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Determining current draw for ignition coil and selecting wire gauge

Practical Motorsport Wiring - Professional Level

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How was the current draw determined for the ignition coil power supply and ground circuits in the attached circuit sheets? I'd like to fabricate a motorsport grade engine harness for my B5 platform Audi A4 with a 1.8T big turbo engine. I'm not sure my ignition coils will draw a current similar to the FD35 RX-7 used as an example in the Circuit Design module. The stock engine wire harness for my vehicle uses 12 AWG wire for ignition coil power supply and ground. The ignition coil power supply circuit is protected with a 15A fuse from the factory. I'll be using VAG coils P/N: 06H 905 115B and running upwards of 30 psi of boost. Is there a general rule for determining ignition coil power supply current draw or is this more a function that is specific to each type of coil and engine design?

To measure this properly, you're going to need a 5Watt 0.1Ohm resistor, and an oscilloscope. Put the resistor in line with the power wire going to a single coil, and with your scope, measure the voltage drop across the resistor. Knowing that I = V/R, your current is then your measured voltage divided by the resistor value, 0.1Ohm, which is the same as multiplying your measured voltage by 10.

What you will see is that the current passing through the coil will rise linearly over the dwell period of the coil, then drop back to zero sharply, in a repeating fashion. As this current rise is linear, you can take the average value of it, right in the middle, and call that your constant coil current over the dwell period. This current will only be passing through the coil periodically though, and the rest of the time the wire is sitting there not doing anything, except radiating away any heat that might have built up. Working from your dwell time and max engine RPM you can determine the maximum duty cycle of coil current seen on the wire, and this gives you your average current along that single wire, and you can size from here.

In reality, I probably wouldn't do the math, but would run 20AWG M22759/32 wire for the coil powers and call it good.

The OEM fuse will be protecting all four coils, so the 15A rating makes sense there. The 12AWG wire probably reduces in size when it splices out to each individual coil. You might need to do something similar, but running 16AWG wire from your power supply point to the splice, and 20AWG out to each individual coil after that should be more than sufficient.

Thanks for that info Zac! Great work on everything presented in the learning modules!

Isn't it a bad idea to have 20awg wire protected with a 15a fuse?

I've attached amperage graph for 115 coils (source: https://www.sxoc.com/vbb/showthread.php?584905-A-quick-how-to-use-VAG-coil-on-SR20)

It looks like that 115 Coil will draw around 16 amps with 3 ms dwell time.

Blue is coil current, red is ecu signal voltage, green is coil voltage and brown is coil earth.

Attached Files

And you can see it only needed a 2ms dwell (and 10 amps) at that voltage. See where the slope of the current starts to rise -- that is becuase the coil is fully saturated, and extra energy is just going into making heat.

So, let's do the math on 3ms/16 amps. The average current when charging is 1/2 of the 16 amps, or 8 amps. Let's say you ran this coil on a 12,000 RPM 4-cycle engine (ie, so the coil fires 6000 times per minute, or 100 times per second) -- that is 10 ms per firing. So 3ms/10ms = 30% duty cycle of charging.

30% of the 8A average, is 2.4A, well within the capability of a 20 AWG wire. Multiply this times the number of coils to figure the current requirement for a feed wire that is spliced to to all the coils.

If you don't run 12,000 RPM, then this number would be proportionally smaller. If you only charged the coils at 2ms/10A, then the number would be 33% less.

very interesting discussion here, I would like to thank everyone on this info as I'm currently building a coil harness myself.

David, awesome example, thanks

Great post !

For an engine that is running fully sequential. Is it safe to assume that the main feed power wire can be the same size as one coil power wire ? The fact that the duty cycle is low (20%) and that only one coil is firing at a time makes me think that would be ok. Am I right ?

Same goes on for injectors but the fact we often see 85% duty cycle on every injectors would make me choose to add every injectors current draw to properly size my main feed wire.

thanks for the help.

That would depend on the number of coils / cylinders. A V10 engine with Coil-On-Plug and 20% duty cycle, would require more total current than a single coil would.

I've recently characterized some coils on the bench for a MoTeC M1 installation and set about testing/calculating the current draw for the first time.

I used a Pico Scope 2202 and a Pico TA018 current clamp to measure current draw from the coil and establish the charge time (dwell) required for maximum spark energy (saturation?).

The current draw characteristic (shape of the curve) for the coil allowed me to calculate the average current draw for the particular charge time this coil requires. Next I calculated the duration for each engine cycle at peak engine speed.

(average current x charge time) / engine cycle time = effective current draw (assuming 100% D.C). This is the value to consider when sizing the wire.

I decided on a single 20 AWG wire (rated at 10A) to supply all 4 coils. This is in keeping with the 10A fused supply to the coils in the factory harness.

Attached Files

Just checking in, are we still confident in the above info for the NGK R8 / 115 coils?

The OE wiring in VW/Audi applications, granted it's bog standard old school txl or similar, is incredibly large as the OP mentioned.

4 Cylinder turbo, 9k RPM max, 18 AWG main feed (live and ground) spliced off to 4x 20 AWG ok for Tefzel or Spec 55? Then 20 AWG for the ECU wires to them and the small logic ground.

Thank you!

Rich, your planned wire gauge is sufficient in my opinion.

David and some others mentioned the math behind it, and I suspect since this thread was made in 2019 a lot of members have installed PDMs and now seen it, but ignition system draw is actually quite low when averaged.

That's great thanks for your time Mike, and to David and Co before this with the OP's questions.

You make good points, I know they're a lower output coil than the 115's but while logging with a Honda recently with the K20 COP and EV14 injectors on a single PDM channel we saw sub 4A for coils and injectors combined.

Thanks again!

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