TEST 4: Making Sure The Ignition Coil And Module Are Getting Power

Making Sure The Ignition Coil And Module Are Getting Power. Making Sure The Ignition Coil And Module Are Getting Power.

If you've reached this point, you have:

One: Checked that none of the four spark plug wires are delivering spark (TEST 1).

Two: Checked that the ignition coil is not sparking (TEST 3).

In this test step, you're gonna' verify that the igniter and the ignition coil are getting power (12 Volts).

NOTE: If you haven't done so, remove the plastic dust cap that protects the igniter and ignition coil. This cap can only be removed by removing the distributor rotor (which is secured onto the distributor shaft with a small bolt on older models, newer models have it just pressed on). The photos above show the distributors with this dust cap already removed, thus making it possible to access the power and Ground terminals of the ignition coil.

You can use a multimeter or a test light to test the igniter (ignition control module) and the ignition coil. The following test assumes that you're using a test light.

  1. 1

    Connect the alligator clip of the test light to the battery negative terminal or a good Ground point on the engine itself.

  2. 2

    With the probe end of the test light, touch the terminal pointed at by the orange arrow in the photos in the image viewer. This is the terminal that feeds 12 Volts to the Honda's ignition coil.

  3. 3

    This terminal normally has a (+) sign in a circle over it, stamped on the ignition coil itself and the color of this wire is black with a yellow stripe.

  4. 4

    Some models use female terminals and others use round terminals that are attached to the ignition coil with screws. Whether the wires are attached to the ignition coil with female terminals or round terminals, the circuits are the same for both types.

  5. 5

    Have your assistant turn the key to ON and then have him (or her) crank the Civic (Accord, Odyssey, or CRV) while observe the test light.

  6. 6

    If voltage (12 V) is present, the test light will light up and stay lit as long as the key is on or the engine is cranking.

Let's take a look at your test result:

CASE 1: The test light lit up. Then both the igniter (ignition control module) and the ignition coil are receiving 12 Volts.

The next test is to see if the ignition coil is getting an activation signal. For this test go to: TEST 5: Testing The Ignition Coil's Switching Signal.

Here's why: One wire (of the distributor's connector with 2 wires) delivers 12 Volts to the distributor from the Main Relay. Once this voltage is inside the Civic's distributor, it splits into two circuits that feed the igniter and ignition coil at the exact same time. So by testing the ignition coil for voltage, you're also testing the igniter for the same.

CASE 2: The test light DID NOT light up. Then you have now eliminated both the ignition coil and the igniter as the cause of your Honda's NO START Condition. You must find out if the Main Relay is bad or if a fuse is blown.

Here's why: Without this voltage (12 V) the igniter and the ignition coil will not work (not produce spark). Replacing either, if the above test result is true, will not solve the problem and would be a complete waste of money and time.

TEST 5: Testing The Ignition Coil's Switching Signal

Testing The Ignition Coil's Switching Signal. How To Test The Igniter, Ignition Coil Accord, Civic, CRV, and Odyssey Testing The Ignition Coil's Switching Signal. How To Test The Igniter, Ignition Coil Accord, Civic, CRV, and Odyssey

IMPORTANT: If you got a spark result in TEST 3, do not proceed with this test step, or you risk damaging the ignition coil. A spark result in TEST 3 confirms that the switching signal is present (thanks to Randy for the feedback).

If you've reached this point, you have:

One: Checked that none of the four spark plug wires are delivering spark (TEST 1).

Two: Checked that the ignition coil is not sparking and the distributor rotor is turning (when your helper cranked the engine) (TEST 3).

Three: Checked that the ignition coil and the igniter are being fed 10 to 12 Volts DC (TEST 4).

The next step is to find out if the igniter is feeding the ignition coil an activation signal (which I call the switching signal).

The presence of the switching signal is verified using a 12 Volt test light and while the Accord or Civic or Odyssey is being cranked (whatever the test light does with the Key On or Off does not matter, the results you need to worry about is when the engine is cranking).

youtube video You can see this specific test step done here in this YouTube video (although it involves a 2.0L Honda CR-V, the test steps are very similar): How To Test The Ignition Coil (1999-2001 2.0L Honda CR-V).

Here's what you'll need to do:

  1. 1

    Connect the alligator clip of the test light to the battery positive (+) terminal.

  2. 2

    With the probe end of the test light, touch the terminal pointed at by the white arrow in the photo on the right. This terminal is normally labeled with a (-) sign on the ignition coil itself. This is the terminal that feeds the switching signal to the Accord, Civic or Odyssey's ignition coil. Also, the color of this wire is usually blue.

  3. 3

    Have your assistant crank the Accord, or Civic, or Odyssey while you observe the test light.

  4. 4

    If the switching signal is present, the test light will light on and off continuously as long as your assistant is cranking the engine.

That was simple enough.. lets interpret the one of two results that this test should give you:

CASE 1: The test light flashed ON and OFF while the engine was cranking. Then the ignition coil is bad, replace it.

Here's why: The flashing on and off of the test light confirms that the Honda's igniter (ignition control module) is receiving its Triggering signal from the ECM (Electronic Control Module=Fuel Injection Computer) and that it's generating the switching signal. Simply put: it's working correctly. So then, if the ignition coil is receiving 12 Volts (which you have already confirmed in TEST 3) and is receiving the switching signal from the igniter- IT HAS TO SPARK. Since it did not, it's bad.

CASE 2: The test light DID NOT flash ON and OFF while the engine was cranking. This test result tells you that the ignition coil is not receiving an activation signal from the igniter.

The next step is to see if the igniter is itself receiving an activation signal from the fuel injection computer. For this test go to: TEST 6: Testing The Igniter For The Triggering Signal to test the igniter itself.

Here's why: The igniter (ignition control module) is the one that creates and provides the switching signal to the ignition coil. It could be bad or maybe it's not receiving the Triggering Signal it needs to generate the switching signal, therefore, we need TEST 6: Testing The Igniter For The Triggering Signal to further investigate this.