The FADEC System – High-Tension Retard Breaker Vibrator

in Engine Ignition and Electrical Systems

To provide for more spark power during the starting cycle, the shower of sparks system was developed, which provides several sparks at the spark plug electrodes during starting. The starting vibrator, or shower of sparks, consists essentially of an electrically operated vibrator, a condenser, and a relay. [Figure 4-31] These units are mounted on a base plate and enclosed in a metal case.

Figure 4-31. High-tension retard breaker magneto and starting vibrator circuit.

Figure 4-31. High-tension retard breaker magneto and starting vibrator circuit.

The starting vibrator, unlike the booster coil, does not produce the high ignition voltage within itself. The function of this starting vibrator is to change the DC of the battery into a pulsating DC and deliver it to the primary coil of the magneto. Closing the ignition switch energizes the starter solenoid and causes the engine to rotate. At the same time, current also flows through the vibrator coil and its contact points. Current flow in the vibrator coil sets up a magnetic field that attracts and opens the vibrator points. When the vibrator points open, current flow in the coil stops, and the magnetic field that attracted the movable vibrator contact point disappears. This allows the vibrator points to close and again permits battery current to flow in the vibrator coil. This completes a cycle of operation. The cycle, however, occurs many times per second, so rapidly that the vibrator points produce an audible buzz.

Each time the vibrator points close, current flows to the magneto as a pulsating DC. Since this current is being interrupted many times per second, the resulting magnetic field is building and collapsing across the primary and secondary coils of the magneto many times per second. The rapid successions of separate voltages induced in the secondary coil produces a shower of sparks across the selected spark plug air gap.

The retard breaker magneto and starting vibrator system is used as part of the high-tension starting system on many types of aircraft. Designed for four- and six-cylinder ignition systems, the retard breaker magneto eliminates the need for the impulse coupling in light aircraft. This system uses an additional breaker to obtain retarded sparks for starting. The starting vibrator is also adaptable to many helicopter ignition systems. A schematic diagram of an ignition system using the retard breaker magneto and starting vibrator concept is shown in Figure 4-31.

With the magneto switch in the both position and the starter switch S1 in the on position, starter solenoid L3 and coil L1 are energized, closing relay contacts R4, R1, R2, and R3. R3 connects the right magneto to ground, keeping it inoperative during starting operation. Electrical current flows from the battery through R1, vibrator points V1, coil L2, through both the retard breaker points, through R2, and the main breaker points of the left magneto to ground.

The energized coil L2 opens vibrator points V1, interrupting the current flow through L2. The magnetic field about L2 collapses, and vibrator points V1 close again. Once more, current flows through L2, and again V1 vibrator points open. This process is repeated continuously, and the interrupted battery current flows to ground through the main and retard breaker points of the left magneto.

Since relay R4 is closed, the starter is energized and the engine crankshaft is rotated. When the engine reaches its normal advance firing position, the main breaker points of the left magneto begin to open. The interrupted surges of current from the vibrator can still find a path to ground through the retard breaker points, which do not open until the retarded firing position of the engine is reached. At this point in crankshaft travel, the retard points open. Since the main breaker points are still open, the magneto primary coil is no longer shorted, and current produces a magnetic field around T1.

Each time the vibrator points V1 open, current flow through V1 is interrupted. The collapsing field about T1 cuts through the magneto coil secondary and induces a high-voltage surge of energy used to fire the spark plug. Since the V1 points are opening and closing rapidly and continuously, a shower of sparks is furnished to the cylinders when both the main and retard breaker points are open.

After the engine begins to accelerate, the manual starter switch is released, causing L1 and L3 to become deenergized. This action causes both the vibrator and retard breaker circuits to become inoperative. It also opens relay contact R3, which removes the ground from the right magneto. Both magnetos now fire at the normal advanced running degrees of crankshaft rotation before top dead center piston position.

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