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Old 10-20-2011, 07:51 AM
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Electronic Ignition

Here are a few notes on Pertronix electronic ignition systems and their effect on coils. It's neither a drawing nor a schematic but I repeated it here to make the resistor calculator easier to find.:

Through testing and following an advisory from Pertronix regarding a 4 amp system maximum we found the addition of a ballast resistor in the ignition primary circuit significantly reduced coil heat in some cases. Internal coil resistance combined with coil input voltage were found to be consistent predictors of coil heat and subsequent failure. There is no indication a resistor will fix a sick coil. If your coil has overheated to a point of shut down, it's damaged internally and needs replacement.

We now have a simple ballast resistor calculator specific to the Atomic 4 with Pertronix electronic ignition. It applies what we've learned on the lengthy Coil Input Information thread and adds a 15% safety factor. You need to input two values, it provides a resistor value to one decimal place. Note that this is the best information we have at this time. Should new info emerge, we'll adjust the calculation as necessary.

Ballast Resistor Calculator.xls

For those unable to open the calculator or without Excel, smosher provided a free program to resolve the issue found here.
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Last edited by ndutton; 11-29-2011 at 09:14 AM.
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Old 10-20-2011, 08:47 AM
Dave Neptune Dave Neptune is offline
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Nice work Niel! Now that you have done the Pertronix and understand it's limitations, I have a quick question. Do you have any numbers on the power rating on the Indigo unit? I'll dig around in my boat stuff and wee if I can find my paper work on it today.

Certainly hope that this eleviates the percieved problems regarding coil zapping.

Dave Neptune
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Old 10-20-2011, 09:29 AM
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No Dave, I don't but I was thinking along those same lines. I wonder if Indigo has any system amperage limitations and how their dwell compares to Universal's specs.

edit:
Dave, I recall that you have had excellent performance from your Indigo ignition. Would please measure your dwell, coil resistance and input voltage at cruising RPM for comparison? Any other Indigo users care to contribute to the database?
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Old 10-20-2011, 09:39 AM
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wouldn't the issue be with the coil and not the ignition module.
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Old 10-20-2011, 09:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smosher View Post
wouldn't the issue be with the coil and not the ignition module.
In the course of testing, the only difference I measured between points and Pertronix EI was dwell and the difference was significant, like double for the EI. I formed an opinion that the increased dwell - combined with our few number of cylinders and low RPM - might be oversaturating the coil. It's interesting that we've heard many stories of coils that worked for decades with points were quickly cooked after the switch to EI.
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Old 10-20-2011, 12:40 PM
Dave Neptune Dave Neptune is offline
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Wink Ok

Niel, will do. I will check my paper work and see if I can find a dwell meter somewhere. For kicks I will check the specs on one of my old Allisons that we ran some really Hi-voltage performance colis with @ over 10,000 on some rotary apps. Also used them in many dune buggies as they were very durable. That was the first Electronic I used on my A-4 26 years ago, it is also a photo optic trigger not a "hall-effect" type.
I will be going by the boat tonight maybe and if I have time I get her lit, check my running voltages and get the part number off my "Flame thrower" coil.

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Old 10-20-2011, 01:35 PM
smosher smosher is offline
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Ah, good point. I was thinking along the lines of keeping the ei and decreasing the amount of current through the coil. The argument can certainly be to use points as the dwell is less and less dwell means less current flowing through the coil
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Old 10-20-2011, 10:29 PM
Dave Neptune Dave Neptune is offline
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Some checks

Niel, checked a few things. The Indigo paperwork doesn't have to much in the way of specs but it did state it was only rated up to a 3.8 ohm coil! I checked the voltage at idle and at cruise RPM with pretty much fully charged batteries (315 amps) they have been sitting for a few weeks though. After warming her up at idle 700RPM my battery voltage was 13.4v and the coil terminal was 12.9~13.1v. The terminal engine not running was 13.3. When operating at cruise 1800 RPM 13.8v the terminal held 12.6~12.8v. This drop as the RPM's increased seemed constant and I did run it up a down a few times to check. I did not bring a dwell meter but the whole point of the electronic ign. is it's ability to increase dwell for better saturation of the coil. My coil is the Flamethrower supplied by Indigo.
I also pulled an extra Allison I still have and it is full of info regarding spark times and dwell. The spark times varie at idle and shoorten up as the RPM starts to rise and stays there all the way up. It is also photo optic like the Indigo except it is rated to 16 amps . It is also rated to operate from a minimum of 3v to a max of 18v and an over voltage start rating to 30v for 3 minutes.

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Old 10-20-2011, 10:42 PM
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As far as I know Flamethrower coils max out at 3 ohms, maybe measure as much as 3.3 ohms. Given that I figure you're running at somewhere around 4.2 amps. Since you have the optical system I don't know what to make of the numbers except that they exceed Indigo's recommendation by about 10% and that assumes I'm reasonably accurate on the coil resistance. Whole lotta guessin' goin' on.

