Spark plug maintenance is something most people never think about until there’s a problem. To understand how to care for yours, you need to understand what they are and how they work.
What are Spark Plugs?
Spark plugs are small cylinders with a threaded end, kind of like a bolt. Each one sits at the top of your engine’s cylinders. If you have a V-6, there will be six spark plugs. If you have a four-cylinder, there will be four spark plugs.
Without getting too complex, spark plugs are fed electricity from the car’s ignition system, which includes the battery and alternator. Fuel and air are pumped into the cylinders, then a spark is generated by each plug to ignite the mixture and cause a miniature explosion. This is what makes your car run.
Think of spark plugs as being like little matches or lighters that start the fire. They do this over and over as the engine runs.
Spark Plug Maintenance
A problem with your car’s spark plugs can mean it won’t start, or at the very least it will run roughly. Running your engine with dirty spark plugs hurts performance. Depending on how dirty they are, less of a spark is happening inside the cylinders. As a result, you don’t extract as much energy from the gasoline. This leads to less power and poorer fuel economy. Since this happens gradually over time, you might not even notice a difference.
Over time, spark plugs can become dirty as they’re exposed to different things. Overall, they’re made to clean themselves as they get hot. If you take frequent short trips, the spark plugs don’t heat up as much, and this can lead to problems. If you pull out the spark plugs from your engine and find they’re dirty, you have options. Instead of just throwing them away and installing new ones, it’s easy and inexpensive to clean them.
Spark plug maintenance is easy to do at home. All you need are a small wire brush and some gloves since it’s a dirty job. From there, you just brush off any buildup, almost like you’re brushing your teeth.
How to Know When Spark Plugs Are Dirty
A few different symptoms can indicate that your spark plugs are dirty. Usually, people don’t notice these until there’s a big problem. One of the most common is if the engine is sluggish or not as powerful as it used to be. This can be coupled with diminished fuel economy, which you should be measuring at least once a month, if not each time you fill up with gas. Of course, modern cars often have a fuel mileage monitor, which is a huge help for keeping track.
A more obvious symptom is if the engine is sputtering, stuttering or stumbling. It could also manifest by having trouble starting the engine. This is caused by a lack of spark not burning the fuel, or burning so little that the engine almost stalls. If you don’t perform regular spark plug maintenance, the problem could potentially leave you stranded.
Where to Buy Spark Plugs
If you don’t have the time or expertise to clean spark plugs, or if that doesn’t work, you can buy new ones. Depending on your vehicle, the cost may be minimal, and you’ll be ensured excellent performance. Spark plugs are sold at automotive parts stores, as well as online. Always buy reputable brands from established stores, which ensures that you get quality replacements.
Of course, at T3 Atlanta we can check your spark plugs, clean them or even install replacements quickly. Some of these symptoms could indicate other problems with your car, which we can diagnose and resolve as well.