TEST 3: Ignition Coil Switching Signal

Making Sure The ICM Is Activating The Ignition Coil. Making Sure The Ignition Module Is Activating The Ignition Coil. Circuit Descriptions of the Ignition Control Module Connector. How To Test The Ford Ignition Control Module (Distributor Mounted)

Now that you've verified the basics, in this test you're gonna' verify that the ignition control module (ICM) is activating the ignition coil.

Here you're going to use an LED test tool (to see an example of this tool and how to make it, go here: The LED Light Test Tool And How To Make One.

You can also use a 12 Volt automotive test light for this test. Use an appropriate tool to pierce the wire and attach the LED test tool (to this tool). Be careful and use all necessary precautions.

By the way, in case you want to see a more specific Ford ignition coil test, I've written one for troubleshootmyvehicle.com and you can see it here: Ignition Coil Test -No Spark No Start Tests (Ford 4.9L, 5.0L, 5.8L) (at: troubleshootmyvehicle.com).

NOTE: Both the ignition control module (ICM) and ignition coil must be connected to their electrical connectors for this test.

OK, this is what you'll need to do:

  1. 1

    Connect the red wire of the LED to the battery positive (+) terminal.

  2. 2

    Connect the black wire of the LED to the number 5 circuit of the ignition control module connector.

  3. 3

    Have an assistant crank the engine.

  4. 4

    The LED test tool (or test light) should blink on and off as the engine is being cranked.

Let's take a look at your test results:

CASE 1: The LED Light blinked ON and OFF as the engine was cranking. This means that the ignition control module is triggering the ignition coil and therefore you can conclude that the ignition control module is good.

To be a bit more specific: This test result lets you know that the ignition control module is working and doing its job. The ignition control module (ICM) can been eliminated as the cause of the no start condition.

Now since the ICM is activating the ignition coil and the ignition coil is NOT sparking, then by a process of elimination, we can assume that the ignition coil is faulty and is the source of the no start condition. Replace the ignition coil.

CASE 2: The LED Light DID NOT blink ON and OFF as the engine was cranking. Re-check all of your connections and retry the test again.

If still no light pulses on from the LED lighte, go to: TEST 4: Testing The PIP Signal.

TEST 4: Testing The PIP Signal

Testing for the PIP Signal. How To Test The Ford Ignition Control Module (Distributor Mounted)

So far, you've verified several important things: 1.) The ignition module is getting both power and Ground. 2.) The ignition module is NOT activating the ignition coil (not creating a switching signal).

In this last test section we'll check that the Profile Ignition Pickup (PIP) sensor signal is being received by the ignition control module (ICM).

The PIP signal is just Ford's name for the crankshaft position sensor signal. Now, in case you're wondering, the PIP sensor is located inside the distributor.

If the ignition module does not receive the PIP signal (because the PIP sensor is bad), then it won't activate the ignition coil.

But, if the ignition module is getting the PIP signal and it does not create the switching signal for the ignition coil, then the ignition module is bad.

IMPORTANT: Testing the PIP signal has to be done with an LED light. You can find out more about it (and where to by one) here: The LED Light Test Tool And How To Make One. Do not use a test light for this test!

Alright, this is what you need to do:

  1. 1

    Place the the ignition switch key in the OFF position.

  2. 2

    With a suitable tool pierce the number 1 circuit wire of the ignition control module connector.

  3. 3

    Connect the black wire of LED to the tool that is piercing the wire.

  4. 4

    Connect the red wire of the LED to the battery positive (+) terminal.

  5. 5

    Have an assistant crank the engine while you observe the LED.

  6. 6

    The LED should start to blink on and off as the engine is cranked.

Let's take a look at your test results:

CASE 1: The LED blinked ON and OFF as your helper cranked the engine. This is the correct test result and it lets you know that that the ICM is receiving a PIP sensor signal.

With this test result you can conclude that the ignition control module (ICM) is bad (defective) and needs to be replaced if you have confirmed that:

  1. The ICM is getting power in the form of 10 to 12 Volts DC (TEST 1).
  2. The ICM is getting Ground (TEST 2).
  3. The ICM is not activating the ignition coil (TEST 3).
  4. The ICM is receiving a PIP sensor signal (this test section).

CASE 2: The LED DID NOT blink ON and OFF as your helper cranked the engine. If you have no pulses, recheck all connections and repeat the test.

If you still have no light pulses. The Profile Ignition Pickup (PIP) sensor is bad and the cause of this no start condition.

You'll need to replace the PIP sensor to solve the no-start no-spark condition on your Ford (or Mercury or Lincoln) vehicle.

As mentioned earlier, the Profile Ignition Pickup (PIP) sensor is just a crankshaft position sensor located inside the distributor.

The PIP sensor tells the ignition control module (ICM) when to start activating the ignition coil to start sparking away. So, if the PIP signal is missing (as indicated by the LED not blinking on and off), the ignition control module will not function.

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Ford Vehicles:

  • Aerostar 3.0L
    • 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991
  • Bronco 4.9L, 5.0L, 5.8L
    • 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991
  • Crown Victoria 5.0L
    • 1989, 1990, 1991
  • Escort 1.9L
    • 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990

Ford Vehicle:

  • E150, E250, E350 4.9L, 5.0L, 5.8L
    • 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991
  • F150, F250, F350 4.9L, 5.0L, 5.8L
    • 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991
  • Mustang 5.0L
    • 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993

Ford Vehicles:

  • Ranger 2.3L, 2.9L
    • 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992
  • Taurus 2.5L, 3.0L
    • 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991
  • Tempo 2.3L, 3.0L
    • 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994

Ford Vehicles:

  • Thunderbird 3.8L, 5.0L
    • 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988

Mercury Vehicles:

  • Cougar 3.8L, 5.0L
    • 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988
  • Grand Marquis 4.6L, 5.0L
    • 1989, 1990, 1991

Mercury Vehicles:

  • Sable 2.5L, 3.0L
    • 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991
  • Topaz 2.3L, 3.0L
    • 1992, 1993, 1994

Lincoln Vehicles:

  • Continental 3.8L
    • 1984, 1985, 1986
  • Town Car
    • 1984, 1985, 1986