The national cost for an ignition pick-up coil replacement with CarAdvise in 2024 is between $76 and $204 with an average of $148.

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What is an ignition pick-up coil?

An ignition pickup coil is a component of the ignition system on many older vehicles that feature a distributor.

In order to ignite the compressed air and fuel mixture inside of the combustion chambers (cylinders) in your gasoline powered engine, the spark plugs must “spark” in each cylinder at a specific time during the rotation of the crankshaft. If the spark (really, an electrical arc) is off by even a thousandth of a second, too late or too early, it could affect engine performance and fuel economy - or even cause engine damage in certain conditions.

To get this timing right, modern engines rely on computer-controlled ignitions, where the engine computer, the engine control module (or ECM), receives data as to the position of the crankshaft in its rotation from a device known as a crankshaft position sensor. That data is used to calculate when each spark plug should fire, and the ECM signals the coils to do the job of firing.

Older engines, however, used a different method. They relied on a distributor, an electric and mechanical device driven by the camshaft. The distributor would “distribute” electricity to each spark plug in turn. Electronic distributors used a pickup coil to monitor the rotation of the distributor (and, indirectly, the crankshaft) and trigger the ignition system at the proper time through the ignition control module. Newer “distributorless” ignitions do not have an ignition pickup coil.


How is a an Ignition Pick-up Coil Replacement done?

If your vehicle features an electronic distributor ignition, a technician will take the following general steps to replace the ignition pickup coil:

  • Disconnect the negative battery terminal to cut power to the vehicle
  • Remove shields, guards, covers, or ducts to gain access to the distributor
  • Remove the distributor cap and set aside the cap, carefully marking the spark plug wires if any need to be detached
  • Remove fasteners mounting the pick-up coil to the distributor, and unplug the wire connector to the pick-up coil
  • Remove and replace the pick-up coil with a new one
  • Reattach the pick-up coil to the distributor and plug in any wires previously disconnected
  • Reinstall the distributor cap as well as any shields, guards, covers, or ducts to gain access to the distributor
  • Reconnect the battery cable and start the vehicle, ensuring it idles normally
  • Verify the repair by road testing the vehicle

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National average cost of a an Ignition Pick-up Coil Replacement
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How do I know if my vehicle needs an ignition pick-up coil replacement?

Because the ignition pickup coil functions as the main trigger for the ignition system, if it is malfunctioning, the ignition control module will not receive the correct signal - or may receive no signal at all. The result is improper timing of the spark plugs and combustion in each cylinder. Engine performance will be directly affected. Your engine could stall or fail to start. You might suspect the ignition pickup coil if you notice any of the following signs:

Engine stalling

Reduced fuel economy

Erratic or rough idle

Engine misfiring

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Other questions customers ask

Can a pickup coil be repaired?
An ignition pickup coil is not considered a repairable item. If the device fails, it is typically replaced, along with any faulty components (spark plugs, wires, etc.) that might have caused the failure.
What kills pick-up coils?
A pickup coil can be damaged by excessive heat or a foreign particle that enters the distributor and strikes the coil, damaging the internal windings. Most of the time, however,
Is a pickup coil the same as an ignition coil?
No. A pickup coil is an electromagnetic device inside the distributor, used along with the ignition module to distribute spark to each of the engine’s cylinders. On the other hand, an ignition coil is a device used to increase battery voltage to a much higher voltage required by the spark plug for detonation of the compressed air and fuel mixture inside each cylinder.

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