Ignition systems and internal combustion engines have been evolving for more than 100 years, each iteration making cars a little more efficient, more reliable and eco-friendly. As a result, ignition systems are now incredibly sophisticated. If you’re interested in automotive careers or would like to pursue auto mechanic training, you should definitely start studying the functionalities and mechanics of these systems. In today’s cars, you’ll find conventional breaker point ignition systems, electronic ignition systems and distributorless ignition systems, among other things.
Understanding the ignition system
The automotive ignition system’s main function is to control the timing of the spark plug. To perform optimally, the ignition system must work hand-in-hand with the rest of the engine. The ignition system’s goal is to ignite the fuel at exactly the right time. If the ignition system provides a spark at the wrong time, the engine will produce less power, which means it will require more gas to travel the same distance.
In the engine, a mixture of fuel and air burns inside a cylinder, which causes the pressure inside the cylinder to increase and the piston to go down. To generate the most power, the ignition system will need to maximize the pressure inside the cylinder. Ideally, the ignition system should send a spark before the piston has finished moving. By the time the piston is in place, the spark will have had its effect and power will be generated.
Engines usually have more than one cylinder. To spark more than one cylinder, the ignition system usually relies on a distributor, which sends high voltage from a coil to the correct cylinder at the right time. The distributor uses a rotor to move around and reach the different cylinders. Over time, the rotor and coil can become worn out or even defective through use. If your car is experiencing mysterious engine problems, a professional with training from an auto mechanic schools would likely tell you to look in this direction, to see if parts of the ignition system need to be tuned up or replaced.
Though most ignition systems use a distributor, some are distributorless. How do they redirect the current, then? It’s a little technical, but essentially the engine control unit directs the transistors that break the ground side of the circuit. Instead of having to rotate, the engine control unit can therefore stay in place, giving it complete control over the timing of the sparks. Since they have no distributor, systems like these have several advantages. For one, they wear out less quickly, which means they require less maintenance. They’re also more precise, which can improve engine efficiency while reducing emissions, making the car simultaneously more powerful as well as more eco-friendly.