Vortec V8 Truck Electronic Ignition Description and Operation

The Vortec V8 electronic ignition system is responsible for producing and controlling spark. This spark is used to ignite the compressed air/fuel mixture at precisely the correct time. This provides optimal performance, fuel economy, and control of exhaust emissions. This ignition system consists of a separate ignition coil connected to each spark plug by a short secondary wire. The driver modules within each coil assembly are commanded ON/OFF by the powertrain control module (PCM). The PCM primarily uses engine speed and position information from the crankshaft and camshaft position (CMP) sensors to control the sequence, dwell, and timing of the spark. The EI system consists of the following components:

Crankshaft Position (CKP) Sensor

The crankshaft position sensor is a three wire sensor based on the magneto resistive principle. A magneto resistive sensor uses two magnetic pickups between a permanent magnet. As an element such as a reluctor wheel passes the magnets the resulting change in the magnetic field is used by the sensor electronics to produce a digital output pulse. The PCM supplies a 12-volt, low reference, and signal circuit to the CKP sensor. The sensor returns a digital ON/OFF pulse 24 times per crankshaft revolution.



Crankshaft Reluctor Wheel

The crankshaft reluctor wheel is mounted on the rear of the crankshaft. The wheel is comprised of four 90 degree segments. Each segment represents a pair of cylinders at TDC , and is further divided into six 15 degree segments. Within each 15 degree segment is a notch of 1 of 2 different sizes. Each 90 degree segment has a unique pattern of notches. This is known as pulse width encoding. This pulse width encoded pattern allows the PCM to quickly recognize which pair of cylinders are at top dead center. The reluctor wheel is also a dual track-or mirror image-design. This means there is an additional wheel pressed against the first, with a gap of equal size to each notch of the mating wheel. When one sensing element of the CKP sensor is reading a notch, the other is reading a set of teeth. The resulting signals are then converted into a digital square wave output by the circuitry within the CKP sensor.

Camshaft Position (CMP) Sensor

The CMP sensor is also a magneto resistive sensor, with the same type of circuits as the CKP sensor. The CMP sensor signal is a digital ON/OFF pulse, output once per revolution of the camshaft. The CMP sensor information is used by the PCM to determine the position of the valve train relative to the CKP.

Camshaft Reluctor Wheel

The camshaft reluctor is either pressed onto the camshaft or part of the timing gear depending on the application. The feature-or target- is read in a radial or axial fashion respectively. The wheel is a smooth track, half of which is of a lower profile than the other half. This feature allows the CMP sensor to supply a signal as soon as the key is turned ON, since the CMP sensor reads the track profile, instead of a notch.



Ignition Coils

Each ignition coil has an ignition 1 feed and a ground. The PCM supplies a low reference and an ignition control (IC) circuit. Each ignition coil contains a solid state driver module. The PCM will command the IC circuit ON, this allows the current to flow through the primary coil windings for the appropriate time or dwell. When the PCM commands the circuit OFF, this will interrupt current flow through the primary coil windings. The magnetic field created by the primary coil windings will collapse across the secondary coil windings, which induces a high voltage across the spark plug electrodes. The coils are current limited to prevent overloading if the current is held high too long. The spark plugs are connected to their respective coils by a short secondary wire. The spark plugs are tipped with iridium for long life and efficiency.

Powertrain Control Module (PCM)

The PCM controls all ignition system functions, and constantly corrects the basic spark timing. The PCM monitors information from various sensor inputs that include the following:

- The throttle position (TPS) sensor
- The engine coolant temperature (ECT) sensor
- The mass air flow (MAF) sensor
- The intake air temperature (IAT) sensor
- The vehicle speed sensor (VSS)
- The transmission gear position or range information sensors
- The engine knock sensors (KS)

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