Jump to content

Electronic ignition - huge horsepower improvement ??


Recommended Posts

Just watched a TV show where  a ‘69 Corvette with a 350 was dyno tested  at 145 HP...the points were then changed to an electronic set up and the new test showed 190 HP..that’s a huge improvement..

 

I know the supposed advantages to reliability - don’t want to open that debate again or what’s best make to use...but is that kind of HP improvement really achievable?? Sounds too good to be true...

 

kev

Edited by moran75 (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites

Sir, I have a 63 zRiviera that has electronic ignition installed by one of the best in the country, Tom Telesco. Additionally, Tom rebuilt my original Carter AFB. The car has been tuned by Tom and the car runs to suit me.

The engine has recently been rebuilt. 
 

I find my car quite responsive to aggressive acceleration with no, none, no hesitation. I don’t know what HP gains were made, if any. The car starts easily enough and picks and goes real fast for me. But, my experience is relative to what? I’d say a big improvement in my engine performance. The increase in performance however has not been measured to quantify.

Turbinator

Link to post
Share on other sites

IF everything was to spec. & working properly before the ignition upgrade the ONLY thing you MAY see is maybe a better idle quality (because of a hotter spark) & maybe faster starts.  BUT, a HP increase NOT unless the distributor was recurved at the same time, BUT AGAIN I very much doubt 45HP.

JMHO

 

Tom T.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, moran75 said:

Just watched a TV show where  a ‘69 Corvette with a 350 was dyno tested  at 145 HP...the points were then changed to an electronic set up and the new test showed 190 HP..that’s a huge improvement..

 

I know the supposed advantages to reliability - don’t want to open that debate again or what’s best make to use...but is that kind of HP improvement really achievable?? Sounds too good to be true...

 

kev


 

Bet they are selling conversion kits.........

 

At Sturgis a guy was selling plugs and wires for your Harley.......he put it on a dyno and tested it, did the “tune up” and retested it. If you didn’t get six horse power more there was no charge. I watched him do three bikes, and on the fourth while he was doing the “retest” I openly and loudly suggested he sit back down on the bike like he did the first time he did the power run.........his fat ass was on the bike “before” but he stood off to the side for the “retest”. Crowd got very ugly........he gave back a bunch of money and the parking lot he was set up in tossed him out..........

 

A properly set up distributor will make two to three times the voltage any car can use.......it is still firing the path of least resistance..........the coil discharges the same amount of KV’s every time.........as long as there is enough time to saturate the coil between firings ,  that’s the theory behind dual points........except on pre war cars engine design and low rpm make dual points and dual coils a waste of time unless you flat head Packard or Pierce is turning 12 grand.

 

Electronic ignition on a pre war car is a solution looking for a problem that doesn’t exist. I don’t know of any serious and experienced collector that runs them.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ohms Law always stays the same. The primary side triggers and the secondary side produces the voltage required to overcome the resistance of the secondary circuit. About the only variable is the air/fuel density.

3,000 volts is all you see in normal driving. Over 4K and you are beginning to lean out. I would guess the test Corvette was due for a valve job. Boosting the spark would get it to fire through the excess air (higher resistance).

Link to post
Share on other sites
52 minutes ago, 60FlatTop said:

Ohms Law always stays the same. The primary side triggers and the secondary side produces the voltage required to overcome the resistance of the secondary circuit. About the only variable is the air/fuel density.

3,000 volts is all you see in normal driving. Over 4K and you are beginning to lean out. I would guess the test Corvette was due for a valve job. Boosting the spark would get it to fire through the excess air (higher resistance).

 

This. Physics say that an ignition system will only make enough voltage to jump the spark gap. You could have a system capable of making a million volts, but if it only takes 3000 volts to jump the spark plug gap, well, that's all it's going to make. It's not hardware, it's science!

