The great ignition debate: Points vs. Pertronix


It’s become a debate for the ages. Ford versus Chevy. Coke versus Pepsi. And now, points versus Pertronix.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/01/21/ignition-debate-points-vs-pertronix

No debate from me. I can’t argue with the logic of electronic ignition over points. And can’t quibble with my friends positive experience with Pertronix.
But I’ve put quite a few miles on my points-equipped car (~1000) every driving season over the last 35 years and not had issues…yet. I guess it’s just hard to fix something that’s not broken…yet. I HAVE replaced a vacuum advance once which is used secondarily with the centrifugal advance. And replaced points and condenser as part of a complete tune-up. But Pertronix would have avoided only the latter.

1 Like

My '71 Nova had points and condenser used to trigger the MSD 6AL. This gave me multiple sparks at low RPM and a built in rev limiter. If the points are used just as a trigger, they pretty much don’t wear. I had the MSD box mounted under the passenger seat so everything under the hood looked stock.


pertronix systems are very unreliable go out for no reason the points used with a MSD 6 will produce a better totally bullet proff spark I have ran one for 5 years in a antique pulling tractor with perfect results . I have seen multiple pertronix no starts at many pulling events, also I do have more than 14 to 1 compression

1 Like

I have a pertronix in both my 68 340 and my 66 Valiant wagon, both so far have been reliable since putting them in. So I have no quibbles with them. I am a great fan of electronic ignitions going back to the 1970s when they first came out! Changed too many sets of points over the years and now I ask why would I want to do it again.

1 Like

I recently switched to the Pertronix Igniter II with the matching coil for the 440 in my 69 R/T. Being the purist that I am, and wanting to maintain the totally stock appearance without extra wires routed along the harness, I ran a jumper across the inside of the ballast resistor to run a full 12v which is required to run the Pertronix. My factory single points distributor has never failed me, however it’s nearly impossible to find high performance points anymore, and if you do, they’re bucks$$$.

The Pertronix allows a way hotter spark and reliable high RPM without misses or points bounce. I am completely happy with it’s performance and price!


I have a 69 Jaguar XK-E, and it used to be an owner would approach me and ask if I wanted to buy his car, also an E. At that time, either one of two things had been done to the car, took off the Stromberg carbs and/or put on Petronix. I always passed on the offer. However, about two years ago, I had a string of bad experiences with my E’s ignition system, and normally this car is surprisingly reliable. A rotor with a pin hole in it was the culprit one time, bad condensor another time. It became apparent the the quality control on point ignition was not there. My shop professional strongly suggested Pertronix and at first I strongly resisted. He made me a deal whereby if the Pertronix wasn’t all he said it would be, he’d put the ignition back to the original. OK, so I did the Petronix and also the coil, having read that the older coils did not play nicely with the new stuff in the distributor. Well, truth be told, the Pertronix system has worked perfectly for over 3 years. I was so impressed that I put one in my 47 Chris Craft with its Hercules engine and Autolite distributor. Made a major difference there as well.


I had a pertronix set that spit the magnets off of the disc and left me in the middle of a very busy road. I called a wrecker and made it home where I put my points back in and all is good again.


As long as its 12 volts and alternator they(Pertronix) works fine. On a 6 volt battery and generator it’s hit and miss if it will work for you. Points work best, for me, on 6 volts.


Not Pertronix but similar technology (Hall effect, etc), Lumenition. Went in my 1965 Triumph TR4 in 1986 and flawless since then.


Hmmm… the author states that Pertronix doesn’t give a “hotter spark”. But are they right? With Pertronix you are supposed to bypass the resistor-wire or ballast resistor so that the coil gets a full 12v. If you get a better coil, you should get better performance. The spark will be stronger, and you can open the gap on your spark plugs to get a better burn in the cylinder. It allows you to bump the timing a little more (before getting ping), and get a few more usable RPM. I’ve used Pertronix on several cars, and never had a failure. The result is easier starting, better MPG, and faster time at the track.


