Your car has spark plugs. You probably heard the words before, but maybe you weren’t too sure what they are or how they function. However, spark plugs are an integral part of your car’s efficiency and mechanical integrity. Without them working properly, you’re doomed to a life of terrible fuel economy, noxious odors, and heavy emissions. If you aren’t sure what spark plugs do or when to change them, read on.
How Spark Plugs Work
It’s not worth knowing how to replace your spark plugs if you don’t even know why they’re important. Essentially, spark plugs are the catalyst that starts your vehicle. At one end, the spark plug takes in high voltage electricity and then utilizes that electricity to spark the air and gas mixture in your engine. In short, working spark plugs are an absolute necessity for getting your engine started. Another tidbit worth knowing is that the number of spark plugs in your vehicle is equal to the amount of cylinders in your engine. Therefore, a four-cylinder has four spark plugs, a V6 has six, and so on.
Typically, sparks plugs that need replacement happen in the course of general maintenance but most often during a tune-up. However, tune-up schedules vary from vehicle to vehicle, although most need one about every 25,000 to 100,000 miles. During these tune-ups, mechanics typically change your spark plugs, but you may want to ask just to make sure. If you’re vigilant on vehicle maintenance such as this, you often don’t have to worry about changing spark plugs on your own.
Signs That You May Need to Change Your Spark Plugs
If you adhere to a strict tune-up schedule, it’s possible that you’ll never have to worry about your spark plugs. However, if you purchase a used vehicle, don’t get a tune-up, or are in between standard tune-up mileage, your car has a few telltale signs it’s due for fresh spark plugs. Nevertheless, many of these signs are also the same indications you need a tune-up, so for starters, you may just want to try replacing your spark plugs first. Symptoms of old spark plugs include engine misfires, poor fuel economy, jerky motions, sluggish acceleration, rough idling, and trouble starting the car.
What Happens If I Don’t Replace Them?
Many long-life spark plugs can last well over 60,000 to 90,000 miles, so they actually have a longer lifespan compared to other vehicle components. However, if you don’t replace them, it can drastically affect other parts of your car. Most notably, old spark plugs cause more expensive pieces of the vehicle, such as the starter and the engine, to work harder and thus, deteriorate rapidly. In addition, there’s also a significant drain on the battery, which can cut the battery’s life dramatically.
For all these reasons and more, it’s integral to the performance of your vehicle to maintain your spark plugs. At the very least, when you get an oil change, simply ask the mechanic to test them. This is usually a free service, and you’ll immediately know your spark plugs are in top condition. If they aren’t, spending $150 to get them replaced isn’t a bad price to pay for convenience and peace of mind.