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What Does Your Spark Plug Color Trying to Tell You

Spark Plug Color

The small things in your car do matter and the spark plugs make that single statement true. The size of an average spark plug is six inches, numerous times much smaller than the whole car that cases it. The common folk usually make the mistake of disregarding the spark plug and deeming it insignificant, mostly because of its size. However, these little power converters have a lot to do with your car’s overall ability to function so moving forward with damaged spark plugs may as well mean that the car is pretty dysfunctional too. And as simple as checking your spark plug color can let you know if it’s still in good condition.

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Most people don’t think twice about their spark plugs, yet these small parts play an incredibly important role in how your car functions. In fact, without properly working spark plugs, your car more than likely wouldn’t be able to run at all. In this blog, our auto repair experts will take a closer look at why your spark plugs are so important, including what they do and how to know when it may be time to replace them.


Before going on with the color analysis, we must first understand what a spark plug does to the car in more detail than is mentioned above. First off, in order for a vehicle to function, something must happen inside of it. The engine serves its purpose to convert energy into power leading to the actual movement of the vehicle. In order to do that, the engine has to begin the process of internal combustion. 


The combustion process is the method in which the engine turns the energy source such as the fuel into kinetic energy, which moves the car. There are mechanisms that operate in your car engine that compresses the fuel mixture and produces more energy. At the height of the compression process, sparks are released producing an explosion that forces the other mechanisms in your car to move resulting in the vehicle’s motion. Where does the spark plug enter the scene? Well, the spark plugs are the ones designed to ignite those sparks that help the engine convert the energy source into power and then into motion.


As with the human body, the car’s body also has its systems. The spark plugs belong to the ignition system where they function together with the electrical and firing equipment, coupled with electricity to aid in the combustion process. In most cases, these plugs are made to withstand the explosion even for millions and are made from heavy duty materials. But in the account of something going wrong with these plugs, the vehicle can be greatly affected. For instance, the continuous processes of combustion and ignition can wear off the plugs that results in a decrease in the efficiency of the car's performance and may cause damage in the engine as well. Other problems may start to happen such as slow acceleration, engine misfires, difficulty in starting the engine and reduced gas mileage and fuel economy. 

What does the color of a spark plug mean?


After a long time, the spark plugs may get sensitive because of the continuous combustion and ignition processes that they undertake, but there is a solid reason to not fret. Spark plugs speak to drivers and car owners through color. Keep a keen eye on the color of the spark plugs and you will know what is going wrong with the engine. The ability to read the spark plugs is a valuable skill especially because they are significant. Experienced car engineers know how to read spark plugs but interpreting with the colors of the  spark stopple does not require you to be a genius. Keen and observative eyes are what you will need in order to read those plugs. These are several conditions of your engine that your plugs may be warning you about:



The firing end of the plugs indicates the status of your engine. Generally, if the firing end of the plug has the gray color, brown or tan color, it gives you the clue that the engine is working in optimal condition. Nothing to worry about. The great deal is maintaining your vehicle and engine in this zone. 



Most of the time lead fouling is yellowish brown in color accumulated deposits on the insulator nose. The lead mixture blends at different temperatures.  Units that use leaded gasoline are the most likely, if not the only ones, places where lead fouling in the plugs occur. In conditions of an overpowered acceleration, the engine has the tendency to misfire if there is such an occurrence of lead fouling in the spark plugs. The earlier you detect signs of fouling, the better because immediate repair helps prevent the car or the engine from incurring major damages and affect the car’s performance.



It is easy to identify a plug that is carbon fouled as it always comes with soft, black sooty dry deposits. Some reasons behind carbon fouling may be found in the air cleaner or the carburetor. 


Besides the normal reading of the spark plugs, there are also other signs that you can look into to be able to indicate problems in the engine. Reading the color in the plugs helps aid in the detection of problems in the engine. Complementary to this method of engine care is the careful monitoring of the car’s performance. Some time during the drive you may notice some instances where you feel the car is not performing as well as it should. Do not set this off of your mind as it might be a call for inspection in the engine and in the ignition system where the spark plug is located. Here are some signs you will have to look into:



Defective spark plugs can impact your fuel economy substantially. Your engine may be consuming more fuel than it usually does. Refer to the spark plug if such issues arise.



