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MG MGA - electronic ignition

I am thinking of converting to electronic ignition. What are the pros and cons of this?
Nigel Munford

Pros they don't ever need Setting. Cons none apart from the fact that if they do give up the ghost they are more expensive to replace. But given the fact I have had electronic points for more than ten years and never had a problem, I think you would about come out even on a replacement vs points and servicing. As Neil said in another post recently, the package of everything from watford classics is so cheap it is ridiculous!
dominic clancy

Thanks Dominic, but I can't find the post you refer to.
Nigel Munford

I would never goo back to points and condenser. My ignition has been spot on year upon year with no variation due to points wear. Consequently a constant that can always be ruled out for starting and performance issues. I also fitted a sports coil and opened the plug gaps a bit. Fit and forget.

Steve Gyles

Nigel. Whenever this subject crops up again - should I/shouldn't I; pros/cons; etc - the issue of reliability, or possible lack of it, is often raised. I always point to the fact that every, repeat every car produced for years now has been fitted with electronic ignition, often much more complex than the sort we use in our old cars. How many modern cars do you see broken down at the side of the road with electronic ignition failure? Pretty much none, I would suggest. It seems a no brainier to fit electronic, in my humble opinion of course! Always perfectly in tune and fit and forget.
Best. Bruce.
Bruce Mayo

distributortted electronic to hopefully fit and forget and so far I am pleased. The only down side I see is when points fail it tends to happen gradually. Electronic is either working or not. If it fails the cars a non runner. However you can buy a unit for less than
p anderton

> How many modern cars do you see broken down at the
> side of the road with electronic ignition failure?

It happens. On a modern vehicle with a crank triggered ignition, it is not uncommon for the crankshaft position sensor to eventually give up the ghost. I carry a spare and tools to change it in my '01 Jeep, because I often use it to travel long distances to remote areas. In the past I have had a couple failures of the camshaft position sensor... That one is for the EFI, but it operates on a similar principle. Either way, one minute the vehicle works, the next it does not.

Electronic ignition may in fact be more reliable overall than points, and certainly requires less maintenance. The drawback is when they do have a problem, the result is typically a hard failure that can only be remedied with new parts. With a points ignition, you can often get it running well enough to limp for a while, through cleaning and/or adjustment. Cheaper to carry spares for, too.

OTOH, I wouldn't want a carbureted/points vehicle some of the places/times I have gone in my Jeep due to cold starting concerns. Like, after hiking back to the road at the end of a camping trip in subzero (F) temperatures. You pays your money, and you takes your chances.

D Rawlins

Lately a certain brand seems to be having issues,I for one won't use them,the only benefit is that you don't have to adjust them. But really how often do you have to adjust the dwell on a points setup? Now if your talking a high capacity discharge type then a D.U.I. is the way to go IMO.
gary starr

I converted my pickup truck from points to HEI, but the electronic module for that setup is tiny, available everywhere, and only costs about $20. I carry a spare mostly because it is cheap and takes up no space.
D Rawlins

From Neil

Steve, my guess would be that the Accuspark and Powerspark kits use the same distributor. They have been selling for a similar price to Bob, for about the same length of time. The deals have gradually got better though and in my view the quality too. Distributor, red rotor arm, electronic ignition, cap, leads, spark plugs and coil all delivered for about £85!
dominic clancy

Both electronic ignition conversions that I have still use a distributor cap and rotor, and I have been stranded in my Triumph with a failed rotor. That said, I wouldn't go back to points, but I do carry a spare cap and rotor now. Some guys carry a spare distributor.

Like Del, I've also had a sensor fail on my "late model" Jeep. That resulted in a tow, but fortunately it was just across town.

k v morton

For me, it was from mile 87 on the Parks highway, to Anchorage, covered under warranty. But that time wasn't the sensor itself; the mechanical drive for the sensor seized. The sensor failed a few years later, in town.

D Rawlins

Nigel, there are no real cons, except that in the unlikely event of failure failure, a new module is required.

As Paul pointed out, a spare electronic module is less than £30 and requires only one screw to change.

I have fitted half a dozen or more over the last five years and never had one fail.

Ironically for me the main advantage (of going down the Accuspark/Powerspark route) is that you also get a new distributor, which eliminates mechanical and vacuum advance or worn shaft/bearing problems that plague old distributors.

All that said, my own MGA and my daily transport Morris Minor have been running so happily on points that I have had no reason to change them!
Neil MG

I think the biggest fail point (excuse the pun) is the rotor arm. There is some real rubbish on sale, even in Lucas boxes. The best ones are from The distributor doctor. He sell high quality (red) ones. No connection just a happy customer. He's also worth talking to about the different electronic units available.
p anderton

I fitted a complete pertronix electronic distributor to my MGA quite a few years ago and the engine (MGB 1900cc) definitely runs better with it. I understand that other makes are equally good and may be much less expensive too.

