How to Replace an Electronic Ignition Pickup

The electronic ignition pickup is located in your ignition distributor. The ignition coil delivers voltage by triggering a spark to each cylinder as the ignition rotor spins inside the distributor cap. Like most electronic components, the ignition pick up can show symptoms of failure by misfiring intermittently, or it can fail all at once. In some vehicles, the pickup can be replaced while the distributor is left in place. In others, it may be easier to remove the distributor.

Method 1 of 2: Replacing the ignition pick-up in the vehicle

This method involves leaving the distributor in place.

Materials Needed

Step 1: Disconnect the battery: Remove the negative terminal on the battery.

Set it aside or wrap it with a rag as to not make contact with any part of the body or chassis.

distributor cap location

Step 2: Remove the distributor cap and rotor. Unplug the ignition wire from the ignition coil to the center post of the distributor cap. The distributor cap is usually held on to the distributor by two screws or two spring-loaded clips. Select the appropriate screwdriver to remove yours. Once you lift the cap off, remove the ignition rotor, either simply pulled off or, in some cases, held onto the distributor shaft by a screw.

labeled spark plug wires

  • Tip: If it is necessary to remove any or all of the spark plug wires from the distributor cap to make work easier, use pieces of masking tape to mark each cylinder number and wrap the pieces on each spark plug wire. This way, you are less likely to reconnect the spark plug wires in the wrong firing order.

ignition pickup coil location

Step 3: Remove the ignition pickup coil: Disconnect the electrical wires to the pickup.

Some vehicles may have a wire connector that you simply unplug. Others may have individual wires.

Once the wires are disconnected, remove the mounting screws. They can be located on the face of the pickup coil or on the outside of the distributor.

Step 4: Replace the pickup coil: Install the new pickup coil, making sure the wire connectors and mounting screws are properly tightened.

Reinstall the ignition rotor, distributor cap, and plug/coil wires.

Method 2 of 2: Pick-up coil replacement with distributor removed

Materials Needed

  • Distributor wrench
  • ignition timing light
  • Screwdrivers
  • Sockets/ratchet
  • White-Out or a felt tip marker

  • Note: Follow steps 1-3 from Method 1 first. Disconnect the battery, remove the coil/spark plug wires, distributor cap and ignition rotor as described above.

Step 4: Unplug the distributor. Take care to mark the location of any wires or connectors necessary to remove the distributor.

removing the distributor

Step 5: Remove the distributor. Using White-Out or a high-visibility felt-tipped marker, place a mark on the distributor shaft and a mark on the engine to note the location of the distributor before removing it.

Reinstalling the distributor incorrectly can affect ignition timing to the point where you will not be able to restart the vehicle. Remove the distributor mounting bolt and gently remove the distributor.

  • Note: With some applications, you will be able to use a socket/ratchet or an open/box-end wrench to remove the mounting bolt. With other applications, there may not be enough room to use them. Those applications is where the distributor wrench comes in handy.

Step 6: Replace the ignition pickup. With the distributor on a flat surface, replace the ignition pickup, making sure all connections are properly secured.

Step 7: Reinstall the distributor. Installation is reverse of removal. Take care to be sure the markings you made in step 5 line up.

Reinstall the mounting bolt but do not secure it tightly at this time, as you may need to rotate the distributor to set the timing properly. Reconnect the battery once all wiring connections are secure.

timing mark location

Step 8: Checking the ignition timing. Connect the ignition timing light power/ground connectors to the battery. Connect the spark plug pickup to the #1 cylinder wire. Start the engine and shine the timing light on the ignition marks.

One mark will be stationary on the engine. The other will rotate with the engine. If the marks do not line up, rotate the distributor slightly until they do.

distributor mounting bolt location

Step 9: Secure the distributor mounting bolt. Once you have lined up the ignition timing marks in step 8, turn the engine off and secure the distributor mounting bolt.

  • Note: Make sure to not move the distributor while securing the mounting bolt or the timing will have to be rechecked.

If you need an ignition pickup coil replacement for your vehicle, contact YourMechanic for an appointment today.


Next Step

Schedule Ignition Coil Replacement

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Ignition Coil Replacement. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Ignition Coil Replacement reviews

Excellent Rating

(1,578)

Rating Summary
1,475
50
10
8
35
1,475
50
10
8
35

Jermaine

24 years of experience
244 reviews
Jermaine
24 years of experience
Lexus RX300 V6-3.0L - Ignition Coil - Washington, District of Columbia
I drove the vehicle this morning and the lights are off and the vibration is no longer a concern. Thank you so much.
Mercedes-Benz E350 - Ignition Coil Replacement - Columbia, Maryland
Excellent experience. Easy to work with... knowledgeable about my concern and did exactly what I needed to be done in the time frame expected. Would recommend and return as needed!

Matthew

33 years of experience
1210 reviews
Matthew
33 years of experience
Ford Mustang L4-2.3L Turbo - Ignition Coil - Norfolk, Virginia
Great customer service. Arrived early so plus. Overall great work with a good individual. Would go with Matthew for future services.

Jim

33 years of experience
185 reviews
Jim
33 years of experience
Honda CR-V L4-2.4L - Ignition Coil - Livermore, California
Jim provided a simplistic overview of the issue with the car with clear cut explanations. I am grateful for the service that Your Mechanic provides with efficient and reliable mechanics like Jim. This is my second experience and, I have rated 5 Stars for each experience.

Keven

7 years of experience
118 reviews
Keven
7 years of experience
Chevrolet Impala V6-3.8L - Ignition Coil - Auburn, Washington
He’s a hard worker and very knowledgeable. Pride in his work also loves what he does. Thank you for bringing my ride back to life.

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

How to Replace an Ignition Trigger
The ignition trigger fails if the engine is misfiring or has trouble starting. The check engine light may illuminate if the ignition trigger fails.
How to Replace an Ignition Relay
Common signs of a damaged or broken ignition relay include a low/dead battery, the car stalling or not starting, or loss of power to the dash lights.
How to Replace a Distributor Rotor and Cap
Distributor caps and rotors keep the distributor clean and separate from the engine. Distributor caps may need to be replaced if the car won't start.

Related questions

Car not staying started
Hi there. Diesel fuel systems can be temperamental, so that is where I would start. Lack of fuel pressure, contaminants or air in the system can cause the symptoms you are having. The water/fuel separator may need to be serviced...
Car starting roughly
If you are hearing a grinding noise for a few seconds on engine start up, the timing chain tensioners are to blame. There are two chain tensioners, however, if one is bad, both are replaced. It is a rather large...
Remove camera message - 2013 Cadillac XTS
No, a continuous warning means the system must require some sort of service. The camera is very delicate and may have been bumped or moved in the process of the windshield replacement. Visit the local dealer to have the system...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com