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WHAT ARE SPARK PLUGS AND HOW DO THEY WORK?
Spark plugs have been an essential part of internal combustion engines ever since the motor engine has been around. Most people often misunderstand the importance of this component.
Spark plugs are an insightful diagnostic tool into the health of the engine. Spark plugs reveal the state of the combustion chambers of the engine. Experienced technicians usually use spark plugs to decide on the air-fuel mixture ratios and to increase car or bike performance.
The primary job of the spark plug is to ignite the air-fuel mixture in the combustion chamber of an internal combustion engine. Note that spark plugs are found only in petrol engines. Diesel engines don’t have spark plugs because they work on compression ignition of the air-fuel mixture.
The spark in spark plugs is provided by the electrical energy of the ignition coil. Sufficient voltage must be supplied by the ignition coil to spark across the spark plug gap and ignite the air-fuel mixture.
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SPARK PLUG TYPES
There are three main types of spark plugs. Copper, Platinum and Iridium. Let’s have a look at the differences between them.
Copper spark plugsCopper/nickel spark plugs are the most basic type of spark plug. They have a copper core and use nickel at the electrode of the spark plug. Copper and nickel both have a low melting point which means the electrodes wear off quickly, by around 10,000 km. The result is misfiring in the engine which leads to damage to the ignition coil and wires.
Platinum spark plugsPlatinum spark plugs have a platinum disc at the end of the electrodes. Platinum has a high melting point, so the electrodes are preserved from engine heat. The spark plugs last longer, for around 50-60 thousand km.
Iridium spark plugsIridium is harder and tougher than platinum and also has a higher melting point. These spark plugs have a small tip diameter, which results in higher efficiency and better engine performance.
SPARK PLUG BRAND AND PRICES
Bosch spark plugs
One of the most popular brands of spark plugs is Bosch. Prices for Bosch spark plugs are around Rs.300 – Rs.700. Bosch spark plugs are designed for cars and bikes and offer sustained performance and longevity. Bosch spark plugs come with laser welded electrodes which provide 3X longer service life. They have a fine wire firing pin for superior ignitability. A unique 360-degree laser welding process fuses the corrosion resistant firing pin to the base. Bosch spark plugs come pre-gapped from the factory and do not require any further gap adjustment.
SPARK PLUG WIRES
Spark plug wires are also known as ignition cables. The ignition cable is an essential element of the ignition system. Cars that have ignition coils require spark plug wires to carry the spark from the coil to the spark plug.
A high voltage passes from the ignition coil to the spark plugs via the spark plug wire. Many times, the spark plug wire gets damaged and this leads to starting trouble as the proper voltage does not reach the spark plug.
SPARK PLUG COMMON PROBLEMS
The spark plug electrodes get carbon deposits with use. The electrode surface can be cleaned by scraping the electrode surface with sandpaper. In this way the carbon deposits can be removed.
If you are having trouble with starting the engine, try cleaning the spark plug. If the spark plug is damaged, then replacing the spark plug should solve the starting problem and also lead to better performance.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Q 1. How often should I replace my spark plugs?
Ans. You should replace your sparkplugs every 50,000 km.
Q 2. Do I need to gap my spark plugs?
Ans. Spark plugs should be gapped according to the manufacturer’s recommendation as stated in the owner’s manual of the vehicle.
Q 3. What happens if the spark plug is gapped incorrectly?
Ans. A spark plug that is not gapped properly will cause the engine to misfire, stop running smoothly and affect a drop in its performance.
Q 4. Should spark plugs be cleaned?
Ans. Even if spark plugs are cleaned, they will not operate as new. Fouled or contaminated spark plugs must be replaced.
Q 5. How do I install spark plugs?
Ans. Use a ratchet and socket or a similar tool to install the spark plug. Care should be taken not to damage the ceramic side of the spark plug.
Q 6. What are the benefits of installing a new spark plug?
Ans. The engine will have improvements in torque, horsepower, fuel economy and emissions. There will be a quicker throttle response, easier starting and smoother running of the engine.