Just a couple of things you should consider before you decide to go the electronic route.
Firstly- If you have an alternator fitted, carefully check that the voltage output is not much more than 13v, if the voltage is over this it may burn out the sensitive electronics in the ignition unit.

I found this out after burning out two ignition units because the faulty wiring from my alternators voltage regulator was pushing out between 16 and 20 volts.)

Secondly- I found that the standard points distributor
that I carried as a spare would not work. The drive peg was set in a different position on the distributors drive shaft and so the timing was too far out to work.

So I have had the burnt out distributor fixed to carry as a spare.


c firth

I have had "dead on the road" electronic ignition parts failures in a Pontiac J2000, a Pontiac Grand Prix, and a Chevy Lumina. The only "modern" car I had that didn't fail ignition electronic parts was a 1987 Madzda RX7. I have also seen multiple cases of people in LBC's with electronic ignition (usually Pertronics) on their cell phone on a Sunday afternoon trying to find a replacement unit after theirs had failed. Bottom line is, electronics are not forever, so you had best carry a spare (or the parts to convert it back to points in a pinch).

On the flip side, I have done over a million miles in cars with points ignition and have never been stranded by it. My Mallory distributor in particular is very robust, having done over a quarter million miles and still in very good condition (almost like new). It has failed a couple of condensers, but we all carry a spare condenser, don't we? Last time I changed cap and rotor was in Alaska in 1997, about 170,000 miles back. I don't mind a small amount of periodic maintenance if it leads to reliability. My idea of reliability is how likely it is to always get you where you want to go without being stranded. I really don't like the consequences of electronics failure. I would not put any electronic ignition parts in my MGA.

One other minor point. The last faied rotor I replaced for a friend was red.
Barney Gaylord

Crikey Barney! I can only say you've been seriously unlucky! I have had numerous modern cars and never an ignition failure. Your experience is surely extreme? On the other side of the coin, I have used numerous electronic modules in old car distributors without failure. Would be interested in other's experiences with modern vehicles' ignition reliability though - maybe I've been lucky.
Bruce Mayo

I have never had or heard of an ignition failure on a modern car either. Well at least not total failure. I have heard of coil packs failing causing poor running and engine warning light.

I haven't heard of any of the modern (Accuspark and Autospark) electronic modules being discussed failing YET either. But to be fair I don't know anyone who does the miles that Barney does!
Neil MG

Barney's high MG miles don't really matter so much, because that car has points, and I get the impression that it always has, or at least it has had for most of those miles. Barney probably hears about failures more because he's the guru, and people go to him for advice.

D Rawlins

I'll add to Barney's list- '95 Jeep,another '95 Jeep,a '98 Jeep, a '01 Jeep and an '89 Ford Topaz and a '79 MGB.When I was working 3 '02 Chevy bucket trucks. They were the hardest to fix because they would quit running but restart right away. Got real good shifting into neutral and restarting on the fly. Finally one never restarted,the garage mechanic found the trouble right away replaced the parts in the other 2 and problem fixed.
gary starr

Gary. I continue to be amazed! Sorry to hear your really bad luck!
Bruce Mayo

I've been waiting for someone from Aust. to comment but.

Over here we had an electronic dist. in the Ford Falcons that gave LOTS of trouble
The Bo--h dizzy had a Hall effect sensor and a thickfilm ign. module.
Either would fail---often
The Hall efect would die, after a hot run out of town, then as it cooled off re-entering town -- dead
The ign module could die anytime but usually at startup
When the module died, the coil would die soon after if it hadn't already.
They got that bad at one stage that suppliers would only supply a complete dizzy and a coil as a kit and wouldn't sell a dizzy seperately 'cause they knew the coil was going to die anyway and possibly wreck the new dizzy
To make things even worse the breather systen on the car ran a slight vac. in the engine at idle and light throttle. Cars that just idled about, had any lube oil for the bush in the dizzy sucked away causing rapid wear of the main bush. This, in turn caused the rotating vane to touch the Hall sensor causing all sorts of missfiring problems until it eventually died

Camshaft sensors on V8 diesel F trucks dieing causing the engine to stop

And on and on
Electronics are far from perfect but they are here to stay
William Revit

Half the fun with these old cars is sorting out problems frequently related to the 1950s/1960s technology embodied in them.

