'93 civic, engine cuts out while driving on highway ?

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hi,
haven't ben here in a while but now i'm back with perplexing problem.
i was driving along highway 70 mph and the engines just ** cuts out ** no warning, no sputter, no bucking, no shimmer, no funny noises
{clunks, thudss nothing}
engine truns over fine, power going to everything fuses look ok, half-tank of gas
is the that RELAY problem can't remember what it was called ?
need help and ideas, thanks, rob
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hi, haven't ben here in a while but now i'm back with perplexingproblem.
i was driving along highway 70 mph and the engines just ** cuts out ** no warning, no sputter, no bucking, no shimmer, no funny noises {clunks, thuds nothing}
engine turns over fine, power going to everything fuses look ok, half-tank of gas
is this that RELAY problem can't remember what it was called ?
need help and ideas, thanks, rob
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Does it eventually restart?
Igniter or coil. Most likely igniter.
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Tegger

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Hi Tegger, Thanks for the help and reply.
no, it did not and does not restart.
Is there a way to test the ignitor ? i have basic electronic diagnostic tools eg. Multi-Meter ?
thanks again for your help, rob
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http://www.tegger.com/hondafaq/faq.html#startrun
http://www.tegger.com/hondafaq/startproblems.html#badigniter
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Tegger

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You got it Tegger, Ignitor had failed *off*. i connected it up with bulb trick and it would not switch , then i compared to a new one which switches just fine.
One more question : when i lifted the distributor cap i found the *spring* that sits between the coil and the distributor cap ... well the top part was bent way over and appears that it was not making the connection it should with the cap. *BUT* rather it was just a spark gap. There is a nice burned spot on the small metal contact post that is up in the distributor cap
Ques: Could that condition where the contatct spring between the *Coil* and the *Cap* is not connected cause stress on the ignitor or thew coil and maybe cause pre-mature failure ?
my reasoning being that a spark gap was causing some parts of the ignition system to work harder maybe due to less performance from the double sparking that had to occur ?
thanks so much for the help , rob
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robb wrote:

quite possibly, although the igniter should be able to cope with full open circuit discharge. it's academic at this stage - you need a new distributor cap and rotor, and you already have a new igniter. now you'll be set for the next several years.
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Oooh, bad. Aftermarket cap?

Like jim says, it's possible. Apparently the igniter controls its own dwell by sensing back EMF as the coil charges up. I guess if the coil ends up oversaturated, the excessive backwash HT voltage thus generated may serve to damage the igniter.

That's very possible. The entire system exists for the sole purpose of making a spark jump at the plugs. If anything at all interferes with that goal, the rest of the system will be subject to abnormal load, possibly to the point of inducing failure.
By the way, I know OEM parts are expensive, but I strongly advise you to replace your igntion components with OEM only. Anything else is asking for trouble.
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From the pictures of an igniter you posted awhile back,the igniter has a control IC that measures the emitter current while the coil is charging up.I believe there's a resistor printed on the ceramic substrate that is the current sensing resistor.

There should be a catch or snubber diode to prevent back EMF from damaging the igniter,it may be integral with the switching transistor;they do the same for TV flyback HV supplies.(they also use current sensing to control coil current,lots of switching power supplies also use it.)
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"Emitter current"... What's the difference between that and "back EMF"?

I remember this being mentioned way back while we were discussing the igniter pages before I made those pages up. Thanks for the reminder.

So then maybe the OP's igniter simply suffered a random failure.
I've got 295,300 miles and seventeen years on my original igniter. Borrowed time?
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"back EMF" is the current generated when the coil is -disconnected- from the charging current,or as commonly called,the "flyback current". The IC measures the CHARGING current,thru a resistor from emitter to ground(while the transistor is ON). The "back EMF" is the high voltage discharge generated for the spark plugs when the coil's magnetic field collapses when the charge current is switched off.Part of it's path is thru the snub diode/condenser,around the switching transistor,to ground.
What is called "dwell" is the time the coil is being charged,when the points or transistor is "ON" and 12V is charging the coil.The longer the dwell,the greater the magnetic field built up,and the higher the back EMF generated when the charge current is disconnected(points open or transistor switches OFF).

I see no reason for an igniter to fail simply from age or mileage. I suspect poor heatsinking(that white compound between the ceramic substrate and the aluminum of the distributor) or coil/wire arcing transients.Grime buildup can also interfere with heat transfer or allow for leakage currents to flow across the circuit improperly.Moisture would not be good,either.
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OK....
Then it seems like I need to change my reference to "back EMF" to read "emitter current" on the relevant igniter page.
You have not yet defined "emitter current". Can you?
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The "emitter" is one element of the switching transistor. (on a schematic representation,the transistor element with an arrow designates the emitter.direction of the arrow designates whether the transistor is a NPN or PNP type transistor)
You have the base-emitter(B-E) current[from the IC] that controls the much larger collector-emitter(C-E) current[coil charging current]. The control IC measures the total emitter current,decides when to switch the transistor off when it reaches specified levels,determined by the value of the emitter resistor.
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Found a schematic online. This is a little over my head, but I'm trying to grasp it anyway.
As I understand it, the IC drops the base current at the correct time, causing flow to stop between emitter and collector. This is the action of switching the transistor off, forcing the field collapse that creates the HT current in the coil.
According to some pages I'm finding, the current-limiting resistor changes its value as *voltage* goes up, which is how the IC knows what's happening. http://www.williamson-labs.com/480_xtor.htm
But I'm not following how *voltage* goes up here. I'm not understanding the connection between *current* and *voltage*. I thought the two were independent of each other.
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Right!
No,for the igniter,the emitter resistor is a fixed value,and the -voltage developed across it- increases as current thru it increases(the coil current).That voltage is fed back to an IC input and when it reaches a set value,the IC shuts off the transistor.That's how the IC measures the coil current.

here's the relationship; E=IxR I=E/R
E=voltage I= current R= resistance
See,when you hook 12V across a coil,the current thru the coil is a linear ramp up until the coil saturates. So,the IC measures that ramping current with the emitter resistor,and compares the voltage developed across the resistor to an internal voltage,when they equal,a switch turns off the external switcher transistor,removing the 12V from the coil. Then the magnetic field collapses and the HV spark is generated in the coil windings.
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Aha, I see. So if the current goes up, that changes the product of IxR.

Now it makes more sense. I didn't know the current changed during coil dwell time.
So then...With a Kettering breaker-points system, the points gap provided control over dwell. With Honda's electronic system, an IC is monitoring voltage across a resistor to determine dwell.

Do you know what's used as a "snubber" for the ~200V back voltage from the primary? Or is one even needed? In the old days you had a condenser for that task.
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the switching transistor may have an internal bypass diode. Many TV sets have transistors that have the diode built in.
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Thanks for the information. I'm going to update the igniter pages one more time to reflect what you've helped me with.
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Tegger wrote

Old wires or old spark plugs, or non-OEM of same, seem to me to candidates for contributing to failure of the igniter too. I base this on my experience with my 91 Civic's igniter (in the years when I was likely using non-OEM wires and/or plugs, or just not caring carefully for the OEM ones) vs. Tegger's set routine of replacing rotor, cap, and wires every five years.
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wrote

That's what I meant by "coil/wire arcing transients";plug wires breaking down or a coil insulation breakdown. I don't think old spark plugs would cause an igniter to fail,unless they had a cracked insulator or carbon tracks on the insulator from outside contamination like dirt/grease.

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