Two weeks ago I had a customer call me from a gas station, her Honda Accord had died. When I brought the Honda back to the shop I realized there was no spark going from the distributor to the spark plugs so I began to think why a Honda would stop getting spark, here’s what I found.
There are three main reasons a Honda will stop getting a spark: A bad ignition coil, a bad ignitor, or a faulty distributor. The ignition coil (inside the distributor) can be tested using a meter, by measuring the ohm resistance between the (+) terminal and the (-) terminal of the coil, the meter should read between 0.8 to 0.9 ohms.
The good news is, that fixing a no spark problem is easily diagnosed and fixed with reasonably little expense if you’re up for the job of fixing the problem yourself. This article covers everything you need to know to diagnose why your Honda is getting no spark.
Why is My Honda Not Getting Spark
In general, when a Honda has over 120,000 miles on the clock and it stops getting spark it’s usually because the distributor has failed, due to excessive wear on the internals of the distributor and the load that’s put on it, but if your Honda has significantly lower mileage than 120k, it could be as simple as a blown fuse.
The distributor can be split up into multiple parts and luckily these parts can be replaced rather than replacing the entire distributor, in most cases.
There are two primary parts to the distributor that are common parts to fail: The ignition coil and the ignitor.
The ignition coil is powered by a 12v supply and basically acts as a step-up transformer. These 12 volts are then passed through the primary and secondary windings of the coil which then transforms 12v to 22,000 volts.
This transformation happens due to the primary winding being wound with 1500 coils of wire and the secondary winding being wound up to 50,000 times with very fine wire.
When windings are subjected to an excessive build-up of heat over a prolonged period the wires will overheat and burn out causing an open circuit, therefore not allowing the current to flow, resulting in no spark from the distributor to the plugs.
You can easily test the ignition coil by measuring the resistance of the primary and secondary windings using a multimeter (Amazon link). This is done by setting your multimeter to ohms, then you connect the red lead of the multimeter to the (a) + terminal of the coil and the black lead to the (b) – terminal of the coil, you should get a reading of about 0.9 ohms.
To test the secondary winding you connect the red lead of the multimeter to the (a)+ terminal of the coil and the black lead connects to the spring that is sticking out of the front of the coil as shown in the picture. This should give you a reading of about 16 k-ohms. The reading for the secondary winding is so much higher than the primary due to being wound over 50,000 times with fine wire.
If either of the test results varied from the ones given or you get an infinite reading it means the ignition coil needs to be replaced. I recently wrote a complete step-by-step in-depth tutorial which covers testing every part of a Honda distributor, you can check it out here.
Another possibility is that the fuse which powers the distributor may have blown resulting in the distributor not getting power from the fuse box. The fuel pump and distributor are both powered from the same fuse so an easy way to check without looking for fuses is to turn on the ignition and listen closely around the back seat, you should hear the fuel pump priming. If you hear the pump it means the fuse is good, if you don’t hear the pump you will need to investigate further.
The fusebox is located below the steering wheel behind the plastic cover. There should be a card inside the fuse box indicating which fuse is which, although the card is usually missing, the fuse for the distributor of most Hondas is the number 9 slot.
To test a fuse you can either pull the fuse out to visually inspect if the wire joining both sides of the fuse is broken/burnt across or if you have a multimeter, you can simply set your meter to continuity and connect the red lead to one side of the fuse and the black lead to the other side, if the meters rings the fuse is good.
If the fuse is blown it should be just a matter of replacing it with a new fuse, but if you replace it and the fuse blows again you may have a broken or damaged wire somewhere along the wiring loom between the fuse box and the distributor, although this would be pretty unusual and it’s not a problem I have seen too often.
If the fuse is good the next thing your going to need to do is check that the correct 12 volts going to the distributor. To do this start by removing the distributor cap by undoing the three 8mm bolts around the distributor cap. Then with your multimeter set to DC you connect the red lead to the terminal marked (a) + (Yellow/Black wire) and the black lead to the (-) terminal of your battery.
With the ignition switch in the ON position, you should get a reading of 12 volts DC, if 12 volts is not present you either have a broken wire somewhere along the wiring loom or a blown fuse/relay.
How Can I Fix No Spark
The first thing to do is to diagnose the problem, once you have identified which part is faulty, using the steps given above or the steps from my other article on testing a Honda distributor, it’s then just a matter of simply replacing the part.
To remove the ignition coil from a Honda distributor you simply remove the two + head screws from the bottom of the ignition coil and remove the wires from both terminals marked (a) and (b), the coil will then come out easily. To remove the ignitor you disconnect the three wires connected to the ignitor and remove both + head screws and it will slide out no problem.
You can pick up an ignition coil off Amazon for pretty cheap, I think when I bought mine it was like $30, and there made to fit universally across most Honda models but you can check your ordering the correct one by using the shops, part checker. Alternatively, any local auto parts store would be able to order you one for a similar price.
If it turns out you need an ignitor (Ignition control module, ICM) they can also be found on Amazon for in or around $50. Sometimes however you can be unlucky at it could turn out you need to replace the entire distributor, if this is the case you have two options, you can either buy a genuine OEM Honda distributor which will set you back roughly $1,100 or you can buy an aftermarket distributor for about $80 on Amazon.
If you run all the tests given in both articles and you find that only one component is giving bad readings on the multimeter then replace that component and the car will have spark again. If you run all of these tests and they all show good results and appear to be working as shown above, then you will need to replace the entire distributor.
In my experience you are always better to use genuine parts, especially when it comes to essential components such as the distributor but with that said genuine parts come with a big price tag which might not always be possible. The only downside to cheaper aftermarket parts is that they will not last nearly as long genuine parts.
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