Common Symptoms of A Bad Pick Up Coil: What Are They?

Ignition processes are mostly associated with cylinders and spark plugs.

However, a smart driver should not skim over the car’s pick-up coil, either, as it helps “pick up” the camshaft position to time your ignition perfectly.

My guide will help beginners address the causes and symptoms of a bad pick up coil, as well as the expenses required to have it fixed. Keep scrolling.

What Are The Symptoms of A Bad Pick Up Coil? A Full List

symptoms of a bad pick up coil

A car might exhibit symptoms of a bad pickup coil like: no engine sparks, rough idles, acceleration failure, engine stall, activated CEL, backfires, misfires, and coughing sounds.

No Engine Sparks

As a small yet mighty part in the ignition systemc, the pickup coils are supposed to send signals from your car’s ignition modules to their spark plugs throughout the ignition procedure.

Hence, one could easily guess what would happen with bad coils on car; the plugs fail to receive any proper firing information, which results in the absence of engine sparks.

Even the fuel injector does not work, either; no wonder your car struggles to get itself started.

Rough Idle

As mentioned above, due to the faulty pick up coils, your fuel injector and spark plug gaps cannot have any proper/punctual information exchange regarding the firing timing.

Thus, rough idles occurring will only be a matter of time. They rattle and shake the car – even when it is sitting still – due to the insufficient fuel within the engine blocks. 

Some drivers might find the issue much less pronounced in winter or colder weather, but behold; it might still show up when the car’s temperature increases.

Acceleration Failure or Engine Stall

Pickup coils that fail – or are on the verge of failure – also lead to acceleration difficulties and engine stalling.

And that is to be expected, since the fuel injector cannot fire properly in the first place!

Specifically, engine stalls will occur when the car warms up, starting with rough idles and worsening over time.

Once stalled, your vehicle cannot start again, and you have no choice but to wait until the engine cools down completely.

The Check Engine Lights (CEL) Are On

Ignition difficulties or vehicle misfires caused by problems with ignition coil and pickup coils alike will trigger the P0356 code and CEL, regardless of which car type you own.

Still, do remember that a flashing CEL might stem from numerous other reasons – and pickup coils are just one of them.

To ensure you do not spend your money in the wrong place, contact an expert technician for a more proper engine diagnosis.

Bad Fuel Economy

Observe your car’s fuel economy. Do your recent visits to the gas stations increase in frequency despite driving the same distance? 

If yes, that is a telltale signal of pickup coil failure! As the pickup coil operates inaccurately, the O2 sensors will send incorrect gas data (higher than the actual number) to your car’s computer.

The spark plug wires do not get enough power, forcing the system to compensate for the loss by injecting more fuel. That explains why you have to fill it up way more often!


Like with the activated CELs, one can blame engine backfires for many reasons. However, bad coils symptoms remain the most popular.

In those cases, the vehicle usually makes loud banging sounds as the unused combustion fuel explodes in the cylinders.

Aside from the backfires, you will notice very strong gas smells and black smoke coming out of the exhaust pipes, too.

Failure to tend to the problem immediately will risk damaging the entire system; I trust you know what to do.

Engine Misfires

Since the pickup coils take direct charge of engine starters and control, their malfunctions inevitably cause misfires during accelerations.

This defect eventually hurts the catalytic converters and destroys other engine parts.

And in worse, more extreme cases, the cylinders will fire wrongly (or even not fire at all); your car may shut off mid-drive as a result!

Coughing and Spluttering Sounds

The engine spitting or coughing when you try to start the car means something is seriously wrong with the bad coils.

Most of the time, these noises come from the inactive/non-firing cylinder during your ignition processes.

Vibrating and Jerking

Another potential issue to look out for when your pickup coils fail is idle vibrations.

Sometimes, the car also hesitates or jerks forward when you engage the accelerators to increase driving speeds.

To keep car accidents (and expensive repairs) at bay, contact qualified technicians right when you can.

Why Do Pickup Coils Go Bad In The First Place?

pickup coil symptoms

High-Temperature Exposure

Overheated speed coils clearly cannot conduct electricity as well as they usually do.

Not to mention, too many heat cycles deteriorate the coil circuitry much faster, resulting in complete ignition failures.

Damaged Spark Plugs

Worn plugs put more loads and pressure on the coils, forcing the latter to operate at higher voltages in an overcompensating attempt.

With that much voltage to handle, no wonder the faulty pickup coils get overheated and eventually fail.

Engine Vibrations

Either spark plug problems or cylinder defects have to do with engine vibrations.

In both scenarios, the coil windings (primary and secondary), as well as their surrounding insulations, suffer significant damage.

And we have yet to talk about the breaks and shorts in the secondary winding, which is also another common cause of coil wire malfunction.


Moisture hampers the tight seal between your pickup coil and valve cover.

Once this moisture spreads, unwanted corrosion and oxidation will only be a matter of time. If you are lucky, only the coil pack goes bad; otherwise, brace yourself for complete ignition loss.

How Much Does It Cost to Fix Bad Pick Up Coil Symptoms?

A fix or replacement pickup coil can go from as low as $20 to a whopping $100 for the part alone. The number depends on your car’s model, make, and production year.

You should also factor in the labor charges, estimated to run from $51 to $64.

Plus, the spark plug and ignition coil may need replacements, too (since they often go together with the coils), which adds to the total fee even more.

Can You Keep Driving Without Fixing The Pick Up Coil Symptoms? 

bad pick up coil symptoms

Yes, but only if the defects have not yet spread to other ignition compartments. When you leave them untreated for too long, the car might not even be able to get started in the first place.


Certain symptoms of a bad pick up coil might be difficult to diagnose despite the transparent physical indicators.

Hence, it would be best to ask for professional help when you notice anything usual with the car’s performance, idles, and modern engine. Feel free to contact me if more advice is needed.

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