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72wagun

Electronic Ignitions For L motors (4 cyl.)

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When I upgraded my 510 to electronic ignition, I spent some time reading up on all of the available options. This seems to be a fairly common question for new members on the forum. I made some notes, and thought they might be helpful for others. I know this information is available some other places, but I just tried to put it all together in one place for my own reference. PLEASE add corrections if you see bad information. I also made up some simple wiring diagrams.

 

I looked at 3 main options for electronic ignition setups, "Matchbox", Pertronix, and Remote module distributor with GM HEI.

 

 

Matchbox

 

This setup is considered by many to be the most desirable EI system for the Datsun L4 motors. The matchbox ignition was stock equipment on several models from 1979 to 1982. The term "matchbox" refers to the small rectangular ignition module attached to the side of the distributor body that is about the size of a small matchbox. Advantages of this system are that it is simple, compact, and once installed it's reported to be very reliable. One disadvantage is that new units are no longer available for sale. They are also becoming harder to find. If you want to use a matchbox ignition, you will have to find a distributor that has been salvaged.

 

 

Wiring the matchbox:

 

Wiring for the matchbox distributor consists of two wires from the coil to the ignition module on the distributor, and a key switched 12V power source to the positive side of the coil. The wires from the coil to the distributor must be connected as shown, and not reversed. Also, the coil should receive 12 volts while the starter is being cranked, and when the key is in the "on" position. For some vehicles this will require that two separate wires come from the ignition switch (as shown in the wiring diagram). This is because vehicles that originally had a ballast resistor have a separate circuit to provide 12 volts directly to the coil during engine starting.

 

Matchbox.jpg

 

 

Pertronix

 

Another popular option is the "Ignitor" electronic ignition system from Pertronix. This is an aftermarket drop in replacement for the stock points ignition. The installation is simple, and will work with your stock coil and ballast resistor. If you prefer though, you can replace the stock coil and resistor with a higher resistance after market coil. With a higher resistance 3 ohm coil, the ballast resistor is not needed. The wiring diagrams below show how to wire the Pertronix with the stock coil and resistor, or with the 3 ohm coil only.

 

The kit is only compatible with certain distributors though. Dual points distributors will not work because the screw holes in the magnetic pickup assembly will not properly line up with the holes in the distributor. Also, some L20b distributors must be modified in order accept the magnetic trigger ring that comes with the pertronix kit. The illustration below shows the basic wiring for the Pertronix.

 

 

Wiring the Pertronix:

 

There are two ways to wire the pertronix, with a ballast resistor (using the stock coil), or without (using a 3 ohm coil). Use one of the two wiring diagrams below depending on your application. As with the matchbox setup, you should ensure that the coil gets 12V when the key is in the "start" position and also when it is in the "On" position. This means that for cars that originally had a ballast resistor, you will need to connect two separate wires coming from the ignition switch to the positive side of the coil. You can use a test light to verify this.

 

Pertonix_w_ballast.jpg

 

Pertonix_wo_ballast.jpg

 

 

Remote Module Distributor with GM HEI

 

A third option is the earlier stock EI system that was installed on several vehicles equipped with L20b engines between 1975 and 1978. Instead of a small ignition module on the side of the distributor like the matchbox, this type had a larger box mounted remotely from the distributor. Although the stock ignition modules are bulky and expensive to replace, inexpensive and readily available GM style HEI ignition modules can easily be used in their place.

 

 

Wiring the HEI Module

 

The HEI Module goes between the distributor and the ignition coil. It acts as an electronic switch that is signaled by the pickup sensor in the distributor. Simply connect the two pickup wires coming from the distributor to one side of the ignition module as shown in the diagram. Then connect the positive and negative wires to the other side as shown. As with the matchbox and Pertronix setups, you should ensure that the coil gets 12V when the key is in the "start" position and also when it is in the "On" position. This means that for cars that originally had a ballast resistor, you will need to connect two separate wires coming from the ignition switch to the positive side of the coil. You can use a test light to verify this.

 

 

The HEI module needs to be grounded. this is usually done by connecting the module to a metal surface in the engine bay. In addition to grounding the module, this connection can also help keep the unit cool. The back side of the module is metal. If possible, the module should be attached so that the metal on the back side is against another flat metal surface. Some people mount the module on a heavy gauge piece of aluminum to act as a heat sync. Some modules come with special grease designed to conduct heat. The grease should be applied to the back of the module to further improve heat transfer to the mounting surface. Do not use dielectric grease for this purpose. Some types can reduce heat transfer instead of improve it.

