Maintaining a vehicle requires time and attention to detail, but closely following the manufacturer’s recommendations is crucial to extending the life of your car. Even small parts like spark plugs–that seem unimportant–play a significant role in the performance of your vehicle. More specifically, since they generate the electricity that travels from the ignition to the combustion chamber, these little components need to stay healthy for your car to run smoothly.
What is a Spark Plug?
With a steel outer casing, metal electrode (in the center), ceramic insulator and air gap, a spark plug has a significant job; it receives a high-voltage charge from the ignition coil (which sits outside the engine) and sends it through the combustion chamber inside the engine.
How Long Do Spark Plugs Last?
If you drive an older model, it might use copper-tip spark plugs, which can last up to 30,00 miles. Modern automakers, on the other hand, use platinum-dip spark plugs that last much longer–up to 100,000 miles. For clarification about which ones your vehicle has, the owner’s manual should provide details.
When Should I Replace the Spark Plugs?
For the most accurate explanation, it’s best to refer to the owner’s manual, where the manufacturer has outlined a comprehensive service schedule that recommends spark plug replacement by a certain mileage point.
What are Signs of Spark Plug Wear and Tear?
All your vehicle’s electrical components wear out with time and use. Whereas new ones will spark at 100 percent, older ones may only be 75 or 80 percent effective. When the spark fades, the most common sign is a misfiring engine. Misfires happen because fuel starts flowing through the exhaust valve into the catalytic converter. When you notice this symptom, make sure to head to the mechanic right away to prevent further damage; catalytic converters can cost more than $1000 to replace.
Note: Once one spark plug malfunctions, the others follow suit (each cylinder gets a spark plug), so many experts suggest replacing all of them simultaneously.
How Much Do They Cost to Replace?
Copper-tip plugs typically run $3 – $4 each, but platinum-tip spark plugs can cost up to $20. This estimate only includes the part, however, and the price of labor will vary depending on the shop. Since replacing spark plugs can take between 30 minutes to four hours (depending on the vehicle), it helps to get an estimate up front.