How Often Should You Replace Your Spark Plugs?

in Ownership
Black and white of three used spark plugs

Source: Pixabay

This teeny tiny component of the traditional gasoline engine can cause big problems when it fails. That’s because spark plugs are responsible for moving your car forward. Literally – an arc of electricity from the end of a spark plug ​ignites the gasoline in your engine​, “driving” every other aspect of the motor.

The gas-powered car we know and love would not have been a possibility without these little pieces of technology. But, like everything else in life, spark plugs don’t last forever, and it’s important to maintain and replace them regularly if you intend to keep driving your vehicle. But just ​how often should you replace your spark plugs​? Let’s find out.

Some Things to Think About: ​How Often Should You Replace Your Spark Plugs

On average, you should plan to replace your spark plugs about ​every 30,000 miles​. But some vehicles will need their plugs exchanged later or sooner depending on a number of different variables.

Different car brands use different kinds of spark plugs, and come equipped with different kinds of technology which affect how efficiently your engine runs. So precisely​ how often ​you ​should replace your spark plugs​ will be based on your car’s make and model, the year you drive, and what kind of spark plugs you have.

The most common kind of spark plug is made out of ​copper and a nickel alloy​, and are rated to last between 30,000 and 50,000 miles. They are inexpensive, costing around ​5 to 10 dollars each​.

Long-lasting or “high performance” spark plugs are a little pricier, 15 to 40 dollars per plug. Made out of iridium and platinum, they last much longer than their copper cousins – in some cases ​up to 150,000 miles​. Ask your mechanic if you’re not sure which ones are fitted to your car.

Different manufacturers also have different suggestions for​ how often you should replace your spark plugs ​in their vehicles. ​For example​, Ford suggests every 100,000 miles for the F150. Toyota asks you to replace the spark plugs every 120,000 miles on a newer Corolla, but every 60,000 on an ‘86 coupe.

And some Mercedes-Benz vehicles need their plugs swapped out as little as every 25,000 miles. It gets very complicated very quickly. Lucky for you, your ​car owner’s manual should tell you​ what the ideal change period is for your spark plugs under the suggested maintenance schedule section. And once you know, all you have to do is watch the odometer.


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How to Tell if Your Spark Plugs Need to be Replaced

It takes a while for spark plugs to wear down. And in some cars you can even expect to change vehicles before you need to replace the plugs.

But these individual components might fail at different rates, or something may break, and it’s important to know the signs of a failing spark plug so you can be prepared. According to Motor Biscuit, these are​ the telltale signs​ that will indicate worn out plugs.

  • If you find yourself taking more frequent trips to the gas station, you may have a failing spark plug. Happy, healthy spark plugs help your engine run as efficiently as possible by igniting fuel at the appropriate rate for your vehicle. So if your car is guzzling an unusual amount of gas, it may be because of a spark plug failure.
  • If your car has a hard time getting started it’s probably a worn spark plug. When you turn the key or press your ignition button, the car battery sends a jolt of electricity to get them firing, thus starting up the engine. If your car can’t start at all, it’s probably the battery. But if it tries to start and fails, that means the spark plugs aren’t doing their job.
  • If your car or truck isn’t accelerating the way it normally would, it might be an issue with your spark plugs. This happens when the spark plug can’t effectively create the combustion which powers your motor.
  • -If you hear or feel your engine misfiring, it means a worn spark plug is misfiring as well. If you notice this happening, take your vehicle in right away, as this can damage other (much more expensive) components of your vehicle such as the catalytic converter.
  • If you are experiencing a rough and bumpy idle, or notice a lot of noise coming from the engine, it’s time to replace your spark plugs. Each piston within your engine has its own spark plug.

And when one of those spark plugs isn’t working, that piston can’t fire. This forces all the other pistons to work harder in order to compensate, causing the loud noises and jolting you feel. * If your check engine light is on, it could be your spark plugs. While a check engine light can be caused by any number of issues within your vehicle, make sure your mechanic takes a good look at your spark plugs when running diagnostics.


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How to Extend the Life of Your Spark Plugs

You can’t exactly give your spark plugs TLC the way you can with tires, brakes, or windshield wipers. But there are a few things you can do to ensure you’re getting the best lifetime mileage out of these small but mighty car components.

  • Go for premium. ​If you want to get the most bang for your buck, spring the extra cash for platinum plugs. They may cost more up front, but you’ll end up saving money in the long run by replacing them less frequently than their copper cousins.
  • Reuse and recycle. ​Okay, so maybe you CAN rejuvenate an old spark plug. As it turns out, sometimes all a malfunctioning plug needs​ is a good scrub down and a readjustment​ to get it back in working order.

The next time you need to change your spark plugs, talk to your mechanic to see if they might be able to coax an extra 10,000 miles out of your current plugs. * Drive sensibly. ​We say this all the time, but it’s true. Not only is it safer for you and those around you, but observing the speed limit and avoiding pushing your accelerator above 5,000 RPM will work wonders for the longevity of every component on your car.

And this includes your spark plugs: the quicker and more aggressively you drive, the harder they’ll have to work, and the faster they’ll wear out. Slow and steady is good for everybody.


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