Cash for Clunkers

Tara Hornor
Written byTara HornorUpdated - October 19, 2023
Tara Hornor
Tara Hornor

Tara Hornor is an experienced writer and entrepreneur with over two decades of experien... | See full bio

John Rush
Edited and Fact-Checked byJohn RushEditor
John Rush
John Rush
Automotive Content Accuracy Auditor|||

With over four decades of experience, John Rush is a highly accomplished business owner... | See full bio

Identify and Test a Faulty Ignition Coil Pack

One very significant component of your car’s ignition system is the coil pack since this is responsible for starting the car. When it functions well, the ignition system will also work properly. If there are issues with the ignition system, you might want to test the coil pack to see if this is the cause of the issue.

coil pack

What is a coil pack?

Generally speaking, a coil pack replaces the distributor (especially for the most modern or latest models of vehicles). The coil pack is usually controlled by electricity in the car and regulated by the car’s computer. As mentioned above, the coil pack is utilized to create the spark (the spark in the cylinder of the engine) needed to start the engine.

In general, a coil pack is more reliable than a distributor. This is because there are no moving parts and because they fire much less than a distributor. These coil packs are frequently creating better spark, which in turn produces better combustion and horsepower for the engine car.

Generally, if a coil pack is malfunctioning, there will be a loss of fire or spark in one or more of the engine’s cylinders. This leads to what’s frequently referred to as misfiring. When a misfiring occurs, it can cause drag on the crankshaft. This will usually result in a very poor-performing engine.

coil pack

Ignition coil

An ignition coil is a type of induction coil located in the ignition system of your car. The induction coil is a spark coil that generates high voltage from the supply of low voltage. The main purpose of the ignition coil is to transform the lower voltage of the battery to the high voltage that is needed in order to initiate an electrical spark in the car’s spark plugs. The ignition of the fuel will result from the spark being generated.

Electric spark production

The electric spark is a quick electric discharge (brought about by the high voltage) that occurs through the electrically conductive channel. The spark plugs are these devices that have the capacity of delivering the electrical current from the ignition system right into the combustion chamber of your car’s engine. They will then be able to light up the compressed fuel and air by the electrical spark. This happens along with keeping the right level of combustion pressure in the car engine. A spark plug gap is one of the common causes of ignition coil failure.

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The ignition coil is made up of an iron core which is surrounded by copper wires turned into coils. The ignition coil is made up of a magnetic circuit which means the iron core does not turn into a closed loop. The energy kept in within the magnetic field in the energy transferred right into the plug,

Coils and their spark plugs

There are smaller coils with one coil for each spark plug.  There is a larger ignition coil that is capable of producing 40kV. These coils are within the top of the spark plug and are attached directly to the spark plug. The coils can also work for two spark plugs which are called the wasted spark system.

This wasted spark system is made up of one coil generating two spark cycles for each of the cylinders. The fuel which is found in the cylinder can then be viable for ignition. This type of system is a reliable option compared to the single-coil system. The wasted spark system is also known to be less expensive in comparison to the coil-on-plug alternatives.

coil pack

Is my ignition coil malfunctioning?

While learning about coil packs and their specific jobs can be overwhelming, there are few easy signs that indicate a malfunctioning ignition coil pack.

Below are the symptoms which car owners should be aware of pertaining to malfunctioning the ignition pack:

Backfiring – The loud noise from backfiring (often mistaken for a gunshot sound) along with the car shaking is a common clue that there’s something wrong with your ignition coil pack. The backfiring might also include black smoke, a strong blast, lurching of the car, the “check engine light” indicator lighting up, and gasoline fumes coming from the engine.

Stalling vehicle engine – A car or truck with a stalled engine undergoes abrupt stopping and starting. Should one or more of the ignition coils begin to fail, then it can cause the stalling of the car. The irregular sparks coming from the spark plugs causes an uneven electrical charge, which prevents the engine from running at a constant and smooth rate.

Poor fuel economy – If the ignition coil pack is incapable of transmitting enough energy to the spark plugs in your vehicle, then your car or truck must burn extra fuel to keep the unit running. If you notice that your car all of a sudden has very poor gas mileage (a lot lower than normal), then you might have a malfunctioning ignition coil.

Starting the engine can be difficult – When starting an engine becomes difficult, some car owners immediately assume that the problem is the battery. However, more often than not, the ignition coils are the main problem. If the radio, lights, and other battery powered car functions are still working but the engine isn’t turning over, then you’ll want to take a look at the coil pack.

Rough idling – Since a malfunctioning coil pack means less energy, your car could have trouble while idling. If you notice that your engine seems to hiccup or almost die, possibly even completely dying, while idling, then the ignition coil pack could be the problem.

coil pack



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Steps for Testing Ignition Coils 

The following are some quick steps for testing your ignition coil pack:
  • Always make sure you cool down the vehicle before you begin testing. Turn on the emergency brakes.
  • Check for any coils that look melted, cracked, or burned. If any look like they are old or have leakage, replace them.
  • Swap the ignition coil with one from a working cylinder. Disconnect the bolts which are used to stabilize the ignition coils to easily move them around. This is the easiest and quickest way to test your ignition coil pack.
  • Test the windings with a multimeter. The primary winding is usually made up of heavy wire. The wires were meant to receive the energy from the battery immediately. The secondary winding is often made of thinner wires and wraps around the coil several times. Keep in mind that sometimes a bad winding can still produce the right voltage, so if you are still having problems, try replacing the ignition coil.
  • Get a spark test or active analysis done. While you can do this yourself, it’s much easier to have a professional mechanic do this for you since it requires a bit more experience with engines.
coil pack

Cost to repair or replace a coil pack

The approximate price of fixing the ignition coil is between $264 to $376. If you’d like to replace the coil pack yourself, you can cut out some of the cost. The average labor cost will be around $99-$126 for them to perform the service. The parts are an average cost of $165-$250. coil pack

Alternative options to repairing the coil pack

If you don’t have the emergency funds for an ignition coil pack repair, you still have other options. While you can’t keep driving the car once your coils go bad, you can still get rid of the clunker at your home and get paid for it. Selling your old used cars to the junkyard is one effective way of raking in some extra cash for the cost of a coil pack repair job. There are certain metal materials that will end up being taken by junkyards for a specific price. The car has non-metal items too (GPS systems, tires and entertainment systems, and alike). These non-metal items can be sold separately. Also, there are still using functional car parts which you can sell to somebody who needs it or to a specific auto repair shop. Cash for Clunkers can definitely lend you a hand in this endeavor. We offer amazing deals for used cars ensuring that will get the most cash for your used car. Our quotes are instant, and if you don’t like the quote we get for you, there’s no obligation to take our offer. We also offer services related to buying used or junk cars. Should you be interested in used cars and making money from them, please visit, call now, or get an instant quote from Cash for Clunkers today.





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