This tutorial will help you to test the ignition coil (inside the distributor) on your 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 or 2004 2.4L Nissan Frontier or XTerra.
You don't need a scan tool or any other exotic/expensive type of diagnostic equipment, so if your Nissan Frontier or XTerra Cranks but doesn't Start and you think it's due to a bad ignition coil, this article is for you.
The ignition coil test in this tutorial is an on-car test that will tell you that either the ignition coil is bad or not the cause of the no start No Spark issue on your Frontier or XTerra.
Contents of this tutorial:
Puedes encontrar este tutorial en Español aquí: Cómo Probar La Bobina De Encendido (1998-2004 2.4L Frontier, Xterra) (en: autotecnico-online.com).
Important Tips And Suggestions
TIP 1: Since this ignition coil test is an On Car test, you'll need to do it while cranking the engine, so it goes without saying you have to be careful and take all necessary safety precautions.
TIP 2: You WILL need a spark tester and this article is based around the HEI spark tester. Can you use any other type of spark tester?... YES you can, although the result may not be as accurate.
TIP 3: Measuring the resistance of the Primary and Secondary circuits of the ignition coil is a complete waste of time, this test is not included here.
TIP 4: If the ignition coil is bad, you'll have to buy the whole distributor since the ignition coil is not sold separately.
IGNITION COIL TEST 1: Checking For Spark
The first test is to make sure that the ignition coil is sparking or not (and this means removing the distributor cap and testing for spark directly on the ignition coil).
Now, since it's a common thing for the distributor cap to go bad and keep the spark from leaving the distributor, this will help to blame or exonerate it (as the cause of the no-spark no-start condition on your Frontier or XTerra).
Alright, this is what you need to do:
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 spark tester to the battery negative (-) terminal with a jump start cable. The battery jump start cable will also help you to hold the spark tester in place.
Have your assistant crank the engine once the spark tester is in place and you're ready.
You should get one of two results: spark or No spark.
Let's take a look at what your test results mean:
CASE 1: The spark tester sparked. This is the correct test result and it tells you that the ignition coil is fine. The cause of the no-start no-spark condition is being caused by a bad distributor cap and distributor rotor.
CASE 2: The spark tester DID NOT spark. In about 90% of the time, this spark test result tells you 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 ignition coil is getting 12 Volts. For this test, go to: IGNITION COIL TEST 2: Making Sure The Ignition Coil Is Getting Power.