Testing The Ignition System (1996, 1997 2.2L Accord EX, Odyssey)

This tutorial will show you how to test the ignition system on the 1996-1997 2.2L Honda Accord And 2.2L Odyssey.

You'll be able to test and find out if the following are good or bad: ignition coil, igniter (ignition control module), spark plug wires (hight tension wires), distributor cap, and distributor rotor.

All of the test steps are explained in detail and in plain English so that you can get to the bottom of the ignition system problem!

NOTE: This tutorial only covers the ignition system with the ignition coil inside the distributor.

APPLIES TO: This tutorial, on how to test the ignition system, applies to the following vehicles:

  1. 2.2L Honda Accord EX: 1996, 1997 (with internally mounted ignition coil).
  2. 2.2L Honda Odyssey: 1996, 1997 (with internally mounted ignition coil).

WIRING DIAGRAM: You can find the ignition system wiring diagram here: Ignition System Wiring Diagram (1996-1997 2.2L Honda Accord EX).

Symptoms Of A Bad Igniter And Ignition System Malfunction

Ignition system malfunctions usually cause one of two types of problems. You'll see one of the following:

  1. The ignition system problem causes the engine to not start (engine cranks but does not start).
  2. The ignition system problem allows the engine to start, but the engine runs with a misfire.

To be a bit more specific, it's usually when the igniter (ignition control module) fails or the ignition coil fails that the engine will 'crank but not start'.

A bad distributor cap and distributor rotor can also cause the engine to not start when they fail. But for the most part, they are more likely to cause a misfire problem.

Spark plug wires will eventually fail, and when they do, they'll cause a misfire problem.

When the ignition system is causing a misfire problem, you'll see one or more of the following misfire trouble codes lighting up the check engine light:

  1. P0300: Random Cylinder Misfire.
  2. P0301: Cylinder #1 Misfire.
  3. P0302: Cylinder #2 Misfire.
  4. P0303: Cylinder #3 Misfire.
  5. P0304: Cylinder #4 Misfire.

This tutorial will help you test all of aforementioned ignition system components.

What Tools Do I Need To Test The Ignition System?

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

  1. A 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. An automotive 12 Volt 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 And How To Make One.
  4. A wire piercing probe.
    1. You can see an example of this tool 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.

How Does The Honda Igniter (Ignition Control Module) Work?

In a nutshell and when the ignition system, on your 2.2L Honda Accord (Odyssey) is working properly; when you turn the key to crank and start the engine:

  1. 12 Volts flow into the distributor.
  2. These 12 Volts are then distributed to the igniter (ignition control module) and the ignition coil.
  3. The distributor shaft starts to turn (as the engine cranks and starts) and the CYP, TDC, and CKP sensors start producing and sending their position signals to the fuel injection computer.
  4. Upon receiving these CYP/TDC/CKP position signals, the computer sends a triggering signal to activate the igniter.
  5. The igniter upon receiving this activation signal in turn sends an activation signal to the ignition coil.
  6. The ignition coil, upon receiving this activation signal, starts to spark away!
  7. The fuel injection computer controls the igniter at start up and at all engine speeds after start up.

Important Do's and Don't's

Here are a few suggestions to help you to diagnose the ignition system free of headaches and/or complications:

  1. Do not use a regular spark plug instead of a spark tester to test for spark.
  2. Do not remove the spark plug wire from the spark plug while the engine is cranking to test for spark.
  3. Keep your hands and fingers away from the rotating distributor shaft when your helper is cranking the engine during the tests.
  4. You may have to remove the distributor rotor from the distributor. The rotor is secured to the distributor shaft by a screw, which usually requires cranking the engine to get the screw to the topside for removal. Either:
    1. Remove the ignition fuse.
    2. Or disconnect the connector outside the distributor.
    This will guarantee that the ignition coil receives no power and that it will not spark when you crank the engine.

Since you'll be working around a cranking engine this section can be summed up with the following: use common sense and take all necessary safety precautions.

Honda Vehicles:

  • Accord 2.2L
    • 1996,
      1997
  • Odyssey 2.2L
    • 1996,
      1997