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How Much Do Spark Plugs Cost?

in Ownership
Spark plug

Spark Plug by jaimekop — CC BY-ND 2.0

If you drive a gas-powered vehicle or a hybrid, you won’t get very far without spark plugs. And by very far we mean the engine isn’t going to turn over. Spark plugs are an essential ingredient to your car’s drivability because, without them, there is no drive.

You may be thinking, “Okay, I get it. No way to avoid these babies, but what about when they fail? Do spark plugs cost a lot?”

That depends on a number of factors that we’ll cover in this article. First, let’s take a quick look at just how essential spark plugs are to your vehicle.

What Do Spark Plugs Do? 

Sure, they’ve been around longer than any of us have been alive, but the internal combustion engine is still an incredible invention. This engine takes energy—in this case, gasoline—and converts it into movement.

None of this is possible without spark plugs to deliver the spark that ignites the mix of air and fuel in the combustion chamber. This is the explosion that enables your engine to produce power.  

So the name fits as these plugs create the spark that leads to a running engine. A good spark plug can handle millions of sparks in its lifespan.

The majority of spark plugs utilize a copper core to conduct electricity. Copper is excellent for this, though more expensive plugs use iridium and even platinum which many feel are superior for the job. 


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When Should I Replace My Spark Plugs? 

Best practice is to change out your spark plugs through preventative maintenance as suggested by your car’s manufacturer. Today, many manufactures use extended life spark plugs with a lifespan of 100,000 miles. Consult your owner’s manual or mechanic for the plug’s mileage point or life expectancy to know for certain when to replace them. 

Of course, each vehicle is different, but in general, spark plugs need replacing every 20,000 to 40,000 miles, though many cars run longer before requiring a replacement. A spark plug that is no longer working correctly can cause your engine to misfire and cause severe damage to various parts of your engine.

If your check engine light comes on, this could be a sign that your spark plugs need replacing. Perhaps your car is struggling to start—this could result from damaged or worn-out spark plugs. Maybe you’re filling up your tank more often than before, though your driving routine remains the same.

Spark plugs approaching their end can increase how much fuel your vehicle consumes. Or maybe there is a change in how your car handles, say your acceleration feels sloth-like—that could signal that your spark plugs have run their course and need replacing.   

How Much Do Spark Plugs Cost? 

So now that we’ve covered how important they are and when to replace them, how much do spark plugs cost? The good news is, for such a vital engine component, they don’t cost as much as you would expect.

Depending on your vehicle, which brand of plug you buy, and whether you install it yourself or pay a dealer or mechanic to do it for you are all factors to consider when calculating how much spark plugs cost.

DIY

As often is the case, this is the cheapest means of replacing your spark plug. If you already have the tools needed, replacing your spark plugs will cost, on average, anywhere from $15 to $50. While this route will save you a good deal of walking around money, make sure you have the know-how before taking on this project.

It’s not that the process of changing a spark plug is all that difficult, but if you get in over your head, you can cause serious damage to your engine. First, you need to know the correct spark plug to purchase.

Either consult your owner’s manual or check a website you trust. Next, make sure you’re able to put everything back in its rightful place after inserting the plugs.

As mentioned above, even the slightest wrong move can result in damaging your engine to the point of performing poorly or not starting, which only lands you back in square one.


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Mechanic 

The overall spark plug cost increases if you enlist the service of a mechanic. A few things happen when you take this route—the cost of the actual plugs increases as shops often markup the cost of parts somewhere between 25% – 50%. The other cost increase is that of labor. When we combine these two, you’re looking at a range of $115 – $200 when all is said and done.


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Dealership 

Some people like the idea of having all their car repairs completed at a dealership franchised through the car’s manufacturer. When replacing your spark plugs, this is the most expensive choice. You’re looking at a total cost for parts and labor in the range of $175 - $400.

What you’re paying for here is primarily mechanics certified by the manufacturer to work on your vehicle. Also, the dealership should have everything you need in stock, so no need to worry about waiting a handful of days (or more) for the parts to arrive.

Conclusion 

Not everything in your vehicle needs replacing after it fails. Many of us remember a time when tape cassettes got stuck in our tape decks, and rather than replace the entire deck, we simply left it there and opted to listen to the radio and save a few bucks.

When it comes to spark plugs, there is no such luxury. Whether you do it yourself, pay a mechanic, or take it to the dealership, how much spark plugs cost will vary, but you’ll need to choose one if you want your vehicle to move even an inch without pushing. 

Luckily, we live in a digital age where information is only a Google search away. Take advantage of this to find a mechanic or dealership you can trust or step-by-step instructions (or videos) to see if you have the know-how to perform the repair yourself.

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