• MSDHelpTroubleshooting 


    • Step 1
    • Step 2
    • Step 3
    • Step 4

    Ignition Installation Troubleshooting

    The following information will give you some tips to review during the installation of your MSD 6-Series Ignition Control. We will start by reviewing the wiring of the MSD.

    Power Wires 

    There are two heavier gauge wires on the MSD, a Red and Black. The heavy red wire needs to be connected to the positive side of the battery. Connecting it to the battery side of the starter solenoid is also okay, but the directly to the battery positive terminal is ideal.

    Next, confirm that the heavy black wire is connected to the negative side of the battery, or directly to engine ground on the head or block.

    Locate the small red wire coming from the MSD Ignition. This wire turns the MSD on and off, so make sure it is connected to a switched 12-volt source. Use a test light or volt meter to confirm that there is 12 volts on this wire when the key is in the On position – as well as during cranking. It is important to check for voltage during cranking as in many cases a wire may show 12 volts with the key on, but will drop during cranking.

    Next, lets review the coil wiring. The ONLY two wires that should be connected to the coil are from the MSD. The orange wire connects to coil positive while the black wire connects to the negative terminal. No other wires should be connected to the coil terminals! Also, do not touch or connect any tools to the coil. With the MSD connected there will NOT be voltage on the coil terminals unless the engine is running – and in that case there will be over 450 volts due to the CD technology of the ignition. Again, the only two wires connected to the coil are the MSD Orange, positive, and the MSD Black, negative.

    We’ll move on to the trigger sources. There are two trigger inputs on the MSD; a White wire and a 2-pin connector with a Violet wire and a Green wire. These are the wires for the incoming trigger signal from the distributor. It is important to note that only one method will be used, meaning either the white wire is used, or the 2-pin connector is used. Both will never be connected at the same time.

    Lets start with the White wire. The White wire is used to connect to breaker points, amplifiers or other electronic pickups. The white wire connects to the original coil negative wire. This wire is not used if you have an MSD Pro-Billet Distributor with a 2-pin connector.

    2-Pin Magnetic Pickup Connector 

    This connector plugs directly into the matching connector on an MSD Pro-Billet Distributor. This is called the magnetic pickup connector. When it is used, the White wire should be sealed and not used.

    Note that there some MSD Distributors that have a three wire connector. These are called Ready-to-Run Distributors and do not require an MSD Ignition Control. Press 3 for more information on Distributors.

    That completes our wiring check of the MSD 6-Series Ignition Controls. Be sure to check for a good ground connection. Also, if any wires were cut, confirm that quality terminals and crimps have been used. To learn how to test or false trigger your MSD Ignition, got to the next tab "Ignition Test". 

    How to test or False Trigger Your MSD Ignition

    This is an easy procedure that will confirm that your 6-Series Ignition Control and Coil are functioning properly.

    Remove the coil wire from the distributor cap. Position the terminal so it is about ¼-1/2 inch from a good ground source such as the head or intake manifold.

    With the engine off, locate the trigger source wiring. This is either the White wire of the MSD or the two pin magnetic pickup connector. Disconnect the wire that you are using from the distributor. Next turn the ignition key to the on position – do not crank the car.

    If you are using the White wire to trigger the ignition, tap the white wire to ground quickly several times. A spark should jump from the coil wire to ground.

    If you are using the two pin magnetic pickup, use a paperclip or wire to short the two wires, violet and green, together and apart quickly. Repeat this procedure rapidly. Each time the connection is broken, a spark should jump across the coil wire to ground.

    If there is a spark, the coil and the ignition are working properly. If there is not spark, it is recommended to replace the coil and repeat the test. If there is still no spark, confirm that the ignition is receiving 12 volts on the small red wire, as well as on the heavy gauge Red wire. Also verify a quality ground. If the wiring checks okay, the ignition box will need to be repaired.

    If you find that your ignition is at fault, it will need to be sent to MSD. Please obtain an RMA number from MSD before sending in the unit. This can be done online here, or by calling an RMA clerk at 915-855-7123 during regular operating hours of 8 – 5, Mountain Standard Time.

    Distributor Trouble Shooting 

    MSD offers several different styles of Pro-Billet Distributors, so our first step is to identify your model.

    The most popular MSD distributor is our standard Pro-Billet model. This is easily identified by a 2-pin connector, with one Violet/Black wire and one Orange/Black wire that connect to the magnetic pickup inside the distributor. These distributors must be used with an MSD Ignition Control such as a 6-Series Ignition or a 7-Series Ignition.

    For this style distributor, the only real specification is to check the resistance of the magnetic pickup. Use an ohm meter across the two wires and confirm that the resistance is between 400 and 1,300 ohms. If the pickup is out of this specification, it may not be triggering the ignition box. Confirm the operation of the ignition and coil by following the “How to False Trigger Your MSD Ignition” selection. If the ignition and coil check out as detailed, then the distributor pickup may be at fault.

    Another popular distributor is the Ready-to-Run line. These distributors are easily identified by the three pin connector that has a Red, Orange and Black wire. In some models, there will be a separate Green wire that is used for a tachometer signal wire. These distributors do not require and external ignition control as they have a built-in high output ignition module.

    To check the Ready-to-Run Distributor, confirm that there are 12 volts on the Red wire when the key is On and while cranking. It is important to confirm 12-volts during cranking as many older vehicles may have resistor wiring or ballast resistors inline which could affect the voltage needed to fire the ignition.

    You can also check for 12 volts on the coil negative – remember, this is only on the Ready-to-Run distributors! Also, confirm that the black wire is properly grounded to the engine block.

    If you find that your distributor is at fault, it will need to be sent to MSD. Please obtain an RMA number before sending in the unit. This can be done online here, or by calling our techs during regular operating hours of 7 – 5, Mountain Standard Time, at 915-855-7123.

    Coils and Spark Plug Wires Trouble Shooting

    You have selected Coils and Spark Plug Wires. There are not a lot of things that you can check to confirm that the coil is operating. Also, due to the number of different coil variations available, it makes it difficult for specific specifications.

    If you have an ohm meter, you can check the primary and secondary resistance of the coil. First, be sure to have the ignition turned off and the coil disconnected from the ignition. The primary resistance is measured with the probes on the positive and the negative terminals of the coil. This value will vary between coils, but a rule of thumb on MSD’s coils would be between .03 - .7 ohms.

    Secondary resistance is measured between the coil + terminal and the secondary tower (where the spark plug connects). This reading also will vary between the make of the coil, but it should be somewhere between 200 – 14,000 ohms! Quite a range. The important thing to look for is that there is not an open or a short in the windings.

    Spark plug wires can easily be visually inspected for tears, burns or black spots that may pinpoint a voltage leak. Close inspection of the boots and terminals should also be checked. You can also measure the resistance of each spark plug wire, but like coils, values may vary between wire brands. MSD’s 8.5mm Super Conductor Wire will measure about 50-ohms per foot of wire while the Street Fire brand wires have about 500 ohms per foot. As an example, if you have a 4-feet long Super Conductor wire, the resistance should be about 200 ohms. The important thing to check is that the resistance values of your wires should be consistent throughout the entire set. Lengths will vary the values, but they should all be within a similar value.