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An ignition coil (also called a spark coil) is an induction coil in an automobile's ignition system that transforms the battery's low voltage to the thousands of volts needed to create an electric spark in the spark plugs to ignite the fuel.
Some coils have an internal resistor, while others rely on a resistor wire or an external resistor to limit the current flowing into the coil from the car's 12-volt supply. The wire that goes from the ignition coil to the distributor and the high voltage wires that go from the distributor to each of the spark plugs are called spark plug wires or high tension leads. Originally, every ignition coil system required mechanical contact breaker points and a capacitor (condenser).
More recent electronic ignition systems use a power transistor to provide pulses to the ignition coil. A modern passenger automobile may use one ignition coil for each engine cylinder (or pair of cylinders), eliminating fault-prone spark plug cables and a distributor to route the high voltage pulses.
Ignition systems are not required for diesel engines which rely on compression to ignite the fuel/air mixture.