How to Test a Pickup Coil with Multimeter Correctly? [Updated Guide 2024]

How to test a pickup coil with multimeter? You will need to follow some steps to test a pickup coil with a multimeter. First, disconnect the pickup coil from the vehicle’s electrical system. Set your multimeter to the resistance (ohms) mode.

Connect the multimeter’s positive lead to one of the pickup coil’s terminals and the negative lead to the other terminal. Check the resistance reading on the multimeter display. Compare the measured resistance with the manufacturer’s specifications for the pickup coil.

Understanding the Function and Importance of a Pickup Coil

The pickup coil typically consists of a coil of wire wrapped around a magnetic core. As the teeth or projections on a rotating component, such as the distributor shaft or flywheel, pass by the pickup coil, they change the magnetic field, inducing a voltage pulse.

It works with the ignition control module to generate the necessary voltage and timing signals for the ignition coil. Over time, a pickup coil may wear out or develop faults, leading to engine performance issues.

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To diagnose such problems, knowing how to test a pickup coil accurately is crucial. We will provide a step-by-step guide to guide you how to test a pickup coil with multimeter to ensure effective troubleshooting and maintenance of your vehicle’s ignition system.

Testing a Pickup Coil with a Multimeter: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to test a pickup coil with multimeter? Here are some steps:

How to Test a Pickup Coil with Multimeter

Step 1: Safety Precautions

Before starting any work on your vehicle, it is essential to ensure your safety. You should turn off the engine, remove the ignition key, and disconnect the battery to prevent accidental starts and electrical shocks.

Step 2: Disconnecting the Wiring Harness for the Pickup Coil

Locate the wiring harness connected to the pickup coil. Depending on the vehicle’s make and model, the pickup coil may be integrated with the ignition coil or located separately. Carefully disconnect the wiring harness, ensuring not to damage any wires or connectors.

Step 3: Locating the Pickup Coil in Your Vehicle

Once the wiring harness is disconnected, locate the pickup coil. It is typically positioned near the distributor, camshaft, or crankshaft. Consult your vehicle’s service manual or refer to online resources for specific instructions on locating the pickup coil in your particular vehicle.

Step 4: Understanding Your Multimeter

Before proceeding with the testing process, familiarize yourself with the multimeter you will use. Ensure it is set to the appropriate settings for measuring resistance (ohms).

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Step 5: Testing the Primary Ignition Circuit of the Ignition Coil

To test the primary ignition circuit, connect the multimeter leads to the terminals of the pickup coil. Measure the resistance between these terminals. Consult your vehicle’s service manual or specifications to determine the expected resistance range. If the measured resistance falls within the acceptable range, the primary ignition circuit of the pickup coil is functioning correctly.

Step 6: Testing the Secondary Circuit of the Pickup Coil

To test the secondary circuit of the pickup coil, connect one multimeter lead to the pickup coil’s primary terminal and the other information to the secondary terminal. Again, refer to your vehicle’s specifications to determine the expected resistance range. If the measured resistance falls within the acceptable range, the secondary circuit of the pickup coil is functioning correctly.

How to Test a Pickup Coil with Multimeter

Step 7: Cleaning Rusty Connectors

If the resistance measurements in Step 5 or Step 6 indicate values outside the acceptable range, rust or corrosion may have affected the connectors’ performance. Use a contact cleaner or fine-grit sandpaper to clean the connectors and ensure a good electrical connection. Be cautious not to damage the connectors or surrounding components during cleaning.

Step 8: Properly Reinstalling the Ignition Coil

After testing and, if necessary, cleaning the pickup coil, it is time to reinstall the ignition coil and reconnect the wiring harness. Ensure all circuit connections are secure and the wires are properly routed. Double-check the service manual or online resources for instructions on properly installing the pickup coil in your vehicle.

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Now you know how to test a pickup coil with multimeter.

Tips to Know Pickup Coil is Bad

The following tips will assist you in determining whether or not the pickup coil in your vehicle is faulty:

Inspect the engine for misfires:

There is a possibility that a faulty pickup coil can cause engine misfires, resulting in rough running or hesitation during acceleration. If you notice these symptoms and discover that your ignition system isn’t functioning properly, the pickup coil may be the problem.

Inspect for a weak or no spark:

The pickup coil generates the signal that triggers the ignition coil to produce a spark. If the pickup coil is faulty, it may not generate the necessary signal, resulting in a weak or no spark at the plugs.

You can check for a spark by removing a spark plug wire, inserting a spark tester, and cranking the engine while observing for a strong and consistent spark.

How to Test a Pickup Coil with Multimeter

Use a multimeter:

To determine the specific resistance values for your specific make and model, consult your vehicle’s service manual. If the resistance readings are outside of the specified range, the pickup coil has a problem.

Inspect for physical damage:

Examine the pickup coil for any visible signs of damage, such as frayed wires, corrosion, or burnt components. Several problems may interfere with the proper functioning of the pickup coil and indicate that the coil needs to be replaced.

Obtain professional advice:

We recommend consulting a qualified mechanic if you are unsure about performing the above tests or require a more accurate diagnosis. In addition to their expertise and specialized tools, they can diagnose and repair issues with the ignition system components, including the pickup coil.

