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What are spark plugs, and why are they important for your engine?

cables in a car engine

Spark plugs may be small, but they pack a punch. Your engine couldn’t start or run without them. That’s why you must be aware of what your spark plugs do and why they’re important. Here’s more on the importance of spark plugs and some signs they might be wearing out.

What spark plugs do

Cars have internal combustion engines, burning fuel to create the energy needed to propel the vehicle forward. These engines require a spark to ignite the fuel. Spark plugs generate an arc of electricity between two leads, igniting the fuel and creating an explosion in the engines’ cylinders.

The importance of high-quality spark plugs

For your engine to run smoothly and efficiently, the explosions in the cylinders need to be perfectly timed. Having new or high-quality spark plugs ensures sparks happen at the exact moment they’re needed, and your engine will purr like a kitten. Worn-out plugs can lead to poorly timed explosions called misfires, which can have catastrophic impacts on your engine and catalytic converter if left unchecked.

Spark plugs lifespans

Most car manufacturers recommend you change your spark plugs every 50,000kilometres. However, this number varies depending on what type of plugs you have. “Extended life” spark plugs consist of more resistant metals and can last up to 160,000 kilometres before needing replacement.

Spark plugs are tough and designed to withstand the extreme heat produced in your engine. They’ll provide millions of sparks before cutting out. However, even the durable part can’t last forever. One of two things happens as spark plugs age.

  • Fuel contains additives and impurities that get left behind in the combustion process. These contaminants can build up on the spark plug leads, causing them to misfire.
  • The arc of electricity that ignites the fuel jumps between two leads that aren’t touching. Over time, this gap can get larger and more difficult to bridge. If the gap gets too big, the timing of the spark will be off, creating misfires.

Pay attention if the check engine light is on or if your engine rattles or knocks, has trouble starting or accelerating or gets poor gas mileage. It’s best to take your vehicle in to get a diagnostic check at a professional automotive centre.

Car maintenance and tune-ups in British Columbia and Alberta

Visit a Minit-Tune & Brake Auto Centre for a maintenance tune-up service, and we’ll check your spark plugs and replace them if necessary. Plus, our technicians will look at all your vehicle’s major systems, including brakes, steering and fluids. Contact us today at one of our 15 locations in British Columbia and Alberta and schedule a visit.


Minit-Tune & Brake Auto Centres Address Common Issues

Here at Minit-Tune & Brake Auto Centres in British Columbia, we’re always pleased to help our customers get the most out of their cars and trucks. To that end, we’ll add a relevant blog topic from time to time to keep you up to date and getting the most out of your vehicle.