Ford Vans 1961-1988 Repair Guides



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Fig. Fig. 1 A common 8-cylinder breakerless distributor-shown with cap and rotor removed

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Fig. Fig. 2 Static timing position of an 8-cylinder breakerless distributor

Basically, four electronic ignition systems have been used in Ford Motor Company vehicles from 1974-88:

  1. DuraSpark I
  3. DuraSpark II
  5. DuraSpark III
  7. Universal Distributor-TFI (EEC-IV)

In 1974, Ford began the use of breakerless ignition systems. The original system was named simply, Breakerless Ignition System. Later, in 1977, this system was named DuraSpark. DuraSpark I and DuraSpark II systems are nearly identical in operation, and virtually identical in appearance. The DuraSpark I uses a special control module which senses current flow through the ignition coil and adjusts the coil on-time for maximum spark intensity. If the DuraSpark I module senses that the ignition is ON , but the distributor shaft is not turning, the current to the coil is turned OFF by the module. The DuraSpark II system does not have this feature. The coil is energized for the full amount of time that the ignition switch is ON . Keep this in mind when servicing the DuraSpark II system, as the ignition system could inadvertently fire while performing ignition system services (such as distributor cap removal) while the ignition is ON . All DuraSpark II systems are easily identified by having a two-piece, flat topped distributor cap.

DuraSpark I was discontinued after the 1981 model year.

In 1980, the new DuraSpark III system was introduced. This version is based on the previous systems, but the input signal is controlled by the EEC system, rather than as function of engine timing and distributor armature position. The distributor, rotor, cap, and control module are unique to this system; the spark plugs and plug wires are the same as those used with the DuraSpark II system. Although the DuraSpark II and III control modules are similar in appearance, they cannot be interchanged between systems.

Some 1978 and later engines use a special DuraSpark Dual Mode ignition control module. The module is equipped with an altitude sensor, and an economy modulator. This module, when combined with the additional switches and sensor, varies the base engine timing according to altitude and engine load conditions. DuraSpark Dual Mode ignition control modules have three wiring harness from the module.

Some 1981 and later DuraSpark II systems used with some 8-302 (5.0L) engines are quipped with a Universal Ignition Module (UIM) which includes a run-retard function. The operation of the module is basically the same as the DuraSpark Dual Mode module.

The Universal Distributor (EEC-IV) has a diecast base which incorporates an externally mounted TFI-IV ignition module, and contains a Hall Effect vane switch stator assembly and provision for fixed octane adjustment. No distributor calibration is required and initial timing adjustment is normally not required. The primary function of the EEC-IV Universal Distributor system is to direct high secondary voltage to the spark plugs. In addition, the distributor supplies crankshaft position and frequency information to a computer using a profile Ignition Pickup. The Hall Effect switch in the distributor consists of a Hall Effect device on one side and a magnet on the other side. A rotary cup which has windows and tabs rotates and passes through the space between the device and the magnet. When a window is between the sides of the switch, the magnetic path is not completed and the switch is off, sending no signal. When a tab passes between the switch, the magnetic path is completed and the Hall Effect Device is turned on, sending a signal. The voltage pulse (signal) is used by the EEC-IV system for sensing crankshaft position, and computing the desired spark advance based on engine demand and calibration.