 

I'll admit that some electronic systems can make for quicker starts and sometimes a smoother idle simply because the spark is both more precisely timed and "sharper" in terms of on/off, but it can't and won't make more horsepower.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, arnulfo de l.a. said:

I like the fact that you don’t have to worry about parts wearing out and needing to change. Thats probably the biggest plus for me.

 

Except that points will keep working even in failure mode and get you home while electronic ignitions die in a mircosecond puff of smoke and leave you permanently stranded. There's a pretty good reason why many guys who switch to electronic ignitions say they keep a points and condenser set in the glove box "just in case."

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

I am of the opinion that the electronics have improved over the years So not so much a concern anymore. But still a good idea to carry a set of points if only for peace of mind. I also carry a electric fuel pump in the trunk. Have had the mechanical ones fail on me 3 times over 15 years 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Biggest problem is 6 volt electronic ignitions don’t work well when under volted .....Like when old cars are not driven often, and batteries are low/weak, and your voltage drops when cranking. Thus, hard start and no start on a six volt electronic ignition are common issues, as well as electronic failures.

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Matt Harwood said:

 

Except that points will keep working even in failure mode and get you home while electronic ignitions die in a mircosecond puff of smoke and leave you permanently stranded. There's a pretty good reason why many guys who switch to electronic ignitions say they keep a points and condenser set in the glove box "just in case."

I know a guy who carries a complete distributor in his emergency parts box. 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, moran75 said:

Just watched a TV show where  a ‘69 Corvette with a 350 was dyno tested  at 145 HP...the points were then changed to an electronic set up and the new test showed 190 HP..that’s a huge improvement..

 

I know the supposed advantages to reliability - don’t want to open that debate again or what’s best make to use...but is that kind of HP improvement really achievable?? Sounds too good to be true...

 

kev

 

It's BS. If you take an old worn out out of tune points ignition out and replace it with something that works right, you will see an improvement but 45 horespower is a hell of a stretch.

 

To paraphrase what 1980s ignition guru Christopher Jacobs said about it, the best thing an ignition system can do for you is light the charge at the right time, every time.  If the engine runs good and doesn't miss, you are already 95% or more of the way there.

 

The main advantage of electronic ignition is that it does the same thing for years without tuning. A points ignition begins to degrade the minute you start driving.

 

A lesser advantage is that the amount of spark energy available is limited by how fast you can charge the coil, and that is in turn limited by how much current you can put through the points without burning them up. A power transistor can often handle more current. In practice, this may allow you to widen the plug gap a little and that will raise the firing voltage. A little. Not to 50,000 volts or whatever giant number is being thrown around by salesmen. Up to .055" or so a larger plug gap and the attendant voltage increase can make an improvement in power. A tiny improvement. Not 45 horsepower. You might need a dyno to see it.

 

 

Edited by Bloo (see edit history)
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Bloo said:

It's BS. If you take an old worn out out of tune points ignition out and replace it with something that works right, you will see an improvement but 45 horespower is a hell of a stretch.

 

Whaa....??  Are you saying my Pertronix isn't responsible for the rapid tread wear on my right rear tire?

  • Like 1
  • Haha 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

Faster starts and smoother idle are conditions where the calibration of the carburetor work in their least precise mode, choke and needle valves. The extra air in the mixture in those conditions cause higher resistance across the spark gap. One could benefit from a high voltage that would cover up a deficiency.

 

It all pretty much hinges on the conductivity of the air/fuel charge. Running on the carburetor high speed circuit is the most precise metering so they will generally run good there.

Air and fuel, good conductor. Air not so good.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, 60FlatTop said:

Faster starts and smoother idle are conditions where the calibration of the carburetor work in their least precise mode, choke and needle valves. The extra air in the mixture in those conditions cause higher resistance across the spark gap. One could benefit from a high voltage that would cover up a deficiency.

 

It all pretty much hinges on the conductivity of the air/fuel charge. Running on the carburetor high speed circuit is the most precise metering so they will generally run good there.

