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An item of maintenance often overlooked by vehicle owners are the spark plugs. However, the spark plug is a vital piece of a healthy engine. The condition of your spark plugs can affect how good your fuel economy will be, how smoothly your engine runs, and the amount of power your engine puts out. Like the oil, your vehicle’s spark plugs should be maintained and changed when necessary.

What is a spark plug?

Spark plugs are a crucial part of the ignition system. The spark plug is found screwed into the top of the cylinder. The number of spark plugs your car has depends on how many cylinders there are. If you have a four-cylinder engine, you will have four spark plugs, and so on. It is here that they receive an electrical current from the ignition coils. Next, they create the electric spark that ignites the compressed air-fuel mixture in the combustion chamber. They also transfer heat away from the combustion chamber. These events take place over a thousand times per minute while you are operating your vehicle. This action keeps your vehicle moving on the road.

How do you know if your spark plugs need replaced?

We say it all the time, preventative maintenance is key for optimal vehicle performance, and the spark plugs are no exception. It is often recommended that your spark plugs be changed every 30,000 miles. However, there are some high-performance spark plugs that may last up to 100,000 miles. (Check your owner’s manual for recommendations specific to your vehicle.) When your spark plugs are replaced, you should use the same kind that your vehicle was equipped with originally. As an example, if your vehicle came with double platinum spark plugs, then you should replace them with double platinum spark plugs because this is what the vehicle manufacturer intended the vehicle to use. If you notice that your engine is running roughly or that your fuel economy has decreased, or you are simply driving a vehicle with a lot of miles and just don’t know the last time they were changed, your vehicle would probably benefit from new spark plugs.

 Five signs that it is time to replace your spark plugs:

Increased Fuel Consumption

When spark plugs are working properly they keep the emissions that come from your vehicle to a minimum. If spark plugs are deteriorated, incomplete combustion can reduce your fuel economy. If you find that you are filling your tank more frequently, you should consider having your spark plugs checked and replaced if needed.

Weak Acceleration

When you press down on the gas and you notice a lack of responsiveness, or it responds, but slower than normal you are experiencing signs of weak or poor acceleration. It may feel as though your vehicle is trying extra hard to move and that the engine is being overworked. You may find that a spark plug change fixes this inactive feeling.

Rough Idle

Idling is what you do when your engine is running, yet you remain stationary. During an idle, your engine runs at a lower RPM. If your spark plugs are working properly, the sound coming from the engine should be smooth and continuous. If they are not functioning properly, the engine will produce rough, jittery sounds and it will stumble. You will also likely feel a vibration throughout your vehicle. Ignoring this symptom could result in serious, costly damage to your vehicle, so bring it in right away.

Difficulty Starting the Vehicle

Were you aware that worn spark plugs can make it difficult to start your vehicle? Not many people are. Worn spark plugs will cause your ignition system to work harder. They can also cause your battery to drain. Worn spark plugs, combined with harsh weather, can prevent the engine from turning over. If your vehicle is struggling to start, you may want to consider looking at the spark plugs as a possible cause.

Engine Misfire

Engine misfire is easy to recognize. The engine will appear to halt for a moment and then continue on at its normal pace. How often this happens depends on how serious the misfire problem is. When the engine misfires it means that the engine is not operating as smoothly as it should because one (or more) of its spark plugs are not firing properly. This leads to reduced fuel economy, reduced engine power, and an increase in emissions.

If you notice any of the above problems, give us a visit. Meridian Automotive provides complete automotive repair in Meridian, Idaho, for most cars, light trucks, and SUV’s. For over 20 years we’ve been Meridian’s auto repair experts. Don’t just trust anyone with your automotive repair needs, trust the experts at Meridian Automotive. Call us today (208) 297-5573 or schedule an appointment online.