This article will help you to test the ignition coil (inside the distributor) on your 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, or 2001 2.4L Nissan Altima.
If your 2.4L Nissan Altime cranks but does not start and you suspect that the ignition coil is bad, this tutorial is for you. Every step is explained in plain English and with photos to guide you every step of the way.
Also, all tests are on-car tests and done without a scan tool or any other expensive diagnostic tool.
Contents of this tutorial:
You can find this tutorial in Spanish here: Cómo Probar La Bobina De Encendido (1997-2001 2.4L Nissan Altima) (at: autotecnico-online.com).
Important Tips And Suggestions
TIP 1: Before starting the ignition coil test, you need to first test all four spark plug wire for spark. If any one of the spark plug wires are sparking, then the ignition coil is good.
TIP 2: The ignition coil test is done with the engine cranking, so please take all necessary safety precautions.
TIP 3: The spark test calls for an HEI spark tester. Can you use any other type of spark tester? YES you can, although the result may not be as accurate (don't have an HEI spark tester? Need to buy one? You can buy it here: OTC 6589 Electronic Ignition Spark Tester).
TIP 4: The ignition coil is located inside the distributor and the test described in this article will test the ignition coil in action. You will not find a resistance test of the ignition coil in this tutorial.
IGNITION COIL TEST 1: Checking For Spark
The spark test is the starting point of your Nissan Altima's ignition coil diagnostic. You need to be absolutely sure that the ignition coil is not sparking.
It's not uncommon for the distributor cap to get so old and worn, that the ignition coil could be sparking, but the cap is unable to transmit the spark to the distributor rotor.
Let's get started:
Remove the distributor cap from the distributor.
Place the HEI spark tester directly on the ignition coil tower (as shown in the photo above).
Connect the HEI spark tester with a battery jump start cable to the battery negative (-) terminal.
The battery jump start cable will also help you hold the spark tester in place.
Once you've got the spark tester set up and you're ready, have your helper crank the engine as you observe the spark tester.
You should get one of two results: spark or no spark.
Let's analyze your test result:
CASE 1: The spark tester sparked. This is the correct test result and lets you know that the ignition coil is fine.
This test result also lets you conclude that the cause of the no-start no-spark condition, of your 2.4L Nissan Altima, is due to a bad distributor cap and distributor rotor only if none of the 4 spark plug wires are sparking.
CASE 2: The spark tester DID NOT spark. In about 90% of the time, this result lets you know that the ignition coil is fried and that replacing it will solve no-start no-spark condition, but not always.
The next step is to make sure that the power transistor is getting 10 to 12 Volts. For this test, go to: IGNITION COIL TEST 2: Making Sure The Ignition Coil Is Getting Power.