® Point ignition condensors

The GL1000's lowly points condensor has much to teach us. Even, as it turns out, something about electronic ignition.

Many believe that the condensor's role is to reduce points arcing and the resulting shortened points life. But while arcing is indeed reduced, extending the points' useful life is not the condensor's reason for being. The condensor's real job is much more important than this. Here's what it actually does. Before the points open by means of the points cam the ignition coil is filled with the battery's voltage. The coil is "hot". When the points open, the ignition coil's primary winding shuts down suddenly, causing its magnetic field to collapse, which induces the coil's secondary winding to suddenly build and produce the high voltage needed for spark. Here's the key. The speed with which the primary collapses is one of the ingredients that makes the secondary's pulse dramatic and powerful. Fast is good. What the condensor does is ensure the primary's clean, sharp, and sudden collapse. When the points open, they try to fire a spark across themselves just as if they were the spark plug. It's understandable. A lot of energy is being held in the winding, and the sudden disconnect is a pretty forceful event. By not allowing the points to throw a huge spark, the condensor reserves the primary winding's energy, permitting it to be spent only on inducing the secondary winding. The condensor makes the points break their circuit as suddenly, cleanly, and abruptly as possible, thereby ensuring the strongest possible primary field collapse, with the most advantageous mutual interaction between primary and secondary windings. This is really the condensor's job, to boost primary collapse.

An interesting note: your bike will run without the condensors. Just not very well. It will have a very low rpm rev limiter. The greatly reduced primary winding effectiveness means a huge loss of the secondary's spark voltage, and by 3,000 rpm there just isn't enough to further support combustion. Good thing the factory Honda condensors are such high quality and last indefinitely.

So the condensor's real role in the GL1000 is to make the ignition coil's primary collapse as clean and as sudden as possible, thereby assuring the maximum effect on the secondary winding's spark production. Interestingly, we can observe this very same principle at work in all the later Wings' electronic ignitions. Honda's TPI ignition equipped GL1100 uses a transistor to break the ignition coil's primary feed just as the points do in the GL1000. And the break in the GL1100 is just as important as it was in the GL1000. The faster and cleaner the transistor breaks the circuit, the stronger the spark. But there is no condensor to assure this will happen. It is therefore all up to the transistor. As the transistor ages, its switching ability slows, and the break becomes less abrupt, not as sudden or as clean, and spark energy suffers. Like a points system with a bad condensor. This is precisely why fitting ProCom and Rick's aftermarket replacement ignitors on the GL1100 makes the bike feel a bit better running even when no performance issue was observed before the replacement. The new transistors are snapping the coils off faster and cleaner, resulting in more vigorous spark and an improvement in combustion that results in increased throttle response and torque.

Last updated November 2021
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