An Intro to Coil On Plug Ignition Systems for Those Interested in Auto Mechanic Training

A coil on plug (COP) ignition is a system where an individual ignition coil is placed atop a spark plug, found on the head of the cylinder and separating coils from exhaust heat. This makes it easier for spark plugs to receive voltage. 

As someone learning how to become an auto mechanic, you’d be wise to understand how coil on plug ignition systems work, as well as how to spot signs of failure and how to fix them — particularly since they can be found on many more recent car models.

Not only do these ignition systems mean a spark plug wire or distributor is no longer necessary, but they also help car owners steer clear of any mishaps resulting from their high voltage plug wires malfunctioning. Here are some facts about coil on plug ignition systems.

Coil On Plug Ignition Systems Explained for Auto Mechanic Training Students

A coil on plug ignition system serves many purposes. For one, having this system in place can allow for individual coils to ignite spark plugs. This can lead to each cylinder having their sparks controlled individually, allowing for reduced emissions and an increased horsepower capacity due to more optimized control for spark timing. 

Essentially, coil on plug systems allow for each coil to fire between larger time intervals. With this system in place, the engine control unit takes cues from sensors to control the timing of the car’s ignition. Therefore, spark timing can be more accurate. Not only that, but having coils attached to spark plugs means plug wires are no longer necessary.

Having ignition coils on spark plugs negates the need for plug wires

How are COP Systems Built, and What Kinds of Things Can Go Wrong?

Students doing their training in the automotive industry should understand not only how COP ignition systems function, but what they’re made of. Essentially, COP systems replace four different parts in the car: distributor caps, distributor rotors, distributor shafts, and spark plug wires. 

Auto mechanic students should also recognize the signs of when COP ignition systems can malfunction. The most frequent cause is typically overheating, whether through excessive cycles of heat or gradual accumulation of heat. Other potential problems can include corrosion of certain parts or the failure of the coil’s internal primary windings. 

Coil failure can often be detected through several types of symptoms, such as difficulty starting the car (either by not starting or hard starting), driving problems while accelerating, or stalling engines. Any breaking, corrosion or weakening of coils can lead to COP ignition systems misfiring.

Cars being unable to start, or hard starting, can be symptoms of coil failure

Other Qualities of Coil On Plug Ignition Systems

Another major advantage of a COP ignition system that auto mechanic training students should be aware of is how they use ignition coils that can generate higher voltages. As a result, they’re able to prevent coils from the impact of heat from the exhaust. 

Furthermore, COP ignition systems can generate about 30% more energy than traditional systems based around single coils or distributors. The presence of these ignition systems and lack of necessity for separate plug wires results in a more durable system, as well as a more cost-effective one. Better yet, COP ignition systems can prevent lean mixtures of fuel from misfiring, and mean that only a single cylinder misfires in the event of a faulty coil.

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