94 Ford Ranger, died while driving; no spark

Replaced coil, ignition control module, and distributor. Have checked fuses. Cranks fine.

You may have installed the distributor 180* off and the rotor is firing thew wrong cylinders.

You will have to bring the engine to “top dead center” on the compression stroke and then be sure that the rotor is pointing to the #1 plug wire on the cap.

Answer the following;

Also check that the coil wire is inserted into the coil and distributor cap all the way.

With the new distributor, did you install a new rotor and cap?
Did you install new wires?

Did the engine run before you did this work, or are you working with a unknown working engine?


Try replacing the coil wire. I was out on the lake this summer and my boat motor sputtered and died and then nothing when I cranked it over to restart. I started replacing relays because I’d had the same symptom a month earlier due to a bad relay for the fuel injection. That didn’t help and I was about to pull the distributor cap and I see the coil wire has completely separated. A new coil wire and it fired right up.

My boat is an '03 350ci GM block. The coil wire was likely OEM making it 12 years old. These wires are carbon fiber and they can and do break down internally. It could look fine on the outside and still be bad internally.

Pretty easy to put a new coil wire on there and see what happens. If you already tried this, just disregard.

The engine, V6 3.0, died while driving. The rotor button and dist. cap was not replaced. The distributor, coil, and ICM only. It was brought to top dead center on #1 by tracing plug wire #1 of firing order. Wires were not replaced as not getting spark at coil. Too, replaced EEC relay. Thank you for your time. We are truly stumped with this.

You did good by checking the fuses but if you didn’t verify that power was getting to the ignition system you need to that.

I have been learning as I go. I don’t know exactly how to check for power to ignition, the engine does crank. I’d be happy to verify. This truck is currently my primary vehicle and has been an enduring process. I’ve asked for advice having ended up keeping throwing parts at it. I appreciate your time and interest to help. Seems that folks are out of suggestions. Also, to correct my initial post, the distributor cap has been replaced. Too, I’m not sure if of any value but when I removed the distributor cap I found a magnet loosely floating inside. This is what lead to replacing the entire distributor. Thanks again, anyone.

Verify the correct distributor orientation as suggested by Yosemite, then begin to find the missing signal. I’m assuming from your posts that you also changed the igniter with the distributor.

The system works by connecting and then disconnecting 12VDC from the coil primary, as directed by the ECU. Connecting the 12VDC to the coil primary builds a magnetic charge in the windings. Disconnecting it allows the field to collapse into the iron core and induce a high voltage spike to the sparkplug wire to jump the gap. The connect/disconnect action is directed by the ECU based upon a number of variables, a primary one being the signal from the crank position sensor (CPS). If you have a solid 12VDC on the coil primary, suspect the CPS. With a scope you’d be able to see a 12VDC peak square wave, but with a DVM you’re probably going to see a form of average, which will show up as probably about 8VDC (the pulses will average out). You may also see a fluctuating needle.

If you have zero voltage on the coil primary, you need to track back to find the missing voltage. You may have a relay that enables the circuit in the relay box under your hood. I don’t have access to specific information about this vehicle, so I’m guessing a bit here. You may need to pick up an ignition system schematic from the dealer’s part guy.

Unfortunately, this vehicle lacks an OBD2 system, so you’ll need to get a bit “old school” here.

You will need at least a test light probe to check for ignition power. They are a cheap but very useful tool and you can find them at any parts store. You clip the lead to a good ground point and you place the probe tip at the point you want to test. If there is power there the light will turn on.

I assume you have a regular ignition coil and if so place the tip of the probe on the minus side of the coil (the side that connects to the distributor. If the ignition is working properly you will see the light turn on and it should flash when you try starting the engine. If the light turns on but doesn’t flash then the trouble is inside the disty. If you have no light at all then you need to check for power at the fuse and the ignition switch wiring.

You guys have been greatly helpful. Luckily a test light I do have now. Thank you for the instruct for using it. It has gotten dark here for the night though I’ll certainly be checking tomorrow. I believe am understanding both of the most recent posts, gratefully. I’m looking forward to checking for spark and will certainly post the results tomorrow however it turns out. Thanks again, all. Don’t forget about me, please. Take care.

You’re welcome for the help. Keep us posted on the progress using this thread. We’ll get to the bottom of this.

Certainly will. Thanks again.

The 3.0 in your truck should be one of the TFI-IV ignition module versions. These modules are prone to failure usually caused by heat.

Hook a test light probe to the hot side of the ignition coil. Verify that power is provided to the coil terminal with the key in both in the RUN and START positions.
If there is no power and you’re certain all fuses are good the electrical part of the ignition switch may be faulty.

