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Technical Rethinking my use of electronic ignitions

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by junkyardjeff, Sep 19, 2020.

  1. junkyardjeff
    Joined: Jul 23, 2005
    Posts: 7,531


    I use OEM designed parts on my electronic ignition conversions but with the quality of the parts now I am not getting much more miles out of them then I did with points so maybe time to go back and yes I still have all of the points distributors,lost the module trying to get home from a show today and glad I had spare parts in the trunk. I was thinking that the electronic ignition with its hotter spark would help burn the crappy gas we have much better but I will keep the points in my recently purchased 65 mercury and see how it does,this week I replaced a mallory Unilite that gave up in my bosses cars and if I had one in mine it would have been on a roll back since I do not think those parts are readily available in parts stores.
    loudbang likes this.
  2. hotrodfords
    Joined: Apr 30, 2013
    Posts: 85


    I like Pertronix. It’s so easy, and I keep the points and condenser in the glove box, but in 23 years of operation, I’ve never had it fail. If it did, I’d put the points back in to get home. Then buy a new Pertronix.
  3. If it's a Ford, a factory Duraspark distributor with a MSD box... dead nuts reliable.
  4. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 46,847


    Good call on putting the points back in, and getting rid of that electronic crap.

    Condensers aren't as good as they used to be, keep a spare or two. And try to find old points, if you can...they were made better, and don't go bad sitting on the shelf for a few decades. Usually you can use old used ones that are not in too bad of shape, just file them every 10k miles and a dab of lube on the rubbing block.

  5. Everyone thinks I’m nuts for keeping the points in my convertible instead of “upgrading” to electronic ignition to make it more reliable...the funny thing is they are all people who either don’t have anything old or who’s vehicle sits in their garage, I drive mine almost everyday and would drive it anywhere. Weird.

    Sent from my iPhone using H.A.M.B.
  6. Beanscoot
    Joined: May 14, 2008
    Posts: 1,579


    I have never had luck with point files, they don't seem hard enough to cut the point metal.
    I use fine emery paper (400 or 600) and clean the points afterwards with a bit of thick paper wetted with solvent, every couple years.
    I seem to never have to change points this way.
  7. Electronic crap. That's funny. I've been running Petronix on a few cars for over 30 years. Never a failure or even any maintenance.
  8. gimpyshotrods
    Joined: May 20, 2009
    Posts: 17,630


    There have been upwards of one-half-of-one-billion vehicles sold in North America with electronic ignition, since it became commonplace.

    Failures are considered by the automobile industry to be a percentage that is statistically indistinguishable from zero.

    If you are the overly concerned type, carry spare parts. You will never need them.

    As for points, I get it, running them is your red badge of courage.
  9. tubman
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 5,201


    And here is the problem. While the automobile manufacturers seem to have the problem solved, the makers of aftermarket systems appear to be lost in the wilderness. It is my opinion that if you have an entire system (down to the plugs and plug wires) engineered from the ground up, the system works. However, when you start "mixing and matching" parts (which is what you have to do when converting an older system) you start running into problems.

    I also have a problem with your last statement. Points are fine, and have the additional advantage of telling you when they are starting to go bad. Unless you are completely unobservant, points will give you plenty of notice that they are going bad and allow you to get home. Electronic ignitions will die on you instantaneously, leaving you at the side of the road.

    C'mon; we're car guys. If we can't maintain our cars, everything else goes out the window.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2020
    OldSchoolRodz, Tman, Roothawg and 7 others like this.
  10. Beanscoot
    Joined: May 14, 2008
    Posts: 1,579


    Sorry, double post.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2020
    clem likes this.
  11. I have no fear of electronic ignition, my truck has the factory Chrysler setup on it, I just don’t feel the need to swap to it in the name of reliability when the points work fine.

    Sent from my iPhone using H.A.M.B.
  12. gimpyshotrods
    Joined: May 20, 2009
    Posts: 17,630


    There is no magic in an ignition system. There is not even any magic in cars that drive themselves.

    Just build your own, ignition using OEM electronic components.

    C'mon; we're car guys. If we can't turn the mundane into the cool, everything else goes out the window
  13. All my old cars run points and condenser. I don't want to jinx myself here ;) but the only points failure I've ever had in one of my cars was the second day of driving my very first car. I buy the best quality points and condenser I can (mostly Blue Streak SMP), and new old stock when it shows up. I check the dwell and points resistance in the spring and make sure everything looks good.

