Niagara Gazette

Columns

September 12, 2013

TOM'S CORNER: The evolution of the ignition system

Niagara Gazette — Back when I was a young aspiring auto technician, the term “I need a tune up” was uttered quite commonly. It usually signaled that the driver sensed that the engine was running poorly and thus needed the ignition system to be refurbished. In the old days, ignition systems usually consisted of a set of electrical breaker points that were driven by the distributor (which governed the firing of the spark from the ignition coil), a condenser (that acted as an electrical storehouse when the points were open so the electrical charge would not jump or arch back across the points resulting in misfire), a mechanical spark distributor, distributor cap and rotor, sparkplug wires, and sparkplugs.

The way the system worked was really quite simple. A gear drove the distributor either off the camshaft or oil pump. Electricity was fed to the distributor and, as it spun, the points opened and closed making and breaking the electrical circuit between the ignition coil and the distributor. This making and breaking of electrical flow caused voltage buildup within the coil and then the dispersing of a high intensity spark at precisely the correct time delivered via the rotor to the tower on the distributor cap (in precise time) which was connected to a sparkplug wire. This spark would travel down the sparkplug wire to the sparkplug where it would jump an air gap and ignite the compressed, highly volatile air/fuel mixture in the combustion chamber. Thus, the downward stroke powering the engine was created. Simple in theory.

Of course, with any system of mechanical or electrical design, there’s always a weak link that results in failure or poor performance. In this case, the weak link was the electrical points, condenser, distributor cap and rotor. Points would wear out; condensers would internally ground resulting in firing back across the ignition points and ultimately misfire, backfiring, stalling, hesitation, and a myriad of other complications. The insulation on sparkplug wires would break down from extreme heat up and cool down, resulting in voltage leakage and ultimately, cross-firing and what’s called “breakdown under load.” This condition would usually revealed itself under heavy load conditions such as hauling a heavy trailer or load, or just tooling around town and up and down hills with the entire family in the car. Yes, early ignition systems were not without their negative idiosyncrasies.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • NIA Bradberry, Bill mug BRADBERRY: Immigration issue belongs to everyone I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised when I opened up my digital edition of the Washington Post yesterday and found something that I think captures part of the dilemma America faces right this minute; it's a simple question: Who are we, or to put it another way, what do we really stand for?

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Confer, Bob mug new CONFER: It's time the U.S. stopped giving aid to Israel When you see some of the atrocities that Israel has committed in Gaza, including last week's bombing of a United Nations school that was being used as a civilian emergency shelter, you should really wonder why we count them as an ally and why we devote so much of our financial and political resources to the scoundrels.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Higgs, Norma mug HIGGS: A cupcake gets the Niagara Beautification Commission spotlight Not a cupcake per se, but a cute shop in LaSalle operated by a "sweet" lady who is a real dynamo when it comes to running a business.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Glynn, Don mug [Duplicate] GLYNN: A key factor in luring the convention A natural wonder in the nation's oldest state park isn't the lone factor for selecting Niagara Falls as a convention site.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • SINGER: Regional poetry and sad realities If that isn't (or wasn't) poetry, I don't know what is! I'm referring to the self-satisfied, sluggish trot of ice chunks emanating from Lake Erie in early May 2014 -- sauntering, it felt, along the lovely Niagara.

    July 27, 2014

  • NIA Smith, Doug and Polly LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Quest for an appointment comes up short We're rolling up our sleeves for Quest. The Big Mac of blood tests, the Tops of tourniquets, the Sears of screenings, opens on our Island at Monday's crack of dawn.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Davis, Vincent mug VINCENT DAVIS: Pledge your allegiance to the Slurpee, America's treat By now you must be aware that it is, in fact, summer. And since summer is a season not characterized by any obvious weather events (sometimes it's hot for days in a row, sometimes you get a bunch of rainy days and chilly nights) but instead activities, I'd like to bring attention to an underrated staple of summer sun enjoyment: Consuming the brain freeze-inducing snack classic, the Slurpee.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Hamilton, Ken mug HAMILTON: Popeye's '7-Minute' guide to educating southerners -- and me! Writer Mark Twain said that when he 14, his father was so ignorant that he could hardly stand to have the old man around. But upon turning 21, Twain said that he was astonished by how much his father had learned in just seven years.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA DeLuca, Michele mug DELUCA: Wegmans call warns of bad fruit I was humming to myself the other day, getting ready for work on a lovely summer morning, when I decided to check my messages on the house phone. I hit the play button and heard a message from Wegmans warning me about some fruit that I had bought at their store. As quick as that, a message with the scary potential to change my life or the life of someone I love.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Glynn, Don mug GLYNN: Ortt jumps on drive to repeal the SAFE Act It was a no-brainer for North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt, a Republican candidate for the 62nd Senate District seat, to join the forces to repeal the state's SAFE Act.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
House Ads
AP Video
Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando
Opinion
House Ads
Night & Day
Twitter News
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Front page