TEST 5: Testing The Ignition Coil's Switching Signal

Testing For Spark At The Ignition Coil. Testing The Ignition System (1996, 1997 2.2L Accord EX, 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 ignition coil's switching signal is present.

If you've reached this point, you have confirmed that:

  • There's no spark coming out of the 4 spark plug wires (TEST 1).
  • There's no spark coming out of the ignition coil's tower (TEST 3).
  • The ignition coil and the igniter are receiving 10 to 12 Volts (TEST 4).

In this test section, we're now gonna' check that the ignition coil is getting its activation signal.

To test for the presence of the ignition coil's Switching signal, we're gonna' use a 12 Volt automotive test light.

These are the test steps:

  1. 1

    Remove the distributor cap from the distributor.

    NOTE: As a safety precaution, remove the distributor rotor.

  2. 2

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

  3. 3

    With the probe end of the test light, touch the terminal the orange arrow in the photo above is pointing to.

    This terminal is normally labeled with a (-) sign on the ignition coil itself. This is the terminal that feeds the switching signal ignition coil.

  4. 4

    Have your assistant crank the engine while you observe the test light.

  5. 5

    The test light should blink ON and OFF continuously as long as your assistant is cranking the engine.

Let's interpret your test result:

CASE 1: The test light flashed ON and OFF while the engine was cranking. This is the correct test result and it lets you know that the igniter is creating/supplying the ignition coil with the Switching signal.

You can conclude that the ignition coil is bad and needs to be replaced if you have:

  • Confirmed that there's no spark coming out of the 4 spark plug wires (TEST 1).
  • Confirmed that there's no spark coming out of the ignition coil's tower (TEST 3).
  • Confirmed that the ignition coil and the igniter are receiving 10 to 12 Volts (TEST 4).
  • Confirmed, in this test section, that the ignition coil is receiving its Switching signal.

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

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 to further troubleshoot this in: TEST 6: Testing The Igniter For The Triggering Signal.

TEST 6: Testing The Igniter For The Triggering Signal

Testing For Spark At The Ignition Coil. Testing The Ignition System (1996, 1997 2.2L Accord EX, Odyssey)

The igniter (ignition control module) receives an activation signal (Triggering signal) from your Honda's fuel injection computer.

It's this activation signal that makes the igniter start activating the ignition coil.

So if this activation signal is missing, the igniter will not activate the ignition coil to start sparking away.

The cool thing is that you and I can easily check for the presence of the igniter's activation signal with an LED light (a 12 Volt test light will not work).

You can see an example of this LED light here and find out where you can buy one here: The LED Light Test Tool And How To Make One.

NOTE: To check for the presence of the igniter's activation signal, the distributor must remain connected to its electrical connector. You'll need to use a back probe on the connector or a wire piercing probe on the signal wire to access the igniter's activation signal. You can see an example of this tool here: Wire Piercing Probe.

OK, let's get testing:

  1. 1

    Connect the black lead of the LED light to the yellow with green stripe (YEL/GRN) wire of the distributor's connector (the arrow in the photo above points to the YEL/GRN wire.

    NOTE: The distributor must remain connected to its electrical connector for this test to work.

  2. 2

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

  3. 3

    Have your assistant crank the engine while you observe the LED light.

  4. 4

    The LED light should blink ON and OFF continuously as long as your assistant is cranking the engine.

Let's analyze your LED light test result:

CASE 1: The LED light flashed ON and OFF while the engine was cranking. This is the correct and expected test result and it lets you know that the fuel injection computer is activating the igniter (ignition control module).

You can conclude that the ignition coil is bad (and needs to be replaced) if you have:

  • Confirmed that none of the four spark plug wires are delivering spark (TEST 1).
  • Confirmed that the ignition coil is not sparking and the distributor rotor is turning (TEST 3).
  • Confirmed that the igniter and the ignition coil are being fed 10 to 12 Volts DC (TEST 4).
  • Confirmed that the igniter is NOT activating the ignition coil with a switching signal (TEST 5).
  • Confirmed that the igniter IS getting a triggering signal from the fuel injection computer (this test step).

CASE 2: The LED light DID NOT flash ON and OFF while the engine was cranking. This confirms that the fuel injection computer is not activating the igniter.

The most likely cause of this missing signal is that one of the crankshaft position sensors (CYP, TDC, or CKP) is bad. Or there's an open-circuit problem in the YEL/GRN wire between the connector and the fuel injection computer.

Although testing the two aforementioned causes are beyond the scope of this tutorial, you have now eliminated the following as the cause of the no-start problem your 1996-1997 2.2L Honda Accord (Odyssey) is having:

  1. Igniter (ignition control module).
  2. Ignition coil.
  3. Distributor cap and rotor.
  4. Spark plug wires.
  5. Main relay.

More 2.2L Honda Accord Tutorials

You can find a complete list of 2.2L Honda tutorials in this index:

Here's a small sample of the tutorials you'll find in the index:

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Honda Vehicles:

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