What Tools Do I Need To Test The Ignition System?

Although the tests in this article are easy and simple, you do need some specific tools to perform them with. Here's the list:

  1. An HEI spark tester
    1. This inexpensive spark tester is a MUST have tool to be able to correctly diagnose the ignition system on your Nissan vehicle with the info and 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).
    Don't use a regular spark plug instead of a spark tester.
  2. Battery jump start cables.
  3. A digital multimeter that can read Hertz (Hz) frequency.
    1. Without a multimeter that can read Hertz frequency, you won't be able to accomplish some of these tests. (don't have a digital multimeter that can read Hertz frequency? Click here to see my recommendations: Buying A Digital Multimeter For Automotive Diagnostic Testing).
  4. A helper.
    1. You'll need someone to help you crank the engine while you perform the tests in the engine compartment.
  5. A repair manual.
    1. For whatever remove and replace info you'll need that is not covered by this article.

Power Transistor/Cam Sensor Assembly Circuit Descriptions

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There are 6 wires coming out of the main distributor connector. This connector connects to the power transistor/cam sensor assembly that's located within the distributor.

Now, don't worry, you don't need to test all of them to diagnose this ignition system. Below are the circuit descriptions of all six wires (circuits):

  1. Circuit labeled 1
    1. Triggering Signal for Power Transistor. This Signal comes from the PCM.
  2. Circuit labeled 2
    1. Ground Circuit for the Power Transistor.
  3. Circuit labeled 3
    1. Camshaft Position Sensor Signal - 120° REF Signal.
  4. Circuit labeled 4
    1. Camshaft Position Sensor Signal -1° POS Signal.
  5. Circuit labeled 5
    1. Camshaft Position Sensor Power (12 Volts).
  6. Circuit labeled 6
    1. Camshaft Position Sensor Ground.

NOTE: The photo above is of the Nissan Pathfinder's 6-wire connector. If your vehicle is not a Pathfinder (or QX-4), the colors of the wires will be different. This is no cause for concern because the circuit descriptions are the same.

The following ignition system wiring diagrams include the distributor's 6-wire connector circuits:

  1. Ignition System Wiring Diagram (1999-2004 3.3L Frontier And Xterra).
  2. Ignition System Wiring Diagram (1996-2000 3.3L Pathfinder) (includes Infiniti QX-4).
  3. Ignition System Wiring Diagram (1999-2002 3.3L Nissan Quest) (includes Mercury Villager) (at: troubleshootmyvehicle.com).

Ignition Coil Circuit Descriptions

The other connector has two wires coming out of it and both of these go directly to the ignition coil inside of the distributor. Here are their circuit descriptions:

  1. Circuit labeled 7
    1. Power (12 V) Circuit.
  2. Circuit labeled 8
    1. Switching Signal output to the PCM.

NOTE: The photo above is of the Nissan Pathfinder's 2-wire connector. If your vehicle is not a Pathfinder (or QX-4), the colors of the wires will be different. This is no cause for concern because the circuit descriptions are the same.

The following ignition system wiring diagrams include the distributor's 2-wire connector circuits:

  1. Ignition System Wiring Diagram (1999-2004 3.3L Frontier And Xterra).
  2. Ignition System Wiring Diagram (1996-2000 3.3L Pathfinder) (includes Infiniti QX-4).
  3. Ignition System Wiring Diagram (1999-2002 3.3L Nissan Quest) (includes Mercury Villager) (at: troubleshootmyvehicle.com).

Infiniti Vehicles:

  • QX-4 3.3L
    • 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000

Nissan Vehicle:

  • Frontier 3.3L
    • 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
  • Pathfinder 3.3L
    • 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000
  • Quest 3.3L
    • 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002

Nissan Vehicles:

  • XTerra 3.3L
    • 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004

Mercury Vehicles:

  • Villager 3.3L
    • 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002