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Secondary wire replacement

by Had Robinson

(for only the INSTRUCTIONS on replacing the wire, page down to #2 below)

1. Introduction

This repair replaces the OEM secondary wire of the IDM ignition coil that is found in most Italian paramotors with a premium quality wire that will last many times longer.  When this repair is completed, pilots will immediately notice an improvement in the high end performance of their engines if there has been sufficient time for the OEM wire to begin its decay process.  If a temporary repair is preferred, go to this page for instructions.  Here is the old technique used to make a permanent repair of the secondary wire, if needed for reference.  The new way is easier and lasts longer but, like everything in life, costs more.

This repair is much easier to do than replacing the coil – a (3) hour job for an experienced mechanic.  If you replace the whole coil assembly, it will fail soon enough and you will have to do it again ... and again.  It is rare that the coil itself is bad.

Pilots should also check the primary wire just to be sure it is OK.  If it is open, the kill switch will not function.

Small two cycle aviation engines all have a low flywheel mass to save weight.  Consequently they all experience severe and damaging vibration.  This leads to early failure of engine components, including the secondary ignition wire that goes from the coil to the spark plug.  The OEM supplier (IDM) of the coil assembly uses a secondary wire that breaks and then burns out after a relatively short time.  The core is made up of a carbon impregnated sheath surrounding hundreds of tiny flexible synthetic fibers that give it strength.  In tests done here it is easy to break the Top 80 carbon sheath with modest flexing.  Premium grade secondary wire does not use a carbon core but has a spirally wound wire core.  This type of core will generally last the life of the engine.

The structure of a modern secondary ignition wire.

secondary ignition wire structure

The automotive grade secondary wire above compared to the OEM Top 80 wire.  Even the automotive grade carbon core wire will last much longer than the OEM wire.

Top 80 secondary wire compared to an automotive grade wire

In the photo below, the spirally wound wire of the replacement secondary wire is exposed.  Instead of a thin film of carbon surrounding the fibers of the inner core, it is wrapped with special wire that is much more durable than a carbon film.  The resistance of this wire is 155 Ohms/ft. compared to a carbon core wire which has a resistance of about 6.8K Ohms/ft.  The spiral wrap also suppresses ignition interference with two-way radios.

helically wound secondary ignition wire

2. Replacing the secondary wire

This repair should take less than an hour to complete compared to over (3) hours to replace the coil which requires some significant technical skill.  Before you begin, check the coil to be sure it is good: Stick a sharp needle into the secondary wire about 3" from the coil.  It must go in far enough to contact the carbon "wire".  Check the resistance from the needle to the engine ground e.g. one of the aluminum cooling fins on the cylinder.  It should be about 10K Ohms which is the resistance of a good coil plus the resistance of 3" of secondary wire on a Top 80 – other engines may vary.  If you do not see any resistance at first, withdraw the needle and stick it in again closer to the coil.  If it is less than 10% of 10K Ohms (or open/infinite) in a Top 80 coil, the entire coil assembly must be replaced.

We can make a custom kit for other paramotors that require a longer wire and/or a wire with a different diameter.  Contact us for more information.

Special tools needed

Parts needed

Secondary wire replacement kits are available from Miniplane-USA.  The kit includes:

top 80 secondary wire repair 

No matter what wire or type of spark plug is used, VHF AM aviation band radios will not work well near a Top 80 (or any paramotor) unless the ignition system is completely and tightly shielded.  This is a time consuming and expensive to do it right.

Read through this section completely before beginning the actual repair.  Take a look at this video for some tips on the process.  The video only shows the major steps.

1. Remove the holding clamps from the old secondary wire – The clamp on the cooling air duct is held with a plastic screw.  When replacing the clamp later, it is best to use a small metal screw for reattaching the clamp rather than the OEM plastic screw.  You will need a drill and a 1/8" bit to remove the rivet that attaches the second clamp to the cooling box.  Drill the head of the rivet just enough so that the head pops off.  Remove the clamp and push the rest of the rivet through the cooling box with a nail.  Find a small bolt and nut to reattach the clamp later.  Be sure to use threadlock on the bolt and nut or it will loosen!

2. Remove the old wire from the coil – Using a razor blade, slice the existing piece of heat shrinkable tubing (HST) lengthwise where it surrounds the old wire at coil.  TAKE CARE TO JUST CUT THE HST AND NOT CUT THROUGH THE SECONDARY TERMINAL ON THE COIL!  Peel off the old HST.  Using the hot air gun at the low setting, heat up the area where the wire enters the coil (see the 1st segment of the video).  As you heat the area, gently pull on and make circle motion with the wire.  It should take 45-60 seconds for things to get hot enough for the old glue to melt and the old wire to be easily pulled out.  It does not take much force to do this!

Don't get things too hot!  If there is any smoke coming from the area, back off the gun from the area but continue to pull gently on the wire.  If things get too hot, the high tension terminal housing and the internal connections could be damaged.  That is, they will become globs of melted goo and you will have to replace the entire coil assembly.