If there is power and still no spark the ignition module may be bad. Testing these modules is often not definitive but in cases of no start/no spark the procedural steps may show a problem.
It’s also possible for a failed module to set a diagnostic code.

Respectfully, if you are referring to the ignition control module, it has been replaced as well. The truck had been driven with no problems earlier the same day as the crank, no start problem began. The first part replaced was the ignition control module. I appreciate your advice and plan to do more testing with a test light in the morning. If you are able to revisit this thread I will have posted more results by noon (eastern time) tomorrow. Your concern is greatly appreciated. If you have any additional suggestions I’d be glad to address them as well.

The main thing then will be to verify that battery voltage is reaching the ignition coil hot terminal in both the RUN and START positions.

My memory is hazy but I think the hot wire for the coil is red with a green tracer. I haven’t dug up a schematic to verify that.
If power is present and seeing as how the module has been changed consideration might be given to the Hall Effect Generator (sometimes called a pickup coil) inside the distributor.

Are you sure you have a “no spark” problem? I’ve owned several Ford Rangers and they all had one common problem…quirky inertia switches. I bypassed all of mine because they caused so many “no start” problems. The switch shuts down the fuel pump and the result is an engine that will not fire. Bypass yours and see if it starts. It’s located below the glove compartment right behind the floor mat,

Bring it to “top dead center” was a good move.
But if you did this without checking weather you were on the compression stroke, or the exhaust stroke is vital.
The timing mark will be lined up on both the compression stroke and the exhaust stroke.

This is why I say that you may have the new distributor off by 180 degrees.

When replacing a distributor you must either be sure it is on TDC at the compression stroke, or note on the old Distributor where the rotor is pointing (ie; looking down on it the rotor is at 12 o’clock) before even loosening up the distributor hold down bolt.

When installing the new distributor, slip the rotor on and be sure that…as it meshes gears and bottoms out…that the new rotor is still pointing at 12 O’clock… If it’s off much it will not start.
If not then it needs to be pulled and the shaft turned a bit and re-installing it, until the new rotor is at the exact same possition as the old one was before you pulled it.

If you did not note the rotors orientation Then you will need to pull #1 plug and feel for the compression as you rotate the engine and lining up the timing marks.

Sorry if I’m beating a dead horse over this, but I have no idea how you performed the exchange.


Oh, yes. You could be correct about compression or exhaust stroke. Please don’t apologize for any advice. As my frustration has grown with this truck my patience has grown as well. You sound to be exactly correct assuming how we did install the new distributor. I am now waiting on weather to clear up in order to give back results from testing. I’m not sure how to “feel” for compression. The exchange was done by turning the key until #1 lined up. We got it as close as we could. About the hall effect, the magnet which I assume functions creating the hall effect was free-floating inside the distributor. The part that spins had developed play due to wear and tear, ripping out said magnet. I hope everyone is aware how grateful I am for any input. I have posted onto other forums online but no results.

Finding TDC on the compression stroke.

The easiest is to pull the #1 spark plug.

Crank the engine with the starter for just a second and note the direction of rotation.
Put a tissue on the I# spark plug hole.

Turn off the ignition and with a wrench turn the motor over by the nut/bolt on the crankshaft pulley. the compression stroke…as the piston is coming up…is the only time that the tissue could be blown out of that hole.
Once the tissue moves away from the hole you will know the piston is coming up in the compression stroke. Now watch closely to the timing marks and turn the nut/bolt slowly until the marks are lined up. Don’t use the starter motor for this. It spins too fast to be accurate.

Now inspect the rotor and see what cap terminal it is pointing at.

If it is not pointing to that #1 terminal…pull the distributor out until you can rotate the shaft by hand and line it up to that terminal. Then reinstall the distributor. Snug the bolt, but loose enough to still be able to turn the distributor.

Be aware that as you slide the shaft back in, the rotor will turn slightly because the gear has angled teeth that make it turn slightly as you install it. You will have to compensate for this.

When trying to start it, it hesitates but seems to want to start…you may have to rotate the distributor housing a bit until it is lined up to the proper timing for the engine to start.

Then you will need a timing light to adjust the timing to finish the job and get the timing to the spec’s in the book.


If the ignition timing is not set on a TFI model with the SPOUT connector disconnected the ignition timing can be off by a country mile.
Have you tried rotating the distributor back and forth a bit to see if it will start and which will be the forerunner to the first sentence.

Everybody please forgive me for not posting today. I got tied up whikr waiting for better weather. I have read each post thoroughly and will be back here tomorrow for sure. Endless appreciation, everyone. Thanks the patience.