close up image of spark plugs. car repair concept.

Since spark plugs are constantly hard at work when your vehicle is running, they have a tendency to wear down. It’s important to regularly check on your spark plugs and replace them periodically. You can do this yourself, or schedule West Valley car repair with our technicians.

What Spark Plugs Do

In the engine, spark plugs do what their name suggests – they create a spark during the ignition and combustion process. They are designed to endure high temperatures and pressure in the engine cylinders, ensuring your car starts every time you turn the key.

What Kind of Spark Plugs Do You Need?

Spark plugs are manufactured from three different materials: copper, platinum, and iridium. Different types of plugs are designed for different car makes and models, so you need to refer to your owner’s manual to ensure you purchase the right kind before installing them yourself.

Copper Spark Plugs

Copper is a good choice for low-voltage ignition systems or vehicles designed for high performance. Copper plugs date back decades since copper is such an effective conductor of electricity. The electrode on copper spark plugs is usually made of a nickel alloy.

Platinum Spark Plugs

This type of spark plug only dates back to the 1980s. Platinum was used for cars that were made to last since this metal would offer a longer lifespan for the spark plugs. Since platinum can withstand higher heat than copper, these plugs can also burn off any buildup from the engine, such as fuel additives or oil.

Double Platinum Spark Plugs

Shortly after platinum spark plugs were introduced, they leveled up to a double-platinum composition. As ignition systems continued to undergo transformations for better vehicle performance, two spark plugs could fire at the same time (instead of one at a time, which was the norm up until now). 

To account for the change in how spark plugs functioned in some engines, double platinum plugs were created to prolong the life of the plugs. The addition of a second disc made of platinum allowed the plugs to last up to 100,000 miles in these new systems.

Iridium Spark Plugs

With the introduction of coil-on-plug systems, iridium spark plugs offered yet another option for drivers. These tend to be more expensive thanks to their composition, but they are worth the investment since they can withstand even hotter temperatures than their predecessors. Iridium plugs typically work more efficiently than other types, as they use less voltage to create a spark.

Double Iridium Spark Plugs

Two discs are better than one if your vehicle is designed for high speeds. Double iridium spark plugs are necessary for some cars in order to avoid having to replace the plugs more frequently.

Once you determine which type of plug is recommended for your car or truck, it’s also important to purchase ones with the right gap size.

Spark Plug Gap Size

Typically, spark plugs you purchase at any auto repair shop are pre-gapped. This means the space between the electrode and the grounding element of the plug is a certain size and it doesn’t need to be adjusted. You can purchase spark plugs with different gap sizes to fit your vehicle, and the average gap space is 0.9mm

When you’re installing your own spark plugs, it’s helpful to double-check the gap size of each one beforehand. However, spark plugs have delicate features, and you need to use the correct tool to carefully measure the gap. If you make do with a screwdriver or a pair of pliers, you run the risk of over-correcting your gap and weakening the metal with repeated adjustment. Additionally, the ceramic coating on the spark plugs can easily be chipped or damaged.

How to Gap a Spark Plug 

You can purchase an inexpensive spark plug gap tool to get the job done. These tools are designed to slide between the electrodes of the spark plug and allow you to apply gentle pressure to widen the gap. If you need to make it smaller, you can press the electrode down on a soft, level surface to close the gap. After you make adjustments use the gap tool to measure the size.

How to Change Spark Plugs

Well, are you overwhelmed yet? We haven’t even gotten to removing your old plugs to replace them with new ones! At this point, you may decide it’s easier to turn this job over to the West Valley car repair team at Master Muffler.

If you do want to change your spark plugs on your own, follow these steps:

  • Park your vehicle on a level surface
  • Work on a cool engine only
  • Refer to your owner’s manual to locate spark plugs under the hood
  • Remove any components that block access to the spark plugs
  • Remove spark plug wire (work on one plug at a time)
  • Remove the ignition coil on the spark plug
  • Use a spark plug socket to unscrew one spark plug at a time
  • Replace one spark plug at a time
  • Replace spark plug wires and coils on each spark plug

If you’ve done everything correctly, you should be able to start up the engine without a problem. If not, contact West Valley Master Muffler HERE for your car repair needs.

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