I want to be careful not to jump to any unfounded conclusions. Maybe Tom Stevens of Indigo could shed some light?
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Old 10-21-2011, 08:56 AM
Dave Neptune Dave Neptune is offline
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Stock?

Niel, when I bought the Indigo years ago I had them send me a complete kit. It came with the EI parts a coil and the stiffer springs for the advance mechanism to compensate for the loss of point drag on the breaker cam. I started the engine once installed and set the timing via a power time and it has been running flawlessly for 8~10 years now, not even a hic-up. I have replaced the cap and rotor once since and have used maybe 4 sets of plugs. That's all of the maintenance other than oiling the "felt" to keep the advance working once a year maybe. I see no reason that the Pertronix sholdn't have the same reliability.
I also think that a lot of the problems we are seeing here on the forum with coils is going to boil down to a wiring problem if using the recomended coil. Frankly I'm suprised that Pertronix hasn't taken a bit of an interest. I have done countless conversions over the years to many kinds of EI's on cars boats and buggies with no trouble. Many of the engines were 4 cyl's and some snarling V-8", but absolutely no coil problems.

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Old 10-21-2011, 09:15 AM
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I wouldn't have jumped into this had it not been for the frequent reports of coil failures. Early on it could be seen factors in common were Pertronix electronic ignition and coil heat. Since I had electronic ignition it was important to me to figure out what was going on before I became a victim. It is interesting that there have been zero failure reports with either Indigo optical ignitions or Pertronix ignitions with Moyer coils. Far and away the common combination in failures has been Pertronix (Hall Effect) EI coupled with either after market or Flamethrower coils.

I contacted Pertronix first, seemed like the right thing to do. You saw the result of that effort. I dunno what ole Carl (Pertronix tech) smokes on his lunch break but the responses were counterproductive at best.

So we were left to our own devices. And here we are. I'm happy we were able to measure reduced coil heat with our remedy. I should say that although I've been critical of Pertronix's involvement, it was their 4 amp current advisory I used as a benchmark even though I tweaked it down a little.
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Old 10-21-2011, 02:44 PM
Dave Neptune Dave Neptune is offline
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Red face Oops mistake.

I got my Flamethrower from MMI not Indigo, I found this out after contacting Indigo, it is not one they offered. Sorry for the confusion however I do have the Flamethrower and will get the numbers off of it this weekend.

I wonder how many are using the Indigo and the Pertronix with no problems though. It seems to me that the instances of coil failure seem isolated as so many of these systems have been sold. I wonder how many have been sold compared to how many are having trouble ?

If you are reading this thread and are having no trouble why not chime in to be counted?

Coils operating at over 190 degrees is normal and far higher underhood temps are not uncommon. An oil filled coil should be good for well over 220 with no problems.

Dave Neptune
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Old 10-21-2011, 07:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Neptune View Post
If you are reading this thread and are having no trouble why not chime in to be counted?
In a strange twist, count me as one without problems. In truth, I don't use my engine much, at least not since the switch to EI. Available time is my main issue.
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Old 10-21-2011, 08:12 PM
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Count me in for no problems.

I have about 700 hours on my engine since adding the Pertronix module and have had zero problems. I'm using the old, unknown, black, slightly rusty coil that was originally on it with points. There's never been a hiccup, so I've never thought of replacing it. I've also installed Pertronix on my Scouts and had no problems, also with their original coils. Never tried the Flamethrower coil, though it'd be really ironic if the company's own coil didn't meet specs.
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Old 10-24-2011, 03:52 AM
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Dave,

Your point is pertinent and echoes exactly my sentiments at the beginning of this saga, namely "why me?"

Those with multiple coil failures are clearly in the minority (Shawn, myself...) and we may be victims of our own zeal: cleaning up old wiring, replacing ignition switches, increasing alternator output...just generally improving the environment around the engine. If in doing so we cross some "critical line" and start suppling too much current to the coil then maybe our problems will be solved with additional resistance, either by adding it externally or by installing an appropriate coil (Moyer's 4ohm coil for instance).

What is important to me in this whole saga is getting informed opinions on what would be an impossible trouble shooting scenario for me alone. And as more and more A4 owners start rebuilding, renovating and replacing, this information could save quite a few owners the aggravation of serious engine trouble with what would appear to be the "ideal" ignition circuit.
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Old 10-24-2011, 07:55 PM
Dennis Mominee Dennis Mominee is offline
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I installed an Indigo EI this last spring and have had no problems. The engine starts and runs great. The coil operates warm but not hot to the touch. The engine rarely operates for more than a half hour at a time.
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Old 10-24-2011, 11:47 PM
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It was pointed out to me today that it's equally possible an internal overload device in the EI module may be tripping with excessive current (and resultant heat) and resetting after cool down. It would certainly fit our failure symptoms. Up to now I didn't even know such an overload existed in the module.