Air and fuel, good conductor. Air not so good.


 

There is nothing quite like stoichometry..............if your not familiar with the term, look it up.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I was over in Andover, Mass. attending training at Phoenix Controls and got into an entertaining conversation with the instructor about stoiciometerics. The vendor who provided the training though some shenanigans were going on and I was a ringer who had been planted.

 

Turned out the instructor had been a design engineer for GM's digital cruise control programming and I used to get 4 hours extra pay based on my power plant performance. It all connects in there.

 

Just an "in Mass" comment.

Link to post
Share on other sites

One thing not commonly understood is that the running spark voltage is set mainly by the gap of the plug. The voltage goes instantaneously high until a spark is initiated, then falls to a far lower voltage while the spark is happening, eventually stopping when the coil runs out of stored energy and cannot continue the spark.

 

The voltage goes higher under high load and lower under light load. These voltages are only a few thousand volts. The "50,000 Volts" or whatever often quoted, and probably exaggerated, is the voltage that occurs with a plug wire off, as the voltage rises higher and higher trying to initiate a spark that never happens. In the driveability trade we called this voltage "headroom". It might be 50,000 volts, or maybe only 20,000 or so. Probably even less on some cars.

 

The highest voltage occurs at the highest load. That would be wide open throttle up a steep hill. If the engine, with it's current plug gap, never allows the required spark initiation voltage to rise above the headroom voltage, then the engine does not miss. Any properly engineered factory ignition system has enough headroom at the specified plug gap. Nothing close to the headroom voltage will ever be seen.

 

Points are nothing but a switch, a simple on-off switch. Changing that mechanical switch to a silicon power transistor (as typically used in an electronic ignition), without doing anything else, does absolutely nothing to increase the headroom voltage.

 

Redesigning the coil with a higher turns ratio can increase the headroom, usually at the expense of spark duration. Whether that is a downgrade or not is debatable. Personally I don't think it is a big deal. It isn't an upgrade because the headroom voltage will never be approached while driving. If at the same time you redesign the coil to draw more current, you could probably have more headroom without sacrificing duration. You might need to use a transistor to switch this coil, because points are limited in how much current they can handle.

 

All this sounds like I am against electronic ignition. I am not. The real advantages are in my other post. The first one is a big deal even if it does not sound like it. There are, however, some cars it would make no sense to convert, with 6 volt ones at the top of the list. One has to separate the physics from the barrage of marketing BS that exists in the aftermarket ignition world. It ain't easy.

 

 

Edited by Bloo (see edit history)
  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I HAVE TO POST THIS.

Having ANY KIND of electronic ignition DOES NOT lessen the need/nescessity for, at least, yearly distributor maintenence.  Like lubing the advance weights, a drop of oil in the center for oiling of the top of the distributor shaft to help to keep it moving smoothly AND checking the operation of the vacuum advance. 

With electronic ignition the dwell rate is ALWAYS the same & doesn't change throughout the life of the ignition compared to points, the dwell time is longer  (unlike points which can change on a daily basis)  & mostly always consistant which ends up with a "Hotter" spark and the timing will always remain the same so there are NO adjustemnts needed other than  at least yearly maintenence.

I coud go on for hours about all of this, BUT even though it's a Sunday I have things I must do to TRY & keep ahead of the onsault.

 

Tom T.

 

  • Like 6
Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, telriv said:

Having ANY KIND of electronic ignition DOES NOT lessen the need/nescessity for, at least, yearly distributor maintenence.  Like lubing the advance weights, a drop of oil in the center for oiling of the top of the distributor shaft to help to keep it moving smoothly AND checking the operation of the vacuum advance.

 

^^This matters, and genuinely makes the car run better. It can't be repeated enough.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/22/2020 at 12:50 PM, telriv said:

I HAVE TO POST THIS.

