What Is the Difference Between Conventional, Electronic and Distributor-less Ignition Systems?

If you’re like many people, you know that when you turn the key in your ignition, the engine cranks and you’re able to drive your car. However, you might not know how that ignition system works. For that matter, you might not even know what type of ignition system your car uses.

The different types of ignition systems

  • Conventional: While this is called a “conventional” ignition system, it’s something of a misnomer. These are not used on modern cars, at least not in the US. This is an older style of ignition system that uses points, a distributor, and an external coil. They’re high-maintenance, but easily fixed and pretty cheap. Service intervals ranged from every 5,000 to 10,000 miles.

  • Electronic: An electronic ignition is a modification on the conventional system, and you’ll find these in widespread use today, although distributor-less systems are now becoming more common. In an electronic system, you still have a distributor, but the points have been replaced with a pickup coil, and there’s an electronic ignition control module. These are far less likely to breakdown than conventional systems, and provide very reliable operation. Service intervals on these types of systems are generally recommended every 25,000 miles or so.

  • Distributor-less: This is the newest type of ignition system and it’s beginning to see very widespread use on newer vehicles. It differs greatly from the other two types. In this system, coils sit directly on top of the spark plugs (there are no spark plug wires), and the system is completely electronic. It’s controlled by the car’s computer. You might be more familiar with it as a “direct ignition” system. They require very little maintenance, with some automakers specifying 100,000 miles between services.

The evolution of ignition systems has provided a number of benefits. Drivers with newer systems enjoy better fuel efficiency, more reliable operation and reduced maintenance costs (the systems are more expensive to maintain, but with maintenance only needed every 100,000 miles, many drivers may never have to pay for a service).


Next Step

Schedule Oil Change

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Oil Change. 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 Oil Change reviews

Excellent Rating

(21,699)

Rating Summary
20,382
845
179
87
206
20,382
845
179
87
206

Matthew

33 years of experience
991 reviews
Matthew
33 years of experience
Volkswagen Passat - Oil Change - Hampton, Virginia
Matt always does a great job. Very professional. I look forward to my next appointment.... A++++++
Ford Expedition - Oil Change - Hampton, Virginia
I am so please to have Matt work on my vehicle, he is very friendly and personable, and always does a great job.

Greg

22 years of experience
37 reviews
Greg
22 years of experience
Audi A3 - Oil Change - Queen Creek, Arizona
Job well done! Greg was on time and professional. He treated my vehicle with care. He completed the job smoothly and so far so good. First time using Your mechanic and it was a pleasant experience. I will be looking into them again. Thanks Greg!
Ford Explorer - Oil Change - Scottsdale, Arizona
Greg was very friendly and professional. Communication was great, he let me know what he was doing. He went above and beyond to make sure everything was running smoothly. I would 100% recommend Greg!

LAVELL

27 years of experience
93 reviews
LAVELL
27 years of experience
Buick Encore - Oil Change - Oakland, California
Another home run! Really appreciate the flexibility regarding my service appointment. Due to my work schedule I desperately needed a late appointment. So grateful my car is receiving top shelf professional service. Replaced a oil pan drain plug that was seriously damaged and stripped by a competitor that will NEVER get my business again! All services were quickly completed. Thank you so much for another great experience with my.... Your Mechanic Lavell 5 ⭐️ Service consistently.

Brian

23 years of experience
483 reviews
Brian
23 years of experience
Porsche 911 - Oil Change - Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Brian is extremely knowledgeable and very personable and has taken very good care on my 911. I would recommend Brian to any one who has mechanical car challenges. I would recommend Brian to all My friends and family

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 Does a Push-Button Start Work?
For the vast majority of people, cranking your car involves getting the key out, sliding it into the ignition, and turning...
What Are the Best Spark Plugs for Normal Use?
Spark Spark plugs are essential components of your ignition system. They’re responsible for supplying the spark that ignites fuel and starts the combustion process. However, not all spark plugs are created equal. You’ll find “normal” plugs on the market, but...
How Are High-Performance Ignition Systems Different from Standard Ones?
Once Once upon a time, there was only one type of ignition system. It used a distributor, points, a coil, and was subject to significant wear and tear. Then came the electronic ignition, which replaced the points with an electronic...

Related questions

Ignition switch will not turn on.

Hello and thank you for your question. For this, you will need to disconnect you battery and remove the steering wheel and airbag assembly. In the steering column, you will see where the ignition switch is located and you will...

Car not starting.

Hi, there are three things you car need to start Air/fuel, compression, ignition. If one of these things is missing the car will not start. I would recommend having a technician come out and test these systems for failure. Most...

Jetta not starting.

There are quite a few things that can cause a cranking no start condition on a Jetta. Some common issues are faulty crankshaft sensors and faulty ignition coil. Starting with the basics generally yields the best results. Listen for fuel...

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