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Ignition Cable Replacement

What is the ignition cable?

In many automobile engines, ignition cables connect a distributor, or ignition coil, to the spark plugs. The high voltage spark needed for combustion travels through these cables. These cables have a copper wire core wrapped in a silicon or rubber insulator several times thicker than the core. The copper interior may also be surrounded by shielding to prevent radio frequency interference. Each end of the cables has a clip meant to attach the cable to a spark plug or coil so that the cable will not become loose with engine vibration.

What does a faulty ignition cable really mean?

Generally, a bad ignition cable will cause a misfire. Dry rot and cracking from age or rubbing against the engine until the interior wiring is exposed, will cause the spark to bleed out of the wire. Sometimes, this arcing of the spark will happen only when the weather is rainy; the moisture acts as a conductor. Either way these misfires spell bad news for the performance of the engine.

How severe is ignition cable replacement?

Critical. Get the repair done as soon as possible. A misfire may not cause the car to break down and leave you stranded, at least not right away, but if left alone additional damage may be done to the engine or catalytic converter. If the car is still driveable, find a good mechanic, almost all perform tune-ups, and set an appointment. Most ignition cables (and spark plugs) can be replaced same day, however, dropping off the car will be best.

What is the cost to replace the ignition cable?

  • Estimated part(s) cost = $80- $300
  • Estimated labor cost = $50-$300 (depending on engine size)
  • Estimated total cost = $130-$600

A set of cables will cost between $80 and $300, depending upon the size of the engine, and the make or model with higher performing cars being the upper end of prices. Most shops will recommend spark plugs along with the set of cables, and this could add $40 to $100 to the parts price. Installation will vary due to the size of the engine and also the make and model. For most four cylinders expect a price of $50 to $100 installation, and for six cylinders and eight cylinders look for the price to climb into the $200 to $300 range.

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Service article written by an ASE Master Technician