Your engine uses air and gasoline to operate. However, it needs to combust that gas, which means it needs a spark. Sparkplugs are used for that purpose, but they must get their power from somewhere. In newer models, ignition modules and coil packs are used, but for older engines, a points and condenser system is used.
Points and condensers are among the most frequently replaced parts on older engines. They’re used constantly – every time your car is cranked and then the entire time the engine runs. This puts a lot of wear and tear on them (hence the reason better, more durable ignition systems have been created for newer cars).
In general, you can expect your points and condenser to last around 15,000 miles or so. However, there are many mitigating factors here, including how frequently you turn the engine on and off, how much driving you do and other elements. The most important thing is to ensure that your vehicle is properly maintained – points should be inspected and cleaned periodically, and point/condenser replacement should be frequent.
If your points and condenser fail, then you won’t be going anywhere. Therefore, it’s important to know the signs to watch for that indicate they’re wearing out and on the verge of failing. Keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
- Engine turns over, but does not start
- Engine is hard to start
- Engine stalls out
- Engine runs rough (both during idle and acceleration)
If you suspect that your points and condenser are on the verge of failure, or that they’ve already worn out, a certified mechanic can help diagnose the problem, and replace the points and condenser to get your car functioning properly again.