Glow plug voltage and current

The purpose of this test is to examine individual glow plug operation through measurement of voltage and current.

How to perform the test

View connection guidance notes.

  1. Use manufacturer’s data to identify the glow plug supply circuit.
  2. Connect a low amp clamp to PicoScope Channel A.
  3. Select the 60 A scale and zero the clamp.
  4. Attach the clamp around the (individual) suspect glow plug supply wire.
  5. Connect PicoScope Channel B voltage probe to the same glow plug supply wire.
  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. Switch on the ignition, wait for the glow plug warning light to extinguish, then start the engine and let it idle.
  9. Depending on the system type and engine operating conditions, the glow plugs may be activated for a period of time after the engine has started.
  10. With your waveforms on screen stop the scope.
  11. Turn off the engine.
  12. Use the Waveform Buffer, Zoom and Measurements tools to examine your waveform.

Note

The glow plugs may not activate if the ambient and engine temperature conditions are not correct.

The orientation of the clamp relative to the wire will determine whether it has a positive or negative output. If a live waveform does not appear on your screen, or appears to be inverted, try reversing the orientation of the clamp.

Example waveform

Waveform notes

These known good waveforms have the following characteristics:

Channel A

  • An initial current peak of 25 A falling to 20 A over a period of approximately 2 s.
  • A change to a pulse width modulated (PWM) signal with an initial peak voltage around 23 A reducing to 20 A after around 8 s.
  • Zero circuit current as the engine is cranked.
  • After the engine starts, a return to PWM with the peak current stabilising at around 20 A.
  • Continued PWM operation for a further 1 min 30 s, to give a total on time of approximately 1 min 45 s.

Channel B shows the voltage driving the current in the glow plug circuit:

  • With the engine off, the supply voltage is at 10.8 V (battery voltage).
  • Once the engine is running the circuit supply voltage is the system voltage, at around 13.5 V.
  • When the supply voltage is removed, no current flows through the circuit.

Waveform Library

Go to the drop-down menu bar in the lower left corner of the Waveform Library window and select glow plug current or glow plug voltage.

Further guidance

Glow plugs support diesel fuel combustion and emissions control processes.

Injected diesel fuel ignites if the cylinder charge temperature reaches 850° C during compression. However, this temperature may not be achieved with cold ambient air conditions and engine components. In these circumstances, the glow plugs are activated to heat the cylinder charge and ensure adequate combustion.

Different types of glow plug are available, with rapid glow systems replacing the traditional direct current type. The later systems tend to use ceramic glow plugs, reducing the glow wait time by more than 50%. Their operating temperatures are in the range from 1000° to 1100° C. Manufacturer specifications vary but these systems are not activated with ambient temperatures above 9°C or if the vehicle is driven and engine speed exceeds 2500 rpm.

Rapid glow plugs have two coils internally connected in series, a small heating coil at the plug tip and a larger regulating coil within the plug case. These systems use Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) of the supply voltage to regulate the circuit current and to control glow plug temperature.

Rapid glow systems operate in several modes:

Pre-heat: increases the temperature of the cylinder charge within the combustion chamber prior to start up. As soon as the glow plug temperature has stabilised after their initial activation, they will be switched via PWM to prevent overheating.

Engine cranking: the glow plugs are deactivated to ensure maximum battery capacity is available for the starter motor.

Post heat: the glow plug temperature is regulated via PWM whilst the engine is running. This helps to reduce engine cold running noise and emissions. The post heat run time can vary greatly as it depends on a variety of environmental factors, the engine conditions, and the system design.

Warning:  it is often impossible to distinguish standard and rapid glow type glow plugs by visual inspection. Many of the latter systems operate at lower voltages, such as 4 to 5 V or 7 V. Therefore, glow plugs must not be tested using a directly applied voltage, such as that from the battery positive terminal, a test probe or other test device. An unregulated current through the glow plug will cause irreversible damage.

Glow plug circuits are susceptible to a variety of faults, such as:

  • Short or open circuits or high resistances within the circuitry or connections
  • Control failures, such as ECM, control module or relay failures
  • Application of 12 V directly onto a glow plug outside of ECM control (incorrect testing)
  • Thermal failures, such as those caused by:
    • excessive carbon build-up (causing overheating)
    • an incorrect injector spray pattern (over cooling)
    • incorrect timing and/or fuel delivery

The most common glow plug fault is a thermal failure from overheating.

Symptoms of failed glow plugs:

  • Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) or glow plug warning lamp illumination
  • Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs)
  • Engine non-starting
  • Excessive emissions when cold
  • Excessive cranking time
  • Rough running when cold
  • Excessive particulate build-up in the Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF), Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR), Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) and intake (via EGR) systems

Diagnostic trouble codes

Selection of component-related Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs):

P037D

P037E

P037F

P0380

P0381

P0382

P0383

P0384

P064C

P066A

P066B

P066C

P066D

P066E

P066F

P0670

P0671

P0672

P0673

P0674

P0675

P0676

P0677

P0678

P0679

P067A

P067B

P067C

P067D

P067E

P067F

P0680

P0681

P0682

P0683

P0684

P068C

P068D

P068E

P068F

P069A

P069B

P069C

P069D

P06B9

P06BA

P06BB

P06BC

P06BD

P06BE

P06BF

P06C0

P06C1

P06C2

P06C3

P06C5

P06C6

P06C7

P06C8

P06C9

P06CA

P06CB

P06CC

P06CD

P06CE

P06CF

P06D0

U0106

U0307

U0407

View more

GT145

Disclaimer

Suitable accessories

  • 30 A (low amps) current clamp

    £259.00

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

    £111.00

  • Multimeter Probes

    £6.00

  • Premium 6-way breakout lead set

    £269.00

  • Back-pinning Probe Set

    £40.00

  • Flexible Back-pinning Probe

    £3.00

  • PicoScope Battery Clip

    £2.75

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Guided test: Glow plug - voltage and current