3. Check coil resistance  Once the wire is removed, check the resistance of the coil again.  Top 80: If it is not 8.5K Ohms ±10%, you will have to replace the coil.  Other coils will be similar.  A low value means that the coil has internal shorts and will not perform well.  DO NOT CONTINUE WITH THIS REPAIR UNLESS YOU ARE CERTAIN THAT THE COIL IS OK!

Top 80 ignition coil being tested

4. Check terminal-cooling box clearance  The clearance between the high tension (HT) terminal on the coil and the cooling box may be very close, almost touching the post.  As necessary, use a fine saw or a Dremel tool to remove some of the aluminum metal of the box so that the new shrink wrap will fit over the post and not touch the shrink wrap or the terminal.  Be careful NOT to damage the plastic terminal!

You can hack away at the aluminum without worry – you won't hurt anything important.  When you are finished, use a Q tip and copious amounts of rubbing alcohol to thoroughly clean the HT terminal, inside and out.  Then use compressed air to dry the area and remove any small pieces of aluminum.  If you do not get it clean, little bits of aluminum or other particles left on the HT can ground out the spark.

Top 80 ignition coil clearance

5. Secure boot end of wire  Temporarily secure the boot end of the new wire to the top of the engine near the spark plug hole with a piece of masking tape.  This must be done so that there will not be any tugging on the end of the new wire while you are attaching it to the coil.  If you attach the new wire to the spark plug you will just have to remove it again when you test the resistance of the new secondary wire before curing the HST.  There is also a significant chance you will yank things if the boot is attached to the spark plug.

6. Install large HST piece  Slide the large piece of HST onto the new wire.

top 80 secondary wire repair

7. Install small HST piece  Slide the small piece of HST (white arrow) over the exposed core at the end of the new wire.  The photos below are with the coil off the engine for the sake of clarity.

top 80 secondary wire repair

8. Install new wire in socket  Gently push the wire into the high tension socket on the coil so that the barbed steel post slips inside the small piece of HST and solidly touches the core of the wire.  You will know you have done it correctly if you can very gently pull on the wire and it does not pull out.  The wire must be completely inserted into the socket and none of the core should be showing.

top 80 secondary wire repair

9. Test the resistance of the new wire – You MUST check the resistance of the new wire assembly before you make the joint permanent to be certain that the new wire and the coil are electrically connected together.  With the multimeter, measure the resistance of the wire from the spark plug terminal inside the boot to a cooling fin on the engine.  The resistance should be 8.8K Ohms ±10% for the Top 80.  Other engines may have a different value.

10. Slide the big piece of HST over the high tension terminal on the coil.

top 80 secondary wire repair

11. Apply low heat with the gun, moving the gun back and forth over the HST.  Be careful not to burn up the HST tubing – take your time to do this correctly.  If you have a thermometer, the best temperature of the gun should be 110ºC (256ºF).  The minimum curing temperature of the gun must be 60ºC (140ºF).

As you apply heat, you will see the HST start to shrink around the terminal and the wire.  Because the adhesive is slippery when hot, the HST will tend to slide off the socket as it shrinks.  You must use a popsicle stick, a pencil, etc. to hold the HST in place while it is being cured.  If you use your finger you will discover why you should have used a popsicle stick, a pencil, etc.

Keep applying heat until you see the adhesive ooze out of the ends of the HST.  When this happens, STOP APPLYING HEAT IMMEDIATELY.  Continue to hold the HST in place for at least one minute after heat is removed.  If the HST has moved off the socket a bit, you can push it back on and hold it.

Do NOT move ANYTHING until everything cools down completely.  It can take a full minute or more.  Do not be impatient.

The special adhesive in the HST will firmly grab the new wire and hold it on to the high tension terminal as well as seal the connection from water, oil, and dirt.  If you make a mistake, we can send you a new piece of the special HST for $5 shipping included.  Do not use ordinary HST because it will not grasp the new wire securely and the vibration of the Top 80 will cause the new wire to come loose.  Do not go into a closet and beat yourself with a stick – all of us make mistakes and it is the price we pay for learning how to take care of our babies.  After enough times, the cost of being careless and ignorant becomes great enough so that we do it right from then on.  Do not get discouraged – this is the Zen or whatever it is of working on these finicky engines.

Below is a photo of the how the completed connection should look like.  When you have done this, you will have a coil assembly that will last.

top 80 secondary wire repair

12. Check the resistance again of the new wire to ground.  It should be around 10K Ohms for the Top 80.  Other engines may have a different value.

checking the resistance of the secondary wire and coil

13. Reattach the secondary wire to the engine cowling and the cooling box using the existing clamps.  THIS MUST BE DONE or the new wire may be destroyed by the intense vibrations of the engine.

14. Attach the boot to the spark plug.  Apply a small amount of Spark Guard to the inside of the boot.  The boot should be gently twisted and pushed down over the plug.  The boot is correctly seated when the gap between the bottom of the boot and metal base of the plug is about 1/8" (4mm).  If the boot is not correctly attached, the engine vibration will destroy the internals of the new spark plug boot.

The completed installation.  This fix for the secondary wire uses the same method of fastening the wire as the factory but the components are of superior quality.  If you have suggestions on how to improve this repair please let us know.  Other pilots will benefit.  The Top 80 is the best paramotor on the market and we can all work together to improve it.

the new secondary wire installed on the Top 80