The design of a conventional ignition coil is basically similar to that of a transformer. The ignition coil's task is to induce a high voltage from a low voltage. Alongside the iron core, the main components are the primary winding, the secondary winding, and the electrical connections.
The laminated iron core has the task of amplifying the magnetic field. A thin secondary winding is placed around this iron core. This is made of insulated copper wire about 0.05-0.1 mm thick, wound around up to 50,000 times. The primary winding is made of coated copper wire about 0.6-0.9 mm thick, and is wound over the secondary winding. The ohmic resistance of the coil is around 0.2–3.0 Ω on the primary side and around 5–20 kΩ on the secondary side. The winding ratio of primary to secondary winding is 1:100. The technical structure may vary depending on the ignition coil's area of application. In the case of a conventional cylinder ignition coil, the electrical connections are designated as terminal 15 (voltage supply), terminal 1 (contact breaker), and terminal 4 (high-voltage connection).
The primary winding is connected to the secondary winding via a common winding connection to terminal 1. This common connection is known as the "economy circuit," and is used to simplify coil production. The primary current flowing through the primary winding is switched on and off via the contact breaker. The amount of current flowing is determined by the coil's resistance and the voltage applied at terminal 15. The very fast current direction caused by the contact breaker changes the magnetic field in the coil and induces a voltage pulse, which is transformed into a high-voltage pulse by the secondary winding. This passes through the ignition cable to the spark plug's spark gap and ignites the fuel-air mixture in a gasoline engine.
The amount of high voltage induced depends on the speed of change in the magnetic field, the number of windings on the secondary coil, and the strength of the magnetic field. The opening induction voltage of the primary winding is between 300 and 400 V. The high voltage on the secondary coil can be up to 40 kV, depending on the ignition coil.