How long do spark plugs last?

October 6th, 2022 by

You can find spark plugs in most vehicles on the road today, yet very few people ever think about them as an integral part of their vehicle’s engine. Spark plugs can make a difference between arriving at your destination and breaking down, so it’s essential to understand what they are, how long they last, and when to change them. Here’s all you need to know about why spark plugs are important.

How long do Spark Plugs last?

Most spark plugs will last around 100,000 miles, depending on your vehicle’s manufacturer, which is why many people don’t think about them during their lifetime. If you notice slow acceleration, poor fuel economy, a misfiring engine, rough idling, or difficulty starting your vehicle, you may need to replace your spark plugs. Have your local mechanic look at your vehicle to determine if your spark plugs are acting up.

Spark plugs can go bad from contamination, combustion, and overheating, resulting in an inability to spark the fuel and air mixture or transfer the heat away from the combustion chamber. Over time, the gap between the electrodes on your spark plugs will widen, making the spark jump across a broader distance to ignite the fuel and air mixture for combustion. This widening gap between electrodes can lead to erratic or irregular combustion.

What Are Spark Plugs?

Why are spark plugs important?

A spark plug ignites the fuel and air mixture in your vehicle’s combustion chamber to provide enough power to the engine to start your vehicle. Spark plugs do not sustain any power once they are used to start the engine and work to transmit heat away from the combustion chamber. Without an initial spark from your spark plugs, your vehicle won’t go very far. Manufacturers make spark plugs from durable materials that can withstand millions of explosions before they wear out and need to be replaced.

When you turn your key in the ignition or push-start your engine, the starter motor cranks the engine. The battery then sends electricity to an induction coil on your vehicle’s combustion engine to transform the 12 volts from your battery to as many as 45,000 volts before giving that energy to the spark plugs. This ignites the fuel and air mixture inside the combustion chamber and generates a small, controlled explosion in the gap between the electrodes of the spark plug.

How Can You Tell if a Spark Plug Is Bad?

Spark plugs start your vehicle, so the signs and symptoms of a bad spark plug can be relatively evident when your vehicle just won’t start. However, there are several common symptoms of bad spark plugs that you may start to notice before they fail to start your engine altogether. These symptoms include the following:

  • Knocking, pinging, or rattling noises. Unusual noises may come from your engine if your spark plugs misfire. When the combustion and pistons don’t work properly, a spark plug firing at the wrong time can cause knocking, pinging, or rattling noises due to the pistons’ high velocity.
  • Poor fuel economy. Many things can cause your vehicle to experience a drop in fuel economy, from tire pressure to tire tread. Faulty spark plugs can also cause your vehicle to waste fuel because its engine isn’t receiving the spark needed at the right time.
  • Hard vehicle start. Your vehicle may have trouble starting or feel jerky and disjointed because the spark plugs are misfiring or not working correctly, causing erratic performance.
  • Reduced performance. Spark plugs are constantly working on transferring heat from the combustion chamber, even when changing gears or accelerating. If your spark plugs aren’t working at 100% capacity, you’ll notice a reduction in your vehicle’s overall performance.

Any of these symptoms can mean that your spark plugs are on their way out, so you should make an appointment with a mechanic or service specialist, such as the trained professionals at Meadowland of Carmel. Our certified technicians can diagnose and treat your vehicle’s symptoms, including spark plugs or other issues. We offer free estimates and service hours on Saturdays for your convenience. If you’re the DIY type, we can order new parts, including spark plugs to ensure you get the best parts for your vehicle.

How Often Should You Change Your Spark Plugs?

Even if you’re not having issues with your spark plugs, most vehicle manufacturers suggest you change them every 100,000 miles to keep everything working as smoothly as possible. However, the longevity of your spark plugs depends on many factors, including the make, model, and year of your vehicle, the engine, condition, and spark plug type. Consult your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s specific recommendation on spark plug replacement.

Can You Use Any Spark Plug in Your Vehicle?

While spark plugs work the same in most vehicles, it’s essential to know that there are various types. Spark plug types include:

Standard Spark Plugs

Standard spark plugs are solid copper with a nickel alloy central electrode. With the largest diameter of all spark plugs, a standard spark plug requires more voltage to generate a current. While it has high conductivity, the nickel alloy part isn’t as durable, so these spark plugs tend to wear out quickly.

Platinum Spark Plugs

Platinum spark plugs are also solid copper, but with a platinum disc welded to the tip of the central electrode that provides more durability. You can purchase a single- or double-platinum spark plug. Both generate more heat that helps prevent fouling and deposit buildup compared to the standard spark plug.

Iridium Spark Plugs

The most expensive and longest-lasting spark plug is an iridium spark plug with a smaller central electrode and fine wire center used to generate current faster. This spark plug provides better power, which translates into better engine performance.

If you’re experiencing bad spark plug symptoms, don’t wait to bring your vehicle in to have it looked at and repaired. Our service team at Meadowland of Carmel would be happy to service your spark plugs and other vehicle needs. You can find us at 1952 U.S. Highway 6 in Carmel from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and closing at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. To make an appointment today, call us at 845-842-7355, or schedule your service appointment online.

Photo Credit: Image via Pixabay

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