 

HEI.jpg

Edited by 72wagun
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Good info. I did a writeup ealier this year describing how to wire up a matchbox dist & last year w/ help from Mike klotz did a similar writeup on the HEI method. Now we ned to get peeps to use the search feature...:D

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Good info. I did a writeup ealier this year describing how to wire up a matchbox dist & last year w/ help from Mike klotz did a similar writeup on the HEI method. Now we ned to get peeps to use the search feature...:D

 

Your writeup on the HEI setup, and the DQ article were some of the ones I read when I was learning about these. There are a number of other threads with various pictures and wiring diagrams sprinkled around ratsun. I thought it might help the new guys (like I was) to put it in one place, and make it as simple as I could. Nice write up btw. I agree, a lot of the questions could be answered with a simple search:)

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Well thought out and displayed.

 

Thanks Mike,

 

That's a real compliment coming from someone as knowledgeable as you. Of course I have to look stuff up. I don't have it in my head like you. I was also planning to compile a list of vehicles that came with matchbox dizzys and remote module dizzys. This is the list I came up with for the matchbox dizzy:

 

  • '79 200sx (L20b)
  • '78-'79 HL510 (L20b)
  • '79-'80 HL620 Pickup (L20b)
  • '80-'81 HL510 (NAPS-Z20S)
  • '81-'82 720 Pickup (NAPS-Z22S)

 

I got this from various sources. I'm not too sure on the accuracy though. Any hints? I didn't get too far on the list for the remote module dizzy.

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Good write up!

I know you basically copied stuff from other sources, but this info in one place is a huge help.

I also like the info on parts and cars they are in.

 

Make this a sticky at the top of the forum.

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i got a remote igniter box style dist. out of a 610. Not sure of the year though.

 

From my understanding, the remote dizzys ended in '78. I got one from a '78 620. Not sure when they started. I think it was '75, but not completely sure.

Edited by 72wagun

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California cars and trucks had the remote L dizzy around '76, all Ls had it in '78, all switched to the matchbox in '79. The last L matchbox was used on the '80 720 truck. The early '80 200sx with the Z20E had a 4 plug head and thus a 4 plug matchbox dizzy that can be made to work on an L motor by using the base from any other L matchbox dizzy, even a 280z/zx.

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Great write up!

 

For the matchbox setup, I would highly recommend....require....a dedicated ground wire from the body of the dizzy to the body.....I typically go to the core support or back to the battery. It's hard to kill a matchbox unit, but a lot of them get misdiagnosed as bad due to the lack of a good ground.

 

Here's the info for the heat sink compound. It doesn't take much. It is also used on the backside of the matchbox unit if it's pulled off to clean the dizzy body.

 

Radio Shack $2.99

Heat Sink Grease (6g)

Model: 276-1372 | Catalog #: 276-1372

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THe matchbox or the GM conversion are good ways to go.I wouldn't use Pertronix anything unless someone was pointing a gun at the family dog.And then...maybe.:blink:

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72 wagun

 

Only complaint here is the coil ohms.or type of coil.

 

If going to the nissan IE type sytems you should suggest getting the coil from the car/truck taken that was used with that dizzy or get a Blaster 2 coil. these are near .7 ohms and you get almost double the current.

 

running a stock 510 coil or point coil 1.6 ohms was designed to have the ballest resisitor in series with it. so a total of 3.2 ohm. 3 ohms is close enough. Only on START the the ballast is bypassed as the voltage loads down to the starter. to help the coil out.

 

So maybe running a 30year old coil designed for a 3 ohm total resisitance might not be a good idea if the ballast is removed thus doubleing the current all the time,which will get HOT. IM NOT SAYING I HAVENT SEEN THEM WORKING WITH SOME PEOPLE but maybe the old coils can get hot and the varnish wears off inside and cook the coil.

NEWER coils designed to run on the straight 12-14 volts if 1.6 ohm will be OK. but people have to know this. So its ezer to say grab the coil from model car/truck which it was designed for or grab a MSD Blaster 2 . But not to confuse you more you can run the stock point coil and the ballst if you like. just put the B (or positive wire from the dizzy to the +side of the ballast) So it see the full voltage.

 

But when you buy coils some say designed to run with ballast.(meaning its a point system or a Pertronix conversion.

 

PS your drawings are great and ez to understand

Edited by banzai510(hainz)

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Thanks Hainz. I'll try editing the original post. Not sure how long I can still edit it, but I'll try to get it done today. I have to get some work done too though. I want to track down some other info on coils too. I may have some more Qs for you if your around. I'll pm you.

