AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 0056B ACCREDITED

Ignition System and how they work

Trailblazing automotive companies have achieved remarkable technological advancements over the past decades. As such, all components assembled in a vehicle have undergone numerous enhancements, especially the ignition system.

If you are looking to learn more about ignition systems and why we use them, we have got you covered. In this blog, we will discuss what exactly an ignition system does, its importance, and  the different components that make up its assembly. Additionally, we will also discuss the various types of ignition systems in this particular blog.

The Different Components of an Ignition System

The Battery

The engine and alternator work simultaneously to generate the electricity that recharges the battery. Car batteries store electricity and dissipate it as direct current. In cars, batteries supply 12 volts of direct current.

The Ignition Coil

The ignition coil in the ignition system acts as an electrical power transformer. The early mechanical ignition systems depended on one coil for converting low voltages to the high voltage which is needed by the spark plugs.

The Distributor

The job of the distributor is to create periodic and discrete charges which are then supplied to the primary ignition coil. This component of the ignition system has a breaker point which has a purpose for grounding the circuit of the coil. The breaker point is well-connected to the ground with the help of a lever which is moved because of a cam in connection with the distribution shaft, opening the primary coil circuit. It also causes a collapse which causes high voltage bursts in the secondary coil.

The Spark Plugs and Their Wires

Also known as ignition wires, the spark plug wires are insulated components that are responsible for carrying power to the spark plugs. This is important because combustion will only be possible if spark plugs create a spark. These plugs have an insulated ceramic body and a conductive metal core at the center. The gap is present between the metal central core and the tip of the electrode is grounded to the base of the plugs.

What is The Function of an Ignition System?

When a key is inserted in the ignition port of a vehicle and turned, the engine will start to run. In internal combustion engines, the power to start a vehicle is generated in the engine by creating combustion inside the combustion chamber. The ignition system plays a crucial role in generating this combustion. A spark plug located inside the ignition system will provide a strong enough electric spark which is key for igniting the fuel and air mixture fed into the combustion chamber. For an ignition system to function at its best, it has to be able to complete two tasks perfectly: create a hot and robust enough spark and fire it at the right time.

When creating a spark, the ignition system needs to create a spark strong enough to jump across the gap of the spark plug and combustion chamber. This means the system must increase its voltage from 12 volts to 20,000 volts.

To reach such a high voltage in the quickest time possible, ignition systems in all vehicles, except those that run on diesel, use ignition coils. These coils consist of two wires carefully wrapped around an iron core. This is referred to as the primary winding and secondary winding. In this setup, the coil acts as an electrical power transformer.

By using the energy supplied by the battery, the main purpose of ignition coils is to create an electromagnet. The generated magnetic field collapses when the ignition system is switched off, causing a loss of power to the ignition coil.

During this process, the job of the secondary winding is to capture the magnetic field from the primary magnetic field. It also further raises voltage values from 15,000 volts to 25,000 volts and supplies this voltage to the spark plug which finally creates combustion in the combustion chamber of the engine.

While all this is happening inside the ignition system, the assembly also needs to make sure that the spark is fired at just the right time. In order to do it correctly, a substantial voltage has to be delivered to the right cylinder at the right time, firing at the precise moment during the compression stroke to maximize the power generated from the air and fuel mixture.

Over the years, engineers have successfully used many methods to light the spark at the right moment. The ignition systems used in the early days of aviation had fully mechanical distributors that controlled the spark timing. This was followed by hybrid distributors that comprised solid-state switches and an engine control module. Today, coil-on-plug ignition systems are used which are highly efficient, have significantly better spark timing, and generate a much hotter spark.

The Importance of Ignition System

Without a proper ignition system, your car may have problems starting up. In fact, there are chances that your car won't run at all without it. As such, taking care of this system is extremely crucial.

Faulty components and plugs will have a negative impact on the performance of the engine. It may also cause bigger troubles like misfiring, difficulty starting up, poor fuel economy, and lack of power. Additionally, faulty components may cause permanent damage if the issue is not addressed in time. It is also to be remembered that engine problems triggered by a faulty ignition engine might cause further damage to other components of your car.

To ensure smooth and safe driving, it is recommended to conduct a visual inspection of your ignition system and all its components at least once a year so you become aware of possible wear and failure of components early on. Spark plugs can be inspected and replaced at the interval suggested by the manufacturer of your car.


Fastener Orbit is a trusted NSN supplier that has revolutionized the part procurement process for our customers. We offer top-quality electric connector parts, aircraft parts, and much more. We operate with AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B accreditation. If you want to order parts from our website, feel free to glance through our part and manufacturer catalogs and order today!


February 19, 2023
December 2, 2022

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