Spark Plugs are a vital component in the engine and overall car itself. Their importance is of such a great magnitude that if you wanted to drive off in your vehicle without a spark plug in your engine you will not be able to do so. In this publication we are going to discuss common questions asked about spark plugs in daily routine that are not only common but also very critical and directly affect the performance of your vehicle.
What Does a Spark Plug Do?
To discuss the importance of the spark plugs in the coming questions within this publication we have to start with educating about the functionality of the spark plugs. So the first question to start off with is what does a spark plug do?
A spark plug, as described in the name of the component produces spark. That’s it. The spark that is produced by the spark plug is a small one but it is a very powerful too. The spark produced by the spark plug is in a small space within the cylinder. The cylinder receives the fuel and air mixture from the intake valves which are useless unless the spark plug produces a spark to ignite that mixture of fuel and air. That ignition leads to combustion which in return moves the piston. This process is repeated over and over again with a precise timing and at a very high speed.
This whole process relies heavily on the spark produced by the spark to generate a smooth flow of power which is used to move the vehicle forward. Spark plugs are a very tough built component which endures very high temperatures within the cylinder and they don’t just wear away within couple of weeks.
Why Do You Need to Take Spark Plugs Seriously?
For a start if you own a car and you don’t have a spark plug in your engine to begin with, well you are not going anywhere that is for sure. This scenario is very rare or close to non existent. The main thing to consider here is that if you have a spark plug in your car that is very old and is not very well taken care of then you will have performance related issues in your car. To start with you will have acceleration and cold start problems. This will be because of the spark not being strong enough to support the combustion process properly or the fuel and air mixture is not being ignited at the right time. The other issue you will have with an old or poorly maintained spark plug is that your car’s fuel consumption will be higher and that is not very good for you.
How Often Should You Change the Spark Plugs on your Car?
This is a very important question for car owners as the component we are talking about here is a very important component of the car. If you are talking about replacing the spark plugs well they are very durable and have a very long life span so they don’t need to be replaced fairly quickly or frequently. The spark plugs can go for thousands of miles on the road and will not wear out.
But since we are on this question we can give you an official number from the car manufacturers. The car manufacturers recommend that you change the spark plugs on your vehicle after 30,000 miles of usage. But there is another factor that comes into play here that can cause variation in that 30,000 miles figure. That factor is that not all spark plugs are made from same material for instance the copper spark plug is the cheapest of the all spark plugs and it wears out quickly as well. If you look at platinum spark plugs or iridium spark plugs they last 4 to 8 times longer than the copper spark plug. So we suggest whenever you experience symptoms of weak spark plugs in your car you replace them then. Symptoms of weak spark plugs are listed below.
What are Symptoms of Weak Spark Plugs?
Below are some of the major symptoms that you can experience in your car when your spark plugs are not just up to par with their potential and need replacing as soon as possible.
- Unusual Noises
The first and the most severe symptom of a weak spark plug is that you will hear rattling noises from the cylinders. That noise will be of the pistons not getting the perfect spark timing from the spark plug or the combustion process is not happening as it should. Due to high speed of the piston’s motion and the spark plug not doing it’s job properly leads to these odd rattling sounds from the pistons.
- Vehicle Start-up
The next symptom is that when you will start your car the car will take a lot of effort to start up. This is due to irregularity in the spark from the spark plug which is not combusting the air and fuel mixture properly as it is supposed to.
- Performance Lag
The next symptom of a weak spark plug is the performance itself, your car will not be operating at it’s optimum level of performance. There can be other factors involved as well for your car not performing at peak levels. But if you have a good clean fuel injector and the oil and other fluid levels are good then the spark plug will be the hurdle between your car not performing well. You will experience jerks when you will accelerate and you will experience that your car will take longer to reach the top speeds or will not reach there at all depending on the severity of the spark plug’s condition.
- Fuel Economy
The next symptom is the fuel economy, the fuel economy of your car will be poor or drop due to spark plug not being able to do it’s job efficiently. Spark plug failing to combust the air and fuel properly will lead to waste of fuel or using up more fuel to complete the process.
If you experience any of the issues mentioned above then you should get your spark plugs checked and replaced to get your car back to performing well again.
Reasons Why Spark Plugs Age
As with every mechanical component in the car spark plugs also have a life span above which they don’t perform as they should or in the worst case scenario they just stop working. Normally after few thousand miles the spark plugs show sign of aging and the aging timeline of the spark plugs are different as it depends on the material with which they are manufactured.
Inevitably spark plugs do age and needs replacing and what are the reasons behind that? Let’s get into that.
- Carbon Buildup
The spark plug along with valves and pistons operate in the cylinder area of the engine where all the combustion process takes place. The fuel and air mixture that enters in the cylinder and is ignited leaves behind residue in the form of carbon which builds up all over the cylinder including valves, pistons and spark plugs. The carbon build up on the spark plugs lead to disruption of the spark and overtime that build up just slowly cause the spark plug to be rendered not good for ignition and needs to be replaced.
- Spark Gap
Factors like normal wear and tear, carbon build up and high temperature operating environment collectively lead to increase in the gap that spark has to travel. This gap as we discussed in the beginning of this publication is the area where spark travels to ignite the mixture. This gap although very small is calculated and so is the spark generated by the spark plug but if those gap increases overtime it causes the combustion to be erratic or not as effective as it should be resulting in drop in overall performance.
Benefits of Replacing Spark Plugs
When you change the spark plugs of your vehicle the first benefit you will get from the replacement is the instance improvement of the car’s performance. What are more benefits of replacing spark plugs? Let’s get into it.
- Optimum Combustion Level
When you replace your old spark plugs with new ones you will have the whole combustion process being done in the most efficient way possible and the power output will be at the highest level possible.
- Better Fuel Economy
Next benefit of replacing the old spark plugs with new ones is that they will stop the misfires that you experienced with the old spark plugs and it will lead to better fuel economy of the car.
- Better Starts
The most common problem with old spark plugs is that they cause the car to start up late and in cold weather this problems worsens. When you replace them with new ones your car will start up instantly due to the powerful and uninterrupted spark igniting the combustion.
How long does it take to Replace a Spark Plug?
By now you may have realized that replacing aging spark plugs is very important for your car’s performance. So the next question popping in your mind will be that how much time it takes to replace the spark plug. Well the answer depends on which kind of car you have. Some cars have very easily replaceable spark plugs because they are no integrated with other parts and do not require disassembling a lot of components to get to the spark plugs. Some cars are not like that and require at least 5 to 6 hours just to change the spark plugs due to the complexity of the engine design.
We hope you find this publication useful and we hope it will help you make a better decision when it comes to spark plugs.