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Home ::  Articles ::  Related Articles ::  Understand R/C Engine Ignition System

Understand R/C Engine Ignition System

Engine Ignition systems are well known in the field of internal combustion engines (read more about Different Types of R/C Engines). Like a large circuit board to a car, ignition system is builds up a charge then releases it at the right moment to ignite the air fuel mixture in the cylinder. It influences the engine's performance as well as ensures less pollution from emission.

The ignition system mainly consists of coils, spark plug, engine timing, ignition wires and distributor.


Ignition Coil
As the picture show above, ignition coil is connected to the distributor. It takes your relatively weak battery power and turns it into a spark powerful enough to ignite fuel vapor. This wire must be insulated so that the voltage does not jump from loop to loop, shorting it out.

The distributor handles two jobs. It is responsible for triggering the ignition coil to generate a spark at exactly the right time. Another function is distributing the high voltage from the coil to the correct cylinder.

Ignition Wires
Coil takes the weaker juice and makes a high powered spark, and the distributor takes the powerful spark and spins it to the right outlet. Then the ignition wires will get that enormous power to the spark plug without leaking out. It can handle 20,000 to more than 50,000 volts.

Spark plugs
Spark plugs are screwed into the cylinder head; it must have an insulated passageway for this high voltage to travel down to the electrode. Spark plug is quite simple in theory: when the intake valves have let the right amount of fuel vapor and air into the cylinder, the spark plug makes a nice, blue, hot spark, then ignites the mixture and creates combustion. Spark must occur at the precise moment, its voltage can be anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 volts.

Types of Ignition System
There are three general types of ignition system: Mechanical breaker ignition; electronic ignition; and distributorless ignition system.

Mechanical ignition systems
Many years ago, mechanical-breaker ignition systems were the most popular in the market. It was mechanical and electrical and used no electronics. The mechanical spark distributor distributes a high voltage current to the correct spark plug at the correct time.

Electronic ignition
Electronic ignition systems are circuit-based instead of mechanically-controlled is in how the electrical impulse is distributed to the spark plugs. It is more efficient and can support higher engine horsepower levels than the mechanical one.

Direct ignition
Distributorless ignition system or direct ignition, it is the most reliable ignition as the computer controlled and contained no moving parts. Generally, these systems required no maintenance except replacing the spark plug at intervals from 60,000 to over 100,000 miles.

At last, it's worth mentioning the popular CDI ignition system. CDI is a successor to the magneto based ignition systems, it was a self-contained system, and no batteries were required. It can provide the essential high-energy spark needed for lean-burn engines that operate at higher mean effective pressures and with larger cylinder bore sizes.