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How to Solve Ignition Problems in Your Car

Updated on June 18, 2013

Mercury Capri and other Cars

There are lots of people out there with common ignition problems regardless of the car. One should do some basic testing and inspection before going to a mechanic. The most common issue is the car starts but dies or it is difficult to start, called a hard start. Most cars after 1985, are electronic ignition, which means many things are automated by the car computer etc., however, age old things and related problems still need to be looked at. The following are easy and are common reasons for ignition problems:

Damaged distributor cap (cracked, dirty etc.) if the connectors inside are black (carbon buildup) or white (oxidation), they need to be scrapped clean until shiny metal appears. If the connectors are damaged and not uniform, buy a new cap. If cracked, same.

The rotor may be in a similar condition-it is the part that spins within the distributor cap and attached to the distributor shaft. If you remove it, replace it in the exact manner taken off. The contacts may also need cleaning or just replaced.

Spark plug wires require testing because unless there is obvious melting or damage, there is no way to know if they are still good. Many feel if the wires are more than 5 yrs old or have excess of 36K on them, they are no good. Of course, until you test them, either could be right.

To test a plug wire, you need an Ohm meter. Remove one wire at a time. Connect the red wire of the meter to one end of the wire and the black wire to the other end. The meter should be set to 20k ohms. The length of the wire plays a role, generally, some feel that if the reading is 6-7 ohms per foot, it is good. But, a two foot wire should read 7.5- 9 ohms, a 30 " wire, 9-11 ohms.

For 1991-94 Mercury Capri cars, the manual states the reading should be 4000-7000 ohms per ft. All seem to agree that if the reading is 6 ohms or less, the wire is bad. Some feel new wires should read 10-15000 ohms, but length plays a definite roll. Check the wire from the distributor to the coil.

Of course, the metal connectors should be clean. Take the spark plugs out and examine them, they should be grayish soot and the gap should be per the car spec. Clean as needed.

Checking the voltage of the coil is important for without it, there is no ignition. With the red wire of the meter (now set to volts) connected to the coil and black as a ground to metal, turn on the key. The reading should be at least 10V, if not, coil should be replaced.

If everything checks out, then there is another reason for the ignition problem, like, does the car get gas?


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