Spark plugs are essential for engine performance. More than that, spark plugs are required to make your engine start at all. If you’ve ever gone shopping for spark plugs, you’ll notice that they come in several different materials. You’ll also quickly notice that there is a big difference in price. So, what’s the difference between them? Today, we’ll be discussing the types of spark plug materials.
Types of Spark Plug Materials
Spark plugs are intricate devices which conduct electricity to, quite literally, ‘spark’ the fuel needed for proper engine combustion. Spark plugs are generally made of a porcelain exterior casing and a metal core. The tip of the spark plug is composed of one of several types of metals, and it is this tip which labels the type of spark plug on the shelf.
- Normal: ‘Normal’ or ‘standard’ spark plugs are generally tipped with a copper coating. These wear down fairly quickly, with an average lifespan of 20,000 – 40,000 miles. The biggest benefits of copper-tipped spark plugs is that they are affordable and run at cooler temperatures than spark plugs with exotic metal tips.
- Iridium: Iridium-tipped spark plugs have a long lifespan, and average between 40,000 – 50,000 miles. They conduct electricity very efficiently, which provides more power to the engine than copper or platinum-tipped spark plugs. However, they are also the most expensive type of spark plugs.
- Platinum: Platinum-tipped spark plugs have the longest lifespan of all types of plugs, and can easily reach 100,000 miles before requiring a change. However, they do not conduct electricity as efficiently as iridium plugs, which means they do not provide as much power to your vehicle. They can also overheat in some conditions, unlike copper spark plugs.
- Double platinum: Spark plugs which are labelled as ‘double platinum’ feature additional platinum components in additional to the tip. The end result is a more efficient spark plug which can provide additional power to your vehicle. These types of spark plugs can last 100,000 miles between changes.
Specialty spark plugs, such as those used in race cars, may be made of materials not listed here.
Choosing Spark Plugs for Your Car
Before you head out to your local auto parts shop, check your manual to see what type of spark plug material your manufacturer recommends. Every car, truck, and SUV has manufacturer-recommended spark plugs optimized for long-term performance. These spark plugs are also ideal for the fuel type used as well as the temperature at which the vehicle runs.
If you don’t have an owner’s manual, you can always find the specifications at your auto parts store. You will need to know the following information:
- Make of vehicle
- Number of cylinders
- Type of engine
- Transmission type
Signs Your Spark Plugs Might Need Replacing
Regardless of the types of spark plug materials used, all spark plugs eventually wear down and require replacement. All cars are different, and some vehicles are designed to minimize the number of times that spark plugs need replacing over the life of the vehicle. Check your owner’s manual to find the recommended schedule for your car.
If you’re not sure when your spark plugs were last replaced, you can always ask your mechanic to check them at your next tune-up. You might also take notice of the following signs that your spark plugs might need replacing:
- Engine is idling roughly
- Engine is misfiring
- The dashboard shows a ‘check engine’ light that doesn’t seem to have an obvious cause
- Engine has difficulty starting
- Vehicle’s acceleration has noticeably decreased
- Vehicle’s fuel consumption has increased
Having the right spark plugs installed optimizes fuel efficiency, which in turn maximizes the life of the spark plug. Having the wrong type installed can lead to spark plugs wearing out quickly. In some cases, the incorrect type of spark plug in a car can lead to more severe problems such as the vehicle not starting at all.
If you need to have spark plugs replaced on a Toyota, Lexus, Nissan, or Infiniti vehicle in the Atlanta area, call T3 Atlanta.