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

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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).


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Nazareth

26 years of experience
110 reviews
Nazareth
26 years of experience
Mazda 3 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Los Angeles, California
Nazareth provides excellent service. He is very friendly, flexible and proactive, I can only recommend booking him.
Mazda 3 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Glendale, California
Nazareth was great to work with. I would highly recommend him for future vehicle work. He was able to get the job done quickly and in a professional manner.

Michael

7 years of experience
16 reviews
Michael
7 years of experience
Honda Accord - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Scottsdale, Arizona
Michael is awesome! Extremely knowledgeable, competent, and has strong integrity. He was able to help me understand why I didn’t need certain fixes that the dealership recommended (which ended up saving me almost a thousand dollars). He’s very personable, charismatic, and skilled at what he does. I can confidently say that the “YourMechanic” website is beyond blessed to have this man working with them.
Jeep Wrangler - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Chandler, Arizona
Very professional and knowledgeable. I would highly recommend Michael to anyone looking for car maintenance. Great service! Thank you.

Jason

31 years of experience
167 reviews
Jason
31 years of experience
Fiat 500L - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - San Jose, California
Unbelievably efficient and knowledgeable. Jason just comes and gets it done. I so appreciate his commitment to Excellence as evidenced by his refusal to use the wrong oil for my oil change, even though it meant him coming out another day. Just had my brakes done in less than an hour. So happy I found this and so happy that Jason's my mechanic. I highly recommend him. Meghan in San Jose
Nissan Altima - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - San Mateo, California
Jason was very professional and friendly. He provided extremely honest and helpful advice on issues with my Altima that would require proactive future maintenance.

Pardeep

20 years of experience
655 reviews
Pardeep
20 years of experience
Honda Civic - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - San Jose, California
Thank you for helping to problem solve and being professional. I will likely be seeing you again soon.
Ford Fusion - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Fremont, California
Again 5 star service. And already scheduling him for my next appointment. Highly recommend Pardeep for your car needs.

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