Buying a High Performance Ignition System
You don’t have to be a hot-rodder for a high performance ignition to be a great addition to your vehicle. Multi-spark and high voltage ignition systems actually do much more than add a few extra horsepower. They also increase fuel economy and decrease the harmful emissions your car produces. Electronic ignitions are offered by a few different aftermarket parts manufacturers such as Holley and MSD. Here is a quick explanation of how they work and some helpful hints in case you decide that you want to try one out on your vehicle.
What a High Performance Ignition Does
High performance ignitions (also known as multi-spark or multi-strike ignitions) increase performance by radically increasing the voltage (electrical potential or power) as well as the duration (how long the spark is present during each ignition cycle) of the ignition charge. This is effective for a few reasons. The increased spark energy causes more of an electrical “disturbance” in the volatile air/fuel mixture within the engine cylinder, which results in a quicker and more powerful combustion of the intake charge. This yields more power for the vehicle’s engine which is the source of the extra performance kick that multi-strike systems give. The increased duration of the ignition spark supplies an ignition source for any unburned gasses after the main combustion cycle has completed. That results in more complete combustion which makes for a cleaner-burning engine.
How a High Performance Ignition works
High performance ignitions use a process called “capacitive discharge” to achieve the increased potential and duration of spark. The ignition unit itself actually stores power from the ignition coil in a bank of electrical components called capacitors. To make it simple, think of your ignition coil like a high-pressure pump. On a normal vehicle, the pump (ignition coil) is connected directly to the spark plugs. On a vehicle with a high-performance ignition system the pump is connected to the capacitors first, then to the spark plugs. The Capacitor acts like a high-pressure holding tank. Electricity flows continuously through the coil into the capacitor and is stored there at an extremely high pressure. When the spark plug needs energy, the entire high-pressure tank can be emptied into the cylinder. That results in a much more powerful spark.
Choosing and Installing an Ignition
If you do choose to try out a high performance ignition, there are a few things you should make sure you are getting the most out of your investment. There are a variety of high performance ignition products available for specific applications. On older cars, you might want to take advantage of an ignition that offers an integrated rev-limiter to protect your engine. There are also ignitions specifically tailored to lower displacement sport-compact cars. One thing to keep in mind if you choose to try an ignition out, is if you alter your ignition system you should be absolutely sure you know what you’re doing. If your car doesn’t get spark it won’t run, so be careful. Also, it’s not a good idea to cut or splice wires within the ignition system. If there isn’t a direct electrical adaptor available for the vehicle through your ignition’s manufacturer, have the unit installed by an auto-electric specialty shop.