Ignition Module Buyer's Guide
- The ignition module remains a critical part of any vehicle engine that uses an electronic ignition system.
- It makes sure that the internal combustion engine burns fuel at the right rate for optimal performance and fuel efficiency.
- The location of the ignition module depends on where the vehicle was manufactured.
- In a domestic model, the module sits on, inside, or near the distributor housing.
- Foreign models will hide their ignitor within the vehicle’s firewall or wheel-well.
- Here are some of the most common symptoms of ignition module failure: illuminated check engine light, engine misfire, engine stall or refusal to start.
- Ignition module failure may be caused by overheating and wiring issues within the module.
- CarParts.com offers a range of ignition module replacements with price tags between $3.80 and $489.09.
What does an ignition module do?
The ignition module also goes by the names “ignition control module” and “electric spark control module.” It generates a spark that heats up a mixture of fuel and air until they combust. The hot gases from the burning mix serves to power an internal combustion engine.
Aside from igniting the fuel-air mixture, the ignition module also regulates the timing of the spark plugs. The module can open or close the ignition coil ground circuit at will, allowing it to advance or retard the ignition system so that it burns as much fuel as possible.
The module obtains data from the position sensors placed in the crankshaft or camshaft . It uses the information to set the base ignition timing, ensuring that the vehicle’s spark plugs will fire at the right time and with enough intensity to eliminate the risk of unburned fuel.
Different engines will have different ignition requirements. Modified engines fitted with turbochargers, superchargers, split high-velocity intakes, or variable valve times rely on ignition modules that can keep up with their high performance.
Likewise, some engines can burn multiple types of fuel with relatively little loss of efficiency. They use a flexible ignition system that can adjust the output and timing of the spark plugs to burn whatever fuel goes into the engine.
Before getting a replacement ignition module, find out if your vehicle’s engine imposes specific demands on its ignition system.
The ignition module in the age of the engine control module
Thanks to advancements in ignition technology, we have access to vehicles that are cleaner, more efficient, and more reliable than the previous generation. The newest units carry a computer called the engine control module (ECM) that takes over the ignition module’s job. The crankshaft and camshaft sensors send their observations to the ECM, which directs the ignition module to take care of the vehicle’s base ignition timing.
Some vehicles restrict their ECM to handling ignition timing for heavy loads. If the engine exceeds a specified revolutions per minute (RPM) setting, the ECM will instruct the ignition module to boost the engine’s power by advancing the ignition timing.
At the lower RPM settings during cruising and low throttle speeds, the ignition module retains control of the spark plugs and retards their timing. The sensors send their readings to the ignitor instead of the ECM to ensure accurate control of the ignition process.
Where is the ignition module located?
The location of the ignition module depends on where the vehicle was manufactured. In a domestic model, the module sits on, inside, or near the distributor housing. Foreign models will hide their ignitor within the vehicle’s firewall or wheel-well.
In case you cannot find the ignition control module in those locations, check the manual or a wiring diagram. You can also track it down by inspecting the vehicle’s ignition system. Most types have wiring harnesses that come out of the distributor cap or hook up to the ignition coil.
Common symptoms of ignition module failure
The ignition module not only starts up the internal combustion engine, it also makes sure that the engine continues to run as designed. As such, any failure on the part of the module leads to a cascade of engine performance issues.
The following indicators show that the ignition module may no longer be working correctly and needs repair or replacement:
Check engine light is on
The ECM keeps track of every part that could alter the vehicle’s emission profile. If it detects a problem with the ignition module, the computer will turn the check engine light on to warn the driver about the faulty ignitor.
A malfunctioning ignition module can botch the precise timing for firing the spark plugs. When that happens, the engine may fail to burn all the fuel-air mixture in its combustion chamber. It will misfire, run rough, and experience poor acceleration. If your car’s engine becomes prone to misfires, check its ignition module for problems.
The engine stalls or refuses to start
If an ignition module fails to generate a sufficiently powerful electric spark, the fuel-air mix will not catch fire. In this case, the engine will stall.
The worst case scenario involves the ignitor dying outright. Deprived of even an anemic spark from a partially-working ignition module, the engine will refuse to start.
Ignition module failure causes
Two of the most common causes for ignition module failure are overheating and poor electrical connections.
Like most electronic devices, the ignition module fares poorly in high temperatures. An overheated module can short out electrical systems and cause the engine to stutter, lose power, and stall. The vehicle’s fuel efficiency drops and its exhaust emission bears the stink of unburned fuel.
To find out if the ignition module suffers from overheating, keep the engine on idle for 30 minutes. Use a screwdriver to lightly rap the electronic device. If the engine stalls upon impact, the module is likely overheated.
Issues with the module’s electrical connections
The ignition module interacts with the spark plugs and engines through its electrical connections. Loose, corroded, and damaged connections can lead to stalling and failed starts.
Removing rust from the electrical terminals and replacing any broken wires may restore the ignition module’s functionality. However, damage caused by repeated overheating may prove irreparable.
Buying an ignition module replacement
CarParts.com offers a range of ignition module replacements with price tags between $3.80 and $489.09. Please remember that this price range is exclusive to our website and you may find higher price tags in the market. Modules are available individually, in sets of 2, as part of a kit, and as an assembly. By entering the year, make, and model of your car in the filter tab, you can quickly find an ignition module that perfectly fits your engine.
DIY Project: Replacing Your Car's Ignition Module
When your car keeps on stalling or becomes difficult to start, you usually start checking the battery, fuel levels, and spark plugs to know where the problem is coming from. It's possible that after taking a look at these parts, you'll still encounter the same issue and you'll have no clue as to why the problem won't go away. If this is the case, you might want to see if your ignition module is in good shape. When this part is damaged, there is a high possibility for you to run into the problems mentioned above.
The ignition module is an electronic switch that transfers signals to the ignition coil that makes the spark plugs fire and start your engine. Without the switch, the car doesn't start. Don't fret if you're having this kind of problem because you don't really need a mechanic to replace your car's ignition coil. This DIY project is possible once you have the right tools and a step-by-step instruction guide.
Difficulty level: Moderate
You need the following tools:
- Car owner's manual
- Overhead lamp or flash light
Step 1: Disconnect the cables attached to the battery of your car.
Step 2: Remove the clamps holding the ignition module in place. You can use a flat tip screwdriver to push the clamps away. Avoid pushing the clamps hard so you don't break them.
Step 3: Detach all the wires and bolts connected to the ignition module before removing the module from its housing.
Step 4: Insert the new module and place it to the housing. Just follow the way the old module was placed there.
Step 5: Reconnect all the wires that was taken out of the ignition module. Make sure to put back all the screws and bolts in place. See to it that the wires are not twisted or bent to allow good electric flow once you rev up the engine.
Step 6: Reconnect the battery. You can now close the hood and do a drive test. If everything goes smoothly, the engine should start.