There’s no debate as far as I’m concerned. Replaced the points and condenser in my daily driven 67 Cougar 302 around 20 years and 100K miles ago with a Pertronix module. Haven’t touched it sense. Absolutely no problem with it whatsoever. Did put the old points and condenser in the trunk just in case. Guess they are still in there somewhere.


When I installed mine the instructions said to not bypass the ballast resistor, or wire in my case. But that was probably 20 years ago, so maybe they changed that. Never had a problem with it.


I have a 66’ SB Vette that had the engine rebuilt in 1992. I put the Petronix unit in at that time. I have put 25,000 miles on it since. I have never had a problem with the unit nor have I had to adjust my timing. It was a no brainer for me as you cant see the unit in the Distrb and the wires are covered by the stock Vette chrome Distrib cover anyway. I run Bosch platinum plugs that still look great and the motor runs very smooth from idle to redline with out a so much as a burp. Very reliable I never worry about taking it for a trip.


I have a 1967 Jeepster with oddfire V-6.Very hard start in any damp weather at all.Put in a Pertronix with their hot coil,recommended plugs and she is a super reliable starter in all weather now.Not my first Pertronix either.Except for a couple places with very strong background electrical areas its never hiccuped.Hot spark,hugely reliable,Im sold.


I’m not a fan of the Pertronix units, I’ve had two that I had in my personal cars fail plus a handful of customers cars that had them fail. There is another brand out there that I won’t mention the name as I don’t want to sound like I’m advertising for them.


One more argument in favor of Pertronix - no dwell adjustments, nothing to wear and create gaps.

Sure, their record of reliability has been sketchy in the past (seems better these days) but once a distributor is converted, you can swap modules as easily as swapping points (and Pertronix seems to be good about replacing failed modules), without having to worry about breaking out the allen-key and dwell-meter afterward…


I’m in my 25th year using the Pertronix in a classic Opel GT. Not one problem. :slight_smile:


@txvwnut - If you believe there is a better product than what many people are using, you should at least let us know what that product is! You could save someone a lot of frustration, or at least a few bucks.


After working 33 years for the largest OE and after market world wide automotive part and system supplier of all the systems we all love in our modern day cars and being responsible for warranty returns and testing of this type of item when returned as defective or failed in the field…I knew better than to install anything but a set of points and condenser in any one of my 15 or more old cars I restored over these past 40 years or so. The only one example that I will use as an example is a car I bought that was restored/rebuilt on the North West coast.It was delivered to me in a closed transporter and I found the windshield was hit with glass bead material in process of the repainting process plus the dash was painted instead of being recovered with Naugahyde.I sent it to the interior shop to get the dash recovered and windshield replaced at the same time.The car was a mid-50s Ford V8 and started up like no other big block or Y block I had ever known or owned.When I went to pick it up after the work was done, I tried to start it and all it did was crank…They let the car inside and there was this big crowd shop employees watching my every move. I guess they seen it come in and they moved into the shop but now it did not start.I looked at the gas gauge which showed low but with no past history of it accuracy, I asked for a couple of gallons of gas just in case it was empty.In went the gas but still no start, so off came a plug wire and guess what…No spark. Off came the cap and there it was.The subject of this articles trigger unit in place of the points and condenser.It cost me over a $100 to get it back into my garage and went through the paperwork I got with the car and there it was! The instruction sheet for installation with the right phone numbers.A quick call to their customer service revealed that the unit in my car was an early production one made with out the blocking diode to prevent frying the chip in the trigger unit so he concluded someone at the interior shop left the key on overnight and when the voltage got below 5 volts it let the smoke out of it…I knew about this failure from early stuff the company I worked for had made many many years before so I knew he was correct in his root cause of failure analysis… So I politely asked, How do I fix my problem and get the car back on the street, again. Very cheerfully he replied I will send you out the upgrade unit with the 5 volt blocking diode and you will see it in 7 to 10 work days IF you send me $110 plus shipping costs to your location.I must have turned RED because all I could say was for about $5 plus tax and in about 1 hour from now after a trip to my old time local car parts store, my car will be on the road again and hung up! Enough said??? PS: That engine started the same way as before with the trigger unit as it did with a set of points and condenser for the next 10 years I drove it. CLEAR???