    Running points is not a red badge of courage, done with the proper maintenance, failure rate can be statistically indistinguishable from zero. That's been my experience over the last 50 plus years.
  14. Barrelnose pickup
    Joined: Aug 20, 2008
    Posts: 1,170

    Barrelnose pickup

    Car guys know how to keep points systems reliable, as do early motorcyclists.
  15. southcross2631
    Joined: Jan 20, 2013
    Posts: 3,995


    This thread cracks me up. Guys who still want to hang on to the points which I agree with. If it works for you and can do the maintenance then keep the points. I like points because of the ease of repairs .
    I like electronic ignition because of the lack of maintenance . A lot of our members here are getting to the age that side of the road repairs are not an option. Shoot a lot of our members would not have old cars if they had to do any more than write a check to have it built or buy one that is done.
    When I do go to shows I listen to people rattle off their motor specs and then you ask did you build it ?
    they get that deer in the headlights look and say no it's a crate motor. Or they had some shop build it.
    Do you think they have a set of points and condenser and the tools to change them?
  16. Baumi
    Joined: Jan 28, 2003
    Posts: 2,522


    Some of my cars have points, others have electronic ignition, none of them has ever let me down.
    Lil'Alb and '51 Norm like this.
  17. 2OLD2FAST
    Joined: Feb 3, 2010
    Posts: 2,722

    from illinois

    If you're the type of person who prides themselves on never having had your vehicle come home on " the hook" , then owning a car with electronic ignition simply means different planning . Instead of carrying a spare set of points/ condenser , you carry a spare module , if its GM , then one of theirs ,if its mallory, then one of theirs , etc. The frustrating thing to most of us about electronics is , you can't " see" whether the part is working or not, there's no moving parts to observe . Add one of those cheap harbor freight digital volt meters to your tool kit , then you've got a fighting chance of " seeing" what's not working !
  18. 57Custom300
    Joined: Aug 21, 2009
    Posts: 1,315

    from Arizona

    On my 57 Ford I went through singe points, dual points then finally converted the yblock to a Duraspark system. Had to take 2 distributors to make 1 along with some machine shop work to make it work. When I first fired it up I could tell right away it made a difference.
    My 61 406 I just went with a Petronics. Both were trouble free.
  19. G-son
    Joined: Dec 19, 2012
    Posts: 664

    from Sweden

    The hotter sparks do indeed help ignite "worse" fuel. Unfortunately, the modern ethanol mixed fuel increases the spark voltage by making the engine run leaner (unless carbs are rejetted for the fuel and few people go through the jetting completely, many just adjust the screw for the idle mixture).

    Higher spark voltage puts a bigger load on the ignition coil and electronics driving it, so even if the electronic system is able to put out a higher voltage spark the extra load on the system may be enough to kill some component in it in the long run, higher voltages easier breaks through the insulation. Points ignitions aren't immune to the problem either, run the engine lean and you put a bigger load on the ignition system, the higher output voltage has a corresponding higher voltage pulse on the primary side, i.e. the pulse that makes a spark at the points when they open and that the condenser is supposed to manage.

    So, some of the ignition reliability problems people are having are actually located in the carburettor. If you just replace broken ignition parts w/o finding the cause you will keep having the problems.
  20. Elcohaulic
    Joined: Dec 27, 2017
    Posts: 1,306


    I like to run a Capacitive Discharge box and trigger it with my points distributor.. That gives a very strong spark.. If you want the ultimate get a magneto..

    I am going to try a dual point and connect a three way switch up to it. That should let me adjust timing while on the move.
    OldSchoolRodz and Mimilan like this.
  21. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 46,847


    It might be close to zero, but I still had to call a rollback once to get one home. The part was not available in town, even if I could have figured out what was going on without being home with my test equipment. (OT chevy, early EFI system where the ignition pickup coil died)

    I got to fix quite a few failed electronic ignitions when I was working on modern cars 30 years ago. They've gotten better since, but then they're also integrated into the EFI system, so not so easy to run with a carb, and have some semblance of traditional. Which I think is what this place is about?

    If you're happy with your electronic system, keep it. OP apparently is tired of them. I'm tired of them. Do what you gotta do.
  22. blowby
    Joined: Dec 27, 2012
    Posts: 6,858

    from Nicasio Ca

    My Pertronix failed, dammit! Figured I'd wait for the weekly points vs. electronic thread to mention it. Man was I pissed, but not at Pertronix...

    Have points in a lot of my stuff. Yes I like points, simple to understand and repair. Also got Pertronix in two. The V8-60 crammed into my Bantam requires radiator removal to get the distributor cap off. After cleaning and adjusting the points several times to cure poor running I put in the Pertronix and haven't touched it since. And it's comforting to know the dwell, timing and resistance are constant.