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... I'll try editing the original post. Not sure how long I can still edit it, but I'll try to get it done today...

 

What format did you do the graphics? I would do them in whatever format and post them to photobucket or something. This allows you to make modifications to a picture and re-post it to photobucket with the same name. We do this a lot in AutoCAD, saving the old file, modifying the file, and saving it as the same name so other drawings that make reference to that file keep the path. Its call External Reference. You can mod to your hearts content, we would never know.

 

BTW: Excellent writeup :)

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What format did you do the graphics? I would do them in whatever format and post them to photobucket or something. This allows you to make modifications to a picture and re-post it to photobucket with the same name. We do this a lot in AutoCAD, saving the old file, modifying the file, and saving it as the same name so other drawings that make reference to that file keep the path. Its call External Reference. You can mod to your hearts content, we would never know.

 

BTW: Excellent writeup :)

 

The diagrams are jpgs I exported from Solid Edge 2D CAD. I was just going to upload new images to PB, and relink them. I don't see how you can replace the original in PB unless you have Pro and use FTP. Is there a way to do it? I'm also planning to update some of the text, so I'll have to edit the post either way.

 

72wagun

Jason Grays write up is one of the best for info on olddatsuns.com

 

That's a good site. I think I read through it quite a while back, but forgot about it. I just looked, and found some more good info on there.

 

I've been messaging Mike K. and Datzenmike about some of the details on this too. I'm waiting to hear back from Mike K. on a couple more details, then I should be able to get things fixed up.

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Great write up!

 

For the matchbox setup, I would highly recommend....require....a dedicated ground wire from the body of the dizzy to the body.....I typically go to the core support or back to the battery. It's hard to kill a matchbox unit, but a lot of them get misdiagnosed as bad due to the lack of a good ground.

 

Here's the info for the heat sink compound. It doesn't take much. It is also used on the backside of the matchbox unit if it's pulled off to clean the dizzy body.

 

Radio Shack $2.99

Heat Sink Grease (6g)

Model: 276-1372 | Catalog #: 276-1372

 

btw Mike, thanks for the info on grounding the dizzy. Good idea. Also, I didn't know where to get the grease separately.

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nice writeup. i am using the HEIremote ignitor setup in my 73. works EXCELLENT! i was suprised at how well it worked compaired to the points. points suck ass!!!1

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Thanks for the write up..and the pics help alot!:D

I am doing this conversion today with the gm HEI setup, and the only thing I didn't see mentioned is, what size wire do you guys recommend for the re-wire? something like a 12 or 14 be good?

THANKS again!

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On my 521 i used a remote style EI dist out of a 620. Heres what i bought for the swap.........

1-23dist5.jpg

made a base for the HEI........simple...

1-23dist6.jpg

Parts were bought @ Kragen / Checker. Tell the parts guy you need an HEI module for a 77 Chevy Camaro...then if you wanna confuse him tell him it's for your Datsun :D

This may have been mentioned before but make sure to grab the pedestal @ the base of the dist. This will ensure timing will not be an issue.

The EI coil is bigger that a points coil & usualy say "for use with electronic ignition" on the bottom so theyre easy to tell the difference.........

2-13EDist3.jpg

Any coil in a Z car that had EI can be used btw.......

 

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I'm glad to see lots of good information has been added. It seems like we got some good stuff in without the thread getting too long. Since the time expired for me to be able to add anything to the first post, I'll just tack on a few more things I've been able to dig up. Several people asked about the correct coil to use with these systems. Others have already posted some good info on this. I also did a little more looking, and to keep things simple, I focused only on the EI systems from the 620 pickups. Most replacement ignition parts are still listed for them with parts suppliers, and more information about them was available. Mike Klotz's site (www.olddatsuns.com) had the 1978 620 FSM. I didn't have access to FSMs later than that, but based on parts listings on www.rockauto.com, I think they kept the same coil until they stopped using the L20 in pickups. For the matchbox and the HEI setups, I think you would be safe to use a coil intended for a 1979 620.

 

Just for reference, here are 2 diagrams of the stock 78 620 ignition system (taken from the FSM)

 

78_Datsun_620_Ignition_wiring_1.jpg

 

78_Datsun_620_Ignition_wiring_2.jpg

 

 

Stock 1978 - 1980 620/720 Pickup EI Coil

 

The same EI coil seems to have been used on L20b equipped 620 and 720 pickups from 1978 to 1980 (possibly the 200sx as well). The allowable resistance for the primary winding is listed as 0.84 to 1.02 ohms. The plug gap listed for the stock system is from 0.031" to 0.043" depending on spark plug type. Remember that this applies to the matchbox and HEI type systems. See the section above on the Pertronix for selecting the proper coil.

