Spark plugs have been responsible for creating sparks that start car motors for years. They’re designed to transmit electrical signals from the ignition coil to generate a spark that ignites the air-and-fuel mixture within the combustion chamber.
The lack of a spark means there’s nothing in the combustion chamber for fuel to ignite. Let them go bad, and it’ll mean bad news for your engine. Let’s go over the signs of a failing spark plug so that you can weed out the bad seeds and keep them from causing potentially irreparable damage to your vehicle.
Importance of Spark Plug Maintenance
Like air and fuel filters and motor oils, spark plugs require routine maintenance to keep your car’s engine in great running condition. In the United States, vehicle spark plugs tend to require replacement every 30,000 to 50,000 miles. However, there are now state-of-the-art vehicles designed to forego such a replacement.
Then again, regardless of manufacturer claims or warranties, spark plugs are bound to go bad. This is why it’s important that you know the signs of a failing spark plug.
Signs That Your Spark Plugs Should Be Retired
Below are signs that your car’s spark plugs have either fouled or been worn out and require replacement by a certified mechanic right away.
1. Misfiring Engine
A misfiring engine is an indication of an ignition system issue. For modern cars, you can usually blame it on sensor malfunction. However, a damaged spark plug tip or spark plug could also be a culprit. You can tell an engine is out of it by the sputtering sounds coming from it and intermittent stumbling.
Letting the engine continue to run this way will only lead to more troublesome issues. It could result in a decrease in engine power, an increase in exhaust emissions, and a drop in fuel economy. Let’s not forget a possibly insane invoice from your mechanic. That could well be the time to start considering buying a new ride.
2. Slow Acceleration
More often than not, slow acceleration stems from a problem in the vehicle’s ignition system. In modern rides, multiple sensors are set in place to inform the ignition system and onboard computer when to deliver electric pulses to light the spark plug. Thus, one may blame a faulty sensor for the issue.
On the other hand, the problem could be the spark plug itself. It may have gotten worn out, leading to its failure to produce a spark with enough fire to ignite the air-and-fuel mixture in the combustion engine. As a result, you’ll notice your vehicle’s slow acceleration.
When you notice your car running sluggish or not accelerating as fast as it used to, check if the spark plugs need replacement. Rather than perform the replacement yourself, have a mechanic do the job to ensure a safe process. After all, a faulty spark plug could be due to multiple factors, including oxygen sensor issues, poorly functioning fuel filters, and a clogged fuel injector. You may not be equipped to handle any of these.
3. Engine Surges or Hesitations
The engine hesitating while accelerating is a cause for concern. That means the motor isn’t heeding the driver’s command. As such, it could be equally as prone to surging in power and then slowing down. Such erratic vehicle behavior is not only a headache to deal with; it can also lead to potential dangers.
In most cases, the reason for this is the engine taking in more air than is required for the combustion process. In turn, a delay in power delivery takes place. The surges and hesitations could trace back to the ignition system, specifically to a set of bad spark plugs.
4. Poor Fuel Economy
Good spark plugs allow vehicles to burn fuel efficiently, resulting in good fuel economy. In contrast, poorly functioning spark plugs achieve below-average fuel economy, which doesn’t bode well for your budget.
Spark plugs may not work optimally because their electrodes are positioned too closely or too far apart. Routine checks by certified mechanics can determine whether your car’s spark plug electrodes are spaced correctly. If not, either the gaps are adjusted or the spark plugs are replaced entirely. In most cases, the former solution is sufficient.
5. Difficult to Start
If your vehicle is no longer starting as smoothly as it used to or is not starting at all, you can make a strong case against worn-out spark plugs. A ride that is hard to start is an indication of a problem in the ignition system, of which spark plugs are among the main components. Then again, you’ll likely need a new set of spark plugs, even if that weren’t the case, to ensure all the components are fresh.
When it comes to spark plug care and maintenance, the key to preventing problems is being proactive. Know that there will come a time when your spark plugs fail and falter, and be ready for those times. Lastly, have a mechanic inspect your vehicle routinely so that you’ll always be a few steps ahead.