Signs of an auto ignition condenser going bad

Written by michael davidson
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Signs of an auto ignition condenser going bad
(roter oldtimer image by mp focus | painhart from Fotolia.com)

An ignition condenser is a capacitor that is designed to hold a small amount of current inside the engine's ignition system. Its main purpose is to act as a ground for the electric charge to prevent the two electrodes from sparking with each other. By absorbing some of the charge, the condenser allows the two contact points time to move away from each other before sparking can occur. A bad ignition condenser can have several effects on your car.

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Heavy Static in the Radio

If the condenser is not able to hold a charge, there will be significant sparking inside the ignition system. The electric charge and the magnetic interference that it creates will cause a significant amount of static in your radio. Stations that you can normally here clearly will now be very difficult to make out and will cut in and out sharply. Since the sparking only happens when the engine is turned on, the radio will work normally when the engine is off and only the battery is functioning. Once the car starts again, the static will resume.

Yellow Sparking

If you suspect the condenser is going bad, you can sometimes tell by watching the engine run while it is in idle. The point cover needs to be removed and some engines won't run without it, but if the condenser is going bad, you are likely to see a large yellow spark jump between the two contact points. A good condenser minimises this to a small blue spark but the points are sparking full-force with a yellow spark if the condenser is failing.

Trouble Starting

If the condenser has been failing for a while, the contact points could be damaged from excessive sparking and it can become more difficult to get the car started and it won't run as smoothly. It may run smoother when the engine timing is advanced but will stutter when the timing is slowed down. While there are a number of different issues that could cause trouble starting the engine, when this happens in conjunction with the radio static and the engine sparking, the condenser likely needs to be replaced.

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