Electronic Ignition

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By ReaperHR

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Another basic upgrade that is performed on many older holdens is to replace the standard points ignition system (or Kettering system) with a later model electronic ignition system (sometimes called H.E.I or High Energy Ignition). This is a relatively simple and cheap upgrade that is detailed in the work guide linked at the bottom of this page.

The standard ignition system was a very reliable system on old holdens, but its main fault was a need to fairly often perform maintenance or preventative maintenance on the system. Points tend to wear over time, the cam lobes also tend to wear (especially when they've done over 40 years of driving), condensors can fail, wiring can deteriorate, point gap can slip, points faces can load etc
A comparison of a high energy ignition distributor and a standard points ignition distributor

The electronic ignition system removed many of these problems simply through the use of less moving parts. Where the points system is driven by the lobes on the distributor shaft opening and closing them at the correct time, and relying on the correct gap being set. The electronic system works completely differently. There is nothing driven off the lobes of the distributor shaft generating a gap, instead the shaft itself drives what could be described as a gear like cog around which is what makes the contact that charges the coil.

Another advantage of electronic ignition systems is that they use a high energy coil (hence the term High Energy Ignition). A standard system may use a 20,000 Volt coil whereas the High Energy Ignition system uses a 50,000 Volt coil (for example). This doesn't necessarily mean more power flows to the spark plugs, but rather that the coil can supply more power for spark as required. What this means in the real world is that when the spark plugs start to deteriorate on a HEI system, the system will be supplying more voltage to the plugs and they will be sparking much better than they would have been sparking on an original points system.

Finally, the main advantage of electronic ignition is that there is no need for constant adjustments to keep the car running at peak performance. Once tuned the electronic ignition system will maintain that setting simply because it doesn't have the moving parts of the points ignition system.

On a Holden red motor it is a direct swap to replace your original points ignition system with an electronic ignition system from a blue or black motor. What will be required is the electronic distributor from the donor motor and the high energy coild from the donor motor. The plug leads are also different from the original and will need to be replaced (male ends on the original and female on electronic). The distributor can be taken from any early model commodore from VK earlier, but worth noting is that on the VK black motor they ran a choice of EST or EFI, surprisingly the EFI distributor is perfect to use but the EST is not (it uses external sensors).  
Advantages and Disadvantages:
Disadvantages of points ignition Advantages of HEI Ignition
Points wear and erode which plays havoc with the timing (requiring adjustment) and also affects current flow. Very little in the way of wear and tear due to no moving parts when compared to a points ignition.
Point dwell limits high power (not enough time to recharge the coil between lobes) A more direct punch on contact, meaning better switching, the system has a much better state of On and Off allowing for longer dwell and longer contact.
Points limit power output to coil which in turn limits coil output to the plugs As with the better design supplying increased dwell time the electronic system also gives a longer contact, where points rock in and out with the lobe the electronic system makes consitant contact supplying the coil with power.
Points start to "float" and limit RPM (approx 6000 RPM maximum) The rigidness of the electronic system allows for no floating and will allow for higher RPMs to be reached.
If points get wet they stop working Electronic systems will continue to function well past where a points system would have failed.
For information on installing a HEI system:
An installation work guide done on a HR Holden using Ignition from a commodore blue motor
An installation work guide done on a HR Holden using a brand new Scorcher Ignition Other HEI information:
Overview of the Bosch HEI - by T
The internals of a Bosch HEI distributor - by Jacks
Information for this page was gathered from the following sites:
Vision Ignition Page
and from the following members personal experiences:




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