Have you noticed that your vehicle is consuming more fuel than it used to? Does your car seem to be puttering out and just isn’t driving as smoothly as it used to? If so, the issue could be the spark plugs. Spark plugs are a vital component of a vehicle. Though they are small in size, they play an integral role in a vehicle. Emitting a spark of electricity, spark plugs are responsible for making the combustion that is needed to start a car. As with any component of a vehicle, the spark plugs endure wear and tear. They can become dirty, or they can deteriorate as a result of excessive heat. When this happens, it will become difficult to start the car, and when it does start, it will have a difficult idle. Fuel consumption will increase and the engine will misfire or start to surge.
Changing the spark plugs will alleviate these issues, and fortunately, changing out the spark plugs is a quick and easy fix. Before you start shopping for spark plugs, though, have a look at this handy buyer’s guide that we have put together for you. The information presented in this guide will help you find the best spark plugs for your specific needs.
Types of Spark Plugs
There are four main types of spark plugs, and each one offers different benefits:
- Double platinum
Copper Spark Plugs
Often referred to as standard or normal spark plugs, spark plugs that that feature copper tips are highly regarded for their ability to conduct electricity. Because copper conducts electricity better than any other type of material used on spark plugs, they run cooler and deliver more power and are able to deliver better performance without overheating, which can reduce the power and shorten the life span of other types of spark plugs. Since copper produces the best spark under the trying conditions that are generated in turbocharged and high compression engines, copper spark plugs are typically used in these types of engines. Natural gas engines also tend to run the best with copper spark plugs.
These spark plugs typically remain effective for 20,000 to 40,000 miles, though a number of external factors can decrease or increase their life span. While copper-tipped spark plugs are the most cost effective, they also tend to have the shortest life span because copper tends to erode more quickly than other materials.
Platinum Spark Plugs
Platinum spark plugs are highly regarded for their longevity. Under normal driving conditions, these spark plugs usually have a life span of 100,000 miles. Because platinum does not erode the way copper does, the gap at the tip of the spark plug doesn’t widen as the metal wears away, which can cause a drop in power, as well as misfires on startup that can cause the check engine light to go on.
Because platinum is more rare than copper, these spark plugs tend to be more expensive. Also, because platinum is not as conductive as copper, platinum spark plugs don’t deliver the same type of power as copper spark plugs. They also are more prone to overheating.
Double Platinum Spark Plugs
Double platinum spark plugs feature platinum on the tips and other portions of the plug, such as the ground electrodes. Some double platinum spark plugs also feature a fine wire center or core, which includes one or more platinum discs inside the plug.
Double platinum spark plugs offer a slightly higher performance than platinum-tipped plugs, but they are more expensive.
Iridium Spark Plugs
Related to platinum, iridium is a hard metal that is highly regarded for its electrical conductivity and its extremely high melting point, which makes it an ideal metal for spark plugs. Iridium spark plugs offer a more complete combustion than other types of spark plugs, which allows the engine to run smoother. They also last longer than spark plugs, and in fact, they can last as long as 100,000 miles, under normal driving conditions. These spark plugs also typically feature a fine wire center that is designed to offer improved electrical conductivity.
On the downside, iridium spark plugs are the most expensive.
Spark Plug Considerations
There are several factors that you should take into consideration before purchasing spark plugs for your vehicle. These factors will allow you to buy the best spark plugs for your vehicle and your specific needs.
The Engine Specifications
Different engines require different spark plugs, which is why it is important to understand the specifications of your vehicle before you buy spark plugs. The number of cylinders, the type of engine, the type of transmission (automatic or manual,) the displacement of the engine, the type of fuel system and the spark plug gap are all part of the specifications that need to be taken into consideration before buying spark plugs. You can check your owner’s manual to find out these specifications, or you can ask a mechanic.
The Heat Range
The heat range refers to the distance from the insulator in the spark plug to its sealing ring. You will see the heat range listed on the specs on the side of the spark plug. A shorter distance means a colder spark plug. If the plug is too cold for the specifications of your ending, the plug can quickly become clogged with fuel deposits. If the distance is long, the spark plug is hotter. If the plug is too hot for the specifications of your vehicle’s engine, it can lead to pre-ignition of the fuel, which can cause a loss of power.
How You Drive
How you drive is another important factor to consider before buying spark plugs. If you participate in performance driving, copper spark plugs may be a better option for you because they are more effective at conducting electricity, thus providing more and faster power to the engine. If you drive under normal conditions, other types of spark plugs may be a better option for you because they last longer and they offer adequate power at an adequate speed.
Can You Do It Yourself?
Changing the spark plugs can be a do it yourself job, or it may be something that you need to have a professional mechanic do. Doing it yourself may be simple if the spark plugs are easy to access and if you have experience with working on a vehicle; however, if you don’t have experience working on a vehicle or if the spark plugs are difficult to access, the task of changing them may be better suited for a professional.
When determining what spark plugs to purchase, and whether or not you want to do them yourself or have a professional install them, the price is a factor that you should take into consideration. The price of spark plugs varies. As mentioned above, copper spark plugs are the least expensive, while Iridium spark plugs are the most expensive. Also, if you need to have them installed by a professional, you will spend more money on replacing them, as you will have to pay someone to do the work.
Spark Plug Features
There are several features that can improve the use of a spark plug. These features include:
This feature extends the length of the spark plug threads, which improves the cooling efficiency of the cylinder head.
Spark plugs that have a wide gap have an increased gap dimension of about 1.1 to 1.5 mm, which reduces the quenching action of the electrode and improves the plugs ignitability.
Projected Metal Shell
This type of spark plug is designed to provide more stable combustion because it prevents the heating of the ground electrode and delivers the position of the spark at the optimal position in the combustion chamber.
The mounting thread section on half thread spark plugs have a smaller thread diameters has a special shape. These types of spark plugs are designed to be used with certain vehicles.
Best Spark Plug Brands
There are several spark plug brands available, which can make choosing the best type for your needs a difficult task. You want to find the best value for your money, but you also want to choose spark plugs that will deliver the best results. After doing extensive research and checking them out ourselves, we found that the following brands of spark plugs are the best of the best.
A branch of the General Motors Company, AC Delco manufactures high quality spark plugs that can be used with all types of vehicles. In fact, spark plugs from AC Delco are so trusted that they are often used by professional drivers.
NKG was founded in 1936 and focuses on the production of spark plugs. They are highly regarded for making some of the highest quality spark plugs on the market and boast some of the most cutting edge innovations.
Established in 1949, Denso makes a variety of vehicle parts, including spark plugs. They are famous for making some of the most innovative spark plugs that deliver exceptional performance.
Burger Motorsports manufactures all types of vehicle parts, including spark plugs. They make various type of spark plugs with different features, and they also offer some of the best prices.