Current is the fancy name for the 12 Volts that flow thur' the ignition coil).
The ignition module accomplishes this ‘switching’ On and Off, of the Primary Current, by simply interrupting (turning off) the ground path.
OK, moving on along... for the ignition module to create this Switching signal, it needs to receive a Crankshaft Position (CKP) sensor signal (this signal is usually referred to as the Triggering signal and in GM Service Literature it's known as the 3X or 7X CKP signal). And well, not only does it need the crank sensor signal, it needs 12 Volts and Ground.
More specifically, it all starts when you turn the ignition switch (in other words: the key) to crank and start the car or truck (if you're driving an Isuzu), and here's what happens:
Early 3.1L V6 engines use only one crankshaft position sensor known as the 7X (3X) crank sensor, which is connected directly to the ignition control module. Here are some more specifics:
Late 3.1L and 3.4L V6 engines use 2 crankshaft position sensors.
Since the 7X (3X) crank sensor is the one directly responsible for starting the car, this article will show you how to test only this one. You don't have to worry about the 24X crank sensor (if you need to test the 24X crank sensor... you can find the test article here: How to Test the 24X Crank Sensor (GM 3.1L, 3.4L) at: troubleshootmyvehicle.com).
In the 3 tests that I'm gonna' teach you, we'll test for all of these signals (except of course the 24X CKP signal). If the cause of your vehicle's No Start condition lays in the Ignition System, you'll be able to correctly diagnose and pin point the source of the problem.
It goes without saying (but I'm gonna' say it anyway) that when the ignition module (ICM) goes BAD, your car, or minivan, or Isuzu SUV will not start, but not always. Every now and then, this type of ignition module fails intermittently. What this means is that the vehicle will start and run most of the time, but now and then it won't. If you're experiencing this, you'll have to test the ignition module when the vehicle is not wanting to start. This is important, because as long as it starts, the problem does not exist and can not be tested.
So, then... the info that you're gonna' learn in this article applies to testing a module that has fried completely and is keeping the vehicle from starting. Here are some of the most common failure symptoms:
The most important tool to have is a multimeter. It can be a digital or analog type. You do not need an automotive scan tool. Here are the other recommended tools that will come in handy.
Anything to do with working on or around a car is dangerous. Since some of the tests in this article are done with the engine cranking, it goes without saying that you have to be alert, extra careful and use common sense to perform them.
Whomever is gonna' help you crank the vehicle, while you observe the multimeter, has to wait outside of the car or minivan or truck (Isuzu owners) until after you've connected your connections and you're clear of the engine. After the test is done and you don't need your helper to crank the engine anymore... have him or her step out of the vehicle. All this is to save you from any unfortunate accident that may happen if said helper thinks he or she heard you say "crank it" (or whatever command phrase you use).