Rover's Vikingship a Spark less or more
Rover's Vikingship

A spark less or more???

Everything inside the car wears out over time; yes even electronics is in one way or the other part of a wear or just stops functioning. Also the electronic ignition on our car. Since the eighties the Rover is supplied with electronic ignition. This has a great advantage, you almost don't need to look at it, except for some oil inside the hole below the rotor, and the electronics will do the rest.

That's what you should think, but after a live of approx. 200.000 km my Rover V8 engine was holding in, or drop a spark. Also high number of revolutions is not achieved. And if your engine runs on LPG, which most V8's in Holland do, than a proper working ignition is of great importance. But ok, as a DIY (Do It Yourself) you take a Saturday and try to adjust all mayor parts to see if you can get the problem been solved.
To start with you take the LPG evaporator. Often this evaporator is called when a problem occurred with a poor mixture.
Unfortunately this will not give the right result. Than check the carburettors. Especially the synchronisation of the double SU HIF6 carb's is of great importance to get a real good running engine. Well this was not the case, the engine did run fine.
Than checked all the vacuum hoses, sump ventilation, check for leakage and correct connections. And than the whole Saturday is almost gone and you think well than I have to live with it.

So the next Monday you drive to your work and again the engine did not run well. This is getting on my nervous. So the next step is to change where the fault is coming from. Sparks, ignition, distributor, and what could it be? So I changed the sparks, spark cables, distributor and distributor cap. Ha, found it, the engine runs much better.

Two to three weeks later, shit, the engine again is bumping, even at higher revolutions and also sounds like a stage-effect at the end of the exhaust pipe, backfire. The last exhaust silencer is broken up. This always happened on moments when you don't expect and also you don't have time to repair it. But he, that is a hobby, so mounts a new silencer. But the sound keeps, even when driving 80, 100 or 120 km/h. so the problem is getting worse. It is as if the engine is not doing anything for about one or two seconds. You still don't think about the electronics of the ignition, either this works or it don't. So again a long thinking until nothing else than the ignition coil is left. To check this remove the inner cable and hold it near a piece of metal.

Normally you will see a clear blue spark when doing this, but at my car it was just a tiny little yellow/orange spark. Next day I bought a new ignition coil and mounted in the car, a job of less than 5 minutes. Again checked for sparks a yes, we had a blue nice spark. The engine was cold at that time, but that is something you don't think about that time. So you think, that is that, problem solved.
Meanwhile you are about 175,- euro's poorer, but hey the engine runs again.

A few weeks later… yes you guessed it right. Again the engine started to make funny bumping noise. Specially in high revolutions and when accelerate and it are starting to get on your nervous. And guess what, in a few days the expected thing happens, the engine just stops. So there you are beside the road. So I tried to start it again, thank you, it runs again.

Two days later I stranded again beside the road, and 30 minutes later in the middle of the road just for a traffic light, and you hear the sound of braking cars behind you and you see people keeping there middle finger up, and honking there horn. The strange thing about it is that every time you start the engine it wants to run, and you still don't think about the electronic device. A well known member of us, Rene Winters who is also completely crazy about the Rover SD1 models and is driving for over 22 years SD1 now, is offering me to help with the adjustments. I found this a very good plan, as I'm completely sick of it. So the next day he is on the phone and is telling me that the electronic ignition is defective. He also had experience with the last exhaust silencer. He said, put on a new electronic ignition.

So the next day I tried to arrange a new electronic ignition. An original Lucas cost about 450,- euro's and that is only for the small round Printed circuit board which can be found below the distributor. Because my whole SD1 did not cost that much money I decided not to do that and search on. After some more phone calls and questioning I heard that this problem mostly occurs with the OPUS ignition where the electronics are mounted inside the distributor. Mainly through heat from the engine the PCB materials are getting wet and soon a little leakage power or even short cuts can cause this kind of problems, or no spark at all.

Some practical solutions to get a new spark back on my spark plugs.
1) A new original PCB. This is too expensive so I don't go for this solution.
2) A new distributor with "classic" electronics. Also not a good solution as you then need to buy a new distributor cap, costs 175,- euro's and you need to change those contact sets all the time.
3) There is an alternative for the electronic ignition system, which also starts with the letter "Lum", but it is not Lucas. The price is also alternative 350 euro's which is also not on my list.
4) Rene's advice to me was to buy a Piranja ignition. These systems where not existing anymore but where taken over by Newtronic Systems. Price for a Rover V8 system
135 euro's incl(VAT).

This last option was what I had in mind so I decided to buy the set. When I received the set I was not very impressed by the box and the workmanship of the set. The user manual was very simple and very easy to use however. You receive a small black box, in the size of two packs of cigarettes, a round plate with the size of the original PCB board with a light and a plastic back with plastic disc with 8 small groves and connection wire. And furthermore some small stuff screws and so on. Within one hour the set was mounted inside the car. The black box you mount somewhere near the ignition coil. From the iron plate in the distributor a wire goes to the black box. Then 3 other wires are left, one connection goes to the ground (Chassis of the car), and one on the minus of the ignition coil and the last one go to the connection of the contact.
So and now let's see if it works… I put the key in the contact, turn it and the engine runs. And how! As if it was new. I switched of, and on again, yeah. The ignition check up for the last time with a stroboscope light, see if it was really on time.

Not all Rover V8 engines have the same TDC. Please check this in your instruction manual. So to be absolutely sure I checked the spark. So I removed the middle spark cable and the distributor, and even when you hold the cable approx. 4 centimetres from the chassis, there is still a well powered blue spark. So no problems with that.
This Newtronic ignition works with a light sensing device that is mounted on the steal ground plate. The principle of this system is that inside the ignition there is a small Light Emitting Diode (LED), which is mounted under the area where the light sensor is. The plastic boards with the 8 small groves in it turn in between.

Meanwhile I'm driving this ignition and since than I have no problems with it. Cold engine, hot engine, dry weather or wet the engine runs better as with the original ignition. It starts better and I also have the idea that there is less fuel consumption also.
For all cars a Newtronics ignition is on the market, and the prices are all equal.
Always use a 12-volt ignition coil.

Thanks to Wouter Verduyn.

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© Rwp nov 2003