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Knowing When to Replace Your Spark Plugs

Mechanic from A+ Japanese Auto Parts working on replacing a car's spark plugAnyone who drives a gasoline car regularly should be familiar with the most common types of maintenance, especially when overlooking them can compromise one's safety. In addition to damaging the performance and mechanics of the car itself, neglecting to change spark plugs regularly can put drivers at risk of untimely or dangerous breakdowns. Here's how to know when to replace spark plugs.

What Is a Spark Plug?

Spark plugs are composed of a metal center electrode, an outer casing made of steel, and a ceramic insulator which contains an air gap. While the car runs, the spark plug transfers an electrical charge of very high voltage from the ignition coil outside of the engine and brings it into the combustion chamber inside of the engine. This results in a spark which lights the fuel in the engine, giving the car energy.

The Lifespan of a Spark Plug

How long a spark plug can go before being replaced varies by what type of spark plug is in the car. Copper tip spark plugs can last up to 30,000 miles before potentially getting too worn down which might require engine repair, while platinum and iridium-tip plugs can last significantly longer, going up to 100,000 miles before needing to be replaced. For this reason, many car manufacturers opt to build cars with longer-lasting iridium-tip plugs.

How to Tell When Replacement Is Necessary

Sometimes, spark plugs can misfire or begin to malfunction causing the check engine light to come on. Because a spark plug may be malfunctioning and causing increased emissions or drivability issues, it's best to have the spark plugs replaced according to the manufacturer's guidelines. The consequences of not replacing a spark plug in time can range from poor fuel economy to allowing fuel to run down the exhaust valve and destroy the catalytic converter, which can cost around $1,000 to replace.

Spark plugs are one of many elements of a properly functioning car that must receive routine maintenance in order to keep cars safe and efficient. For more information about replacing spark plugs or any other car maintenance information, call A+ Japanese Auto Repair Inc. at (650) 595-2277 to schedule a tune-up or maintenance appointment today.

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