    My '59 Massey tractor/loader (the subject of the above failure) that I use regularly sits outside in a wet forest. I was constantly battling corroded points causing no starts. Battling points in the rain and mud is not fun. Even after filing them several times it often would not run. It even has a separate sealing plate that goes over the points and under the rotor (Delco 4 cyl. distributor). When you have to work you need to work, not fix engines. Several years ago I put a Pertronix kit in it and it starts and runs like never before.

    Until two weeks ago. It has no electrics other than the starter and ignition, total loss. Late in a very tiring day I threw a battery in it to finish up work. Despite a red + cable and red dot on the battery, I reversed polarity. It actually turned over, probably backwards, but smoked the Pertronix. I have replaced it, and swore I would put a diode in the coil wire, and of course have not.. But my suspicion is most Pertronix failures are caused by the user in one form or another, incorrect components, grounds, stupidity.. I can't be the only one..:oops:

    20200914_092925_2.jpg tractors.JPG 1024181546.jpg
  23. denis4x4
    Joined: Apr 23, 2005
    Posts: 3,548

    from Colorado

    The Petronix is the original Per-Lux Ignitor that was purchased from a company that made electronic ignitions for stationary engines running 24/7. The vast majority of failures is user error. I've run them in boats, collector cars and hot rods for over 30 years. The only failure was self inflicted.
  24. Blue One
    Joined: Feb 6, 2010
    Posts: 10,675

    Blue One
    from Alberta

    :rolleyes: We heard you the first time, why did you feel the need to repeat yourself ? :D
    Beanscoot likes this.
  25. junkyardjeff
    Joined: Jul 23, 2005
    Posts: 7,531


    Usually on the vehicles that have all OEM parts there would be signs when something is going wrong but on my Sunliner that has a Ford Duraspark system with all replacement parts both the module and pick up coil went out instantly without warning a couple years apart. I doubt I could still go to the dealer and get ignition parts for a mid 70s and with the OEM parts I could get almost 100,000 miles out of the parts where with the aftermarket replacements I am lucky to get 40,000,if thats the case then I would have to replace those parts every 25,000 miles so why not just put the points back in and make it simple. The module I had in the trunk has been in the box for about 10 years so should I get another and is it age or mileage that kills those electronic parts.
  26. winduptoy
    Joined: Feb 19, 2013
    Posts: 2,109


    You can not leave the ignition on without the engine running with the Pertronix systems I am familiar with.
    Had a bud that cussed them and figured out finally that he would pull his car in the garage, shut the gas off and from time to time forget to turn the ignition off when the engine quit from running out of gas...
    Operator error got the module eventually
    Jet96 and firstinsteele like this.
  27. blowby
    Joined: Dec 27, 2012
    Posts: 6,858

    from Nicasio Ca

    That's why I went with the Igniter 2, shuts off if key left on. Supposed to anyway, since I put it in I quit leaving the key on..:confused:
    Montana1 likes this.
  28. I convert all my old points distributors to electronic using Chrysler parts. Get a Chrysler distributor of the right type (4, 6, or 8) from Pick-A-Part along with the module. Transfer the trigger mechanism to the points plate on the old unit, pull off the inductor from the Chrysler and adapt it to the old shaft in place of the points cam. Cut the side out of an old distributor cap the get the pickup module in the correct orientation. Usually requires a stint in the lathe to get the inductor to slide on the shaft. I also add an MSD5 module for more spark. Works great and repair parts if I ever needed any are readily available anywhere.

    On my 331 hemi I just used a Chrysler distributor which drops in, all it needs is about a 1/2" extension on the shaft tail tab.

    Here are photos of my '53 Chevy 235 conversion.
    P3160001.JPG P3160004.jpg P3160005.JPG P3160006.JPG P5040077.JPG

    Here is the mod needed for my hemi conversion to late model electronic distributor.
  29. lostone
    Joined: Oct 13, 2013
    Posts: 1,355

    from kansas

    I'm with gimpy, enough factory electronic ignition stuff out there to play with and improve on.

    I would guess alot of failures are owner induced, lack of grounds, lack of proper grounding, lack of correct voltage etc..
  30. cfmvw
    Joined: Aug 24, 2015
    Posts: 423


    When I was in the Air Force years ago, we had a fork truck that always stalled out. It went to the motor pool several times, but they couldn't seem to fix it. One day I happened to be on a job where it was being used; after it died a couple of times, I looked at it and discovered that whoever installed the points never set the gap, so they were barely opening. I did a quick regap with a screwdriver and a borrowed matchbook, and it ran great after that.

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