Opel Corsa B 1993–2000 Service and Repair Manual: Ignition system - testing

Warning: Voltages produced by an electronic ignition system are considerably higher than those produced by conventional ignition systems. Extreme care must be taken when working on the system with the ignition switched on. Persons with surgically-implanted cardiac pacemaker devices should keep well clear of the ignition circuits, components and test equipment

Carburettor models and 1.8 litre (18E engine) models

Note: Refer to the warning given in Section 1 of Part A of this Chapter before starting work.

Always switch off the ignition before disconnecting or connecting any component and when using a multi-meter to check resistances.


1. The components of electronic ignition systems are normally very reliable; most faults are far more likely to be due to loose or dirty connections or to "tracking" of HT voltage due to dirt, dampness or damaged insulation than to the failure of any of the system's components. Always check all wiring thoroughly before condemning an electrical component and work methodically to eliminate all other possibilities before deciding that a particular component is faulty.

2. The old practice of checking for a spark by holding the live end of an HT lead a short distance away from the engine is not recommended; not only is there a high risk of a powerful electric shock, but the HT coil or amplifier unit will be damaged. Similarly, never try to "diagnose" misfires by pulling off one HT lead at a time.

Engine will not start

3. If the engine either will not turn over at all, or only turns very slowly, check the battery and starter motor. Connect a voltmeter across the battery terminals (meter positive probe to battery positive terminal), disconnect the ignition coil HT lead from the distributor cap and earth it, then note the voltage reading obtained while turning over the engine on the starter for (no more than) ten seconds. If the reading obtained is less than approximately 9.5 volts, first check the battery, starter motor and charging system as described in the relevant Sections of this Chapter.

4. If the engine turns over at normal speed but will not start, check the HT circuit by connecting a timing light (following the manufacturer's instructions) and turning the engine over on the starter motor; if the light flashes, voltage is reaching the spark plugs, so these should be checked first. If the light does not flash, check the HT leads themselves followed by the distributor cap, carbon brush and rotor arm using the information given.

5. If there is a spark, check the fuel system for faults referring to the relevant part of Chapter for further information.

6. If there is still no spark, check the voltage at the ignition HT coil "+" terminal; it should be the same as the battery voltage (ie, at least 11.7 volts). If the voltage at the coil is more than 1 volt less than that at the battery, check the feed back through the fusebox and ignition switch to the battery and its earth until the fault is found.

7. If the feed to the HT coil is sound, check the coil's primary and secondary winding resistance as described later in this Section; renew the coil if faulty, but be careful to check carefully the condition of the LT connections themselves before doing so, to ensure that the fault is not due to dirty or poorly-fastened connectors.

8. If the HT coil is in good condition, the fault is probably within the control unit or distributor assembly. Testing of these components should be entrusted to a Vauxhall dealer.

Engine misfires

9. An irregular misfire suggests either a loose connection or intermittent fault on the primary circuit, or an HT fault on the coil side of the rotor arm.

10. With the ignition switched off, check carefully through the system ensuring that all connections are clean and securely fastened.

If the equipment is available, check the LT circuit as described above.

11. Check that the HT coil, the distributor cap and the HT leads are clean and dry. Check the leads themselves and the spark plugs (by substitution, if necessary), then check the distributor cap, carbon brush and rotor arm.

12. Regular misfiring is almost certainly due to a fault in the distributor cap, HT leads or spark plugs. Use a timing light (paragraph 4 above) to check whether HT voltage is present at all leads.

13. If HT voltage is not present on any particular lead, the fault will be in that lead or in the distributor cap. If HT is present on all leads, the fault will be in the spark plugs; check and renew them if there is any doubt about their condition.

14. If no HT is present, check the HT coil; its secondary windings may be breaking down under load.

1.8 litre (18SE engine) models and all 1.4, 1.6 and 2.0 litre fuel injection models

15. If a fault appears in the ignition system first ensure that the fault is not due to a poor electrical connection or poor maintenance; ie, check that the air cleaner filter element is clean, the spark plugs are in good condition and correctly gapped, that the engine breather hoses are clear and undamaged.

Also check that the accelerator cable is correctly adjusted. If the engine is running very roughly, check the compression pressures.

16. If these checks fail to reveal the cause of the problem the vehicle should be taken to a suitably equipped Vauxhall dealer for testing using special diagnostic equipment. The tester will locate the fault quickly and simply alleviating the need to test all the system components individually which is a time consuming operation that carries a high risk of damaging the control unit.

17. The only ignition system checks which can be carried out by the home mechanic are those described in Chapter, relating to the spark plugs, and the ignition coil test described in this Chapter. If necessary, the system wiring and wiring connectors can be checked ensuring that the control unit wiring connector(s) have first been disconnected.

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