Small, but essential to the functioning of your internal combustion engine, is the humble spark plug. Its purpose is to transmit an electrical signal from the ignition to create a spark, which in turn ignites the air-fuel mixture inside the combustion chamber. Spark plugs are uniquely designed for the type of vehicle in which they will be used. During installation, the technician will set the designated spark plug gap that is appropriate for the vehicle.
In proper condition, spark plugs efficiently burn fuel, but like other vehicle components, they can go bad. They require routine inspection and maintenance to ensure optimal engine performance.
According to AutoBlog.com, for most vehicles sold in the U.S. recommend spark plug replacement every 30,000 to 50,000 miles. They note that while some newer vehicles have advanced ignition systems that presumably make spark plug replacement unnecessary, there still can be times when a spark plug wears out or shows signs of failure.
It is important for your vehicle’s safety, performance, and reliability to pay attention to these signs that you may need new spark plugs:
- Trouble Starting – Compromised spark plugs may be unable to provide enough spark to start the engine. If the vehicle does not start at all, the battery may be to blame, but intermittent problems may be due to faulty spark plugs.
- Reduced Fuel Efficiency – Worn out spark plugs tend to increase a vehicle’s fuel consumption since they don’t effectively burn the fuel that goes into the engine. You will notice that you are filling up at the pump more frequently.
- Poor Acceleration – If you notice a lack of responsiveness or inability to accelerate as your car normally does, the problem could be worn out spark plugs.
- Engine Misfiring – While in most cases, engine misfiring is due to sensor malfunctioning, this problem could also be caused by a damaged spark plug.
The CarTalk.com blog explains that the spark plug gap, we mentioned earlier, is an additional issue to watch for if you replace spark plugs yourself. They recommend always checking the gap measurement when installing spark plugs because a gap that is too small may not allow enough room for the spark to jump, and a gap that is too large may mean the spark can get blown out at high speeds.