What Does An Ignition Condenser Do? new for 2022

What Does An Ignition Condenser Do?
What Does An Ignition Condenser Do?

Many people don’t know What Does An Ignition Condenser Do, or even what it looks like. If your car isn’t starting, there’s a good chance the problem is with the ignition condenser. This part is responsible for transmitting electrical current to the spark plugs, and if it’s not working properly your car won’t start.

Ignition condensers can be replaced fairly easily, and they’re not too expensive. If you recognize one of these typical symptoms in What are the symptoms of a bad condenser in an ignition system?, take it to a mechanic and ask them to check the ignition condenser.


What Does An Ignition Condenser Do?

What Does An Ignition Condenser Do?
What Does An Ignition Condenser Do?

What does a condenser do in an ignition system?

A condenser‘s primary role in a coil ignition circuit is to minimize the spark at the contact points when they open in the distributor, hence minimizing point burning and pitting. The effect of self induction in the coil causes arcing as the points disrupt the flow of current. As a result of the magnetic field collapsing, a high voltage is created in the main winding, which tends to flow across the points, producing burning or pitting. As the points open, this current goes into the condenser and charges it. The quick collapse of the magnetic field creates this high voltage in the primary windings, which may reach 250 volts. This charges the condenser even more, and the resulting collapse of the field induces a high voltage in every turn of both primary and secondary windings. Because the secondary winding has approximately 100 times the number of turns as the main, the voltage can reach 25000 volts. This voltage is normally not achieved since it is restricted by several elements such as point gap, compression, engine speeds, and so on, thus just enough voltage is created to produce a spark at the plug. As the spark is formed at the plug gap, the energy stored in the coil in the form of magnetic flux begins to drain from the coil through the secondary circuit, maintaining the spark for a fraction of a second or multiple crankshaft revolutions. During this time, the condenser discharges back into the primary winding, causing an oscillation of the current flow in the primary circuit for the brief period necessary for the primary circuit to restore to equilibrium. The condenser does not discharge until the spark at the spark plug has occurred.

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Burning points are caused by excessive voltage, the presence of oil or other substance at the points, a faulty condenser, or a point gap that is too short. High voltage can be caused by the regulator’s excessive voltage setting, high resistance in the charging circuit, or the third brush being set too high. On third brush generators, a slight gap at the points lets the points to remain closed for longer, resulting in an average current high enough to allow the points to burn quickly.

Contact pitting is caused by an out-of-balance state in the system, which causes tungsten to be transferred from one point to another, resulting in a tip on one point and a pit on the other. The direction in which the tungsten is transported indicates the best way to remedy the condition. One or two modifications may be performed if the tungsten transfers from the negative to the positive location. Increase condenser capacity, shorten condenser lead, separate high and low tension leads between coil and distributor, and relocate these leads closer to the engine block. Reduce condenser capacity, relocate low and high leads closer together and/or away from the engine block, or extend condenser lead if the transfer is from positive to negative.


How do you test an ignition condenser?

How do you test an ignition condenser?
How do you test an ignition condenser?

How to Diagnose a Faulty Condenser in a Small Engine

  1. Remove the condenser from the engine.
  2. Change the volt ohmmeter to ohms mode.
  3. Touch the red lead to the condenser’s hot connection.
  4. Remove the leads and reverse their positioning on the condenser.
  5. The needle on the meter indicates that the condenser is good movement.
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What causes ignition condenser failure?

What causes ignition condenser failure?
What causes ignition condenser failure?

If your car has basic ignition system wiring and a ballast coil, current will flow through the circuit excessively, causing the points, condenser, and coil to deteriorate prematurely.

What are the symptoms of a bad condenser in an ignition system?

What are the symptoms of a bad condenser in an ignition system?
What are the symptoms of a bad condenser in an ignition system?

The radio has a lot of static.

If the condenser cannot retain a charge, there will be a lot of sparking inside the ignition system. The electric charge, as well as the magnetic interference it generates, will produce substantial static in your radio. Stations that were previously audible will now be impossible to distinguish and will cut in and out quickly. Because the sparking occurs only when the engine is turned on, the radio will function correctly when the engine is shut off and just the battery is powered. The static will return once the car restarts.

Yellow glistening

If you believe the condenser is failing, you may sometimes tell by watching the engine idle. The point cover must be removed, and some engines will not operate without it, but if the condenser is failing, a huge yellow spark will likely leap between the two contact points. A good condenser reduces this to a light blue spark, but if the condenser fails, the points ignite full-force with a yellow spark.

Starting Problems

If the condenser has been failing for a time, the contact points may have been damaged due to excessive sparking, making it more difficult to start the car and causing it to operate less smoothly. When the engine timing is advanced, it runs smoother; when the timing is retarded, it stutters. While there are a variety of possible causes for difficulty starting the engine, when this occurs in conjunction with radio static and engine sparking, the condenser should be changed.

F.A.Q What Does An Ignition Condenser Do?

Do you need a condenser with electronic ignition?

Removing the condenser and points is no longer necessary with electronic ignition, so they must be removed by unscrewing them from the distributor base-plate.

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Will a bad condenser cause weak spark?

A bad condenser is often the cause of a weak spark, as well as being a cheap fix. If you find increased resistance here, it’s time to clean and inspect the connections and circuit path to ground through the points. Also check resistance between the engine block and distributor body.

Does an ignition condenser need to be grounded?

The condenser body needs to be grounded, and the lead wire can connect anywhere between the coil and points. To attach the condenser bracket to the coil mounting bracket, use a screw. Then, connecting the lead wire to the coil primary points wire connector completes this task.

Are 6 volt and 12 volt condensers the same?

No matter the primary voltage (6V, 12V, or 24V), ignition condensers are designed to hold up against the flyback voltage created by the coil when its magnetic field collapses as the points open. For a regular iron core type ignition coil, that’s usually around 80-100 volts.

Does the condenser go on the positive or negative side of the coil?

While a capacitor doesn’t permit the flow of Direct Current, thus theoretically it should not matter which side you attach it to, the positive side actually provides very little protection against points arching and burning.


How does an ignition condenser work? The ignition condenser is responsible for ensuring that the spark plug fires at the right time. It does this by storing a charge of electricity which is released when the points open and create a spark across the gap. If your car isn’t starting, it might be worth checking to see if your ignition condenser needs replacing. Have you ever replaced your ignition condenser? What was the process like? Let amortips.com know in the comments below!


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