Thursday 28rd September 2023

Troubleshooting ignition and combustion problems? The info!

Troubleshooting ignition and combustion problems? The info!

Ignition and combustion problems are unique to spark ignition engines (commonly referred to as "gasoline"), as diesel engines are self-igniting and do not require spark ignition. When diagnosing ignition or combustion problems, it is helpful to identify whether they are intermittent or constant to aid the workshop in diagnosing. Possible causes of ignition misfires / misfires can be damage to the ignition system or the injection nozzles, or there can be loss of compression in the engine.

Ignition misfires / combustion misfires

Troubleshooting ignition and combustion problems? The info!

First of all, it should be determined which cylinder is affected by the misfiring / misfiring. This can be done, for example, by reading out the fault memory or by carrying out a compression test. Also, the ignition wires or ignition coils can be swapped between cylinders to see if the fault is spreading. Unlike diesel engines, gasoline engines require spark ignition, which is used for the spark plugs. In the event of a faulty ignition system, various factors can play a role:

Causes Causes
Spark plug wear or failure ignition coil failure
Ignition wire damage or failure Problems with the ignition distributor
Ignition module malfunction Malfunctions in the ignition system
Corroded or loose electrical connections Ignition timing problems
Fuel quality or composition Problems with the ignition system electronics
Mechanical problems in the engine
(e.g. valve or piston problems)
Marten bite

Loss of compression in the engine

If one or more cylinders cannot hold the pressure, it is called a loss of compression. This happens when pressure is released from the combustion chamber during the compression of the fuel-air mixture (the "2nd stroke"), which can cause ignition or combustion problems. In the workshop, a compression test can show which cylinder has lost compression. This involves removing a spark plug and inserting a compression tester into the engine in its place. When the engine is then started, the pressure generated is measured and compared with the target values ​​or the measurement results of the other cylinders.

Troubleshooting ignition and combustion problems? The info!

Instructions for measuring compression:

Step Procedure
1 Preparing the engine: switch off the vehicle and allow the engine to cool down.
2 Remove spark plugs: Remove all spark plugs.
3 Connect the compression gauge: Screw the compression gauge into the cylinder instead of a spark plug.
4 Fully Depress Accelerator Pedal: Fully depress the accelerator pedal to keep the engine idling during the test.
5 Start the engine and rev it several times: Start the engine with the starter and rev it several times to build up the compression pressure.
6 Carry out the measurement: Read off the compression value and note it down. Repeat this for all cylinders.
7 Compare Results: Compare the determined compression values ​​and make sure they are within the acceptable range.
8 Reinstall spark plugs: Reinstall all spark plugs in their respective cylinders.
9 Test Engine: Start the engine and look for any performance problems or abnormalities that could indicate low compression.

Possible causes of a loss of compression!

Causes Description
Defective or leaking piston rings Problems with the piston rings that can cause a leak in the compression chamber.
Problems with the valves or the valve guide Damage to the valves or valve guides that can cause pressure loss during compression.
Damage to the camshaft or crankshaft Damage to the camshaft or crankshaft that could result in loss of compression.
Errors during assembly after previous repairs Incorrect assembly or reassembly after previous repairs that may result in leaks.
Cracks in the cylinder head gasket, the cylinder head or the cylinder wall Cracks in major components such as the head gasket, cylinder head, or cylinder wall that can prevent proper compression.
Mechanical wear on the engine General wear and tear of the engine, which can lead to a loss of compression.

The cost of fixing a loss of compression can vary widely depending on the specific cause and engine type. In some cases, a significant loss of compression can even result in a economic total loss of the vehicle.

Defective injectors / injectors

In order to ensure smooth operation of all cylinders, the amount of fuel determined by the engine control unit to be ideal must be injected correctly. Under certain circumstances, however, defective injection nozzles can lead to over- or under-injection of fuel in the cylinder, which in turn can cause ignition or combustion problems (misfiring / misfiring). Other possible reasons can be: A broken cable or an electronic defect, a defective engine control unit, a defective intake manifold switchover, a defective air mass meter or a defective camshaft adjuster.

Troubleshooting ignition and combustion problems? The info!

Continue driving if the engine has ignition or combustion problems?

  • If you notice that your engine has combustion problems, you should immediately visit a workshop to identify the exact cause and have it rectified. Otherwise the catalytic converter can be damaged by unburned fuel, which can quickly lead to costs of over €2.000.

Main inspection with ignition or combustion problems?

  • If the engine has ignition or combustion problems on one or more cylinders, this constitutes a significant defect that will result in the MOT failing.

Vehicle models with known ignition or combustion problems

  • In principle, ignition or combustion problems can occur in all petrol engines. However, these are particularly common in vehicles with high mileage. There are also certain engines that experience has shown to be more prone to these problems. These include, for example:
vehicle models common problems
1.4 / 1.8 / 2.0 TSI (VAG Group) Carbon deposits on the intake valves, ignition coil failure, high pressure fuel pump problems
M272 / M273 (Mercedes Benz) Failure of the camshaft phasers, defective ignition coils, problems with the crankshaft position sensor
VW Golf MK5 2.0 FSI Problems with the ignition coils, faulty camshaft phasers
Audi A4 B7 2.0 TFSI Carbon deposits on the intake valves, problems with the high-pressure fuel pump
Skoda Octavia 1.4 TSI Timing chain problems, faulty ignition coils, defective camshaft adjusters
Seat Leon 1.8 TSI Problems with the high-pressure fuel pump, spark plug wear
Mercedes-Benz E-Class (M272/M273) Failure of the magnetic switch in the starter, defective injectors, problems with the camshaft adjuster

Troubleshooting ignition and combustion problems? The info!

The following note is essential: For safety reasons, tuningblog recommends all repair, inspection and maintenance work exclusively to be carried out in a specialist workshop! Although our information is summarized to the best of our knowledge and belief, we cannot assume any liability for the content. All information is therefore "without guarantee".

Of course, that wasn't the end of it!

In this tuningblog category you will find guides and instructions for common vehicle defects, repairs and the installation of accessories/tuning parts. We explain common defects, their signs and repairs in a simple and understandable way. In our instructions, we often give initial cost estimates. Our Auto Repair Guide gives you a knowledge advantage for the workshop visit, possibly saves troubleshooting and enables self-repairs. We also provide instructions for accessory/tuning parts. More posts are available. Below you will find an excerpt of the latest, and HERE you can find all the instructions.

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About Thomas Wachsmuth

Thomas Wachsmuth - He has been an integral part of since 2013. His passion for cars is so intense that he invests every available cent in it. While he dreams of a BMW E31 and a Hennessey 6x6 Ford F-150, he currently drives a rather unremarkable Alpina B5. His collection of books, magazines and brochures on the subject of autotuning has now reached such proportions that he himself has become a walking reference work for the tuning scene.

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