Since our testing and calculations were dealing with system current, this doesn't change our conclusion or remedy at all. It's the amperage we're managing. Whether or not an excess is affecting the coil, module or both doesn't matter all that much. The goal is to avoid excessive current.
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Old 10-25-2011, 10:10 AM
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Zero problems and zero maintenance with my Moyer EI in three years. I replaced the coil when I bought the EI kit since I was vague on the original one's provenance.
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Old 10-25-2011, 10:43 AM
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Ditto. Zero issues. Over 2 years running.
Pertronix EI with Flamethrower coil (engine mounted)
Both from MMI since 2009.
Starts and runs like a clock.
I also cleaned up ALL my wiring and have the 55A Alternator.

Neil-
Are the Flamethrower coils with 'issues' the exact same as the MMI catalog?
Is there a possibility they're different models?


Tenders-
Nice with the use of "provenance"! Some of us notice...
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Old 10-25-2011, 11:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roadnsky View Post
Are the Flamethrower coils with 'issues' the exact same as the MMI catalog?
Is there a possibility they're different models?
I believe Don no longer offers the Flamethrower and while I'm sure there is a reason I'm not privy to it.

I've spent some time perusing the Pertronix catalog and don't remember any Flamethrower coils greater than 3 ohms. Don't quote me on that. What caught my attention was when considering alternator charging voltage and their own advisement to keep the system current below 4 amps, they didn't offer a coil that met their own specification while at the same time saying the Flamethrower was an "ideal match" for their Ignitor ignition system.

A lot of us bought into that, myself included. At the time it made perfect sense to me to match the coil and ignition from the same manufacturer. Subsequent failures, research and testing uncovered some contradictory information from the company however. I was not comfortable suggesting that we knew more than Pertronix about their product but the failures were undeniable and we tried contacting Pertronix for technical advice to no avail. Something had to be done so we were left to our own devices.
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Old 10-25-2011, 11:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ndutton View Post
I believe Don no longer offers the Flamethrower and while I'm sure there is a reason I'm not privy to it.
Yep. Noticed that too.
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Old 10-25-2011, 12:35 PM
Dave Neptune Dave Neptune is offline
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Question What?

Neil, what is the "over-heat" safety switch??? And is that in the Pertronix?

This intire discussion has got me to thinkin ( not necessarily a good thing )and that is ~~ Could the engine box temp be a cause of excessive heat for those not running the blower full time? Just a thought. While looking at my engine the other day I took notice of my air into the box hose and it points toward the coil however the air flows over the end of the exhaust manifold at the hot section which is wrapped.

Dave Neptune
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Old 10-25-2011, 12:41 PM
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Dave, my engine is in the middle of the boat (sorta..under the galley) and that area is open all the way to the main bulkhead under the seats & galley (basically the entire port side of the boat under the furniture) including under the quarter berth (where my nice cool gasoline tank is stored..it would take a while to heat soak a tank of fuel). I've run it with access doors off, blower on, blower off, everything closed up tight, everything wide open (no cushions, etc..) - it doesn't seem to be a factor, at least for me. I am sure there are many A-4's jammed into a tiny spot under the steps with almost zero ventilation (and a coil mounted on the engine) that keep on chugging...poor things.

Additionally, the times I've had failures have not been in the middle of summer around here. - In 2009, I ran it for over 16 hours at 2,000 RPM over a hot summer weekend with no trouble (old wiring).

This afternoon I am going to the boat to install my spare stock (13.8v) Motorola alt. and see if I can get her going for a bit in the slip while I do some other stuff..Speaking of wiring, I think it is time to re-examine my wiring schematic and make sure it matches the way the boat is actually wired.

edit - I wish that was the case...Man, I'd cut out the whole front end of the engine box out and install a 20" box fan plugged into an inverter if all it needed was a little cooling!
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Old 10-25-2011, 07:31 PM
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Dave et al,

I don't know for certain about the existence of an overload device inside the module (haven't held one in my hand) but the information I received came from a reliable source. I have no reason to doubt it. It fits the symptoms too.

My experience with automatic resetting overloads is they use temperature to determine amperage levels. The trip temperature is usually quite high so as Shawn said I don't expect normal operating temps in the engine room would have an effect. If they did we would hear of failures far more frequently than we have.

The key though is to keep the current within spec regardless of whether it's the coil or EI module that is affected.
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Old 10-25-2011, 08:43 PM
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I'll take this one

Dave,
Several years ago after several shutdowns and a trip to the Pertronix factory, it was discovered that the trouble was caused by my solid core plug wires. I was also using their Flamethrower coil. It was explained to me that in the case of an overload that the module would reset after a cooldown period. This situation happened on a Chevy engine but it should hold true for the A4. The overload protection feature is not listed in my paperwork but it definately works. The one thing that will kill a module is accidentally reversing it's polarity.
Tom
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