The days when you changed your spark plugs every couple of years has ended. Back in the day, spark plugs really did wear out that often. A few things are different now. First, spark plugs are made of better materials that last longer and are designed better. Second is that they were fouled up with carbon deposits. The deposits built up when fuel wasn’t burned completely. With modern engine management controls that does not happen as often.
Engine control computers precisely time when fuel is injected into the engine and when spark plugs fire. Unless something’s wrong, spark plugs don’t foul like they used to.
Electricity from the battery goes into a coil that allows power to build up to anywhere from 12,000 to 45,000 volts, depending on the vehicle. The engine management computer tells the coil when to release the power to the spark plug. The electricity travels through a wire from the coil to the spark plug. At the tip of the plug, a spark jumps between two electrodes and ignites the gas in the combustion chamber. Some engines have more than one coil. Coils wear out and need to be replaced occasionally. Also, spark plug wires can wear out and need to be replaced.
Once a spark plug becomes sufficiently worn, it will affect the performance of your engine. Signs of worn spark plugs:
- Misfiring/Rough Idle: When your spark plugs are worn, you might notice unusual vibrations and noises like rattling or knocking coming from your engine while you’re idling.
- Misfiring/Slow Acceleration: Another sign that your engine is misfiring as a result of worn spark plugs is slow acceleration. When a spark plug doesn’t operate optimally due to being fouled or dirty, it doesn’t spark effectively which causes your car to feel sluggish. You might feel your engine stop, stall, and then stumble to start again.
- High Fuel Consumption: Worn spark plugs can cause your engine to work inefficiently, ultimately leading to increased fuel consumption and emissions.
- Hard Starting: Vehicle struggling to start? A dead battery isn’t always to blame. In order for your engine to start, the spark plugs need to produce a sufficient spark. If your vehicle is particularly difficult to start, worn spark plugs could be the culprit.
It is critically important to have the right kind of spark plug for your vehicle. Engines are designed to run with different internal temperatures and spark plugs have different designs to work properly within those temperatures. Your service advisor will be able to get the right plugs for your vehicle and is able to advise you on when you should replace your spark plugs as well.
Modern engines are delivering more power and better fuel economy all the time. That’s largely credited to fast engine control computers, advanced sensors, electronic ignition and improvements to the lowly spark plug. It’ll be interesting to see where future developments take us!
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Old Town Automotive <br/>707.443-4556 <br/>www.oldtownauto.com
Revised from content contributed by NAPA Service Assistant