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

The purpose of this test is to evaluate the correct operation of a 2-wire COP via the primary ignition voltage based on the coil oscillation, burn time, dwell period and the induced voltage during engine run conditions.

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 earth terminal for the coil to be tested.
  2. Connect to PicoScope channel A.
  3. Start the engine and allow to idle.
  4. Minimise the help page and with the example waveform on your screen PicoScope has already selected suitable scales for you to capture a waveform.
  5. Select go or press the space bar to see live data.
  6. With your live waveform on screen press stop or the space bar to capture your waveform.
  7. Stop the engine and turn the ignition off.
  8. Use the Waveform Buffer and Zoom tools to examine your waveform.

Example waveform

Waveform notes

The ignition primary waveform is measuring the negative side of the ignition coil. The earth path of the coil can produce over 350 volts.

Within the primary picture there are several sections that need closer examination. In the waveform shown, the horizontal voltage line at the centre of the oscilloscope begins fairly constant at about 40 volts, but then drops sharply into what is referred to as the coil oscillation. This can also be seen in Figure 2.

The length of the aforementioned horizontal voltage line is the 'spark duration' or 'burn time', which in this case is 1.036 ms. This can again be seen in Figure 3. The coil oscillation period should display at least 4 peaks (counting both upper and lower). A loss of peaks indicates that the coil needs substituting for another of comparable specifications.

There is no current in the coil's primary circuit until the dwell period (Figure 4), which is when the coil is earthed and the measured voltage drops to zero. The dwell period is controlled by the ignition amplifier, and the length of the dwell is determined by the time it takes to build up approximately 8 amps. When this predetermined current has been reached, the amplifier stops increasing the primary current and maintains it until the earth is removed from the coil, at the precise moment of ignition.

The vertical line at the centre of the trace, called the 'induced voltage', is above 200 volts. The induced voltage is produced by a process called magnetic induction. At the point of ignition, the coil's earth circuit is removed and the magnetic field or flux collapses across the coil's windings. This in turn induces an average voltage between 150 to 350 volts (Figure 5). The coil's High Tension (HT) output is proportional to the induced voltage. The height of the induced voltage is sometimes referred to as the primary peak volts.

Waveform Library

Go to the drop-down menu bar at the lower left corner of the Waveform Library window and select, COP (Coil on plug ignition) primary voltage.

Further guidance

The primary ignition is so called as it forms the first part of the ignition circuit. Through the ignition coil, it drives the secondary High Tension (HT) output. The primary circuit has evolved from the basic contact breaker points and condenser to the distributorless and coil-per-cylinder systems in common use today. All of these ignition systems rely on the magnetic induction principle.

Magnetic induction

This principle starts with a magnetic field being produced, as the coil's earth circuit is completed by either the contacts or the amplifier providing the coil negative terminal with a path to earth. When this circuit is complete, a magnetic field is produced and builds until the coil becomes magnetically saturated. At the predetermined point of ignition, the coil's earth is removed and the magnetic field collapses. As the field inside the coil's 250 to 350 primary windings collapses, it induces a voltage of 150 to 350 volts.

The induced voltage is determined by:

  • The number of turns in the primary winding
  • The strength of the magnetic flux, which is proportional to the current in the primary circuit
  • The rate of collapse, which is determined by the speed of switching of the earth path

Dwell period

Dwell is measured as an angle: with contact ignition, this is determined by the points gap. The definition of contact ignition dwell is: 'the number of degrees of distributor rotation with the contacts closed'.

As an example, a 4 cylinder engine has a dwell of approximately 45 degrees, which is 50% of one cylinder's complete primary cycle. The dwell period on an engine with electronic ignition is controlled by the current-limiting circuit within the amplifier or Electronic Control Module (ECM).

The dwell angle on a constant-energy system expands as the engine speed increases, to compensate for a shorter period of rotation and maximise the strength of the magnetic field. The term 'constant energy' refers to the available voltage produced by the coil. This remains constant regardless of engine speed, unlike contact ignition where an increase in engine speed means the contacts are closed for a shorter time and gives the coil less time to saturate .

The induced voltage on a variable dwell system remains constant regardless of engine speed, while it reduces on contact systems. This induced voltage can be seen on a primary waveform.

GT044-3

Disclaimer
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

  • 10:1 Attenuator

    £64.00

  • Premium 6-way breakout lead set

    £269.00

  • Back-pinning Probe Set

    £40.00

  • Large Dolphin/Gator Clips

    £10.00

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