The spark plugs are responsible for supplying the spark that ignites the air and fuel mixture which creates the explosion, allowing your car’s engine to create power. It is vital for your gasoline-powered engine to work. But just like any other components of your car that are considered consumables, spark plugs also need to be changed, usually between 20,000 and 30,000 miles. In this article, we will discuss some helpful tips for changing spark plugs. This includes:
- Preparing the needed tools
- Purchasing the right spark plugs
- Choosing a flat workspace
- Cooling down your engine prior to the replacement
- Cleaning the area
- Labeling the parts before disconnecting anything
- Removing and replacing spark plugs one at a time
- Inspecting each of the spark plugs
- Making sure that the gap is correct
- Installing each plug by hand
- Torquing it precisely as indicated by the owner’s manual, and
- Making sure that the spark plugs are fully seated.
These tips for changing spark plugs can be really helpful. They can help make the process easier. In this article, we’ll go through each of them and more!
Tips for Changing Spark Plugs: What are the Symptoms of a Bad Spark Plug?
Car owners don’t usually mind their spark plugs until they start experiencing some issues caused by a bad spark plug. Spark plugs play an important role in the overall operation of your car. Without a good working spark plug, your gasoline-powered car won’t be able to move at all.
Spark plugs are responsible for igniting the air and fuel mixture within the combustion chamber. This starts your car and keeps it running. Spark plugs also function by transferring heat away from the combustion chamber to keep pre-ignition from occurring.
That is why it is important to ensure that your car’s spark plugs are in good condition. The tiny zap of electricity each spark plug delivers whenever a piston completes a cycle is vital to ignite the compressed air and fuel mixture. How many spark plugs a vehicle has can vary. A four-cylinder car has four spark plugs and a six-cylinder one has six spark plugs. If one of your car’s spark plugs becomes bad or dirty, it can cause a number of problems.
Before we discuss the tips for changing spark plugs, let us discuss the common symptoms of a bad spark plug. This way, we will be able to determine whether it is the spark plug that is causing the problem or by something else. If you experience any of the following symptoms, then it can be an indication that your spark plug is due for a replacement.
- Engine misfiring
Engine misfires are one of the most common symptoms of a faulty spark plug. This can happen due to incomplete burning of fuel in the combustion chamber caused by a bad spark plug. If you notice that your engine has intermittent sputtering or stumbling sounds, it can be an indication that your spark plug is faulty. This should be corrected immediately since engine misfires can result in your engine to run rough at idle, rough at acceleration, and can lead to poor fuel economy.
- Check engine light
When the ECU or the engine control unit has detected that the engine is misfiring, it may set off the check engine light and store a trouble code. You will be able to determine what the problem is by reading the stored trouble codes using a diagnostic tool or an ODB2 scanner.
- Car struggles to start
A good, strong spark from the spark plugs is vital to start your car’s engine. That is why when it becomes faulty, you may notice that your car struggles to start. It is the most obvious symptom of a bad spark plug. When this happens, it usually means that your spark plugs are due for replacements, which can be done easily with our tips for changing spark plugs that we will discuss later.
- Rough idle
Your engine should produce a smooth or steady purr whenever it is idling and maintains a consistent RPM. If you notice that your RPM is surging or dropping, or your car seems to vibrate too much, then it can be an indication that your car’s engine control unit or ECU is attempting to compensate for your faulty spark plugs. When this happens, you should inspect each of your car’s spark plugs.
Since a faulty spark plug can cause a misfire, the unburned fuel can mislead the O2 sensors. When this happens, the O2 sensor will adjust the fuel mixture which can lead to your car getting a lean mixture. This can cause rough idling and in some cases, more misfiring on other cylinders.
- Poor acceleration
Since faulty spark plugs can trick the O2 sensors, causing lean mixtures and rough idling, it can also cause other issues such as rough and slow acceleration. You might notice that your car no longer responds like it usually does every time you step on your gas pedal. You will usually notice this problem during hard accelerations, but it can also be noticed at slower accelerations.
If the spark plug is severely damaged, it can cause the cylinder with a faulty spark plug to not run at all. You might be able to notice the difference with one cylinder less. However, poor acceleration can also be caused by a number of issues. It is best to have your car checked to determine what really caused it and have it corrected.
- Increased fuel consumption
Due to the engine misfires and O2 sensors altering the air and fuel mixture due to a faulty spark plug, your car will most likely suffer poor fuel economy. The difference might not be that significant, but it can happen. If you notice that your car is running rough and seems to be consuming more fuel than usual, then it can be an indication that you have a faulty spark plug.
