How Does a Car Ignition System Work?
Automakers are continuously striving to maximise engine efficiency and reduce pollution generated from it. These efforts have resulted in the development of a highly reliable car ignition system – the one we see in most cars these days.
This guide will tell you more about how a car ignition system works, different car ignition modes, and the functions of various components in an ignition system.
Basics of a Car Ignition System
The ignition system consists of spark plugs that generate an electric spark of high voltage in a determined time. The high voltage then ignites the fuel and air mixture in the engine’s combustion chambers.
Types of Ignition Systems
There are four main types of car ignition systems:
- Conventional breaker-point ignition
- High energy (electronic) ignition
- Distributor-less (waste spark) ignition
- Coil-on-plug ignition
All the above-mentioned types of ignition systems have minimal differences in the way they generate the high voltage spark. While the main function of an ignition system is to generate the spark for igniting the combustible process.
Components of a Basic Ignition System
Since the conventional breaker-point ignition system is the oldest and most common among all the ignition systems. Therefore, we have discussed below its basic components and functions:
- The battery generates current for a car’s ignition system. Car batteries usually feature a nominal voltage of 12V. The current from the car battery electrifies the ignition coil.
Car battery depletion is often a common cause why your car starts for a second and then dies.
- The ignition switch turns the engine on and off. One end is connected to the ignition coil via a primary winding, while the other is connected to the battery.
You may want to check out our guide on the diagnosis and repair of ignition system problems to keep ahead of common switch malfunctioning.
- An ignition coil is the powerhouse of a car’s ignition system. Its main purpose is to build up enough voltage to generate the spark. An ignition coil works like a step-up transformer with two windings. The primary winding has fewer turns as compared to the secondary winding.
- The distributor regulates the spark in all the spark plugs in a sequence, dependent on the firing order.
- Spark plugs in a car play a vital role in the ignition system. They generate a spark for the combustion of air and fuel. In the case of more than one spark plug, each one is connected to a distributor, generating a sequential spark.
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Car Ignition Modes
An ignition switch is an essential component of every car. Without an ignition switch, it is impossible to start a car’s engine. Car functions can be limited by using different ignition modes (positions) of a car switch.
The traditional cars with a standard ignition switch have four modes, while the modern ones have three. The table below describes which functions are enabled and disabled in each mode:
Steering locked, all items of electrical equipment are switched off except for parking lights, cigarette lighter, electrical seat adjustment, hazards/warning flashers and interior lighting
Steering unlocked, electrical equipment including a radio or infotainment system can be used. Windshield wipers, blowers, and power windows can be used as well
All other electrical equipment can be used
Less current is used from the battery in ignition mode I as compared to mode II. So, ignition mode II must be avoided whenever possible.
Technological advancements have greatly reduced the frequent need to service a car’s ignition system. However, to extend your car’s lifespan you must keep your car well-maintained by following a car maintenance schedule. If your car’s ignition system has been posing you trouble lately, then you can consider giving a shot to these used cars for sale in the UAE.
For more information on the functioning of a car ignition system and the latest advancements, stay tuned to the UAE’s top auto blog!