How To Test The Igniter, Ignition Coil  Accord, Civic, CRV, and Odyssey

This tutorial will walk you thru' the entire testing and diagnostics/troubleshooting of the 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 00 Honda Accord, Civic, CRV, and Odyssey igniter (ignition control module-ICM), ignition coil, distributor cap/rotor and spark plug wires with photos and step by step instructions in plain English. Learning how to test the Honda ignition system for a misfire condition or a No Spark, No Start Condition has never been easier!

NOTE: This tutorial will help you test the Honda distributor type ignition system with the ignition coil inside of the distributor. If you need the tutorial for the Honda ignition system with the ignition coil outside of the distributor, go here: How To Test The Honda Distributor Type Ignition System (Ignition Coil Outside Distributor 1992-2001 2.2L). For the article to test the Honda Coil-on-Plug ignition coils, go here: How To Test The Coil-On-Plug Ignition Coil 3.0L Honda Accord - Odyssey.

You might also find the following articles I've written at troubleshootmyvehicle.com useful:

  1. How To Find A BAD Fuel Injector Case Study (Honda 2.2L, 2.3L) (at: troubleshootmyvehicle.com).
  2. How To Test For A BAD Fuel Injector (Honda 2.2L, 2.3L) (at: troubleshootmyvehicle.com).
  3. How To Test Engine Compression (Honda 2.2L, 2.3L) (at: troubleshootmyvehicle.com).

En Español You can find this tutorial in Spanish here: Módulo y Bobina de Encendido Honda Accord, Civic, CRV, Odyssey (at: autotecnico-online.com).

The next headings contain all of the essentials you'll need to know, like: common symptoms, tools needed to perform the tests, do's and don't's, and a little working theory of how the Honda (Accord, Civic, or Odyssey) igniter works.

Symptoms Of A BAD Honda Igniter And Ignition System Malfunction

In a nutshell, when the igniter or ignition coil fails in your Honda (Accord, Civic, or Odyssey), it won't start. When the spark plug wires or the distributor cap fail, your Honda will start and run but with a misfire. The misfire may or may not light up your check engine light on your instrument cluster.

But where it gets complicated is trying to find out the exact component that failed. Depending on the type of failure you're trying to diagnose and resolve, you may be asking yourself: Is it because of a BAD igniter (ignition control module) or a BAD ignition coil? Or is it the distributor cap and rotor? Or maybe the spark plug wires? Or is it the crankshaft position sensors within the distributor that have gone BAD? Or maybe it's a BAD computer?

This tutorial will help you by showing you how to test each specific component in a step by step way. You'll be able to get to the bottom of the no start or misfire condition your Honda is experiencing without having to waste time and money.

Before we move along let me tell you that the igniter can fail intermittently. These intermittent failures would cause your Honda Accord or Civic or Odyssey to stall every now and then. A very rare type of failure, but it does happen. If this is the condition that you're experiencing, you will have to wait till your Honda does not start to test the ignition system. This is the only way to test for an intermittent problem. So, if you're experiencing this condition, read this article anyway... you'll be better prepared for when the problem pops up.

What Tools Do I Need To Test The Honda Ignition System?

You don't need any expensive tools to test your Honda ignition system. Here's what you'll need:


  1. A digital multimeter.
    1. It doesn't have to be an expensive one, a cheapie one will do just fine (don't have a digital multimeter? Need to buy one? Click here to see my recommendations: Buying A Digital Multimeter For Automotive Diagnostic Testing).
  2. A test light.
  3. An LED light
    1. I buy mine from Radio Shack since most auto parts stores (AutoZone, O'Reily, and the like) sell them for three times as much.
    2. I've included a link on what this LED Light looks like and how to make it into a tool here: The LED Light Test Tool.
  4. A wire piercing probe.
    1. To see what this tool looks like, click here: Wire Piercing Probe.
  5. An HEI spark tester.
    1. This inexpensive spark tester is a MUST have tool to be able to correctly diagnose your Honda vehicle with the info/tests in this article (don't have an HEI spark tester? Need to buy one? You can buy it here: OTC 6589 Electronic Ignition Spark Tester).
    2. I trust and recommend only the HEI spark tester. If you want to learn how this spark tester works, click here: The HEI Spark Tester (The Best Spark Tester On the Market).
  6. A helper to crank the engine.

And lest I forget, a Scan Tool is not necessary to diagnose and test the Honda distributor type ignition system. All of the testing that you'll be doing will be done without an automotive diagnostic scanner.