Power Transistor Test and Ignition Coil Test 3.3L Nissan (1996-2004)

Testing a No Start-No Spark or a Misfire Condition on your Nissan Mini-Van or Pick Up or SUV or the Mercury Villager (with the 3.3L V6 engine) is not difficult at all. No expensive tools or diagnostic equipment is needed, and this article will show you just how to do it step by step.

With the tests in this article, you'll be able to test and diagnose: A BAD power transistor, or a BAD ignition coil, or a BAD distributor cap, or BAD spark plug wires on your Nissan vehicle.

On the box titled ‘Applies To’ on the right column, you'll find a complete list of Nissan and Infiniti models that this test article applies to.

En Español Puedes encontrar este tutorial en Español aquí: Prueba del Módulo y Bobina de Encendido 3.3L Nissan (1996-2004) (en: autotecnico-online.com).

Symptoms Of A BAD Transistor, Ignition Coil, Spark Plug Wires, or Dist. Cap

If you're Nissan SUV or mini-van is suffering a Misfire... the check engine light (CEL) will be on to let you know that YES, there really is something wrong. Here are a couple of other symptoms your vehicle may experience with a Misfire Condition:

  1. Diagnostic trouble codes (DTC) stored in the computer's (PCM) memory:
    1. P0300, P0301, P0302, P0303, P0304, P0305, P0306
  2. Misfire that does not light up the check engine light (CEL).
  3. No power.
  4. Idles rough.
  5. BAD gas mileage.
  6. Black smoke coming out of the tail-pipe.
  7. Rotten egg smell coming out of the tail-pipe.
  8. Smell of unburned gasoline coming out of the tail-pipe.
  9. Won't pass the state emissions test.

If the power transistor or the ignition coil is BAD, then the most common symptom is that your vehicle will CRANK but not START and there will be no spark at any of the spark plug wires.

Basic Nissan Ignition System Theory

To be able to successfully diagnose a Misfire or No Start on your Nissan vehicle (whether it’ a pick up, SUV, or a mini-van) it'll help to know how spark is created and fed to the engine cylinders. This is what happens in a nutshell when you turn the key and crank the engine:

  1. The crankshaft position sensor and camshaft position sensors start to generate and feed their signals to the vehicle's PCM (Powertrain Control Module=Fuel Injection Computer).
  2. The PCM uses these signals to know where each piston is at in relation to its combustion cycle and with this info, the PCM knows when to start activating the power transistor, the fuel injectors and a host of other things to get your Nissan vehicle started.
    1. The power transistor is the ignition control module (ICM) in the Nissan vehicles.
    2. The power transistor is located within the distributor assembly and is part of the cam sensor assembly.
  3. So then, after receiving the crank (CKP) and cam (CMP) signals, the PCM sends the power transistor a Triggering Signal that tells the power transistor exactly when to activate the ignition coil.
  4. The power transistor activates the ignition coil by opening and closing the Primary Current Circuit of the ignition coil... and as you may already be aware it's this opening and closing action that makes the ignition coil spark away.
  5. The spark created by the ignition coil is fed to the distributor rotor directly by the distributor cap and then from there to each engine cylinder via a spark plug wire.

With the simple and easy tests presented in this test article you'll be able to find the exact cause of your Nissan vehicle's Misfire or No Start Condition (if it's ignition system related) and in the process save time and money.