Having ANY KIND of electronic ignition DOES NOT lessen the need/nescessity for, at least, yearly distributor maintenence.  Like lubing the advance weights, a drop of oil in the center for oiling of the top of the distributor shaft to help to keep it moving smoothly AND checking the operation of the vacuum advance. 

With electronic ignition the dwell rate is ALWAYS the same & doesn't change throughout the life of the ignition compared to points, the dwell time is longer  (unlike points which can change on a daily basis)  & mostly always consistant which ends up with a "Hotter" spark and the timing will always remain the same so there are NO adjustemnts needed other than  at least yearly maintenence.

I coud go on for hours about all of this, BUT even though it's a Sunday I have things I must do to TRY & keep ahead of the onsault.

 

Tom T.

 

Agree . Very good info thanks!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd like to install a pertronix because it's a clean, reversible upgrade  to  those mechanical contacts I find so archaic. Come on, its the year 2020. It will fall in-line to my theme of resto-mod on my '63 where I didn't 'toss' my nailhead for an LS3 or rip out the dash for full digital instrumentation. Rather , improve on what's there with an 'original look' and OE quality. ie, electric clock conversion, Delco AM/FM better than new, 4-way flashers.

 Until I freshen-up my 1/2 RPM train (sloppy timing chain), a pertronix installation will simply eliminate those points which are basically an interrupter to the primary side of the coil. Electronic ignition with the Pickup on the CRANKSHAFT as part of a closed loop system to an ECM, now that would be up grade but not what I want for my ride.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

"One Wire"? Details on that one Tom? I say Pertoronix because that's what comes to mind for conversion from points

Points are so feeble, 12V are applied only on startup. Approx. 9V through that resistor wire in the harness during operation.

I've experimented with Hall Effect sensors for other applications which is the heart of those conversions. I'm sold on that technology.

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, XframeFX said:

Points are so feeble, 12V are applied only on startup. Approx. 9V through that resistor wire in the harness during operation.

 

Not because they are feeble. Some electronic ignitions also do this (Chrysler comes to mind). It is true that it helps the points survive if someone leaves the ignition on with the engine not running, but that isn't the main reason.

 

The main reason is that a 12 volt car while running and charging holds battery voltage around 14.2 volts. It is more like 14.7 volts on most modern cars with engine electronics. This is the voltage the ignition must run on (and hopefully live a long time). The natural voltage of a fully charged 12 volt battery is 12.6 volts. Under the load of a starter, the voltage pulls quite a bit lower. Most starters will still crank at 10.5 volts, and some will chug down quite a bit lower than that.

 

That 14.2 volt ignition system will be expected to start the engine, which is probably cold, on less than 3/4 of it's normal voltage. On the other hand, an ignition system designed to run on about 9 volts will be getting 10.5 volts or more if it gets it's resistor bypassed during cranking. The spark will be nice and hot, and the system can probably stand the overvoltage because it is for a relatively short period of time.

 

 

Edited by Bloo (see edit history)
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I get a big kick out of the now-known fact that points aren’t reliable.

 

Thank goodness people didn’t know that back when the cars were new, they never would have left the house in a car, much less drive hundreds of trillions of miles with those darn points.

  • Like 3
  • Haha 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

What other things did they do to the Vette?  Was this part of a whole tune up or even a rebuild?

 

Those numbers seem more in line with doing the spark plugs, wires, air and oil filters on a very neglected car.  And even then I'd think they'd need to crack open the motor to get the 30% gains they are claiming.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

John,

 

    I've been installing these for more than 18 years now with only ONE failure & that was due to the operater.  On our GM cars they still look stock because only one wire comes out of the distributor. Installs in place of the points. NO addtional parts needed. Has a longer, consistent dwell time which relates to a hotter spark & timing remains virtually the same throughout it's life. 

