spark plugs

Spark Plugs 101: Replacement & Knowledge

Spark plugs. We’ve all heard about them before and kinda know what they do; but would you know where to find them if asked? Or, do you know the signs of one going bad? Don’t worry if you don’t know much about spark plugs because we are here to inform! Spark plugs are vital to vehicle performance so gaining more knowledge on these little bad boys is a must if you want to #motorwithconfidence!

Spark Plugs 101: Replacement & Knowledge

What Are Spark Plugs?

You will find spark plugs on every ICE vehicle; internal combustion engine. With an internal combustion engine, you need ‘spark’ to get things going & stay going. Hence the word ‘spark’ plug. Without a spark from your spark plugs, your engine will start to taper off and not function as well.

Your spark plug is an electrical piece that ignites compressed gasoline into your cylinder heads. Think of your spark plugs like your battery having electrical energy to produce voltage; only this time it is directly connected to your engine. When that electrical current hits just a tad of gasoline, BAM! There goes your spark through your cylinder heads and tells the engine to keep moving. It’s pretty fascinating that these tiny little pieces have SOO much power!

However, all that power creates wear & tear which means your spark plugs die off & you’ll need to replace them. They usually recommend every 30,000 miles, but as always, refer to your owners manual. Once you know how to check & change them, you can monitor and replace before they completely die.

Because with even one dead spark plug, you have one less spark, which means your engine has one ‘less’ oomph & will skip. The more ‘bad’ spark plugs you have, the worst your engine will get. Eventually leaving you with a non-working engine.

How To Tell If Your Spark Plugs Have Gone Bad

1. Check engine light comes on.

2. Your car isn’t accelerating as quickly.

3. Your car won’t start as well.

4. You hear/feel a little skip when you turn the ignition key.

5. Engine idles roughs.

6. You’re filling up your gas tank more often.

How To Replace Them

Thanks to numerous YouTube videos & online information, you can learn how to change out your spark plugs fairly quickly. In fact, it is one of the easiest mechanical repairs you can do yourself! The site I found most useful when learning about how to change a spark plug was from Advanced Auto Parts. So, let’s dive in.

What You’ll Need

1. 3/8″ ratchet

2. 3/8″ swivel socket adapter

3. Spark plug gap gauge

4. Spark Plug Socket

5. 3/8″ ratchet extension

6. Spray de-greaser

7. Spark Plugs (for your specific vehicle-see owners manual)

Anytime you mess around with the engine, it’s going to be messy so make sure you have gloves or towels around to clean up!

There are 4 different types of spark plugs. We won’t get into detail on all of them, but if you are looking for more information check out this article.

1. Copper plugs have a solid copper core with a little bit of nickel alloy. These wear quicker because nickel alloy is softer than platinum or iridium. They are best for older vehicles that don’t require high voltage, like your pre-80’s vehicles.

2. Single Platinum plugs are similar to the copper plugs but have platinum instead of copper (obviously). These are popular for newer vehicles but you could always upgrade to double platinum or iridium. Do not purchase copper plugs if your car is using platinum.

3. Double Platinum plugs work best in cars with a waste spark distributor-based ignition system.

According to Advanced Auto Parts:

{In a waste spark system, the spark jumps from the center electrode to the side electrode for the cylinder that’s on the compression stroke. To return the electrical pulse back to the ignition coil pack, the spark jumps backwards (side-to-center) on the partner cylinder. Since the partner cylinder is on its exhaust stroke, nothing ignites and the spark is “wasted”.}

It gets a little confusing, however, if your owners manual tells you to use double platinum plugs then don’t downgrade to any other option.

4. Iridium plugs are the best out there. They are harder than platinum & copper and last much longer. They are more expensive but are used predominately in COP (coil-on-plug) ignition systems. If your owners manual says to use iridium plugs you cannot downgrade to any of the others. Yes, they are more expensive, but they should last longer so the savings are about the same!

Steps To Changing Your Plugs:

1. Make sure you put something over your fenders so you don’t mess up your paint! Also, disconnect the negative terminal on your battery since you’re working with electrical components. Only replace if your engine is cool.

2. Carefully clean the area around your spark plugs with compression air & a degreaser. Warning ** if not careful, dust & debris could fall into the engine once you’ve taken the spark plugs out. Spray the area with compression air, take the spark plugs out, then clean them is best!

3. Remove the spark plug wire ONE AT A TIME to avoid any confusion on where they go when you put them back in.

4. Once you’ve removed the first wire, find the right fitment using your socket & wiggle (counterclockwise) the spark plug free. Careful not to knock any unseen dirt & debris into the engine.

5. Once the first spark plug is out, check the new spark plug to make sure there is a proper gap between the outer ground electrode & center electrode. This should be standard, but if you’ve shipped the plugs they could have bent during shipment. Fix if needed by referring to your owners manual.

6. Insert the new spark plug back into the same hole the old one came from. You may need to put an anti-seize lubricant on the plug if it doesn’t already have some on to prevent a lock-up. Gently screw the plug in clockwise until the threads are mated. Then, using your spark plug socket & ratchet extension, screw it on tighter.  Do NOT over-tighten. Just enough so the washer is in contact with the threaded hole.

7. Now, put your wire back on. According to Advanced Auto Parts, “reattach the plug wire by twisting slightly as you push the boot back down onto the exposed tip of the plug until you hear and feel a firm click.”

8. Repeat steps 2-7 until all the spark plugs have been replaced (if needed). The spark plug wires vary in length to match their proper spark plug so change the wires & plugs out ONE AT A TIME. After you’ve finished the other plugs you’re all set! Make sure you write down the mileage & date in your maintenance log so you know when to change them next 🙂

That’s it! A very easy car care DIY you can definitely do yourself. Stayed tuned for a video 😉

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