Remember, these tips provide a general guideline, and the specific diagnostic process may vary depending on your vehicle’s make and model. Refer to the vehicle’s service manual for detailed instructions and consult a professional.

The voltage of a Pickup Coil

The voltage of a pickup coil refers to the electrical potential difference generated across the coil when subjected to a changing magnetic field. Various devices, including guitar pickups, microphones, and transformers, use pickup coils to convert magnetic and electrical energy.

When a pickup coil is exposed to a changing magnetic field, either due to relative motion between the coil and a magnetic source or a varying magnetic field nearby, a phenomenon known as electromagnetic induction occurs. Faraday’s law of electromagnetic induction states that a voltage is induced across a conductor when it cuts magnetic field lines. There is a direct relation between voltage and the rate of change of the powerful magnetic field.

The voltage induced in a pickup coil can be calculated using the following equation:

V = -N * d(BA)/dt


V (induced voltage)

N (number of turns in the coil)

d(BA)/dt is the rate of change of the magnetic field

The voltage induced in the pickup coil depends on several factors.

Magnetic field

A higher rate of change of the magnetic field will result in a larger induced voltage. This is why pickup coils are often used in devices with a rapid variation in the magnetic field, such as in electric guitars where the vibrating strings generate varying magnetic fields.

Number of turns

The number of turns in the pickup coil also affects the induced voltage. A coil with more turns will produce a higher voltage than one with fewer turns, assuming the other factors remain the same. This is because each turn of the coil contributes to the overall voltage.

Strength of the magnetic field

A magnetic field’s strength is also a factor in determining the induced voltage. A stronger magnetic field will result in a larger induced voltage, given the same rate of change and number of turns. This is why pickup coils are often placed near the source of the magnetic field, such as the strings of a guitar or the core of a transformer.

In practical applications, the voltage induced in pickup coils can vary widely depending on the specific device and its design parameters. The induced voltage can range from millivolts to several volts according to the number of windings, the magnetic field’s strength, and the strings’ movement in a guitar pickup.

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Notably, the voltage induced in a pickup coil is typically an alternating current (AC) voltage, as the magnetic field is often changing sinusoidally. The AC voltage can then be processed and amplified to drive speakers, record audio, or perform other tasks depending on the device’s purpose.

How many ohms should a pickup coil read?

The resistance value of a pickup coil, commonly found in electric guitars and other instruments, can vary depending on several factors. The pickup design, the number of windings, and the wire gauge can affect the resistance reading. Therefore, there is no specific or standard resistance value that a pickup coil should read.

Pickup coils are typically categorized into two main types: single-coil and humbucker. Single-coil pickups tend to have lower resistance values, typically 400-800 ohms. These pickups have a brighter and clearer tone but may be more susceptible to hum and interference.

On the other hand, humbucker pickups consist of two coils wound in opposite directions, which helps cancel out hum and noise. Humbuckers usually have higher resistance values compared to single-coil pickups. Higher resistance values generally result in a thicker and warmer tone.

Several other factors also affect the overall tone, including magnet type and strength, coil shape, and pickup position.

FAQs about How to Test a Pickup Coil with Multimeter

Is a pickup coil AC or DC?

A pickup coil is typically used in electrical systems that generate alternating current (AC). Pickup coils are commonly used in applications such as electric guitars, which capture the strings’ vibrations and generate an AC signal.

 However, it’s worth noting that pickup coils can also be used in certain DC applications, such as magnetic sensors or motor feedback systems, which still function based on changes in magnetic fields.

Should the coil have 12 volts?

The voltage requirements of a coil depend on its specific application and design. Coils can operate at various voltages, depending on the intended purpose and the electrical system they are part of.

Some coils require a 12-volt power supply, while others operate at different low volts or higher. It’s essential to refer to the manufacturer’s specifications or the system requirements to determine the appropriate voltage for a specific coil.

What is the normal resistance in the coil?

Many factors can affect a coil’s normal resistance, including the coil type, the material, and the application for which the coil will be used. Resistance is generally measured in ohms.

 As an example, the primary winding resistance of an automotive ignition coil can range from 0.2 to 3 ohms, while the secondary winding resistance can vary. To determine the expected resistance for a particular coil type, it’s crucial to refer to the manufacturer’s specifications or consult relevant technical resources.

How many ohms is safe for a single coil?

When building a single coil setup, using a coil with a resistance of at least 0.11 ohms is generally considered safe.

However, it’s essential to note that the specific safe resistance range can vary depending on the type of device being used, battery specifications, and individual preferences.


Testing a pickup coil with a multimeter is a relatively simple process that can help diagnose and resolve ignition system issues in your vehicle. Following the steps outlined above, you can accurately assess the performance of the pickup coil’s primary and secondary circuits, identify potential faults and malfunctions, and correct the problem.

Remember to prioritize safety by disconnecting the battery and following all necessary precautions while working on your vehicle. We hope now you know how to test a pickup coil with multimeter.

Engr. Amna has been working with on multimeterworld from 2019 and have worked on multiple projects as team leader. He is currently working in JDW Sugar mills and love to write electrical testing guides. His aim is to help 1 million people each year.