- Strong fuel smell coming from exhaust
When you have a faulty spark plug, the air and fuel mixture in the combustion chamber won’t be properly ignited. When this happens, any unburned fuel will find its way into the exhaust system and it can lead to a strong fuel smell coming from your exhaust or tailpipe. This problem can also be caused by a number of reasons,so it is best to have your car checked by a mechanic to get the right diagnosis.
Tips for Changing Spark Plugs: What Should You Do When Changing Spark Plugs?
Now that you have an idea about the common symptoms of a bad spark plug, you will be able to know if your spark plug is due for a replacement. To help you with it, we have compiled this list, tips for changing spark plugs. So what should you do when changing spark plugs? Our helpful tips for changing spark plugs include:
- Preparing all the needed tools.
Before you perform a do-it-yourself spark plug replacement, you need to prepare and gather all the needed tools and parts so everything is easily reachable. You need to prepare some specialty tools like a spark plug puller, plug starter, or socket extension that can help make the replacement much easier. You can also use a specialized plug socket of the correct size. Make sure that you use it to remove plugs since it has an interior rubber part that can protect the delicate ceramic housing.
- Choosing a flat workspace.
To make the process easy and comfortable, you will need a flat workspace like a driveway, or garage floor. You also need to make sure that the area is well-ventilated when you are changing your spark plugs.
- Buying the right spark plugs for your car.
Of course, one of the tips for changing spark plugs is getting the right spark plug for your vehicle. When you choose new spark plugs for your car, you need to make sure that you will purchase the ones intended for it. You can ask the auto parts shops for help, or better yet check your owner’s manual since it can specify the right spark plugs for your car. It is recommended that you should choose the same brand and model that the car came with.
There are spark plugs that are made of precious metals such as platinum or iridium that are known to withstand wear far better than the ordinary ones, but they cost much higher than the ones that use common metals such as copper. Cheaper spark plugs usually cost anywhere from $10 to $60 a piece.
- Allowing your engine to cool down.
You do not want to work with a hot engine since it might lead to burns and other injuries. So one of the tips for changing spark plugs is to allow your engine to cool down first before you change your spark plugs.
- Cleaning the area.
It is a good practice to clean the area around the spark plugs before you remove them. You can use a vacuum or a cloth to remove any dirt and debris in the area around them. This is done to ensure that there will be no dirt or other debris that will fall into the combustion chambers, spark plug pocket, or the engine when you pull out the spark plugs.
- Labeling the parts before disconnecting anything.
If the process involves anything such as removing coils, vacuum hoses, or other components that are somewhat confusing, you can label each of them before disconnecting so you can easily reinstall them after.
- Removing and replacing spark plugs one at a time.
To make the process easier, one of the tips for changing spark plugs is to remove and replace the plugs one at a time. You need to remove the spark plug boots one at a time since the engine fires in a specific order and it is important that that order will be retained. This can help you not get frustrated of having to figure out what wire goes where later on.
- Inspecting each of the spark plugs.
When removing the spark plugs, make sure that you inspect each of them for any signs of damage, build up, oil, unburned fuel, or other foreign materials. If there is any, then it is an indication that there is a bigger problem that needs further diagnosing. This needs to be corrected since it may cause problems or premature failure of your new spark plugs again.
- Making sure that the gap is correct.
Many modern spark plugs come with a preset gap from its factory. But to make sure that everything will work properly, you can check and make sure that the gap is correct by using a spark plug gap tool or gauge. This is also done to make sure that there is no pre-existing damage or factory defects.
- Installing each plug by hand.
You can get your plug starter or socket extension and install each of the new spark plugs back into the engine by hand. It might feel difficult. If needed, you can pull it back out and do it again. This is done to make sure that you won’t cross-thread the plugs.
- Torquing it precisely as indicated by the owner’s manual.
One of the tips for changing spark plugs is torquing the plugs precisely as indicated by your owner’s manual. You can use a torque wrench to tighten the spark plugs after you have installed them by hand. Do not overtorque them since it can cause some issues.
- Making sure that the spark plugs are fully seated.
Once done, you can reconnect the plug boots to their specified plug mates. You need to make sure that the wires are properly installed on the new spark plugs and that they are fully seated. You will know if they are fully seated when you feel a small pop when you install them.
Hopefully these tips for changing spark plugs can help you make the process easier. Just make sure that you consult your owner’s manual before attempting to change your spark plugs, since the process can vary from vehicle to vehicle.