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The ignition system supplies the spark that ignites the air/fuel mixture in the combustion chambers. For optimal performance and fuel mileage, and minimal emissions, the spark must be powerful and properly timed for all operating conditions. There are mechanical breaker point and electronic distributor ignition systems, distributorless ignition systems, and Coil-On-Plug (COP) systems, but no matter what you have we can supply you with replacement parts.


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Spark plugs are the most commonly serviced parts in the ignition system. A spark plug consists of a center electrode inside an insulator and steel shell. A side electrode curves out from the bottom of the shell toward the center electrode. The shell is threaded, so the spark plug can be installed in the combustion chamber. When high voltage is sent by the ignition coil to the spark plug, a spark jumps the gap between the center and side electrodes, igniting the air/fuel mixture. However, a small amount of the electrodes wears every time the plug fires, eventually increasing the gap and requiring spark plug replacement.

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The ignition system has a primary and a secondary circuit. The primary circuit includes the battery, ignition switch, a control module (switching device), and the primary winding of the ignition coil. The secondary circuit includes the secondary winding of the ignition coil, spark plugs, and on some vehicles a distributor and/or spark plug wires. The ignition coil transforms the 12 volts from the battery to 15,000-40,000 volts needed by the spark plugs.

Distributor ignitions have a single coil, electronic distributorless ignitions have a coil for each pair of cylinders, and COP systems have a coil for each spark plug. However, all are constructed in basically the same way. The primary winding has 100-200 turns of heavy wire wound around an iron core. The secondary winding has thousands of turns of very fine wire inside the primary winding. When current flows through the primary winding, a magnetic field is created. When the control module interrupts current flow, the magnetic field collapses, producing high voltage in the secondary winding.

Breaker point distributor ignition systems were the standard of the industry for decades, however the breaker points wore and required frequent maintenance. Electronic distributor ignitions were an advancement, but still suffered from distributor, cap and rotor wear. Waste spark ignition systems eliminate the distributor and instead use a coil for each pair of cylinders, however spark plug wires are still used. COP ignitions are the most sophisticated systems. The spark plug wires have been eliminated, along with the arcing and misfires that wire damage could cause, and ignition timing is electronically controlled.

Guides & Articles

  • Auto Repair Parts
    Since their inception at the start of the 20th century, motor vehicles with gasoline burning engines have needed a precise way to deliver an electrical spark to each of the engine's cylinders. (Note that diesel engines do not rely on an electrical spark to ignite the fuel-air mixture.) For much of the past 100 years, the spark has been delivered by the ignition distributor. The distributor is always mechanically linked or timed to the engine's rotation so that the spark is sent at the exact moment it is needed.
  • Auto Repair Parts
    The question of whether to buy parts from an automotive dealer vs. ones from aftermarket manufacturers is as age-old as the automobile itself. Below, we'll take a look at things worth considering to help you make a better choice if you're facing that same question. Automobile manufacturers and dealerships always advertise the fact that their parts are "genuine" because they were made by the exact same production facility that made the parts installed on the assembly line.
  • Auto Repair Parts
    This article will guide you through a generic tune up on most any car or light duty gasoline-powered vehicle built within the last 20 years or so. We will presume that you are tuning up your engine because it has reached the mileage or time point to do so, and that you are NOT performing a tune up to cure an engine performance defect. We make this distinction because not all running/performance issues will be solved via a simple tune up.
  • Auto Repair Parts
    Since the dawn of the automobile, spark plugs have been an integral part of gasoline engines because they conduct the electrical energy from a vehicle’s ignition system needed to finalize the combustion process. After the gas/air mixture has been fully compressed inside the cylinder head, spark plugs serve a miniature bolt of lightning to create an explosion which pushes a piston downward.

Ignition Parts Reviews

Average rating:  5  4.8 - 73 reviews
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5 of 5
2009 Dodge Caliber / Posted by Jennifer (Port Allegany, PA) /

These were easy to install and worked right away.

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