Question about 1988 Mazda 323 Hatchback

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How to test a 1988 mazda 323 electronic ignition module and replace it, the car just suddenly died. It has new rotor, cap and plug wires. New plugs too.

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I had that problem on my 1991 Mazda MX6. Indeed, it was the ignition module. As I recall, I was able to test the old one at an "Auto Zone" store near me. The problem was, however, that it tested "good" there and so I had the dilemma of trusting my instincts which told me it was bad, since I had eliminated other logical alternatives (as it appears you have as well). I strongly believed that the failure was intermittent/heat related, as I was in fact able to drive the car the next day from the parking lot I had left it at, back to my house (in order to remove the module in the convenience of my own driveway) to take it to be tested. Another clue that it was a heat-related intermittency, was that the clowns who put it in at the mazda plant had forgotten to put any heat-sink grease on the module prior to installing it...bad news. So I made the decision to risk the $98 on the new module (non-refundable, on electrical parts) and buy the new module in spite of the old one testing "good". I installed the new module, WITH the included heat-sink grease...and drove that car for another 75,000 miles, with no more ignition troubles!

Posted on Mar 28, 2011

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1 Answer

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I have the same model of car, and I have had this problem before. It is normally the ignition module. Check that the coil has power going to it, using a voltmeter. The coil should have 3 wires connected to it. One is the big HT lead, and then there are two small wires, one on either side of the coil. One of the wires is for the constant 12volt power source, the other is the control wire. With the ignition switched on, you should be able to read 12volts at one of these wires.

The other wire is the control wire, it receives pulses from the ignition module that is inside the distributor. Effectively this switches the output of the coil on and off, and controls when the spark plug will fire. It is difficult to detect these pulses without proper equipment, but a multimeter set to AC might be able to detect the presence of an AC voltage (although it probably wont accurately display the correct voltage), which would indicate that the ignition module is working.

If the pulses are not present at the input of the coil, then your ignition module is probably the culprit.

Open the distributor, and remove the rotor button. There is a round plastic cover over the ignition module, which must be removed. The ignition module is semi circular, and has four wires attached to it, via small screws. Take note of the location of each wire, and unscrew each one. The ignition module can be unscrewed with a phillips head screw driver, and removed. When fitting the replacement module, you must cover it with the heat sink compound that is supplied with the new module (mechanics sometimes refer to this compound as ignition module grease). Without the heat sink compound, the new module will over heat, and burn out. You should be able to replace the module in 15 minutes, it is very easy to do.

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