Almost every week there will be a thread to be found on the forum relating to ignition and timing issues. Invariably the analysis will reveal that the car is running on points and the debate will then discuss points, gaps, condensor, coil, advance etc. I am struggling to remember a thread where the ignition woes appear to point to electronic ignition being part of the analysis. As others have said above it either works or it doesn't; there is no half way that could influence the analysis. It leads you to concentrate purely on timing and other factors common to both systems such as coil, cap, rotor, leads, plugs etc.

Why did I go the electronic route some dozen years ago. At that time guys on this forum were saying you get a much stronger spark and you could open up the plug gaps to 30 thou + giving you a better and more consistent fuel mixture burn. I also found it a pain trying to adjust the points in that deep restricted area in the engine bay. I recall I used to remove the distributor each time and set the points on the bench.

When I converted to electronic ignition I also fitted a sports coil and a timing chain cover with the timing marks on top. This made dynamic timing so much easier.

Have I had ignition issues in the intervening years? Yes. of course, just like most people. But I have been able to analyse the cause so much easier. in my case it was the poor quality rotor that was shorting out. I have the photos of the offending item somewhere, showing the breakdown of the insulation.

Steve Gyles

Bruce I would not call it bad luck,I'd call it more of buying when the system is too new and the bugs not worked out. Best car I ever owned was my 91 5.0 Mustang,absolutely 0 problems for the 6 years I owned it.Well sorted car toward the end of it's production. We also tend to keep things too long also,we just sold the 95 and 98 Jeeps
gary starr

You have been a lucky man with your Mustang
We have had lots of bother with them and F trucks here
Usually it's the stator wearing andshearing it's key and slipping on the distributor shaft or corrosion on the earth contact points in the cover of the module on the side of the dizzy
William Revit

Electronic ignition can fail on an A.

Last year I had problems with my car cutting out when warm/hot. I have electronic ignition using a unit I got from Moss (Piranha?) probably 15 or more years ago. My first thought was a failing coil so that was changed to no effect. The car then failed completely in traffic with me in the middle of the road trying to turn right. I was rescued by a passing pedestrian who stopped the traffic and helped me push the car to the side. He was a largish fellow and also offered to "have a word" with the person a few cars back who kept blowing his/her horn.

I soon gathered a few people offering advice some of which was actually useful. There was only a very weak spark. Eventually we got the car going and I just got the couple of miles home before it failed again. Next morning everything was fine again but I was taking no chances and changed the entire distributor for a new electronic one and everything seems fine. I would really have liked to find the actual fault though.

I was carrying all the bits to convert back to conventional ignition but didn't use them. I am thinking of carrying a spare distributor in future as a just in case.

Malcolm Asquith


Sounds like a rotor problem. Similar symptoms to what I had. When hot the rotor rivet on mine shorted through the plastic to the metal spring clip that holds the assembly to the shaft.

In the picture you can see the shorting on the clip and also the blackened area on the back of the rivet.


Steve Gyles

On Friday I had my second breakerless ignition module fail. I bought two complete kits (distributor, coil and breakerless points and module) for my MGB and my MGA from Simonbbc Ignitions through eBay.

The MGB one failed after a trip to Queensland and back (about 2,000 miles) about three months after I fitted it. Somewhat unenthusiastically I was sent (what appeared to be a used) replacement. I bought a spare new one at the same time, and fitted the new unit. This too has now failed, about 3,500 miles later. Each time I reverted temporarily to points.
I've now ordered another replacement, this time by Accuspark. No idea if they're from the same Asian supplier as the earlier supplier's.

The MGA one is fine so far, but I've not done any long trips with that car. Probably done about 2,000 miles so far in the A with the pointless ignition.

T Aczel

Interesting commentary. My MGA has points and I have never had an issue and it is easy to get lazy and not bother to service them. I did rebuild the distributor some years back with new bushings/wires/etc. That probably brought the distributor back to new. With that said I have Pazon electronic ignitions in both of my 1960's Triumph motorcycles and I have never had an issue with those either. In reality a well maintained original distributor and an electronic ignition are probably a wash.
Bill Haglan

Hi All:
I was wondering if anyone has bought a Accuspark or Powerspark kit and then had Jeff of Advance Distributors work his magic re-curving the dist.? And if so how did it work out?
Godspeed in Safety Fast Jc
John Crawley

I fitted one together with one of those fully programmable boxes on a Morris Minor with a midget engine. It's really quite an impressive bit of kit and great fun to play with. Seemed good value at around
Neil MG

This may not affect many, but just thought I would throw it in. If you have converted your car to an MGB engine with its electronic tach, the tach may not (probably not) work with an electronic ignition. This is a well-known problem in the MGB threads, but follows the tach into the MGA. There is a tach upgrade available, but itís not cheap.
F. J. Bruns

This thread was discussed between 25/03/2015 and 07/04/2015

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