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Ignition Coil No Spark. Replace Contact Breaker?

So, I replaced the ignition coil to my 1993 volvo 850 because I wasn't getting any spark coming out of the coil. However, after I installed the new coil I was still getting no spark. I read up on it and multiple people told me that this is likely due to the contact breaker not being able to break the circuit which causes the high voltage output from the coil. I could not find any manual for the volvo that tells me how I would go about replacing this. Does anybody know how I would go about doing this or if this is even the issue? Would very much appreciate a reply. Thanks

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what kind of voltage are you getting coming into the coil?


So we replaced, the battery, coil, cap and rotor, ignition wires, you name it. Pretty much everything involving the ignition system we ended up replacing and with no luck. However, we were testing the voltage coming out of the coil with a test light, but my friend who is a mechanic told us that we should put a screwdriver into the plug coming out of the coil and bring it close to a piece of metal and see if we can see sparks jumping when we crank the engine. We did this and did not see any sparks. This makes me think that the voltage coming out of the coil is not anywhere near high enough and that's maybe why we arent getting any spark. We are certain 12v is going into the coil, just uncertain on what's coming out (we assume it's not enough). We just replaced the old coil with a new one so we are pretty sure the coil isn't the problem. This is why we think there is a problem with the contact breaker.


We looked online on how to get to the contract breaker points and everywhere said its underneath the cap and rotor. However, when we took those off all we see is a metal plate and no signs of the breaker, condenser, contact heal, or anything. Is it different for a 1993 Volvo 850? Is what we're looking for under the plate? If so how would we take the plate off, we tried. Sorry if I'm rambling but hopefully you can understand what I'm saying. Would love if you could help us. Thanks


@ahughes05 all you need to do is to attach a timing light and turn the engine over. If the light flashes you know that you get power to the plugs.


The reason I asked the voltage is if you dont have enough voltage coming in the voltage out wont be there . you need twelve volts coming in to get your 30000 volts out .test the voltage with a multi meter for accuracy, a test light will light at a low voltage so just because it lit doesnt mean you have 12 volts . Coils can be tested with an ohmmeter (most coils will give a reading around 8,000 ohms) or with the small scope on a Sun machine. A normal coil will give you a “heartbeat” pattern on the scope, shorted windings will produce a “bumpy L” pattern and open windings will give a flat horizontal line.

All coils with metal housings can be tested for grounded windings by touching one probe of a test light on the metal container and the other to the primary and high-tension terminals. If the tester lights or you see sparks, the windings are grounded out and the coil is defective.

Just because a coil is new doesnt mean its good the new coil could be DOA


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@ahughes05 if you are 100% sure you have no power reaching the spark plugs you need to check the wiring to the coil, the distributor cap, carbon brush and the rotor arm. That is probably what you are referring to when you say " contact breaker". If all that checks out normal the fault is probable with one of the system sensors. Your Volvo does store fault codes in its diagnostic module. It is a bit cumbersome and tough to read. I attached the part about this on here Volvo850-Ignition.pdf Not the best of all manuals but it should do.

This one ENGINE PERFORMANCE Volvo - Self-Diagnostics Article Print is from Volvo and may work better for you.

See if this looks like your distributor. Let us know if it is different

Block Image

Update (02/04/2018)

@ahughes05 to add to the confusion here is the wiring diagram describing the Engine performance circuits. It will show where the coil gets its power from etc. Volvo_850-Engine_Wiring.pdf

Update (02/04/2018)

This is going to tell you how and where to perform some basic measurements on your coil as well as the camshaft position sensor.Article Print

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Yes that is what the distributor looks like. I'm confused on what you mean by the carbon brush though. When we replaced the rotor and cap, we just unscrewed the 3 screws holding on the rotor and then put the new one in. We did the same for the cap, unscrewed the 3 screws and put the new one in, making sure to put everything in the exact way how we found it. We also made sure each ignition wire matched the right cylinder. Where does the carbon brush fit into this? What does it look like?


When I say contract breaker I'm referring to multiple things that I read. It says that the primary winding in the ignition coil goes to what is called a contact breaker, which is opened and closed by the cam lobe at the end of the camshaft. When this opens and closes it connects and disconnects the circuit, producing an emf. The backwash from that emf goes into a capacitor known as the condenser. But this contact breaker, from what I read, is what breaks the circuit and allows for the high voltage that comes out of the secondary winding in the coil. I'm not sure if it has a different name or what but this is what I'm trying to find. This is why I think I'm not getting the correct voltage coming out of my coil. Several videos said this contact breaker is found underneath my distributor cap but I took it off and I just see a metal plate. Would I have to take this plate off? Do you have any idea where I'd find this contact breaker?


@ahughes05 you are good with that. No worries about the brush. So you now have a new coil a new rotor and cap and still no luck? I really would suggest that you try and get the diagnostics code. I am starting to think its a bad sensor that may be causing this. I did not mean any offense when I question what you referred to as contact breaker. Yes you are right, that refers to the camshaft position sensor and then there is also your crankshaft position sensor etc.


No, you are fine I'm not taking any offense, I'm just trying to tackle the problem. I really appreciate your help. I'm actually new to this, just been reading up on a lot of things trying to fix this car. Are you saying that what I referred to as a contact breaker is the same thing as a camshaft position sensor? If so, where would I find that on my 1993 volvo 850. And to answer your question, yes I replaced the coil, the cap, rotor, ignition coils, everything and still nothing... very frustrating.


Camshaft position sensor should be at the end of the cylinder head refer to picture 7-13 in the pdf you got from @oldturkey03


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