It turns itself OFF after a short amount of time to keep from overheating the coil or module or burning other things out. Is made to operate with the ignition completely stock including the resistor/wiring. At the same time that I install them I ALSO rebuild/recurve the advance mechanism & go throught the distributor with a fine tooth comb replaceing/rebuilding what's nec.

 

Tom T..

Link to post
Share on other sites

In 1991 I set up my points in my 1936 Pierce V-12, and 27 years later pulled the distributor and placed it on my Sun tester to see if anything had changed. It was exactly where I had set it...........20 thousand miles later. With pre war cars, engine design is generally so inefficient that slight to moderate ignition issues usually won’t show themselves. Half the cars I see have advance mechanisms that are frozen or limited to their range of movement and their still driving down the road. Until an engine is spinning over 6 or 7 grand, any stock ignition system will reliably fire the charge. Electronic ignitions in car really didn’t offer much advantage until fuel injection became standard. A properly tuned early pre war car really doesn’t need a tune up ever. Points wear extremely slowly, and the cap and wires seldom fail. Most common issue I come across is the carbon contact on the rotor needs replacement. Improperly set up points will burn out quickly. In reality the two common problems that one has to deal with is flat tires and dead batteries. We drive so much now I inspect tires every month or two........as they are certainly the most common problem we deal with while driving. 

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, XframeFX said:

I'd like to install a pertronix because it's a clean, reversible upgrade  to  those mechanical contacts I find so archaic. Come on, its the year 2020. It will fall in-line to my theme of resto-mod on my '63 where I didn't 'toss' my nailhead for an LS3 or rip out the dash for full digital instrumentation. Rather , improve on what's there with an 'original look' and OE quality. ie, electric clock conversion, Delco AM/FM better than new, 4-way flashers.

 Until I freshen-up my 1/2 RPM train (sloppy timing chain), a pertronix installation will simply eliminate those points which are basically an interrupter to the primary side of the coil. Electronic ignition with the Pickup on the CRANKSHAFT as part of a closed loop system to an ECM, now that would be up grade but not what I want for my ride.

 

Hi John,

  There is much talk about the "slop" in a timing chain but something to keep in mind is that the crank is driving the cam which is driving the distributor so any slop in the timing chain is being eliminated as long as the crank is the driving factor. It is very typical, when fine tuning crank to cam timing, to come up on the timing position by turning the crank in the proper direction to eliminate slop. I`m not advocating that a sloppy timing chain is a good thing, or even acceptable...just that in my opinion folks put more emphasis on it than it deserves. If you watch the timing marks when tuning a well worn engine the firing points are still very consistent and if they`re not its usually an issue with the bushings in the distributor.

  Most of my experience with such engine timing is in diesel applications where everything, crank to cam to fuel injection pump to valve train and injector timing, is gear driven. The gear train has lash between every gear and some applications have ALOT of gears behind the timing cover so the lashes are additive and can be significant. Of course I have set up crank to cam timing in typical, stock gas engine rebuilds by the dozens over the years but I never got into more radical racing type setups or exceptional crank to cam to piston position situations. Maybe someone who has can comment.

  Regarding a crank sensor to trigger a computer controlled ignition or fuel injection system...I have replaced many, many crank sensors in my career on both gas and diesel engines, even in very late model systems. And when they fail, it renders the vehicle inoperative most of the time, and ironically, in most circumstances, the computer simply assumes the engine is not cranking and therefore does not provide for fuel or ignition. I like points because they usually give you an indication they need attention before they strand you on the side of the road and they are easy to troubleshoot.

Tom Mooney

Edited by 1965rivgs (see edit history)
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

If it had not been for the copper shortage during the first Korean war we would still be running 6 volts. Computers came out in the late 1950's and the typical motherboard power supply is 5V.

 

Points went the way of vent windows, just too costly by the millions to make and install on the assembly line.

  • Haha 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, 60FlatTop said:

If it had not been for the copper shortage during the first Korean war we would still be running 6 volts. Computers came out in the late 1950's and the typical motherboard power supply is 5V.

