Coil-on-plug primary voltage and current (2-wire)

The purpose of this test is to monitor the primary voltage and current within a 2 wire coil on plug unit.

Connection guidance

Connection for diagnostic work will vary dependent on application.

Technicians should wherever possible gain access to the test circuit without damage to seals and insulation. If this is not possible then make sure appropriate repairs are completed.

General connection advice

PicoScope offers a range of options within the test kits.

Dependent on difficulty of access, choose from:

  1. Breakout leads.
  2. Back-pinning probes.

Testing sensors and actuators (to include relevant circuit/connectors):

  • When testing a sensor, it is desirable to gain access at the control module.
  • When testing an actuator, it is desirable to gain access at the actuator.

To avoid damage to your scope, you may need to use an attenuator for this test.

These instructions do not refer to an attenuator as it is based on our PicoScope 4425 automotive scope.

If you are using a previous PicoScope Automotive model, you will need either a 10:1 or 20:1 attenuator and will need to adjust the Probe settings for the relevant channel.

These settings can be found under Channel Options, then:
• Probe > 10:1 Attenuator
• Probe > 20:1 Attenuator

How to perform the test

  1. Use manufacturer data to identify the switched earth terminal on the coil to be tested.
  2. Connect to PicoScope channel A.
  3. Connect the low amp current clamp to PicoScope channel B, select the 20 A scale and zero the clamp before attaching to the same circuit on the vehicle.
  4. Start the engine and allow it to idle.
  5. Minimise the help page and with the example waveform on your screen PicoScope has already selected suitable scales for you to capture a waveform.
  6. Select Go or press the space bar to see live data.
  7. With your live waveform on screen select Stop or press the space bar to stop your capture.
  8. Stop the engine and turn the ignition off.
  9. Use the Waveform Buffer and Zoom tools to examine your waveform.

Example waveform

Waveform notes

Channel A: Coil supply voltage

The waveform being monitored is the supply voltage to the coil. The supply is at the battery or charging voltage of 12 volts or more. When the coil's primary circuit is switched on, the voltage drops and remains at a low level until the current in the primary circuit reaches the target of 5.5 amps, at which point the supply voltage is allowed to spike for ignition.

Channel B: Primary ignition current

The example waveform above shows the current-limiting circuit in operation. The current switches on as the dwell (ECU controlled ground) period starts and rises until approximately 5.5 amps is reached in the primary circuit. At this point the current is released at the point of ignition. The length of time from the initial switching-on point to the moment the current is released depends on engine speed. The lower the engine speed, the shorter the current ramp; then the ramp lengthens with increasing engine revs.

Waveform Library

Go to the drop-down menu bar at the lower left corner of the Waveform Library window and select, ignition coil primary voltage or ignition coil primary current.

Example 2-wire COP

Further guidance

Primary Voltage

Historically, the supply voltage was present as soon as the ignition switch was turned to the 'on' position. Modern systems, however, do not provide a supply until the key is turned to the 'crank' position and the engine turns. A simple fault such as a non-functioning crank angle sensor may result in a loss of supply voltage, simply because the electronic control circuits do not recognize that the engine is rotating.

Primary Current

The example waveform shows the current in the primary circuit switches on as the dwell period starts, and rises until a level of 5.5 amps is reached.

As the engine speed increases, the dwell angle expands to maintain a constant coil saturation time and therefore constant energy. The coil saturation time can be measured by placing one time ruler at the beginning of the dwell period and the other at the end of the current ramp. The distance between the rulers will remain exactly the same regardless of engine speed.


This help topic is subject to changes without notification. The information within is carefully checked and considered to be correct. This information is an example of our investigations and findings and is not a definitive procedure. Pico Technology accepts no responsibility for inaccuracies. Each vehicle may be different and require unique test settings.

Suitable accessories

  • 20 A / 60 A DC (low amps) current clamp


  • Premium 6-way breakout lead set


  • Back-pinning Probe Set


  • Flexible Back-pinning Probe


  • Large Dolphin/Gator Clips


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Guided test: Coil-on-plug primary voltage and current (2-wire)