If the engine has trouble starting, then the spark plug may be having some problems. The difficulty in the ignition can give you a clue that the plugs are not working properly. It is difficult to start a cold engine.



When it comes to what is going on in the engine, the overall performance of the car gives off a lot of helpful information. Maybe the misfires have been occurring too often? Or maybe you wonder why the vehicle vibrates while you are stuck in traffic? Whatever the reason for your unease, shun your doubts by checking out the ignition system.


What color is a bad spark plug?

Why is a spark plug considered bad anyway? Plugs are supposed to make the ignition system serve its purpose to the engine. So if that is the case, when the spark plug begins to burden the engine instead of making things easier, it is considered bad or defective. If you are experiencing the scenarios mentioned above, you can know that you may have a damaged spark plug. As for the color, most people assume that black plugs means bad. Well that is partly true. But carbon fouling is not the only issue that should be taken into consideration. In other words, it is not only carbon fouling that makes a spark plug bad or defective. There are also some factors such as the following:



The ignition system is designed to heat up the engine in order to transform potential energy in the fuel into kinetic energy for the car to move. Too much is not good, and that goes the same with the plugs. Overheating may occur if the cooling system is inefficient and poor in its performance. Comparatively, the insulator tip may appear glossy or glazed white with black deposits unhidden to view.



Too much vibration in the car may indicate that the spark plug is broken. A broken electrode means great impact on the plugs. Additionally, a broken insulator may be the aftermath of extreme temperature changes. 



Since the ignition system is dealing with heat all the time, the spark plugs are made up of durable materials that are designed to withstand the heat. Melting in the spark plugs or in the engine itself may result in the car to experience power loss.  There are several factors that can pinpoint to the problem in the combustion chambers. Usually, melting is the consequence of loose installation.


What does it mean when your spark plugs are black?


Black color in your plugs means that there is carbon fouling which could result in deterioration of the engine power. If you notice that your car is performing odd lately or is not working to its normal pace and performance, consider checking on the plugs as it can tell you a lot of things that you should know about the engine. Assuredly, the quicker you fix the matter, the easier life will get. The spark plugs are among the cheapest parts and most durable parts of a vehicle. But the downside is that, if something goes wrong with it, the engine is terribly affected and so is the whole of the car. Damage resulting from a broken spark plug is generally costly to repair. 


In addition, denser black soot that feels oily to the touch is also bad for your engine. The black oily deposit shows that the oil is being misplaced and sucked into the combustion chamber. In the case of a leakage, you can do some temporary quick fix by tightening the car’s automobile valve. Since this is just temporary, there are some parts that should be replaced in order for the engine to work as good as usual. 


Giving attention to a broken spark plug is a wise move for all car owners because driving with it damaged is destructive to the engine. Delaying the repair may mean more trouble for you and your vehicle in the long run so better fix things today while the fixing can still salvage the ignition system.


What do good spark plugs look like?


Healthy spark plugs equals a healthy engine. The ignition system is closely related to the combustion process wherein the system aids the engine in the power conversion. The spark plug is true to its name as it serves its purpose which is to produce the spark. Without the spark, the vehicle might as well be taken as a white elephant- you have no use for it and it is troublesome to dispose. 


You may be wondering, “Well, how do I know if the spark plugs in my vehicle are in good condition?” Simple. You have to take into account its color. If your spark plugs give off a light tan or gray color, then it is good and is contributing to your car’s optimal status. Overall if your plugs are performing well then there is less exhaust on the engine in creating ignition or the spark which is very important in the movement of the car. If in any case the car is not performing at its best or if you recognize something different with the vehicle when you are starting it then you must check the engine for any problems. It may not always be the spark plug’s doing. So it would be clever to check the other parts of the system or get the vehicle checked by a professional.


In summation, the spark plug may be small but the power it contributes to the whole vehicle is significant. Reading the colors of the plugs could get you a long way in getting into the center of the problem. If there are misfires, difficulty in starting the vehicle and the like, you may refer to these little ignition helpers. Prevention is better than cure as they say, and the same goes with the automobiles. Just the right amount of constant monitoring can go a long way so the next time you get under the hood, include the ignition system in your vehicle check-up. 


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