Spark plugs are among the most overlooked components of a vehicle. However, these devices play a vital role in helping your engine start and maintain peak performance. If they’re worn out or faulty, you may experience a variety of engine problems that can lead to costly repairs or even jeopardize your safety. Check out this helpful guide to find out why and when you need to replace your spark plugs.
What Are Spark Plugs?
Image via Flickr by Kevin Rheese
Small yet mighty, spark plugs serve the important function of creating a spark of electricity that initiates the combustion needed to start your engine. They burn the mixture of fuel and compressed air in the combustion chamber, creating an explosion that enables the engine to generate power. By setting the pistons in motion, they help your engine turn over and keep it running smoothly. Additionally, your spark plugs also remove heat from the combustion chamber and send it to the cooling system to prevent overheating.
Without adequately working spark plugs, your engine can’t convert gasoline into usable mechanical power. As a result, your vehicle won’t be able to start or go anywhere. So, if you don’t regularly replace your spark plugs, you run the risk of being stranded. Since they’re directly linked to engine performance, bad spark plugs can also lead to starting problems, engine misfires, and sluggish acceleration.
What Are the Benefits of Regularly Replacing Your Spark Plugs?
Proper spark plug maintenance isn’t expensive, but it can be beneficial in many ways. Below are a few good reasons why you should replace your spark plugs on a regular basis:
- Optimal engine operation: Newer spark plugs do a better job of facilitating continuous combustion within your engine. This results in smoother engine operation and improved power output and acceleration.
- Increased fuel efficiency: When it’s in good working order, your engine will experience minimal strain and consume less fuel. So, correctly maintaining your spark plugs can go a long way in helping you save money at the gas station.
- Longer engine life: If they’re worn or faulty, your spark plugs can lead to a variety of problems that can cause severe damage to your engine over time. Routinely changing your spark plugs can help reduce wear and tear on your engine and extend its lifespan.
- Easier cold starting: Old or dirty spark plugs require a considerably higher voltage to produce a powerful enough spark to start your engine. Therefore, you need to keep your spark plugs in good condition if you want to avoid starting problems. This is especially important in winter when frigid temperatures can undermine the effectiveness of your car battery.
- Reduced carbon emission: Regularly replacing your spark plugs not only helps your vehicle deliver better performance and fuel efficiency, but it can also benefit the environment. New spark plugs don’t put as much pressure on your engine as old ones, which can significantly lower your car’s carbon emissions.
How Often Should You Change Your Spark Plugs?
Similar to other parts of your vehicle, spark plugs can wear out, corrode, and eventually fail over time. Generally, experts recommend replacing your spark plugs once every 30,000 miles. However, depending on the make and model of your vehicle, your owner’s manual may suggest a different interval.
What Are the Signs Indicating It’s Time to Replace Your Spark Plugs?
Image via Flickr by Robert Couse-Baker
Even if you keep up with the recommended spark plug maintenance in your owner’s manual, a variety of factors can cause your spark plugs to wear out faster than expected. To avoid unpleasant surprises, you should keep an eye out for the following signs of bad spark plugs.
When you’re having trouble starting your vehicle, you’ll probably put the blame on your car battery. However, your spark plugs can also be the culprit. If your spark plugs are dirty, corroded, worn out, or damaged, they may not be able to generate a strong enough spark to start the engine. This can cause your car to crank for a long time before starting or result in a jerky start. If left unattended, bad spark plugs may make your battery drain faster or damage your ignition system or engine.
Engine misfires are a common sign suggesting that one or more of your spark plugs aren’t working properly. When your engine misfires, you may hear a sputtering sound or feel a noticeable loss of power or severe shaking. If this happens consistently, it can lead to poorer vehicle performance, reduced fuel efficiency, or a damaged catalytic converter.
If you hear any unusual sound or feel vibrations coming from your engine while idling, your spark plugs may not be working properly. Rattling, knocking, and pinging sounds are all signs that your spark plugs are unable to keep your engine running smoothly.
Poor Fuel Efficiency
Over time, the space between the electrodes of spark plugs may decrease or expand. Consequently, the plugs may fire erratically or fail to fire, resulting in wasted fuel and increased emissions. Therefore, if you notice that your car is consuming significantly more fuel, it may be time to replace your spark plugs.
If your car doesn’t react as promptly as usual when you step on the gas pedal, it can mean that your spark plugs are causing a delayed response. However, slow acceleration may also be the result of a bad fuel pump, faulty oxygen sensors, or dirty fuel injectors. The best thing to do is to have the problem diagnosed at a reputable service center.
Illuminated Check Engine Light
From a loose gas cap to a faulty catalytic converter, many problems can cause your vehicle’s check engine light to come on. Another possible reason behind this warning is that your spark plugs are in bad shape.
If you live in or around Plano, Texas, and your vehicle is exhibiting any of the aforementioned signs, come to the state-of-the-art service center at Huffines Hyundai Plano to have your spark plugs inspected or replaced. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.