 

Points went the way of vent windows, just too costly by the millions to make and install on the assembly line.

Bernie, I like vent windows too!

Tom

Link to post
Share on other sites

    I have to reply/add to this electronic ignition for some clarity & the effectiveness maintenance has to do in concerns for longevity with the proper maintenance required to help keep things operating as they should. 

    As most of you know I bought my '64  Riv. new when I was 18 yrs. old.  Me & my "Main" girl have been together for a long time (over 300K long) between thick & thin & can share MANY a story about mine & the Rivs. life. 

    I was drafted in '12/65 not quite two years after purchase.  Durng that time my Dad keep the Riv. in his garage & parked his '57 Plymouth outside which I am forever greatful for.

Upon returning home from my service to my Country my brother brought me an Echlin H/P ignition kit for my baby as a coming home present.  This consisted of Gold colored points, condenser, rotor, distributor cap & also a gold plated type ignition coil. 

Now being me & being a gearhead I had already modified my distributor advance rate & did some mods to the original AFB. Of course I was excited to get it installed to see IF there could ANY discernable difference in performance which I believe the ONLY discernable difference was the fact that the engine would RPM higher than it did before.  I attribute this to the stronger spring pressure for the points to be able to attain this higher RPM because of this addtional spring pressure. Because of this added spring pressure maintenence HAD to be performed at more regular intervals to maintain the advantage of this higher RPM capability.  I started out doing the nec. distributor service every 6 months for about 3 years until I decided it wasn't as nec. as I had thought & increased it to one year. This consisted of removing the points & cleaning the old point rubbing block lube & applying new lube as well as the normal (to me) distributor maintenence. I HAD to replace the coil 3 times because it had failed, BUT everything else remained the same (for 45 years) until 2012 when the car started to run bad. It turned out the condenser had gone bad so I replaced it with another condenser & another & another. The H/P condenser was very long ago discontinued & at the failure rate of the "New" Mexico produced condensers it meant I had very little choice. I was very saddened that this condenser was no longer available because I NEVER had to file or do anything else to the actual point contact surfaces other than cleaning. This meant that the condenser was a perfect match for my electrical system which kept the points from pitting. IF point material was beng deposited on one side or the other it meant that the condenser was NOT a good match for my electracal system. I decidied it was time to go for this one wire electronic ignition conversion kit I had been selling for awhile by now.

   ALL this goes to prove that given the proper maintenence the old point system can/is very reliable through ALL the varibles & ALL the years in ALL the different weather conditions in Conn.

Just my thoughts on the subject.

 

Tom T.

 

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Had a mustang with a crane HI6 box, and a Crane distributor. Switched to a pertronix distributor and coil, and it felt like I gained a little power. Started much faster and easier. I don't think I ever had the curve right in the distributor. I put a pertronix in my Riv, but haven't had it running with it yet.

 

Before that, it had a MSD 6A and coil, and 8mm wires. I was fooling around with plug gaps a lot then, got them up to .050. It made a noticeable difference in the sound. At around .055 it would lose power. Had to take it down to .040 with the crane box. I really had no idea what I was doing, but it was interesting results.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, trimacar said:

I get a big kick out of the now-known fact that points aren’t reliable.

But they are. They don't fail, just deteriorate. So, still reliable. Just that there's alternatives to contact points without changing the ignition system and that can be changed too.

I still have this Niehoff adjuster in my toolbox!

image.thumb.png.84eac2f63f77928b55680ba51e629c73.png

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/29/2020 at 2:04 PM, Hazdaz said:

What other things did they do to the Vette?  Was this part of a whole tune up or even a rebuild?

 

Those numbers seem more in line with doing the spark plugs, wires, air and oil filters on a very neglected car.  And even then I'd think they'd need to crack open the motor to get the 30% gains they are claiming.  

Allegedly nothing else 😀

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...