Explain with sketch working of battery ignition system with its advantages and disadvantages.
1 Answer

Fig 2b.2 shows line diagram of battery ignition system for a 4-cylinder petrol engine. It mainly consists of a 6 or 12 volt battery, ammeter, ignition switch, auto-transformer (step up transformer), contact breaker, capacitor, distributor rotor, distributor contact points, spark plugs, etc.

Note that the Figure 2b.1 shows the ignition system for 4-cylinder petrol engine, here there are 4-spark plugs and contact breaker cam has 4-corners. (If it is for 6-cylinder engine it will have 6-spark plugs and contact breaker cam will be a perfect hexagon).

The ignition system is divided into 2-circuits:

(i) Primary Circuit : It consists of 6 or 12 V battery, ammeter, ignition switch, primary winding it has 200-300 turns of 20 SWG (Sharps Wire Gauge) gauge wire, contact breaker, capacitor.

(ii) Secondary Circuit: It consists of secondary winding. Secondary winding consists of about 21000 turns of 40 (S WG) gauge wire. Bottom end of which is connected to bottom end of primary and top end of secondary winding is connected to centre of distributor rotor. Distributor rotors rotate and make contacts with contact points and are connected to spark plugs which are fitted in cylinder heads (engine earth).

(iii) Working: When the ignition switch is closed and engine in cranked, as soon as the contact breaker closes, a low voltage current will flow through the primary winding. It is also to be noted that the contact beaker cam opens and closes the circuit 4-times (for 4 cylinders) in one revolution. When the contact breaker opens the contact, the magnetic field begins to collapse. Because of this collapsing magnetic field, current will be induced in the secondary winding. And because of more turns (@ 21000 turns) of secondary, voltage goes unto 28000-30000 volts.

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This high voltage current is brought to Centre of the distributor rotor. Distributor rotor rotates and supplies this high voltage current to proper stark plug depending upon the engine firing order. When the high voltage current jumps the spark plug gap, it produces the spark and the charge is ignited-combustion starts-products of combustion expand and produce power.

(a) The Function of the capacitor is to reduce arcing at the contact breaker (CB) points. Also when the CB opens the magnetic field in the primary winding begins to collapse. When the magnetic field is collapsing capacitor gets fully charged and then it starts discharging and helps in building up of voltage in secondary winding.

(b) Contact breaker cam and distributor rotor are mounted on the same shaft. In 2-stroke cycle engines these are motored at the same engine speed. And in 4-stroke cycle engines they are motored at half the engine speed.


(a) Low initial cost.

(b) Better spark at low speeds and better starting than magneto system.

(c) Reliable system.

(d) No problems due to adjustment of spark timings.

(e) Simpler than magneto system.


(a) Battery requires periodical maintenance.

(b) In case of battery malfunction, engine cannot be started.

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