TEST 1: Spark Test

Checking For Spark At The Spark Plug Wires. How To Test The GM 2.2L Ignition Coil Pack

The very first thing that you need to do is to verify that all of the spark plug wires are firing off spark. Now, whether you have a misfire diagnostic trouble code and know what cylinder is the one misfiring or not, I recommend that you test all cylinders for spark.

Also, the successful outcome of all of your tests depends on using an HEI spark tester and that you start your troubleshooting from TEST 1 and follow the indicated next test.

These are the test steps:

  1. Remove the spark plug wire from the spark plug.
  2. Connect the HEI spark tester to the spark plug wire you just disconnected.
  3. Have your helper crank the car while you observe the HEI spark tester.
  4. The engine will probably start (if you're testing a misfire condition), so be careful and take all necessary safety precautions.
  5. You'll get one of two results: spark or No spark.
  6. Now, repeat this spark test on the remaining spark plug wires.

Let's take a look at what your test results mean:

The one thing that you have to keep in mind, is that cylinders #1 and #4 get spark from the same coil pack and are called ‘Paired Cylinders’ and that cylinders #2 and #3 get spark from the other one and are also called ‘Paired Cylinders’. The following test interpretations take this into account.

CASE 1: If you got spark from all spark plug wires: then all of the ignition coil packs are good. This also confirms that the ignition control module (ICM) and the crankshaft position (CKP) sensor are working correctly. Go to TEST 6.

CASE 2: If you got No spark from any of the spark plug wires: this result indicates one of two things, either that the ignition control module (ICM) is bad or the crankshaft position sensor is bad The next round of tests will help you to troubleshoot them both, go to TEST 5.

CASE 3: If you got No spark from only one spark plug wire: this result indicates one of two things, either that the spark plug wire is bad or the ignition coil is bad. The next round of tests will help you to troubleshoot this further, go to TEST 2.

CASE 4: If you got No spark from two spark plug wires that feed ‘Paired Cylinders’: this result indicates one of two things, either that the ignition coil pack or the ignition control module (ICM) is bad. The next round of tests will help you to troubleshoot this further, go to TEST 3.

CASE 5: If you got No spark from two spark plug wires that feed ‘Non-Paired Cylinders’: this result indicates one of two things, either that both ignition coil packs are bad or the both spark plug wires are bad. The next round of tests will help you to troubleshoot this further, go to TEST 2.

TEST 2: Spark Test Directly On Coil Tower

Spark Test Directly On Coil Tower. How To Test The GM 2.2L Ignition Coil Pack

This test step applies only if you got a No spark result in TEST 1 on: 1) only one spark plug wire or 2) two different spark plug wires that DO NOT feed two ‘Paired Cylinders’. The next step is to test for spark directly on the ignition coil to see if the spark plug wire is bad or if the ignition coil pack is bad.

This is what you need to do:

  1. Remove the spark plug wire that did not fire off spark in TEST 1 from its ignition coil tower.
  2. Using a small piece of vacuum hose, connect the HEI spark tester to that ignition coil tower (see the photo in the image viewer).
  3. With the same jump start cable you used before, in TEST 1, Ground the HEI spark tester to a good Ground point on the engine or on the battery negative terminal.
  4. Have your assistant crank the engine once more.
  5. The HEI spark tester should do one of two things: spark or not spark.
  6. Test the other ignition coil tower in the exact same way, only if you got a No spark result from two spark plug wires that feed spark two ‘Non-Paired Cylinders’.
  7. Apply the following test interpretations to each ignition coil tested individually.

Let's take a look at what your test results mean:

CASE 1: If the spark tester sparked, then this result confirms that the spark plug wire is bad. Replacing all of the spark plug wires as a set should solve the misfire diagnostic trouble code (DTC) and misfire condition your Cavalier or Sunfire is experiencing.

CASE 2: If the spark tester DID NOT spark, then this result confirms that the ignition coil is fried. Replacing the coil pack that feeds this spark plug wire (that didn't fire spark in TEST 1) should solve the misfire diagnostic trouble code (DTC) and misfire condition your Cavalier or Sunfire is experiencing.

TEST 3: Ignition Coil Power Circuit Test

Making Sure The Ignition Coil Is Getting Power. How To Test The GM 2.2L Ignition Coil Pack

Follow thru' with this test step only if two spark plug wires that feed ‘Paired Cylinders’ did not fire off spark in TEST 1. Also, you need to identify which coil pack of the two is the one that did not fire off spark to its two spark plug wires, using photo number 3 of the image viewer on the right. This is the ignition coil pack you'll need to remove to accomplish this test.

This test step will help you to confirm that the ignition coil pack is getting power. The coil pack needs power, in the form of 12 Volts, and the switching signal to fire off spark to its two ‘Paired Cylinders’. It gets both of these from the ignition module. Ok, you can use either a 12 Volt test light or a multimeter for this test (although the following test steps assume you're using a multimeter), here’ the test:

Although the photos in the image viewer show only the ignition coil pack that feeds spark to cylinders 1 and 4 removed, the following test steps also apply to the ignition coil pack that feeds cylinders 2 and 3.

Here are the test steps:

  1. Remove the ignition coil pack that did not fire off spark on its two spark plug wires (as per TEST 1).
  2. Probe the male spade terminal identified with the letter A in the photo with the RED lead of your multimeter.
  3. Connect the black multimeter test lead to a good Ground point on the engine or on the battery negative terminal.
  4. Have your helper turn the key to the On position, while you observe the multimeter.
  5. If all is well, the multimeter should display 10 to 12 Volts.

Let's take a look at what your test results mean:

CASE 1: If the multimeter registered 10 to 12 Volts. This indicates that the ignition control module (ICM) is feeding power to the ignition coil, the next step is to test the switching signal. Go to TEST 4.

CASE 2: If the multimeter DID NOT register 10 to 12 Volts. This indicates that the ignition control module (ICM) on your 2.2L Chevy Cavalier (or 2.2L Pontiac Sunfire) is bad. Replace the ignition control module.

Chevrolet Vehicles:

  • Cavalier 2.2L
    • 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
  • S10 Pickup 2.2L
    • 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003

GMC Vehicle:

  • Sonoma 2.2L
    • 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003

Isuzu Vehicles:

  • Hombre 2.2L
    • 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000

Pontiac Vehicle:

  • Sunfire 2.2L
    • 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002