Products suited to this guided test*
  • Secondary ignition pickup (capacitive with BNC)

  • Multimeter Probes

  • *At Pico we are always looking to improve our products. The tools used in this guided test may have been superseded and the products above are our latest versions used to diagnose the fault documented in this case study.

Distributorless Ignition System (DIS) primary vs secondary ignition

The purpose of this test is to investigate the relationship between the primary ignition characteristic and the secondary ignition event within a DIS system.



This test involves measuring a potentially hazardous voltage.

Please ensure you follow manufacturers' safety instructions and working practices and ensure the rated voltage for all accessories you are using meets or exceeds the expected voltage.




Uninsulated HT pickups are designed to clip around double-insulated HT leads only – they are not designed for direct connection to a hazardous live voltage.

To prevent injury or death, when connecting or disconnecting an HT pickup:

  1. switch off the ignition
  2. clean the HT leads
  3. inspect them for damage
  4. clip the HT pickup over the desired undamaged HT lead
  5. ensure all test leads are kept clear of hot or rotating parts before starting the engine


How to perform the test

View connection guidance notes.

  1. Ensure the ignition is turned off.
  2. Connect the 10:1 attenuator to PicoScope Channel A.
  3. Connect PicoScope Channel A to the ignition coil negative terminal and to earth.
  4. Connect a secondary ignition pick up lead to one of the coil HT leads and to PicoScope Channel B. Ensure the ignition pick up lead is also connected to earth.
  5. Start and run the engine at idle.
  6. Minimize the help page. You will see that PicoScope has displayed an example waveform and is preset to capture your waveform.
  7. Start the scope to see live data.
  8. With your waveforms on screen stop the scope.
  9. Stop the engine and ensure the ignition is off.
  10. Use the Waveform Buffer, Zoom and Measurements tools to examine your waveform.


This helpfile refers to a 10:1 attenuator. If you are using a 20:1 attenuator please adjust the Probe settings for the relevant channel. These settings can be found under the Channel Options button, then: Probe > 20:1 Attenuator.


If a secondary waveform cannot be seen then this could be because the output is positive-fired. If the HT pickup is moved to another HT extension lead, the waveform should then appear.

Alternatively, you can change the settings to look at a positive-fired coil. Select settings for channel B and change the probe from Secondary Ignition Probe (Inverted) to Secondary Ignition Probe (Pos).

Example waveform

Waveform notes

The example waveform shows the close relationship between the ignition's primary circuit and the secondary output. The primary circuit transfers its characteristics into the secondary through mutual inductance, causing the secondary to mirror the primary exactly.


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.

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Guided test: Primary vs Secondary