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on video How Ignition Coils Work

 

All ignition systems for modern petrol engines use ignition coils for the same basic function: to create the high voltage required to produce a spark at the spark plug. Aftermarket professionals will be familiar with their purpose and basic attributes - but they may not know about the in-depth scientific principles they rely on. Here, we explain how electromagnetism is at the heart of an ignition coil's essential role…
The history of ignition coils

Although ignition systems have certainly evolved over time - in particular incorporating more and more electronics - they still bear the hallmarks of the original coil ignition systems that were introduced more than 100 years ago.

The first coil-based ignition system is credited to the American inventor Charles Kettering, who developed a coil ignition system for a major vehicle manufacturer around 1910/1911. For the first time, he devised an electrical system that powered the starter motor and ignition at the same time. The battery, a generator and a more complete vehicle electrical system provided a relatively stable electrical supply to the ignition coil.

The Kettering system (Figure 1) used a single ignition coil to produce a high voltage, which was passed to a rotor arm that effectively pointed the voltage to a series of electrical contacts located in the distributor assembly (one contact for each cylinder). These contacts were then connected by spark plug wires to the spark plugs in a sequence that made it possible to distribute the high voltage to the spark plugs in the correct cylinder firing order.





All ignition systems for modern petrol engines use ignition coils for the same basic function: to create the high voltage required to produce a spark at the spark plug. Aftermarket professionals will be familiar with their purpose and basic attributes - but they may not know about the in-depth scientific principles they rely on. Here, we explain how electromagnetism is at the heart of an ignition coil's essential role…
The history of ignition coils

Although ignition systems have certainly evolved over time - in particular incorporating more and more electronics - they still bear the hallmarks of the original coil ignition systems that were introduced more than 100 years ago.

The first coil-based ignition system is credited to the American inventor Charles Kettering, who developed a coil ignition system for a major vehicle manufacturer around 1910/1911. For the first time, he devised an electrical system that powered the starter motor and ignition at the same time. The battery, a generator and a more complete vehicle electrical system provided a relatively stable electrical supply to the ignition coil.

The Kettering system (Figure 1) used a single ignition coil to produce a high voltage, which was passed to a rotor arm that effectively pointed the voltage to a series of electrical contacts located in the distributor assembly (one contact for each cylinder). These contacts were then connected by spark plug wires to the spark plugs in a sequence that made it possible to distribute the high voltage to the spark plugs in the correct cylinder firing order.


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