A spark plug is simply a device that a conducts a high-voltage spark into the combustion chamber where the gasoline and air mixture is sprayed so that it ignites, burning and driving the cylinder upwards thereby powering the car.
They need to be replaced every so often due to gunk build up on the electrodes that will eventually prevent the spark from jumping across them–it’s this spark that ignites the gasoline in the engine, so yes this is a big problem when this happens, you do have to change your spark plugs (note: diesel engines don’t have spark plugs). First, a few tips, then I’ve got a short and simple video for you that’ll show you how to do it:
- Take a close look at your old spark plugs when you take them out. They should appear to be a bit burnt at the tip: if they’re black, gunky, bent, or broken, then you’ve got a bigger problem beyond just needing some new spark plugs and you’re going to need to take your car into a mechanic.
- Just disconnect one wire at a time when you’re changing that particular spark plug–this helps to keep from mixing up the firing order.
- Use a proper spark plug socket (like these) instead of a conventional socket. This will help you to not drop a spark plug when removing or inserting them. (If dropped, the gap often changes, must be re-gapped/cleaned.)
- To make sure that the plugs aren’t tightened too much or too little, use a torque wrench, such as this one, and tighten them to your vehicle’s specs, which can be found in shop manuals, your vehicle’s manual (possibly), or if not then try calling your local mechanic and asking them to look it up for you.
Right, here’s what to do:
Note: you can get the spark plug he recommends in the video from Amazon, which also happens to be their bestselling spark plug and has great reviews: Bosch 4501 Platinum IR Fusion Spark Plug , Pack of 1
Additional Resources and Further Reading
The best book on how to do this sort of stuff (basic car care and maintenance) that I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot) is Auto Repair For Dummies–the author, Deanna Sclar, has updated systems and repair information throughout, eliminating discussions of carburetors and adding coverage of hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles. She’s also revised schedules for tune-ups and oil changes, included driving tips that can save on maintenance and repair costs, and added new advice on troubleshooting problems and determining when to call in a professional mechanic. For anyone who wants to save money on car repairs and maintenance, this book is the place to start.
If you need a bit more detailed help, about.com has got an excellent 8-page article with pictures on how to replace your spark plugs.