As the year comes to an end, there will be increase in vehicular activities on our roads, sometimes culminating in traffic jams. The true test of any vehicle is in its ability to withstand such stress and remain optimal in performance.
The most focus when it comes to servicing a vehicle is on engine oil and filter change. In technical terms, this is regarded as “basic oil change”. This is never sufficient as the only service item. Therefore let us talk about another critical service item that could ensure safe motoring.
Without a spark, there would be no way for fuel to ignite in the combustion chamber. Spark plugs have been a critical component of the internal combustion engine for years. Spark plugs are designed to transmit an electrical signal sent from the ignition coil at a predetermined time to create a spark that ignites the air-fuel mixture inside the combustion chamber. Good spark plugs will burn fuel efficiently, while bad or failing spark plugs can cause the engine not to start at all.
Spark plugs are similar to motor oil, fuel filters, and air filters in that they require routine service and maintenance to keep your engine running strong. However, some newer cars, trucks, and SUVs have advanced ignition systems that ostensibly make spark plug replacement unnecessary. Regardless of any warranties or claims made by a vehicle manufacturer, there remain situations where a spark plug wears out or shows signs of failing.There are different types of spark plugs available, and they’re typically defined by the metal used to construct them. These plugs all have one thing in common: They help generate the energy your vehicle’s internal combustion engine needs to get the car from point A to B.
Types of spark plugs :
Copper spark plugs
Copper spark plugs are one of the most common choices in the market. Despite their name, only the inner core of these plugs is made of copper. Their electrodes are covered by a nickel-alloy coating.
This type of spark plug is best suited for vehicles built prior to the 1980s that have low-voltage distributor based ignition systems. Also, copper spark plugs tend to run cooler, and this allows them to deliver unusually strong performance when used with engines that have turbochargers or high compression ratios. For this reason, they’re often used as original equipment by manufacturers of late-model high-performance vehicles.
Platinum spark plugs
Platinum spark plugs feature platinum discs welded to the tips of their electrodes. Platinum’s most notable quality is its resilience — it’s harder than nickel alloy and it doesn’t erode as quickly. As a result, these plugs have a longer life span than ones with nickel-alloy electrodes. Some platinum spark plugs can provide up to 100,000 miles of service.
Iridium spark plugs
These spark plugs feature iridium discs welded to their electrodes. Platinum is harder than nickel-alloy, but iridium is harder than platinum. How much harder? Iridium is six times harder and eight times stronger than platinum, and it has a melting point that’s up to 700 degrees higher. These qualities enable iridium spark plugs to last up to 25% longer than plugs with platinum tips. Keep in mind, though, that since iridium is a costly precious metal, these plugs are usually the most expensive choices on the market.
Double platinum spark plugs
You may think that double platinum spark plugs would be better than single platinum spark plugs. However, double platinum is only recommended if your vehicle uses a waste spark system instead of an electronic distributor ignition system. Double platinum spark plugs will send two electric currents instead of one. The first current goes to the cylinder of the compression stroke and the second current goes to the cylinder of the exhaust stroke.
Symptoms of bad or failing spark plugs
- Slow acceleration
The most common cause of poor acceleration in most vehicles is a problem in the ignition system. Today’s modern engines have multiple sensors that tell the on board computer and ignition system when to send electric pulses to fire the spark plug, so the issue could be with a faulty sensor. However, sometimes the issue is as simple as a worn-out spark plug. If you notice that your car is running sluggishly or does not accelerate as quickly as it used to, it may be attributed to a faulty spark plug that needs to be replaced.
- Poor fuel economy
A fully-functioning spark plug helps burn fuel efficiently in the combustion cycle. When this occurs, your car can achieve better-than-average fuel economy. When the plug is not working optimally, it is frequently because the gap between the spark plug electrodes is either too close or too far apart. In fact, many mechanics, until recently will take out spark plugs, examine them, and adjust the gap to factory settings as opposed to replacing the spark plug entirely. If your vehicle has an increase in fuel consumption, it very well could be attributed to a worn-out spark plug.
- Engine is misfiring
If the engine misfires, it’s typically due to an issue in the ignition system. However, it may also be caused by a spark plug wire or ignition coilthat is damaged. An engine misfire can be noticed by intermittent stumbling or sputtering sounds from the engine. If the engine is allowed to keep misfiring, exhaust emissions will increase, engine power will decrease, and fuel economy will drop.
- Engine surging or hesitating
You may notice the engine hesitating while accelerating. In this case, the engine is not responding correctly to the driver. It may suddenly surge in power, and then slow down. The engine is sucking in more air than it should be in its combustion process, causing the delay in power delivery. The combined hesitation and surging could indicate a spark plug problem.
- Rough idle
A bad spark plug may cause your engine to sound rough while idling. The vehicle-encompassing, jittery sound will also cause your vehicle to vibrate. It can indicate a spark plug problem in which a cylinder misfires only while idle.
- Hard to start
If you have trouble starting your vehicle, it could be a sign your spark plugs are worn. As noted above, the engine’s ignition system is comprised of multiple individual components that must work cohesively in order to function properly.
At the first sign of problems starting your car, truck or SUV, it’s a good idea to contact a certified mechanic to take a look at the cause. However, you should contact a mechanic to inspect this issue as it could be caused by multiple other factors including bad fuel filters, dirty or clogged fuel injector, or issues with oxygen sensors. Being proactive about spark plug maintenance can extend the life of your engine by hundreds of thousands of miles.
As you prepare for the holidays, ensure your vehicle is road worthy!