 

 

MSD Blaster 2 Coil

 

Hainz suggested this coil, and I have seen it suggested several other places for use with the HEI ignition module. It is designed to work with EI systems like the ones listed above, and the primary winding resistance is only slightly lower than the stock coil. The lower resistance may put a slightly higher load on the electrical wiring. It may also produce an improved spark, but I don't know very much about it. Other aftermarket coils designed for EI may work too. Remember that this applies to the matchbox and HEI type systems. See the section above on the Pertronix for selecting the proper coil.

 

 

Distributor selection for Pertronix

 

One thing I didn't mention about the Pertronix system is that it can be mounted in the L16 single points distributor, or the L20b distributor. The advantage of the L16 distributor is that there is no modification of the distributor needed. It's a simple drop in. The disadvantage is that the cap has a smaller diameter than the L20b, and the posts where the plug wires connect are closer together. The improved spark of the new EI system is able to jump across wider air gaps, and in some conditions may arc to an adjacent post. The L20b distributor has a larger diameter cap, but requires that a ring on the shaft be machined down to accept the magnetic trigger ring of the Pertronix system.

 

More information here: Electronic Ignition Distributer FAQ for Datsun L-series Engines (Jason Gray)

 

 

Wire guage to use

 

I found several sites that suggested that for HEI type ignition systems, 10 or 12 gauge wire should be used for the circuit that supplies power to the primary winding of the coil. For the systems shown above, this would include wiring from the ignition switch to the coil, and wiring from the ignition module to the negative side of the coil.

 

Another part of this circuit that should be considered is the grounding of the ignition module. Like the wires supplying the coil, this connection also needs to conduct the current needed to power the coil. For the HEI module a firm connection to a good ground is needed (mounting screws). For the matchbox ignition, the module ground (where the module contacts the distributor body) should be clean, and the distributor base should have a good ground path back to the negative battery post.

 

Keep in mind that cars originally equipped with points had wiring that was intended to carry a little less current than EI systems use. In most cases lighter gauge wire will probably work, but increasing the wire size will likely improve system reliability and performance.

 

 

Other sources of information

 

www.olddatsuns.com

 

Lose the points..go electronic [ignition] (Ratsun/Pacific coast Datsun)

 

HEI wiring pics w/ writeup (Ratsun/Pacific coast Datsun)

 

Quick Tech Tip: Ignition Problems - Grounding Datsun's Breakerless L-Series Distributors (Dime Quarterly)

 

Electronic Ignition Distributer FAQ for Datsun L-series Engines (Jason Gray)

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Hi guys,

I just picked up an L16 motor that came with a matchbox dizzy.

I am a bit confused because the coil had a ballast resistor. unfortunately I did not see it wired up.

according to this write up, which by the way is a great write up, this set up does not have a ballast resistor in the wiring diagram.

Is that possible or how can i wire it up?

Is there an easy way to check the coil?

thanks guys.

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Hi guys,

I just picked up an L16 motor that came with a matchbox dizzy.

I am a bit confused because the coil had a ballast resistor. unfortunately I did not see it wired up.

according to this write up, which by the way is a great write up, this set up does not have a ballast resistor in the wiring diagram.

Is that possible or how can i wire it up?

Is there an easy way to check the coil?

thanks guys.

 

Someone may have used a points coil and resistor with this distributor, but they aren't really designed to work with Electronic Ignition (EI) systems. It would probably end up burning out the windings prematurely. To be on the safe side, I would probably just get a coil for a '79 620 pickup. The '79 came stock with a matchbox dizzy just like yours. Rockauto lists them for $23.79. Another option would be to use the MSD Blaster 2. It looks like they sell for about $35-$40. Hope it helps.

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The coil + ballast resistor is a matched set.

The other "set" is an EI coil with no resistor.

 

The coil controls how much current flows. The old-type coils draw less current, so they can be safely used with EI modules. But why would you want to? The EI coils fire the plugs better, the plugs last longer too.

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Thanks guys.

Does Niehoff make a coil comparable to this MSD Blaster 2 coil?

Is it possible that my dual points Dizzy was working with an upgraded coil?

What do I need to do to test this coil and try to run it without having to buy a blaster 2?

Would my car run okay with the normal coil for a little while until I upgrade?

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