Sparkplugs: When to change them

If you drive a car with a petrol or gasoline engine, then you should know sparkplugs are reason why fuel combusts in the first place. Without sparkplug, there would be no spark. Without spark, fuel no burn. If fuel no burn, car no move.

Why sparkplugs get worn out

When a car is all new and dandy, its engine parts are fresh, clean, and working flawlessly. After driving several thousand kilometers, we get build up of gunk and residue of dust, carbon, and burnt fuel all around the engine. This build up is barely noticeable until it becomes noticeable in the form of engine vibration, sluggish acceleration, and increased fuel consumption. In severe cases, we may get engine knocking caused by “misfiring” of sparkplugs. It feels like your car’s heart skips a beat, but in a bad way.

In the image below we have a side by side comparison of a 40 thousand kilometer old sparkplug and a brand new sparkplug. Notice how black and dirty the old one has gotten due to exposure to gas, emissions, and heat. At this point, the sparkplug still works and produces sparks as usual. However, there is all this gunk in the way that comes in contact with the gasoline vapor and makes its burning let effective. This overall causes the engine to burn more gas than necessary. To learn more about how to minimize fuel consumption, check out this article.

When to change sparkplugs
old sparkplug (left) new sparkplug (right)

When to change or replace your sparkplugs

Now that you know that in addition to oil changes, battery replacement, tire changes, and other maintenance activities, sparkplugs also need replacement, be sure to do this in a timely manner.

A good time to change or replace your sparkplugs is around 35,000 kilometers or 20,000 miles. By this point, the plugs would be reaching the end of their usable life.

At the 15,000 kilometer mark, it is a good idea to get your plugs cleaned. During this process they are simply unscrewed from the engine head and the black gunk buildup is scraped away till the metal parts become metallic shiny again. This extends the life of the sparkplug and allows it to continue delivering a clean, fuel efficient, burn.

Additional tip when changing sparkplugs

While you’re getting your sparkplugs changed, ask your mechanic to also clean up the throttle body of your engine. This is the part that sucks in air to mix with gasoline. This too gets all dirty with time and sneaks in micro-contaminants into your engine, affecting its performance and fuel economy. Most mechanics offer a throttle body cleaning with a sparkplug replacement.

Bonus Material

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Fuel Saving tips for better gas consumption

How to use a portable tire inflator

How to jumpstart your car

Does putting your car in neutral save gas?

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