If you drove a car as much as once in your life, you must have wondered how it actually gets rolling. The engine is not a Perpetuum Mobile. It needs a nudge to get started.
The engine is a contraption where combustion happens, producing power for the vehicle to move. This is a widely known fact, even with people who find car mechanisms to be treasure troves of intimidating secrets that only a few of us can understand.
But how does the combustion start?
It needs a spark, of course.
Spark plugs are small, but their function is essential. They are responsible for triggering the burning of the oxygen-fuel mixture. When they fall ill or need to retire, the engine will either refuse to ignite, or it will shudder or misfire, and your car will start to devour gas more than normally.
If spark plugs start the engine, what starts them?
Electricity is what propels them to create a spark. When the electrical impulse reaches the plug, it creates an arc at the tiny little electrode. Of course, those electrodes do a really stressful work, which causes them to wear out little by little. And this affects the plugs’ efficiency over time.
Here are a few most common symptoms of failing (or failed) spark plugs.
1) They are one of the reasons why the “Check Engine” light goes on
This dreaded dashboard light often signals a major problem with your car’s most vital part.
But once it goes on, don’t panic. The reason behind it may be as simple as a spark plug. More precisely, its wires might have got old and cracked, which may cause some electricity to skip its regular road. The engine misfires, the light goes on, making your day a nightmare.
It is fairly simple and cheap to just replace the wires and the plugs with new ones.
When the Check Engine light turns on, hope to god it’s about spark plugs. That’s the cheapest you can get.
2) They can waste your gas
These little gizmos can affect your fuel economy by a whopping 30%! Misfiring affects the combustion, which in turn makes the engine compensate the loss by sucking more fuel. Even if you don’t care about saving some gas money, if you keep ignoring this sign, you’ll eventually end up doing an expensive engine repair.
3) They can cause poor acceleration and jerky driving
The gas pedal isn’t guilty of your car’s indolent acceleration, nor will it help if you squash it to the ground.
With today’s computerized cars, every little glitch can be a consequence of a defective sensor. But the reason may as well be a dying plug. If you have a feeling that your car is in a lethargy, so it needs quite a bit of pushing to accelerate, be sure to check the plugs.
Of course, failed spark plugs are not the only option. The problem could be anywhere along the fuel’s path – dirty filters or injectors, for example. If you rule out the plugs as the reason for bad acceleration, find the cause with your technician’s help.
4) A strange clatter is coming from under the hood…
If you are not convinced by the sloppy and lousy behavior of your vehicle, the obnoxious sounds may confirm that you need to attend to the plugs. They need to fire at just the right moment. If they misfire, they might cause the hubbub.
And one more piece of advice…
Check them out every 40.000 kilometers.
True enough, modern car models usually come with more longevous spark plugs. In your owner’s manual, you will likely find the information that the plugs will last even 100.000 kilometers.
But the problem lies in the fact that you don’t want to drive those last 20.000 kilometers with spark plugs that are almost completely worn out.
We always recommend installing high-quality plugs, rather than the cheapest or just about any type you can find on the market. But however good they are, they cannot live forever.
So, the spark plug replacement is not an extraordinary situation of fixing things that are broken. It is just a part of regular car maintenance.