Within a few years after the original version of MSD's "Blaster LS" ignition coils for GM Generation 3 and 4 Small-Block V8s came to market, they developed a reputation for poor reliability and durability. The new versions of MSD's Multiple Spark Coils (MSC) for various Gen 3s and 4 V8s are made in China. Considering those two situations in combination, you might wonder why someone who has a reasonably good record for useful product reviews would want to test that product. To answer that question, you, first, need some of the backstory.
MSD Performance, Inc., has been making ignition products since the early 1970s. Currently, they are the choice of most drag racers in the Pro classes, the choice of many NASCAR racers and are used in many other types of motorsports. As far as the grass roots racers and street high-performance users, MSD is likely the most popular brand of ignition parts. My experience with MSD products has been good. I've used its distributors, CD ignitions, coils, caps, rotors and plug wires in my '71 Big-Block hot rod since I built the car back in the 90s. My '95 ZR1 has MSD coils and wires. My other two Vettes use MSD Super Conductor plug wires. In 30 or so years of using MSD stuff, I've only had one problem and it was self-inflicted–a long time ago, I burned up a 6A CD ignition by–in a lapse of attention (Well…duh!)–reversing the power connections. Nevertheless, because of an inordinate amount of displeasure with MSD coils for Gen 3 and Gen 4 V8s being expressed on the Internet, up until just recently, I avoided using those products.
In a recent email discussion I had with Todd Ryden, a technical writer who specializes in ignition subjects and consults to MSD, I learned the reputation of the original versions of MSD's coils for LS-series engines was tainted because of problems MSD had with its first two suppliers. The first LS coils were designed in-house, but their manufacturing was out-sourced to an American company specializing in ignition parts. Turned out, that supplier was not only difficult with which to work, but it, also, failed to meet the quality goals MSD set. Finally, unable to make any progress with that supplier, MSD ended the relationship and–it wasn't pretty. MSD took its coil business to a second American manufacturer and the situation improved. Well–at least it did until the first supplier acquired the second supplier's business–awkward! Turns out, the memory of MSD cutting ties was still a sore spot. As a result, friction, again, developed between MSD and its supplier and quality once again suffered. In the field, MSD's ordinarily good name was dragged though the mud of angry Internet forum posts maligning the reliability/durability of its coils for LS-series engines.
Needless to say, MSD had a real problem on its hands so, in mid-2011, it pulled the plug on the entire line of LS coils, then went back to the drawing board. It redesigned the product and went looking for its third new supplier. This time, MSD found a manufacturer in China. Ok–I know there are enthusiasts who are leery of parts for American cars from sources in Asia but the fact is, more Corvette parts than you think are sourced in Asia. Whether it's the USA, Germany, Japan or, well–China; there are good suppliers and crappy ones. MSD picked one of the top makers of ignition parts in Asia–one that supplies some American OEs.
After learning MSD's LS Coils had been redesigned and were being made by a new supplier, recalling my past good experiences with other MSD Performance ignition parts in nearly 30 years of modifying Corvettes for increased performance, I decided it was unlikely that MSD Performance would purposely continue to market a bad product. That's not what manufacturers do if they want to stay in business over the long haul. In February of 2013, MSD relaunched these products as "Multiple Spark Coils" for the GM LS-engines. The coils had new part numbers so there would be no confusing the new versions with the discontinued models. Assuming that MSD's current Gen 3 and 4 coil engineering and manufacturing were now in the right track, I agreed to test some of them.
The current MSD coil for GM's Gen 4 V8s is unique in that it is "multiple sparking" up to about 3000-RPM. Similar in concept to the company's "multiple spark discharge" (now you know where "MSD" comes from) CD ignition amplifiers, these coils actually spark several times per power stroke as the engine runs at lower RPM. The advantage of multiple sparks is improved idle stability and low speed operation with engines having radical aftermarket cams or even LS7s with stock cams. Multiple sparks can lessen problems with misfire at idle. How does MSD accomplish a multiple sparking, inductive ignition coil? The specifics are proprietary to MSD Performance, LLC. All we know is that, inside each coil, is a printed circuit board which contains the necessary electronics to generate multiple sparks.
On a C6 Z06, the specific MSD Multiple Spark Coil Set I'm testing is PN 82878, which MSD sells for LS2 and 7 engines but may, also, fit LS3 and 9s. Their maximum potential is 40,000 volts and they have a peak current output of 124-milliamps. For comparison, the stock GM coil used on an LS7 can put out 38,000V and a peak current of 108-mA. I'm using them with MSD Super Conductor plug wires and Denso Iridium Power IT-22 plugs gapped at .055-in. The more powerful coils and plug wires with lower resistance may allow one to open up the plug gaps by an additional .010-in. The coil installation is simple and doesn't take long, You unbolt the coil assemblies, change out the coils then reinstall the coil assemblies on the engine.
To get the best results out of any of the MSD coils for GM Gen 3 and Gen 4 V8s, MSD recommends the 12V power feeds to the coils be at least 16-ga wire which is, nominally, 0.051-in. or 1.29-mm. in diameter. Because most OE coil wiring harnesses have 20-ga. (0.32-in/0.81-mm) power feeds to the coils, in most applications MSD's "LS Coil Upgrade Harness" (PN 88867) is required. This wiring harness upgrades the coil power feed wires from 20-ga to 14-ga. The LS Upgrade Harness is "plug-and-play" and connects the stock coil power feeds to a relay. When the ignition is turned on, the relay closes and connects battery voltage to the coils through 14-ga (064-in/1.63-mm) wire. This harness prevents any problems with low voltage to the ignition coils which sometimes cause ECM fault codes to set. With the coils, I also installed that upgrade wiring harness.
The stock LS7 coil is pretty darn good as far as performance. Any stock LS7 or even engines modified to 650-horsepower or so, will probably run ok with OE coils. Where MSD multiple sparking coils might be an advantage is on an engine with an aftermarket cam which is misfiring at idle due to a profile with some overlap and, for whatever reasons, the user wants the idle to be more smooth. The other application for the MSD 82878 is an modified engine which makes a lot more cylinder pressure such as a high-boost, supercharged application or an engine running nitrous oxide injection. In those two situations, the MSD coil's higher output voltage and ability to supply more current could be an advantage.
The installation of the MSD coils and the LS Upgrade Wiring harness is simple, can be accomplished with basic tools and takes a few hours.
I've had a set of these coils on my 2012 Z06 for about three months and, so far, they've been trouble-free. Admittedly, three months in service doesn't document whether or not this new MSD LS Coil design is more durable than the original units were so, I'll continue to test them and report back in this review from time to time.
For more information visit www.msdignition.com