Spark plugs; if you’ve ever seen them, you know they’re tiny little parts that somehow connect together underneath the hood, and help your car run.
You might not think twice about them, but they play an important role in how your car functions. Without them, your car wouldn’t stay running at all.
What should you know about these tiny little parts?
What do spark plugs do?
Your car’s engine is what makes your car operate. Without an engine, your car wouldn’t go.
What makes an engine run is through kinetic energy. But without the process of internal combustion, an engine wouldn’t be able to pull the kind of power needed to move you from place to place.
Every time you turn the key, (or press the button,) your engine goes through a cycle to make this entire process happen. Valves fill a cylinder with a mixture of air and gasoline. A piston in the engine pushes upward, compressing this highly explosive fuel-source into a tiny space. At its peak, the engine ignites this mixture with a small spark, forcing the piston back down into position. This turns the crankshaft in the engine, and creates enough power to move you forward.
This is where your spark plugs come into play. As the name implies, spark plugs create the spark to ignite the mixture of air and fuel. They do this over and over again, being able to sustain millions of tiny outbursts over their lifetime.
That’s why spark plugs are made from an extremely durable material. Spark plugs aren’t something that need to be replaced on a frequent basis. Still, these tiny explosions do make their impact, and eventually, like every part of your vehicle, the force behind the process will eventually weaken the material, and cause the spark plug to decrease its power. Weaker sparks can cause things like misfiring to happen. And eventually, failure.
Are there different types of spark plugs?
If you’ve started noticing your car misfires when you turn it on, it’s just one of the signals your vehicle gives you to let you know your spark plugs are wearing out. When it comes time to replace them, there are several different variations of spark plugs available.
The best spark plug for your vehicle is the one recommended by the manufacturer, which you can find by referring to your owner’s manual. There are several main types of spark plugs that include:
Copper spark plugs – the center electrode is made with a copper core surrounded by nickel alloy. It’s inexpensive and works well in vehicles built before 1980. They also have a shorter lifespan and require more voltage to operate.
Iridium spark plugs – these are the longest lasting spark plugs, as they require less voltage to generate a spark. They also come with a higher price tag because of it.
Silver platinum spark plugs – this is similar to a copper spark plug, only with a platinum disc welded to the tip. It lasts longer than nickel alloy, meaning it also has a longer lifespan.
Double platinum spark plugs – they have a platinum coating on both center and ground electrodes, making these efficient and long-lasting too.
Silver spark plugs – while they aren’t as common as other types of spark plugs, they feature silver coated electrode tips, and are often used on older European performance cars and motorcycles.
When is it time to change my spark plugs?
Today’s vehicles are more efficient than ever before. Depending on your vehicle, many manufacturers now install “extended life” spark plugs at the factory, giving you a long life before you start to notice problems. In many cases, these spark plugs will be rated at a lifespan of up to 100,000 miles. Of course, this is a suggested timeframe, and the closer you get to end-of-life, the more you should pay attention to how well your car runs.
As they wear down, the gap between the two loads widens. This is where efficiency decreases, and misfiring starts to happen. If you allow your spark plugs to wear down enough so that corrosion sets in, they have the potential of breaking, which can lead to serious damage to the interior of your engine cylinder. This can be an expensive repair to fix.
It’s much easier to follow manufacturers’ guidelines, be aware of any sounds or changes in the way your car operates, and replace parts before they wear down.
What happens as a spark plug ages?
Spark plugs move into action every single time you take your car out for a drive. They fire again and again, keeping your engine working at its best.
It undergoes thousands of miles in extreme temperatures. That’s one reason it’s important to focus on quality rather than price. The stronger the material, the more durable the spark plug will be.
Still, a spark plug won’t last forever.
Over time, deposits form on the spark plugs as it interacts with the air-fuel mixture.
As it continues performing this process, a tiny gap can form due to extreme temperatures, debris, and normal wear and tear.
And that’s when trouble begins.
But it doesn’t have to. Not if you replace your spark plugs regularly.
What are the benefits of replacing my spark plugs?
The biggest benefit of replacing your spark plugs at recommended times is to ensure your car starts without problem. Of course, there are other reasons too.
Better performance – when a spark plug is doing its job, it means the entire combustion system is happening without a hitch. That means your engine is performing at its best.
Better fuel efficiency – The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence states that a misfiring spark plug can reduce fuel efficiency by as much as 30 percent. Replacing your spark plugs before they wear down will help you save at the pump.
Better starting – have you noticed your car jumping and jerking when it starts? It could be a sign of a failing spark plug.
Better emissions – if you keep your engine running well, it will emit less emissions into the air. That means cleaner air for me and you to breathe.
When was the last time you had your spark plugs changed?