What Does Ignition Timing Mean? | YourMechanic Advice

What Does Ignition Timing Mean?

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Timing – it has a couple of different meanings when applied to your car’s engine. One of the most critical is ignition timing (not to be confused with engine timing). Ignition timing refers to when spark is created during the engine’s cycle. It needs to be just right or you end up losing power, increasing fuel consumption and producing more emissions in your exhaust.

What’s timing all about?

Your engine runs on a controlled series of explosions. Spark plugs create their spark to ignite fuel vapors. This creates combustion. The explosion then pushes down the piston, which turns the camshaft. However, the plug can’t fire at just any time. It needs to be timed correctly with the engine’s motion.

There are four cycles in an automotive engine (thus the name four stroke). These are:

  • Intake
  • Compression
  • Combustion
  • Exhaust

The spark plug must fire at the right point in these cycles to maximize the power created by combustion. The system should fire before the piston hits top dead center (TDC). The increase in pressure from combustion pushes the piston back down (after reaching TDC), and turns the camshaft. The reason that the plugs need to fire before the piston hits TDC is that if it didn’t happen then, by the time combustion actually occurred, the piston would be so far into its downward motion that the force of the combustion would be largely wasted.

Remember: while gas is highly combustible, it doesn’t burn instantaneously. There is always a delay. By firing before the piston hits TDC, your engine is able to account for this delay and maximize the amount of power each time.


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Chris

21 years of experience
1861 reviews
Chris
21 years of experience
Mini Cooper Clubman - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Silverado, California
He arrived early, went straight to work, and it should have been quoted higher as it’s a Mini which takes longer than the average break job. He didn’t try to get more than the quoted amount. He even set out to replace a running light for me when he was finished. I thought there would hard sales telling me I needed more work but there wasn’t. Because he didn’t try to sell me more work, I will use him again. When I hired a mechanic I don’t want a salesman. 
Land Rover Range Rover Sport - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Irvine, California
Chris again has provided great Service. Everything was great. I was very happy with the work and will definitely have him return for any other work.

Bryant

11 years of experience
408 reviews
Bryant
11 years of experience
Ford Fusion - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Indianapolis, Indiana
Bryant has done great work on my car before, the latest work is no exception. He's very flexible, and goes the extra mile to get you back on the road.
Scion iA - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Carmel, Indiana
This is my first time using this service. I am very happy with it. Bryant was very knowledgeable and did quality work. I will use this service more regularly.

Edmar

21 years of experience
184 reviews
Edmar
21 years of experience
Chrysler 200 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Euless, Texas
Edmar always does a very good job. He's done a few different things on my car the last two years. Each job was performed very fast and top quality. Thank you once again.

Mazyar

7 years of experience
255 reviews
Mazyar
7 years of experience
Jaguar XF - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Lawrenceville, Georgia
He was early, courtesy and actually helped me save some money since i didn't need all the work that i thought i needed done. Honest guy. Very knowledgeable. Great attitude.

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